Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

We need to start seeing Muslim citizens as regular Americans

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Originally published on on Thu, 06/19/2008 – 9:44am

The cast from the CBC show “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” a show that tries to enlighten viewers on the world of Muslims. An American version will appear soon on FOX.

In World War II, we had three major enemies: Germany, Italy, and Japan. Guess which one’s fellow people we primarily put into internment camps during the war. If you guessed the non-European country (Japan), you get a gold star. (Yes, we also interned German-Americans and Italian-Americans, but not nearly to the extent of the Japanese-Americans.)

The people of Japanese descent were no more of a threat to the American people in the 1940s than the American Muslims of the 21st Century. And yet, instead of learning from the horrors of the Japanese internment camps, our ignorance rolls on.

As a kid, I remember seeing horrible Japanese caricatures in Looney Tunes cartoons. Two troubling examples are “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips” and “Tokio Jokio.”

We were at war with the Japanese for just under 4 years. But the “war on terror” continues, which is not so good news for Muslims who live in the United States. True, we aren’t interning them in camps, so we did learn that lesson. But the discrimination continues.

A volunteer for the Barack Obama campaign, citing politics as the reason, withdrew an invitation to two Muslims in head scarves from appearing behind the Democratic presidential candidate for the television cameras in Detroit.

The Obama campaign quickly apologized for the volunteer’s actions, and also for another volunteer who reportedly told a Muslim supporter she could participate only if she removed her scarf. And it should be pointed out that Obama has appeared on several occasions with Muslims, and the day after the Monday incident in Detroit, Obama was photographed with a group of supporters that included a woman wearing a scarf.

The fact that this story happened in Detroit is even worse, since nearby Dearborn has traditionally had the most Arabs per capita of any U.S. city. In the 2000 Census, Arab Americans comprised 30% of Dearborn’s population, and this doesn’t include numerous Iraqi immigrants who have arrived since the Iraq war began. And the majority of more recent Arab immigrants have been Muslims.

The element of discrimination against Muslims also has a gender bias. A male Muslim can stand behind in a crowd, and not be an issue. But the head scarf, or hijab, or more extensive covering makes Muslim women more identifiable.

If there were an Institute of Irony, they would fully support having a presidential candidate in 2008 with a Muslim sounding name while we have this ongoing battle in this “war on terror” where every potential person who looks like the people who did horrible things to us might be seen as an “enemy.”

Everybody in the world can be our enemy or can be our friend. It doesn’t matter if they dress in lederhosen, hijabs, yarmulkes, or even like a Canadian lumberjack. Our colleague Dave Lindorff points out that we have no enemies, only countries where we disagree.

There might be a sliver of hope. FOX has announced an American version of the CBC show “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” which bills itself as “small town Canada with a Muslim twist.” The show focuses on the Muslim community in the fictional prairie town of Mercy, Saskatchewan. The two seasons of the program have received critical acclaim within Canada and notice from outside the country as well.

At some point, we finally figured out that the Japanese citizens weren’t out to get us. So at what point will we reach the point where Muslim citizens can be treated normal, or whatever passes for normal in U.S. society.


Written by democracysoup

June 19, 2008 at 9:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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