Being Muslim nowadays is difficult. But being both Gazan and Muslim can be of a disastrous impact. As many here see it, Islamophobia is a term invented by racist groups whose purpose is to point an accusation finger at a certain people –Muslims- each time an “act of terrorism” strikes the world. This is an odd generalization that is simply not true.
“The war on terror” that manifested itself in the uncurbed words of George W. Bush –former US president- immediately following the September 11th attacks on New York’s Twin Towers did not spare Gaza.
With Hamas taking control over the Strip in 2007, biased media outlets began waging propaganda hurricanes to influence the world see Gaza a zone of terror where criminal armed gangs seek to wipe Israel off the map. They also took advantage of the Sept. 11th attacks by concocting stories about purported collaboration between Hamas and al-Qaeda. To the west, both Hamas and al-Qaeda pose danger to humankind. Khaled Meshaal, a prominent Hamas political leader, said in an interview done in Syria for US public TV that Hamas is a resistance group that fights Israeli colonization only as opposed to al-Qaeda that is involved in international terrorism.
Backed by the US, in late 2008, the war on Gaza was launched. Twenty two days of relentless aggression against a mostly-civilian population was justified as necessary operation to uproot terrorist infrastructure throbbing through this densely populated area.
In Gaza, Islamophobia features itself through motherless and childless nights many kids and mothers have to swallow. Since Israel proclaimed Gaza a den where terrorists need to be cleansed, hundreds – not to exaggerate- of such innocent lives have been claimed.
One could lean into his window in the morning to look out on an impoverished refugee camp or smear his morning coffee when inhaling sewage-drenched air. It is always obvious that Israel has suspected every standing figure of hiding terrorists no matter how shapeless or worn out these figures seem to be. And more, in disregard to how huge the banners reading “School” or “playground” for both schools and playgrounds are equally suspected whatsoever.
Mohammad Suleiman, 21 years old Gazan blogger thought of the reasons behind this Islamophobia: “If we want to talk about the reasons, of course they are many: some have to do with Zionist agenda and securing the state of Israel against not all Palestinians but all Arabs and Muslims”. But he is optimistic: “I think there is a growing awareness now in Europe in regard to this although Islamophobia reached astonishing levels in the US due to the role of AIPAC and other Zionist groups.”
The truth, although surprising, is that the majority of Gazans, if not all of them, are trying to find solutions where Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and harmony together. While one part hopes to fulfill this dream by opting for a Two-State solution, the other supports One State. I, the writer, have lived in Gaza all my life, and it never happened that I encountered someone who wants to “wipe Israel off the map”. Even if such minority exists, it’s worth mentioning that in Israel itself, there are people who wish to wipe Palestine off the map.
Here is what Eman Sourani, 22 years old, and a One-Stator thinks: “The issue isn’t about getting rid of people but of Apartheid. We need to end the Israeli Apartheid that is based on Zionism”.
A few weeks ago, in a summer camp in Norway, dozens of young Norwegians were sprayed with bullets to end lives of over seventy and wound several others. International press and social media suddenly began blabbering about Muslim perpetrators who were labeled -as usual- as “terrorists”. A few days later, the perpetrator turned out to be just an “extremist”. Indeed, to describe a Norwegian, lighter term becomes a necessity.
This incident and this manipulation of language brought back the pictures of the September 11thattacks. In Gaza, young bloggers began raising many questions.
“If the person who killed 70+ people in Norway was a Muslim, the Press would have declared him as terrorist. For now though, he is just an ‘Assailant ‘, ‘Attacker’ (Reuters), ‘Gunman’ (BBC, CNN & Al Jazeera). Looks like ‘Terrorist ‘ is a name reserved for Muslims? The US Dept of State calls it an ‘Act of Violence’, not an ‘Act of Terrorism’”. Samah Saleh, 22, updated her Facebook status.
Samah is a Muslim, but she’s not a terrorist. She’s a medical-school student and one example of thousands of successful young Muslims in Gaza. Actually, thousands of students graduate from Gaza-based universities every year.
Extremists and terrorists exist within every community regardless of their sects, religions and beliefs. Criminals cannot represent every individual and religion in a given society, but rather the influences that surrounded them as they grew up. Evidently, this singling-out of a people and unreasonably putting them in an isolated category is nothing but an act of racial discrimination.
Shaimaa al-Waheidi, 23, a recent graduate argues that there is lack of understanding in regard to religions especially Islam: “USA and everyone should understand that all religions are innocent from the people’s crimes. For me, as a Palestinian citizen, I feel very sorry for the families of September 11th victims”.
“These attacks insulted us and insulted our religion. Our religion is a religion of peace and we are against these attacks.” Agreed Lara Abu-Ramadan, 19, a writer of Arabic prose. “After the attacks on the World Trade Center, Muslims were treated like terrorists in Europe. Before I traveled to France this year, I had fears that people might be offensive to my Hijab, but they were better than I had imagined despite some scornful looks I received. Sometimes these looks made me feel weird; it hurts being treated this way” she described.
But have the attacks affected the lives of the young people of Gaza?
Sahimaa and Mohammad, both mentioned earlier, had something to say: “I think the September 11th attacks haven’t really affected my life as a Muslim because I do believe that the USA government had already shaped its constant vision about Islam before the attacks happened” said Shaimaa. Mohammad’s answer was a bit different: “They might affect me in person, but I think I can help fight back these prejudices and misrepresentations”.
The current assaults on Gaza, unlike what took place on September 11th 2001, are not being covered by Western media. Three children among six civilians were massacred and yet nothing has been reported. These children killed and women injured are not different from women and children killed and injured on Sept.11th. In either case, the victims are non-combatant civilians and more importantly, not terrorists. Western media, let’s face it, reports discriminately. Blind eyes and deaf ears are always turned toward those who seem to be less important in the eyes of outwitting politicians whose game of power determines victims and murderers in total disregard to the truth.
(ranabaker.wordpress.com / 16.09.2011)