Arab Detroit 9/11: Life in the terror decade, edited by Nabeel Abraham, Sally Howell and Andrew Shryock

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This is a fascinating book that looks back at the 10 years since Arab Muslim extremists hijacked four airplanes and crashed three into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon, a decade that changed perceptions of Arabs and Muslims dramatically.

The book is a collection of 17 essays, many of them brilliantly written and insightful, but a few that are truly worthless and typical of the kind of political rhetoric that has fed not hindered the growing anti-Arabism and Islamaphobia that has risen in the West and the United States. But the good news is you can skip the few and focus on the many.

The collection of essays focuses on the challenges that Detroit’s Arab population has faced as a consequence of the hysteria that has emerged from the basic American lack of knowledge of the Arab and Muslim Worlds with eassyists addressing various aspects.

Rachel Yezick offers an overview of one of the only major positive institutional by-products of the post-Sept. 11 era, the construction of the Arab National Museum on Michigan Avenue in downtown Dearborn. The museum is brilliant and wonderful, a collection of everything Arab Americana. Yezbick gives an overview of how it came about and what is there. (In 2004, I penned a lengthy feature on the opening of the Arab National Museum for ARAMCO Magazine.)

Authors Howell and Shryock offer a detailed look at the backlash against the American Arab community in Detroit and the so-called “War on Terror.” This essay is a memorable look back published in Anthropological  Quarterly in 2003. It’s not updated — it has been so well read already — but it provides an aspect of the bigger picture the book seeks to paint. The essay examines the growth of how the government has examined economic ties between American Arab and Muslim organizations and Middle East connections, with an eye to the terror.

The book contains a heavy weight of perspective on the impact on Muslims, but essayist Matthew Stiffler looks at the impact of Sept. 11 on Christian Arabs, an often ignored and misdiagnosed community. In fact, so much focus is on Muslims and Arab Christians are often viewed as being a Christian Muslim anomaly by many Americans who can’t tell the difference between either and simply put Christian Arabs into the box with Muslims as one religious identity.

Yasmeen Hanoosh offers a valuable look at Detroit’s important and often ignored or misidentified Chaldean Community, Christians from the Middle East many of whom do not consider themselves Arabs. The Chaldeans are actually the bedrock of the “Arab” community in Detroit, all Christian and all misunderstood, stereotyped and misportrayed.

The worst essay of course is written by Will Youmans, one of the creators of the Jew-bashing web site KabobFest, which partners with the Jew-hating website Ikhras to libel, slander and defame anyone who criticizes Hamas and the growing extremist movement in the Middle East. (Youmans is also a failed “rapper” whose work seemed to borrow liberally from the cadence of Eminem, a Detroit native.)

Naturally, Youman’s poorly written essay tries to stitch together some kind of ridiculous argument that connects his personal extremist political views with an “analysis” of the impact of Sept. 11. The only cargo in his writing that is of any value is his awkward attempt to detail the viciousness of Debbie Schlussel who repeatedly libeled Imad Hamad, the director of the Detroit Chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The inclusion of the story is rather ironic considering that Youmans is involved in helping to destroy ADC today to advance his own political agenda, pushing the organization to extremism. Of course, the real irony is that there is little difference between Schlussel and Youmans or even Michele Malkin who Youman’s also cites for her Islamophobic writings.

You’ll quickly bore of Youman’s clumsy writing style, but you should ump to the many other essays which actually offer some true insight and deep perspective.

The best essay is saved for last, written by the editors, Howell, Shryock and Abraham examining the consequences and lessons of the nation;s misguided, uneducated and misinformed approach to American Arabs, American Muslims, Islam and the intricacies of the Middle East community.

Published by Wayne State University
Great Lakes Books Series
Detroit, 2011
413 pages.

This post has already been read 78 times!

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

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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