With All My Might by Gabriella Naseem Akhtar van Rij – racism in the wake of Sept. 11th

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Finally, a book that addresses the reality of the post-Sept. 11, 2001 racism against anyone who looked Middle Eastern, or who looked like the terrorists, or who was Muslim, dark skinned, spoke or didn’t speak Arabic.
Gabriella Naseem Akhtar van Rij’s With All My Might explores the racism that has pervaded the world since 9/11, documenting her own experiences as a woman born in Pakistan and adopted by Dutch parents.  Although she had faced racism and pressures to conform throughout her life, after 9/11 van Rij experienced particularly ignorant forms of racism, prejudice, and bias that were not influenced by logic or reasonable thought, rather, by immutable conceptions of Middle Eastern people.
As the media bombarded people with terrible images of Afghanistan, the Taliban, and Bin Laden, van Rij was confronted with ignorance; “Pictures are very powerful and people started to associate the people on the news with people like me, who just happened to look like them.”  Although she had experienced a great deal of racism in her life in Brussels, she was unprepared for North American racism, thinking that it was “over and done with.”
Van Rij gave technical seminars on computer programs for multinationals and someone made the comment “about my looks being identical to the people shown on television,” an experience that she calls “surrealistic.”  She had watched the same images as her client; however, she in no way connected the images of the terrorists to herself.  She finds herself justifying herself to the ignorance of the world, reminding herself that she was brought up in Europe and that the war had nothing to do with her.  She calls justifying herself to those with preconceived notions and bias a “bad habit I have” and one that is unnecessary.  The woman to whom she unnecessarily justifies herself “could not have cared less and definitely did not listen.  All she cared about is that I looked like those people on television and wondered if I could potentially do harm too.”
Van Rij’s account of the racism that she has experienced since 9/11 highlights a gross inequity in today’s society, in which many ignorantly hold Muslim and Middle Eastern people in general responsible for the terrorism and radicals, no matter what their religious alignment, beliefs, or personal history, even holding biases against some second generation Americans of Middle Eastern descent.  We are confronted with these issues continually through such programs as CNN’s Unwanted: The Muslims Next Door and the resistance to the building of mosques on American soil.  With All My Might stimulates deep thought and reflection within readers, encouraging them to reexamine their attitudes and the manner in which they have unfairly treated people in the last decade.
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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at TheArabDailyNews.com, TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

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.

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

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
Ray Hanania