Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When did "Arab" become a dirty word?

Recall that recently at a McCain Rally:

Woman at rally: I don't trust Obama. I have read about him and he's an Arab.

Sen. John McCain: No ma'am, no ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. That's what this campaign is all about. He's not, thank you.

Campbell Brown cuts through the "bull" on CNN, and she rightly asks the question - "So what if Barack Obama were an Arab?"

So what if Obama was Arab or Muslim? So what if John McCain was Arab or Muslim? Would it matter?

When did that become a disqualifier for higher office in our country? When did Arab and Muslim become dirty words? The equivalent of dishonorable or radical?

I feel like I am stating the obvious here, but apparently it needs to be said: There is a difference between radical Muslims who support jihad against America and Muslims who want to practice their religion freely and have normal lives like anyone else. There are more than 1.2 million Arab-Americans and about 7 million Muslim-Americans, former Cabinet secretaries, members of Congress, successful business people, normal average Americans from all walks of life.

McCain's response doesn't do enough to correct the impression that Arab or muslims are decent people. Just because are some muslim terrorists, doesn't mean that ALL MUSLIMS are terrorists. That's like saying that because some white people are racists, then ALL white people are racists.

But in case it's still difficult to understand this concept, John Stewart and Aasif Mandvi helps us to see how ridiculous the "fear" and pride in ignorance that some of the right win McCain Supporters espouse over Obama being a "muslim".

Arab Americans have served our country in many areas. Here are just a few examples of Arab Americans who have served in the Military, Politics, and Journalism

You talk about courage … How about America’s and the world’s first jet ace? He was the Korean War hero, U.S. Air Force Col. James Jabara. In World War II, Army officers like Maj. Gen. Fred Safay fought alongside Gen. Patton, and Brig. Gen. Elias Stevens served on Gen. Eisenhower’s staff.

And in 1944, one of our Navy’s ships, the destroyer escort USS Naifeh, was named in honor of an Arab American hero, Navy Lt. Alfred Naifeh of Oklahoma. Retired Brigadier General James J. David served as Company Commander of the famous 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970. More recently, West Point graduate and retired four-star Gen. George Joulwan was the NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, where he commanded both European and U.S. troops. Brig. Gen. William J. Jabour is the Director of the Air Force Program Executive Office for Fighter and Bomber programs in charge of the F-22 System Program Office (SPO). General John Abizaid is head of U.S. Central Command in Iraq.

The first Arab American ever appointed to a Cabinet secretary post was Donna Shalala, the nation’s longest serving Secretary of Health and Human Services, and now president of the University of Miami. Former Governor of New Hampshire John H. Sununu became the White House Chief of Staff under Pres. George Bush, Sr., and later a political commentator on CNN. America’s longest-serving White House Chief of Protocol, serving seven-and-a-half years under President Reagan, was Ambassador Selwa Roosevelt. Thomas Nassif and Edward Gabriel both served as U.S. Ambassador to Morocco. Our Ambassador to Syria was Theodore Kattouf, and Marcelle Wahba was Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. The late ambassador Philip C. Habib served as Special Presidential Envoy to the Middle East and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Feisty Helen Thomas, who served for 57 years as a correspondent for United Press International and was dean of the White House press corps, is a Hearst newspaper syndicated columnist.
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