After 9/11, my high school cafeteria split in half: Arab-Americans on one side, everybody else on the other. I don’t know why, but I felt like I had to choose a side. I chose to sit with nobody.
Growing up in Dearborn, Michigan, I lived in a city where 40 percent of the population is from the Mediterranean and many are of the Muslim faith. It has been a unique experience and one that has shaped my views on the Middle East, the war in Iraq, and the way that we treat our own citizens after tragedy.
Now, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is openly endorsing racist U.S. policies in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, even though most of this country’s Muslims are not from the Mediterranean. I need to stand up for the citizens of my home town. Despite many who have lost relatives in the conflicts in the Middle East, including sons and daughters who chose to fight after 9/11 and translate for our troops, Arab Americans are rarely given the respect they deserve. Salt is constantly added to the wound when Arab Americans are asked, “Where are you from?” Many of their families have been in this area since the 1800s. Regardless of their sacrifice, or heritage, citizens of Dearborn continue to get visits from crazies like Florida pastor Terry Jones and Fox News reporters, ranting about Sharia law.
We are also a community that has forged strong bonds. Our community has made me believe that peace on earth is possible. Imams, rabbis, Christian priests, ministers and reverends routinely come together, as one group, to participate in all kinds of volunteerism, including helping the poor and needy in metro-Detroit. I’ve always believed that if we are ever to find peace in the Middle East, it will start with Dearborn.
At the same time, we can’t get past the fact that radical Islam is a problem. I think that goes without saying. However, so is radical Christianity, Ultra-Orthodox Judaism and any other belief system that doesn’t serve to protect human life. Yet, because Muslims and Arabs are an extremely small and powerless minority in this country, people feel comfortable attacking them, even when they’re not really Muslims. Every time one of these attacks happen, I hear the insecure pleas of Muslim Americans trying to reassure others that “Not all Muslims are like that” and “Islam is about peace. Those aren’t Muslims.” They are continually shut out of the discussion and alienated for trying to speak up.
I don’t think Christians felt the need to explain that they aren’t terrorists after Waco, or the Oklahoma City bombing. We’ve also lost more American lives to Southern rebellion and German aggression than to anyone in the Middle East. Why is it that we accept this open animosity toward Muslims? This double standard must end.
If we’re going to act like a country that values freedom of religion and speech, and a country that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race, then we need to start by holding our politicians accountable. US Representatives, like Peter King, need to be called exactly what they are: Racists. With that label should come all the shame of the extremism that they espouse. The truth is, people, like King, serve to strip away basic American freedoms; not because of terrorism, but because of their weakness, ignorance and fear.
— Brian Stone’s original blog can be found at: //www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-stone/fighting-racism-after-bos_b_3141970.html
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