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By Ray Hanania — It tells you how bad the situation is when Arabs and Muslims in America cheer a program that promotes the stereotype that they are “Aliens.” I’m not talking about Martians, aliens from Mars. I am talking about the more fearsome “Aliens,” the ones that come from the non-White world of fear. Apparently, the TV sitcom “Aliens in America” is the best we non-Whites can get in a post-Sept. 11 world dominated by American mainstream confusion, racism and an inability to distinguish between Arabs, Muslims, and non-Arabs.Muslims argue the show isn’t about Arabs at all, but most Americans don’t know that. I can hear some American Muslims grumbling, “What you mean ‘we’ kemo sabe Hanania?” I’m a Christian Arab constantly asked by mainstream Americans, “Why do your people hate us?”
Which people do you mean? Arabs? Palestinians? Christians? Muslims? Pakistanis? Terrorists?
Many mainstream Americans confuse us all, lumping us together in today’s world of racism and hatred that can’t seem to distinguish any more between the various differences between all of “us.”
It used to be so much easier to hate back in the 1960s when there was only one racism against one target, “Black people.”
Today, there is so much to hate it can be confusing for Americans. Arabs are seen as Muslim. Muslims are seen as Arab. Mainstream Americans often confuse “Pakistanis” with “Palestinians.”
One thing about racism is it doesn’t require you to be smart.
The sitcom “Aliens in America” is funny, for sure. I just don’t like the title, even though I am sure the producers had to call it that to sell it to the American public. Call “us” anything else besides Aliens, and no one would watch.
It’s no different than the similarly misguided effort of the Hollywood film “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” featuring Albert Brooks. The problem with the Brooks movie is that he doesn’t go looking for Comedy in the world where most Muslims live. He goes to India.
People come up to me all the time and ask, “Did you like that Brooks film about looking for humor in the Muslim World. You’re a Muslim, right?”
Sure. All olive skinned people who criticize Israel and question American foreign policy in Iraq, who support the Palestinian cause and who look like a composite drawing of all 19 Sept. 11th terrorist hijackers merged into one obviously must be “Muslim.”
I don’t mind being mistaken for a Muslim. It happens all the time.
That’s what bothers me about the TV Sitcom, “Aliens in America.” It feeds to mistaken stereotypes that Americans naively have about today’s post-Sept. 11th world. They absolutely think we are all the same.
The reality is Arabs and Muslims came to this country along with all of the other “Aliens” in America. We’ve been here since the middle of the 19th Century, at least based on the few recordings that we are aware of. We served in the military in every major war since. We’re the neighbors most Americans just don’t understand.
There was a Muslim helping Christopher Columbus in the 15th Century aboard the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria.
But that requires too much knowledge. Pakistanis and Palestinians are different? That’s not fair.
How can you hate someone like the “terrorists” if it turns out that they are not on homogenous people, but are diverse and include many nationalities, races, religions and politics?
I want to go back to a more simple era, when everything was Black and White. Simple. One of the most popular shows in American when I was growing up was “All in the Family.”
The show featured a typical mainstream White American who was constantly harping about “Black people.”
In “All in the Family,” instead of emphasizing the differences of Black Americans, it highlighted the ignorance of White racism.
“Aliens in America,” on the other hand, seems to highlight the differences of the Muslim exchange student who lives with a White family in Wisconsin.
You don’t have to go to Wisconsin to encounter racism, stereotypes or ignorance about World politics, people and religion.
Just come to where I live in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago where every effort to build a mosque is denounced fanatically by screaming Americans convinced that doing so will bring Osama Bin Laden to their neighborhoods.
Yea. I can just see Bin Laden sitting in his cave surrounded by his terrorist buddies with a big map of Chicago on the cave wall, asking, as he uses a laser pointer, “Okay. Who among you is responsible for Orland Park? Speak up now.”
No. I don’t think opening a Mosque in Chicago will do anything except maybe help teach Americans that not all Muslims or Arabs or even Christian Arabs lumped in as Muslims, are bad people.
You know how terrible educating Americans about the world can might be, especially if they are forced to open their eyes and their minds to see the truth about American foreign policy.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and radio show talk host based in Chicago. He can be reached at www.hanania.com.)
This post has already been read 57 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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