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The nexus of the Stevens killing and anti-Muslim hate speech
By Ray Hanania
This week, the much-liked Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three Americans were killed during protests staged at the American Embassy in Benghazi.
It took on added importance because it happened while Americans were commemorating the 11th Anniversary of Sept. 11. Similar protests against American embassies took place in other Arab countries including Egypt, though no one was killed there.
The protests were in response to another instance of incitement by anti-Arab/Muslim activists in the United States, this time in a Youtube video produced by a man who claims to be an Israeli American associated with the notorious Arab hater and Christian Pastor, Terry Jones.
The Stevens killing was a true tragedy, especially since Stevens had dedicated himself to helping the Libya people in overthrowing Libya’s former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. No amount of incitement, even the most horrendous forms of hate speech, can justify murder.
But that view has been overshadowed by the politics of Islamophobia and the increasing anti-Arab hatred in the United States.
Rightwing fanatics and extremist supporters of Israel are using the killings as a rhetorical battering ram to beat down the right to protest rising instances of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate speech in America.
In the nexus of the Arab-Israeli conflict, anti-Arab/Muslim sentiment reinforces Israel’s stance, rejecting compromise with the Palestinians and reinforcing Israeli influence over American politics.
Jones has fomented hate against Arabs and Muslims in Detroit, vowing to burn copies of the Islamic Holy Book, the Qur’an. The Israeli American behind the movie is a realtor from Los Angeles, Sam Bacile, claims he raised $5 million to make the movie from “100 prominent Americans Jews.”
Bacile “defiantly” declared “Islam a Cancer” and called the Prophet Mohammed a “hoaxster.” But is he a hoaxster himself, a Coptic Christian who hates Muslims?
His comments violate American Hate Law Crimes, but sadly hate laws seem not to apply to Arab or Muslim victims of hate, only others.
While extremists argue the Arabs and Muslims have no right to protest, they defend the significant role the anti-Arab/Muslim hate-filled incitement played in provoking the protests, arguing Bacile and Jones have a right to “free speech.”
But don’t the newly “liberated” Libyans and Egyptians have a right to “free speech” in their “Democracy” to protest at the US Embassy?
The core principle of Democracy is free speech. That includes allowing people to protest loudly and boisterously not only against governments but against embassies.
“Free speech” does not justify murder, but the “Libyan people” did not murder anyone. A handful of armed fanatics among the protesters killed Stevens and the three other Americans. They may have used the protests as a cover and they should be hunted down and prosecuted.
But Bacile and Jones should be prosecuted, too.
The timing of the anti-Arab/Muslim video and hate-incited violence is also curious.
It comes at the height of the presidential election campaign where Barack Obama is defending himself against his Israeli-funded challenger Mitt Romney. Romney is backed by Israeli casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. In fact, the issue of Israel versus the Arab and Muslim world has become a election debate.
Many Americans believe Obama is a “closet Muslim.” Obama is not a Muslim, he is Christian. But he better understands Arabs and Muslims than most Americans.
Israeli leaders helped create the environment to allow this hate-speech to flourish. The same day of Sept. 11 and the Steven killing, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu harshly criticized Obama for not laying down plans to attack Iran.
There is a double standard in America that most Americans don’t want to acknowledge.
When someone in America spouts venomous anti-Semitic rhetoric against Jews or Israelis, American officials distinguish between “free speech” and “hate speech” and the offenders are prosecuted for the “hate speech.”
But when the targets of hate speech are Arab or Muslim, suddenly “hate speech” is defended as “free speech,” as it is in the Bacile and Jones video and is considered protected and part of “Democracy.”
The mainstream American media, pro-Israel groups like AIPAC and even many politicians are fanning the flames of hatred against the Arabs and Muslims because of this hypocrisy which gives haters like Bacile and Jones safe haven from which to spout their venom.
The Egyptian embassy released this statement to help calm the protests: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims, as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”
That was condemned by pro-Israel and Romney allies as “surrendering to terrorists.”
Only in America is condemning hate-speech against Muslims and Arabs considered “anti-American.”
Despite the murders, the protesters in Libya and Egypt may be closer to practicing genuine “Democracy” than the hate-tolerant Americans who claim to be Democracy’s guardians.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. Reach him at www.TheMediaOasis.com.)
This post has already been read 63 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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