http://www.loonwatch.com/2012/04/why-do-they-hate-us-they-dont/

Mona Eltahawy, an Arab-American journalist, created a firestorm when Foreign Policy Magazine published her article “Why Do They Hate Us?”.  If you thought the they and us refers to Muslims and Americans, you’d be wrong.  In fact, they is Arab men, and us is women.  Her article is a stabbing critique of Arab culture, which she finds to be heavily misogynistic.

If that wasn’t provocative enough, she goes further: according to her, these Arab men hate women.  ”Yes: They hate us. It must be said.”  To prove her argument, she issues a challenge: “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses [against women] fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion.”  The rest of the article is a recitation of that litany, interspersed with jazzy catchphrases such as “[w]e are more than our headscarves and our hymens” and “poke the hatred in its eye.”

There is no way to deny the basic premise that the status of women’s rights in the Arab world is abysmal.  Why then did Mona Eltahawy evoke such a hostile reaction from even the Arab women whose rights she seeks to protect?  The easy answer, one that Eltahawy and her supporters might argue, is that these women are simply brainwashed.  Too much “Islamism” in their little brains.  The problem with this argument is that it’s sexist.  It’s basically saying Arab women are too stupid to think for themselves.

The real reason that Arab women recoil after reading Eltahawy’s article is that, while she tries to connect to them based on their gender, she attacks other aspects of their core identity: their race, nationality, religion, and culture.  In fact, her racist (and somewhat babbling) screed is nothing short of a vicious attack on their entire civilization.

Eltahawy cites “a toxic mix of culture and religion” as the source of the abuses against women.  Oddly, she later says, “You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our ‘culture’ and ‘religion’ to do X, Y, or Z to women.”  Yet, it is Mona Eltahawy herself who is arguing precisely that.

By attacking their core identity, Eltahawy has succeeded in alienating her own audience.  Imagine, for instance, an American feminist arguing for greater rights for African women, while at the same time assailing the black race, African culture, and traditional tribal religion.  How receptive or thankful do you think these African women would be?  How pleased would the black or African community be if someone was writing articles about how backwards their culture is?

Mona Eltahawy’s article engages in trite, racial stereotypes.  Legitimate problems in the Arab world are sensationalized.  They hate women.  What an absurd exaggeration!  They have mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters–and it is reasonable to assume that, like other human beings on earth, they love them.

A man can love his wife and still abuse her.  He can have undying affection for his daughter but still wrong her in horrible ways.  But, by going so far as to say they hate women, Eltahawy has dehumanized them.  One recalls similar invective against Palestinian parents: they don’t love their children.  The message being sent is: they are worse than animals.

Women’s rights is an area of concern in many parts of the developing world, not just the Arab world.  Why single out Arabs?  Women face major obstacles in India.  Should we demonize the Hindu religion and the great Indian civilization?

Eltahawy lists off “a litany of abuses”, bringing up extreme cases to make her point.  By citing isolated cases and stacking them all up together, she ends up portraying an imbalanced and biased picture of the Arab world.

Racists don’t see nuance.  They lump all people of a certain group altogether.  That’s exactly what Mona Eltahawy does in her article.  She paints the entire people of that region–or at least its men–with one broad bush.  They hate women.  All 170 million of them.

In fact, not all Arabs are alike.  During my travels in the Muslim world, I saw all sorts of people, with a broad diversity of views.  I met conservative Muslims, liberal Muslims, atheists, Christians, Communists, hippies, you name it.  No sweeping generalization could be made about them (aside for, perhaps, their disgust of American foreign policy).

It is true that I was deeply disturbed by the mistreatment of women, religious and ethnic minorities, poor people, servants, and animals.  But, I also met people there–men, no less–who were also deeply disturbed by these things and would have no part in it.

Just as the viral Kony 2012 video drew criticism for reinforcing the idea of White Man’s Burden, so too does Mona Eltahawy’s article tap into historically racist Orientalist attitudes towards the Arab world.

By firmly pegging abuses against women to the Arab culture and Muslim religion, Mona Eltahawy’s article was nothing short of bigotry.  Indeed, one could hardly tell the difference between Eltahawy’s article and what could normally be found sprawled on numerous Islamophobic websites, such as Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch and Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs.  It is almost a surety that her article will be approvingly cited on such sites, which pit “our civilized, freedom-loving civilization” against “those barbaric, women-hating peoples.”

Had Mona Eltahawy been just any ole’ Islamophobe hacking away at the keyboard–had she been a Robert Spencer or a Pamela Geller–her article would hardly have made headlines.  It would have been just one of thousands and thousands of such hateful rants on the internet by anti-Muslim trolls.  But, like Irshad Manji and Asra Nomani, Mona Eltahawy has an official “I’m a Muslim” card.  That’s even better than the official “I’m an ex-Muslim” card that bigots like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Nonie Darwish proudly carry.  It’s probably even a step above the “I’m a former jihadi terrorist” gold card.  Eltahawy holds the platinum card and gets extra points for being a woman.

As other pundits have noted, Mona Eltahawy is–along with Irshad Manji, Asra Nomani, Tarek Fatah, Zuhdi Jasser, etc.–acting in the role of the “native informant.”  Monica L. Marks writes on the Huffington Post:

Why Do They Hate Us?” asks the latest cover of Foreign Policy magazine. Beneath the title stands a cowering woman wearing nothing but black body paint resembling the niqab, or full Islamic face veil.

Egyptian feminist Mona Eltahawy authored the article. Her central contention — that Arab Muslim culture “hates” women — resurrects a raft of powerful stereotypes regarding Islam and misogyny. It also situates Ms. Eltahawy’s work within a growing trend of “native informants” whose personal testimonies of oppression under Islam have generated significant support for military aggression against Muslim-majority countries in recent years.

Books by these “native voices” — including Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel,” Azar Nafisi’s “Reading Lolita” in Tehran, and Irshad Mandji’s “Faith Without Fear” — have flown off the shelves in post-9/11 America despite being roundly rebuffed by leading feminist academics such as Columbia University’s Lila Abu-Lughod and Yale’s Leila Ahmed. Saba Mahmood, another respected scholar, noted that native informants helped “manufacture consent” for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by serving up fear-inducing portrayals of Islam in “an authentic Muslim woman’s voice.”

Although such depictions have proven largely inaccurate and guilty of extreme generalizations, they have become immensely popular. Why? Because these native “testimonials” tell us what we in the West already know — that there’s something inherently misogynistic about Muslims and Arabs.

By stirring up our sympathies and reinforcing our prejudices, individuals like Ms. Hirsi Ali and Ms. Eltahawy have climbed to the top of the media ladder. Their voices are drowning out the messages of more nuanced, well-respected scholars.

Marks goes on to say:

Her fault lies in extrapolating broad cultural judgments from context-specific abuses, implying that Islam and Arab culture writ large are have toxically combined to create a hopelessly backward region that “treats half of humanity like animals.”

These native informants just tell us what we want to hear.  Their job is to increase hatred of Arabs and Muslims, something that is needed in order to sustain our multiple wars of aggression in that part of the world.

Native informants do not help fix the problems they point to.  Why, for example, did Mona Eltahawy choose to publish her article in Foreign Policy, an American magazine?  Why didn’t she write it for an Arab/Arabic publication, with a primarily Arab readership?

Instead she chose Foreign Policy Magazine, which was founded by none other than Samuel P. Huntington.  His famous Clash of Civilizations theory pit the Judeo-Christian West against the Muslim world.  How very fitting that Mona Eltahawy’s us vs. them article was published in the magazine he founded.

Eltahawy’s audience is clear:

You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our ‘culture’ and ‘religion’ to do X, Y, or Z to women.

Monica Marks writes:

 It is important for her readers, however, to understand the dangers of sensationalist coverage that over-simplify complex matters of gender, politics, and religious observance in Muslim-majority countries.

History is rife with examples of seemingly women-friendly arguments hijacked in the service of imperialistic and aggressive ends. While emotional and sensationalist portrayals such as this most recent Foreign Policy cover will sell copies, they do little to deepen our understanding of the contexts and conditions shaping women’s oppression in Arab countries today.

Indeed, the issue of human rights was routinely used by the colonial powers to justify the conquest and expropriation of land.  The Americas, including the land that is now the United States, was brutally conquered and stolen by Europeans on this very basis.  The indigenous peoples were portrayed as savages needing civilizing.  The white man would bring them “democracy”, “freedom”, and “civilization” (Operation Iraqi Freedom?).

In her article, Mona Eltahawi enumerates numerous abuses Arab women face.  However, none of these inhumanities–not even female genital mutilation–can be considered as problematic as the cannibalism and human sacrifice that the indigenous peoples of the Americas sometimes engaged in.  And yet, whatever failings the indigenous peoples had in their culture and civilization, it is now widely understood who the real savage was.

We can continue to pat ourselves on the back for how civilized we are, how free our women are, how we are so much better than them.  But, none of that will change the fact that we are the ones waging wars of aggression and occupation in the Muslim world.  We are the ones killing hundreds of thousands of their innocent men, women, and children.

It was in another article, also published in Foreign Policy with almost the exact same title–Why They Hate Us?–that Prof. Stephen Walt calculated the number of Muslim lives the U.S. has extinguished:  “a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities…is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.”  To use a jazzy catchphrase of my own: mutilating a baby girl’s genitals is horrible, but dropping a bomb on her head is much worse.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Why Islamophobes Hate Ron Paul

(image from an Islamophobic website)

DISCLAIMER: LoonWatch has not endorsed any candidate for President of the United States.  This article should not be seen as such.

Islamophobes absolutely hate Ron Paul.  Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs–the King and Queen of Islamophobia on the internet–dedicate page after page on their hate blogs lambasting the Congressman and presidential hopeful.

Why do they hate Ron Paul so much?

There are three major reasons why they detest him:

(1) Ron Paul stands up for American Muslims against Islamophobia.  For example, he defended the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” arguing that the entire controversy was “all about hate and Islamophobia.”

(2) He has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Bush-Obama curtailments of civil liberties that specifically target Muslims.

(3) Paul is the only major presidential candidate to oppose America’s wars in the Muslim world.  Even more importantly, Ron Paul links reason #1 above (the Lesser Islamophobia) to reason #3 (the Greater Islamophobia), arguing that “in order to perpetuate this foreign policy…they have to perpetuate this hate toward Islam.”

This third reason is also why mainstream politicians and the mainstream media dislike Ron Paul and have tried their utmost to destroy him.  Fox political pundit Bill O’Reilly argued that Paul’s views on foreign policy “disqualifies him” as a candidate for president.  Here is exactly what O’Reilly said:

His foreign policy disqualifies him in my eyes as an American…

Bill O’Reilly has inadvertently touched upon something very deep and meaningful:  “As an American,” foreign policy must include waging war.  To do without war would simply be un-American.

One recalls the words of H. Rap Brown, the chairman of the civil rights group Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), who famously declared in 1967:

Violence is as American as cherry pie.

Brown uttered this statement during the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.  While blacks were being beaten up and hosed down in the streets of America, the United States was raining death down upon the Vietnamese population halfway across the earth.

H. Rap Brown was not the only one in the civil rights movement who linked the struggle of blacks in America to the struggle of the darker skinned peoples of the world.  For instance, Martin Luther King, Jr. called America “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” for its war-making:

The Soviet Union brought attention to America’s “Negro problem.”  Michael L. Krenn writes on pp.89-90 of Race and U.S. Foreign Policy During the Cold War:

By 1949, according to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, “the ‘Negro question’ [was] [o]ne of the principal Soviet propaganda themes regarding the United States.” “[T]he Soviet press hammers away unceasingly on such things as ‘lynch law,’ segregation, racial discrimination, deprivation of political rights, etc., seeking to build up a picture of an America in which the Negroes are brutally downtrodden with no hope of improving their status under the existing form of government.”  An [American] Embassy official believed that “this attention to the Negro problem serves political ends desired by the Soviet Union and has nothing whatsoever to do with any desire to better the Negro’s position.”

Apparently, only the United States is allowed to saber rattle and invade countries on the grounds that the “existing form of government” is discriminatory or unjust to part of its population.

With the world’s spotlight on America’s treatment of its darker-skinned citizens–and those same citizens linking their struggle to America’s foreign wars against darker-skinned peoples–the United States moved in the direction of racial integration in the 1970’s.  America’s longest war was also grudgingly brought to an end.

But today, despite the fact that we have been waging wars for two decades in the Muslim world and in just the last couple years bombed over half a dozen Muslim countries, the anti-war movement is, at least compared to the 1960’s and 70’s, all but dead.

Ron Paul is one of the only major political figures–and the only major presidential candidate–to oppose America’s wars.

And that is why he is in the cross-hairs of anti-Muslim bigots, who see the world in apocalyptic holy war terms: the jihad will bring an end to Western civilization as we know it so we must destroy them first! This is their fundamental world view, which is why sustaining and protracting the wars against the Muslim world is their greatest desire.

Ron Paul threatens that paradigm.  He dares to cogitate that it is our military interventions in the Muslim world that result in Islamic terrorism against the United States and her allies.  He had the chutzpah to include 9/11 in this: “They attack us because we’ve been over there. We’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years.”

In the American national discourse, this is next to blasphemy.  But, in the rest of the world (especially in Muslim countries), this is not just common knowledge, it’s common sense.  In fact, nothing could be more obvious.

It’s precisely because this idea is so obvious and self-evident that it must simply never be uttered in the United States.  Anyone who does so must be condemned as unpatriotic and, worse, as Unserious.  Such a person’s character must be viciously attacked.

That’s exactly what is happening to Ron Paul.  Unfortunately, Paul deserves much of the blame for making himself such an easy target.  The racist newsletters are a gold-mine for his opponents.  Pamela Geller gleefully called them a “bombshell,” arguing that his presidential bid is now “unrecoverable” and that “[h]e is done.”

The evidence against Ron Paul, that he wrote those vile things against black people, is certainly very strong.  The only saving grace for Paul is the fact that those racist screeds do not sound anything like him.  Whether or not this alone can outweigh the proof against him, I do not know.  Whatever the case, Paul’s delay in disassociating himself from the letters, his ever-changing excuses, and his questionable associations are enough to condemn him.  (A balanced article on Ron Paul was written by the indefatigable Glenn Greenwald.)

Under normal circumstances, I’d have nothing but absolute contempt for Ron Paul.  In fact, even if he didn’t have such racism-related baggage,  a progressive like myself would have nothing to do with a man who wants to get rid of social welfare programs, the Department of Education, etc. etc.  When it comes to domestic issues, there is probably very little Ron Paul and I would see eye-to-eye on.  Worse yet, I find many of his views on such matters to be outside the realms of reasonableness–I’d go so far as to call them loony.

Yet, many progressives like myself are finding themselves inexorably drawn to Ron Paul.  That is because he is the only major presidential candidate to oppose America’s wars.  Stated another way: the rest of the candidates–including the incumbent president (who expanded the War on Terror)–are war-makers.  Ron Paul is the only peace candidate.

This says a lot about the state of our union more than it does about Ron Paul.  War-making has become such a staple of American life that the only man who stands a chance (and a slim one at that) of bringing an end to Endless War is a loony, fringe candidate with a questionable and possibly racist past.

I have been criticized by some Islamophobes for daring to say anything positive about Ron Paul.  But, the fact that a person of my views (a progressive peacenik) is forced to consider Ron Paul is indicative of how truly violent and warlike our country has become (or, rather, has always been).  This underscores my main counter-argument to the Supreme Islamophobic Myth: we, as part of the Judeo-Christian West, have been and are still, just as, if not more, violent and warlike than the Muslim world.

This fact is underscored even more by the fact that the reason why Ron Paul has been “disqualified” as a realistic candidate is because, in the words of Bill O’Reilly, of his peace-loving foreign policy.  Imagine, for instance, if an Iranian candidate for the Iranian presidency could never realistically win unless he advocated for war against other countries.  What would it say about Iranians if they, by convention and consensus, refused to elect someone who advocated peaceful relations with the rest of the world?

One would expect that progressive peaceniks like myself would have more options to choose from than just one candidate.  But because warmongering is an essential component of being president of the United States (and serving in the military is almost a prerequisite to getting elected–imagine if Iranians would demand that their leaders must have sometime in their lives fought jihad), there is virtually nobody to vote for.

In an earlier article, I wrote of how war has been a part of the American psyche since the very beginning, from 1776 all the way to the present.  We’ve never gone a decade without a major war, and no president in our history can truly be considered a peacetime president.  Yet, somehow even after waging wars for more than 91% of our existence, we look at ourselves as peace-makers and “those Moozlums over there” as violent and warlike.

A verse from the Quran is most fitting here: “When it is said to them: ‘Do not make mischief on earth,’ they say: ‘We are but peace-makers.’  In fact, they are the mischief-makers, but they realize it not.” (2:11-12)

*  *  *  *  *

Something else that reinforces my argument is the fact that even Ron Paul, the single peace proponent in the presidential race, does not seem to oppose war based on peacenik principles.  He usually raises financial and political arguments against the wars, instead of humanitarian ones: We’re bankrupting ourselves.  Or: These wars result in terrorism (against us).

Our moral compass should not be dictated by money or self-interest.  We should oppose these wars because killing innocent civilians is morally atrocious.  This is what should be the main argument:

Not this:

Let me clarify: there is nothing wrong with raising financial and political arguments as secondary reasons to end the wars.  In fact, I would encourage doing so.  But, the primary motivation behind opposing wars should be less self-centered (the war is costing us too much money, they may retaliate with terrorism against us, too many of our young soldiers are risking their lives over there), but more humanitarian towards the victims of our aggression: we are killing innocent civilians.

Ron Paul’s emphasis on financial and political reasons, as opposed to humanitarian concerns, seems to be consistent with his ideology.  (After all, he supported Israel’s bombing of Iraq in 1981 and seems unconcerned if Israel bombs Iran on its own accord.  This indicates to me that it is not the dead in Iraq or Iran that bothers him so much, but only that it would cost us money to kill them or would risk retaliation against us for doing so.)  What does it say about America if even the one and only supposed peace candidate is against wars not out of humanitarian reasons but financial and political concerns?

Even if I am being too harsh on Ron Paul and it’s just a political consideration to focus on financial and political reasons, what does it say about us Americans that we can only be convinced based on our wallets and not on our consciences?

*  *  *  *  *

I don’t say this very often, but Pamela Geller was absolutely right when she said  about Ron Paul that “[h]e is done.”  He most certainly is.  And so dies the only candidate who could have ended America’s Endless Wars.

One should point out, however, that just because the Islamophobes have found the Kryptonite that will kill Ron Paul (the racist newsletters) this doesn’t change the fact that Paul’s foreign policy views were correct.

Let this be a lesson to groupies and fan boys of Ron Paul, a lesson that groupies and fan boys of Barack Obama should also heed: do not put your hopes in a man, because if you do, that man will often, if not always, disappoint you. Put your faith in a conviction instead.  If you hold on tightly enough to the conviction and not the man, it will persevere.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

DISCLAIMER: LoonWatch has not endorsed any candidate for President of the United States.  This article should not be seen as such.