The Myth of All Terrorists Are Muslim

Bad luck Muslims: they drew a deep sigh of relief when the Boston bombings turned out not to be done by a Saudi citizen… it turns out they were European Muslims who, ironically, are literally Caucasian. I guess racial profiling is out the question now?

I didn’t know that a simple comment on a BuzzFeed article from yours truly would spark a debate of over 50 comments and a hundred “likes.” The article in question was simply about the Islam leaning-Youtube page of one of the bombers. My comment was: how is this relevant?

Many sided with me. Many called me overly politically correct. Many others said that even though not all Muslims are terrorists, all the terrorists are Muslims.

If you ponder on that last statement, you are sure led to believe it’s true: the Boston Bombings, 9/11, etc…. However, it turned out to be the furthest thing possible from the truth.

There’s a hypocrisy when it comes to the categorization of “terrorism” in American media. For instance, the Aurora and Newton shootings were not carried out by a “terrorist” but by someone who was mentally unfit. If in a hypothetical scenario that person worshipped Allah instead of God, the “terrorist” label would have been used. Labels tend to stick.

The American and international media have been doing a “fantastic” job at highlighting select bits of acts of human violence and throwing them as representative of an entire sociological or religious aspect. Their portrayal of any violence that happens to come from Muslims tends to be sensationalized à la Middle Eastern way of reporting and, since their extent of knowledge regarding Islam and Muslims is very limited, it also comes off as ignorant. But not to those who take that media as scripture.

Moreover, the numbers to back up the “all terrorists are Muslim” claim is simply not there.

A study published by the FBI – could you get a better US-centric reference? – about the acts  of “terror” on US soil from 1980 till 2005 revealed approximately 318 terrorist attacks that varied in magnitude which break down in the following way:

Terrorism by event USA 1980-2005

Luckily enough, the numbers and data in that study have been turned into a pie-chart (here) that categorizes all the terrorist attacks by religion/ethnicity/background:

Terrorism Islam USASure, many things happened since 2005. But not all of those things were from Muslims. The above percentages may have fluctuated slightly but they’re still representative. For instance, Jewish extremism has over a period of 25 years committed more acts of terror in the United States than Muslims had. Now isn’t that interesting? Did any American know about this or is it hail-Israel and bomb-the-Muslims all the way?

To back this up even further, CNN published a study about the threat of Muslim-American terrorism. The study was done by Duke University and the University of Chapel Hill and found that the supposed danger of the radicalizing of Muslim-Americans post 9/11 has been severely exaggerated. The level is “small compared to other violent crime in America, but not insignificant.”

Violence Begets Violence:

The more societies across the world shut out, categorize and work against people just because they wear a headscarf or pray in a different way, the more these people will find refuge in doctrines that may not represent their true beliefs. The actively-fueled verbal, moral or even social violence only serves to increase the physical violence of those on the other side of the equation. There could be a linear relation there. Sure, the aforementioned premise is an over-simplification but talking about Saudi or Qatari policies of exporting radical Islam coupled with American policies in the region which help fuel this export will take forever.

Is there a growing trend of radicalizing in Islam? I only need to look at samples across my country to say the answer is yes. But fighting this growing radicalization doesn’t happen by clumping those who haven’t fallen prey to erroneous indoctrination with those who have anti-American, anti-West or anti-non-Islam agendas.

The whole point is: political correctness is perhaps something that we need in a time when it’s very easy to judge and lump people in a batch of stereotypes just because we think we know everything there is to know about them, especially when said-political correctness isn’t really coming from a higher moral ground as much as it’s emanating from actual reality.

Empathy isn’t a one-way street. Those terrorist Muslims are the ones dying in the tens and hundreds daily across the world today and it’s not only because they’re fighting among each other.

So next time someone wants to “kill all the Muslims,” know this: not all Muslims are terrorists and it’s a certainty that not all the terrorists are Muslims – not even half of them.

PS: A note from all those big bad Muslims to the people of Boston:

Boston Bombings Syria

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The Perks of Being Lebanese

Back in December, I hosted a photographer who wanted to visit Lebanon in order to experience our on-the-edge diverse lifestyle. I showed him around as much as I could given the short time I had, taking myself to Tyre for the first time in my life. I had never been that far South before. I left him there in order for him to see life in that Southern city firsthand. A couple of days later, we met up in Beirut and somehow he started contrasting and comparing my country with his. He comes from one of the world’s biggest superpowers so it’s understandable that my country is lacking in comparison.

But I couldn’t take it. Snarkiness started to ooze out of every word I uttered like the sharp blade of a knife. Jabs here and there about how his country could never – ever – have the history that my country has started flowing. I even surprised myself when it comes to political declarations which would probably get any Lebanese who knows me turn his head in disbelief. Imagine me proclaiming support for Hezbollah and you’ll get the drift.

I felt it was necessary. It’s not about being politically correct. It’s this built in sensor inside my brain to defend Lebanon whenever I can to whoever I can. And it goes off at random times, despite the logical part of me telling me that I should probably stop. I can’t help it. My relationship with my country is that of some serious love-hate. And I can’t escape it.

Bref, I nag too much sometimes and I know it. I know some of you hate it – but living in Lebanon leaves you constantly angry, constantly furious, constantly edgy. We all deal with it with the best way we can and considering what we’re dealt with every day, I daresay we handle it really well. Most of the time at least.

To those who thought I’m being quite negative, you’re probably right. This one’s for you. Now smile and take it in because such articles will only come rarely. Let it sink in because you won’t hear me saying this very often – not that it matters since it’s now online for everyone to see – but here it goes: I probably wouldn’t trade growing up in Lebanon for anything else in the whole world.

It’s not about the copious amount of money I could have had. It’s not about super kickass passports I often wish I possessed. I think growing up here, witnessing the struggles of here, dealing with the hardships that here represents have gotten me to grow as a person in ways that any other place probably wouldn’t have provided.

In a way, growing up here has made me a person who is capable of standing on his feet wherever you throw him. It might sound cliche – positive vibes always go around clicheville – but it’s something that the past year has truly reinforced in me.

When I was in France, the French were shocked I could juggle three languages fluently without a hitch, something that was completely normal to me but seemed very odd to them. It is there that I came to appreciate exactly how thankful I am for the decent education I got here. The fact that I was able to keep up with more knowledgeable physicians at the hospital where I did my clerkship doesn’t only reflect on my mental capacities but on the way education in Lebanon shapes you up without you even knowing it. It is no wonder that with all the preparation we subtly get in school and later on in higher education institutes, we are able to excel when given room and opportunity.

That month I spent in France opened up my eyes to something else that I hadn’t really thought of: life in Lebanon does not go on in a protective bubble that separates you from everything else happening around you.
The aforementioned idea started to get formulated in my mind back in 2011 when I wrote a small article about 9/11 and some members of American family stopped talking to me as a result. I still don’t see anything wrong with my article. If anything, I stand by it more than before. But it’s the perception of the article which differentiates my American kin from yours truly. For them, I am being harsh and insensitive because I haven’t lived it and I am not American. To me, they are being very concentric and limited. But it’s no one’s fault really: my perception as a Lebanese of the world is and will always be of people whose fate isn’t in their hand, of a country which is always a part in a chessgame of bigger fish.
And while we nag about that as is our right, I think the premise of the life this sets is healthy: to know that there’s always another story taking place somewhere, to know that there is another side to us, to know that there is life form outside of the bubble that we love to live inside and to know that everything has a reference point to put things in perspective.

The photographer who came here back in December was more than interested in something that I not only took for granted but thought was beyond normal. My hometown coexists quite peacefully with a neighboring Shiite town. My best friends happen to be either Shiite or atheists or Sunni or Maronites. We differ politically, we argue more often than not. We come from severely different backgrounds in our own country. But we still find ourselves at one table having dinner as often as we argue about the backgrounds from which we come. The experience itself is one that we ignore because it’s never in the forefront of our thoughts. But to an outsider, the interactions we have and the friendships we strike are things that are beyond interesting. When that photographer pointed out how odd to him that dinner table setting was, I started to think about it more and I realized that I am what I am today because of those people that have come into my life from all those different backgrounds. And despite some eccentric bearded men from all sides wanting to tell us that our friendships are abnormal, our relationships still exist and they keep flourishing. The majority of us as Lebanese have friends who come from backgrounds that had, until quite recently in historical terms, been fighting against each other. Yet that’s never an issue. It’s not even something we think about. But imagine how bland our lives would be if the only people we knew shared our thoughts, our views and barely differed from us in the things that count.

And as I go back home every day from class or from those dinners with friends, another thing I take for granted is my family. The fact that the family unit is still very cohesive in this country is a treasure in itself. Child psychology tells you how important a tightly-knit family is for the development of a human being. But this isn’t about psychological theories. How often do we think about the warm meal awaiting us back home which our grandmother or mother more than willingly cooked for us, along with a warm hug because even though they had last seen us a few hours prior they miss us terribly?
And I don’t meant this in a sexist manner for those feminists gearing up for international women’s day. How often do we think about that awesome person we call grandpa who, as he grows up, becomes more kind hearted than a five year old boy? Or how about those siblings of ours that we love to hate but can’t imagine living without? Or those cousins we keep bickering with and the aunts and uncles who raised them? How about our fathers who, despite their strong facade, love us to the moon and back?
The family unit in Lebanon is not restricted to the parents and siblings. It transcends them to anyone who shares your family name. And we pretend that it aggravates us off when families gather in certain occasions. But the truth is that our family, including those extended members we don’t like to think about, act as a firm ground for us to stand in troubled times. And they do that without us asking for it.

Life in Lebanon sets you up to be a great individual when given the framework to allow such greatness to unfold. It makes you more aware of the world. It gives you a rich cultural experience to start from. It gives you a strong educational package to build a life upon and gives you a sense of belonging that makes you prone to find anchor wherever you’re thrown. It saddens me to say that I will probably leave this place someday because the future might be bleak. And I lose hope in it sometimes and I rekindle it at other times despite my better judgement. But it remains that being Lebanese is something that makes me proud. It is something that I believe has offered me the essential that makes human beings shine and make a life for themselves. That life probably won’t happen here. But that life will forever owe itself to here.

Cheers to all those Lebanese perks we keep taking for granted.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Movie Review

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the story Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a young American boy who lost his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) in the 9/11 attacks. Trying to cope with the passing of his father, Oskar, who happens to be a very inquisitive boy, tries to make sense of the world. Feeling disconnected with his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock), Oskar sets on a quest across New York City to find one last clue that his father might have left him in a blue vase, which he finds among a stach of things he collected of his father, including his father’s last phone messages on an answering machine he never shared with his mother. The last “hint” is one involving a key and the last name Black, to which he will spring up one last quest involving 472 people with the last name Black in NYC, hoping he’d find the lock which fit the key.

As the movie opens, Oskar, who’s implied to have Asperger’s, says: “If the sun were to blow up, we would still have light and warmth for eight minutes; I feel like my eight minutes with my father are running out.” Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is Oskar’s quest to cling to those eight minutes as long as he could.

Many have called this movie trite and over-indulgent. I disagree. My main problem with Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was not the subject matter, which you cannot but appreciate, but it was that the main character, Oskar, is more often than not grating, making it difficult for many to relate to his struggles especially when at a moment he snaps at his mother, telling her he wishes it was her in that tower instead, simply because she couldn’t explain why his father had died. It might be how the character was written but Oskar isn’t likeable at most of the movie’s run. There are moments, though, when he’s at his most vulnerable that his child-self shines through. It is then that you appreciate the performance by Thomas Horn, who does a good job, despite his character’s flaws.

Sandra Bullock is great and saddening as the mother trying to protect her son while receiving his bashing for things out of her control. She provides much realism to the movie. Tom Hanks, in the little screen time he gets, embodies the role of the caring dad trying to break his son out of his shell and into the world through little quests in search of ordinary things sparsed throughout New York City, requiring his son to interact with people.

While on his quest, Oskar will cross paths with an old mute man renting at his grandmother’s place. This old man (Max Von Sydow), whose name is never revealed, will help Oskar on his quest by helping him rise above his fear of ordinary things such as trains and shabby-looking bridges. In doing so, Max Von Sydow gives a great performance without uttering a single word.

In a way, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is not really about 9/11 as it is about coping with death. It focuses less on the American tragedy of a country and more on the tragedy of the Schell family. Its main shortcoming is in the fact that with trying to aim for universality, it comes off short from hitting the mark within its niche. Some of the movie’s sequences seem forced. Some are even out of context and irrelevant to the overall flow. In a way the whole sequence with the old man could be removed without affecting the storyline one bit. The movie is not seamless. It feels rickety at points. And that’s a shame because it could have been so much more.

6/10 

 

9/11 Remembered. And Put in Perspective.

I still remember this September day, ten years ago, when my whole family sat dumbfounded in front of our television set, not believing what we were seeing.

How could the United States, the world’s leading country (despite some in-denial people thinking otherwise), have this happen to it? Shouldn’t they have been more prepared? After all, two airplanes hitting their country’s biggest towers and an attack on the Pentagon isn’t exactly a small feat – for any terrorist group.

Any group responsible for the attack must have taken months, if not years, to slowly brew the intricate details of the assault. Therefore, it’s very hard to believe the United States’ intelligence agencies had no idea about it. Instead, they chose to shrug these threats off. There’s no way something like this could happen to us, I’m sure they thought.

But it did happen, taking the lives of 3000 people with it and launching the “war on terrorism” propaganda that has been going on for the past decade.

I still remember holding my mom’s hand as she saw those people jump out of the building, hoping they would be saved somehow, thinking that jumping increased their chances of survival. I still remember news anchors going silent for minutes on end because they were out of words. I still remember my whole household feeling shaken. I still remember my grandma’s panic-stricken face as she stumbled towards the phone, trying to call her sons even though she knew they were far from New York City.

What we did not think of was the aftermath.

I never thought I’d be automatically labeled as a person of suspicion just because of my country’s geographical location. I never thought my aunt would have to wait three hours in LAX before they allowed her to go out and see my family. I never thought it’d become so difficult for me to go the United States, even if I hadn’t seen my family for over five years. I never thought my Muslim friends would automatically become one of the most hated groups in the world just because of their religion. I never thought things would change as much as they did.

I am not a mean person. In fact, I am probably one of the most American-sympathizers you can find – at least in Lebanon. But the thing is, 9/11 needs to be put in perspective.

It will always be a memory of hurt. But ten years later, where should we really stand regarding 9/11? The people who lost their lives should forever be remembered. They were innocent victims who fell to the brutality of a radical group that has a distorted view of their religion.

But ten years later, that’s the only thing I can take out of 9/11. And here’s why.

Sure, 9/11 revealed the United States’ vulnerability. But I’m sure the ship has sailed on that vulnerability. Following that day, the United States’ assumed the role of the policeman of the world. No one did anything unless the United States approved. And if some country happened to dare the United States, they were met with a bunch of sanctions they could never get out of.

The War on Terror has led to the death of not 3000 but more than 900,000 people, most of which are women and children whose only fault was to be in the wrong country at the wrong time of history. What do these men, women and children differ from those 3000 men, women and children that died in the World Trade Centers? Their ethnicity? I hardly think so. Their religion? I’m fairly certain all victims were not uni-religious. The main difference is that the world thinks more of those 3000 people that died on 9/11 that they do of those 900,000 that died in the War on Terror. Why? because in the world’s mind, those 3000 are innocent. The 900,000 are terrorists. Wrong place, wrong time.

The 9/11 attacks also gave the U.S government a free pass to do whatever it wants militarily until it was too late. Example? The Iraq War – also known as Operation Iraqi Freedom.

I still have no idea, even to this day, how Iraq fit into the whole Al Qaeda scenario of the 9/11 attacks. Their only fault? Too much oil beneath their soil. I am also fairly certain the United States’ intelligence agencies were more than knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Live and let live no more.

But why go so far back in time – even if all of this is a few years old. Let’s look at what’s happening around the world today.

There’s a famine in Somalia. Children are dying every few seconds out of hunger. The United States has the world’s highest obesity rate. They’re throwing food away because they can’t eat it anymore. The children of Somalia, on the other hand, don’t even have access to bread crumbs that fall off a table and we don’t notice.

As a result of “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” thousands of Iraqi Christians lost their lives and were forced to leave their land and country, becoming not welcome there anymore. Their only fault? They were of the wrong religion at the wrong time in the wrong place. What could have the US done, for instance? Protect them.

Massacres are taking place daily in Congo. Women getting raped has become their way of life. Children getting murdered just because they happened to be caught in a crossfire between greedy tribes, who happen to be the pawns of bigger players, in a game of gold and diamond.

Palestinians get murdered every day by Israeli “Defense” Forces. The U.S covers those murders to the extent that they vetoed the Palestinian request to become a recognized UN state. I am not the most Palestine-sympathizer. But when the United States asks for its victims to be remembered, then all victims that are falling because of the United States’ involvement need to be remembered as well. I am fairly certain Israel wouldn’t be as ferocious if it didn’t know the United States had it back, whenever and wherever.

Thousands have been murdered by a tyrant Syrian regime, since their protests began, and the international community (led by the United States) has done very little to help alleviate the suffering of those people.

And not very recently, in the calm country of Norway, a Christian fundamentalist let loose on teenagers whose only fault was, yet again, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The American reactions to that are summed up in this video.

Yes, it has been ten years since 9/11. But that is precisely why it’s time to get over it. 3000 people that died do not compare to the thousands dying everyday because of 9/11 ramifications. 300 million Americans are not better people than the other 5.7 billion that make up the rest of the world. After all, isn’t equality one of the fundamental and founding principles upon which the American system is built?

There are way worse things taking place everyday all around the world. Their only fault? They’re happening at the wrong place.