Friday, May 11, 2007

We are on the Same Side

Last week, over on the comments pages at 24 Steps to Liberty, Omar (24), CMAR II, RhusLancia, John Seal, Bruno, K, Kryptonite, Annie and I, among others, were having an animated debate about Iraq and Omar's comparison of New Orleans to Baghdad. At one point, Omar charged me with being a racist and hating Arabs. While critical of the roots of Islamofascism in the Middle East and other areas where this ideology has taken hold, I do not ascribe to any essentialist beliefs about what it means to be an "Arab" or a member of any other group. In one exchange I wrote:
24,

Take a deep breath.

Listen to me.

This morning, on my way to Dunkin' Donuts for a coffee, I passed a Muslim woman pushing a stroller. She was covered from head to foot in a her religiously-sanctioned covering. I could only see her eyes. I may find it a little peculiar (due to the culture I grew up in) but in no way do I hate her. She lives here in Astoria just like the rest of us. We care about our families and their future. Do I think she is a terrorist? Of course not.

After I got my coffee, I stopped at the local corner grocery for a gallon of milk, where I chatted with the young Yemeni guys who run the store. Most of the guys who work there are cousins and one or two are from the same village back in Yemen. They're very cool, wearing baggy jeans and black heavy-metal T-shirts. Do I think that they're terrorists? Of course not.

Tonight and tomorrow morning I will teach students from around the world, two of them being Hamid from Yemen and Hassan from Morocco. Do I think that they're terrorists? Of course not. Both of them are very interesting fellows.

One of my favorite colleagues at work is Joseph from Syria and in the office next to me is Fasil from Ethiopia. Do I think that they're terrorists? Of course not.

Let me repeat. I do not believe in any reductive essentialism when it comes to idea of race and ethnicity. Except for very minor genetic suspectibilites (like sickle cell anemia) and minor surface differences, our genetic heritage is more or less the same. Our cultures, however, do socialize us differently and that is where we find conflicts.

So there is nothing in nature that makes people suicide-bombers. Islamofascism, however, is a virulent ideology that can find recruits in a minority of either Islmaic Arabs (there are also numerous non-Islamic Arabs, even atheists like Zeyad) or Muslims from around the world.

In the struggle against Islamofascism, WE ARE ON THE SAME SIDE.

Islamofascism has killed thousands of American civilians and thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Omar responded:
Yet, I don’t see you jeffrey asking Asians to be grateful that “Americans” are treating them well. You still believe that only Arabs and Muslims should feel this way, because 19 of those who call themselves Muslims killed a number of Americans.

I told you, there is no debate here. You are twisting facts and issues under discussion. I don’t care if you were racist or not, that’s something you have to live and deal with. What I object is your tendency of treating people of different backgrounds in different, based-on-race and color way.

I am just proud that in my country, Iraq, we, the average Iraqis, never thought of ourselves as Arabs, Kurds, Turkumens, Assyrians or any other ethnicities until your government in 2003 came and “taught” us how to break or government and parliament into ethnic shares.
To which I replied:
24,

You wrote:

What I object is your tendency of treating people of different backgrounds in different, based-on-race and color way.

What? Have you read my comments?

I wrote:

Let me repeat. I do not believe in any reductive essentialism when it comes to idea of race and ethnicity. Except for very minor genetic suspectibilites (like sickle cell anemia) and minor surface differences, our genetic heritage is more or less the same. Our cultures, however, do socialize us differently and that is where we find conflicts.

I also wrote:

In my immediate family are people from Europe, Africa, and Asia. We have grandchildren (my nieces and nephews) whose parents come from all three continents. I have a deep love for all of them. I will NEVER accept someone like you to tell me how I feel about them or the societies into which they were born. NEVER.

If you saw the group photograph for my parents' fiftieth anniversary, you would remark that it looked like a snapshot of diplomats and their families from the United Nations.

Just because we may disagree on interpretations of events on the ground in Iraq, you may not then call me a racist when it is obvious from everything I have written that I am not. Again, name-calling and unfounded allegations are a very cheap rhetorical ploy to silence one's debate partner.
One of the values of the Iraqi blogosphere is that on those blogs that maintain comments pages these types of necessary debates are ongoing and continue to be just as lively as one would want.

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While I have indeed been involved daily in the Iraqi blogosphere over the last three years, I have also participated from time to time in discussions in both the German blogosphere (mostly in English but sometimes in German) and the Anglophone blogosphere for expats living in China. I've never done this before, but I thought it might be interesting for you to read a few of my comments from today in other blogospheres.

The first is on Andrew Hammel's weblog from Dusseldorf. Click German Joys on the mainpage of his website and check the comments page for the blog entry called "Laqueuer: Europe's Doomed. Moravcsik: Fiddlesticks!"

The second is on Matt Schiavenza's blog, a California native now living in Kunming, China.

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