Nagham F. Awadallah
I Don't Remind You of Anyone
Almost anywhere outside their countries,
Arabs and Muslims seem to confront the skeptic looks on the
faces of other people around them. This skepticism mostly turns
into awkward behavior, which in many cases leads to certain
precautious procedures. These so called "security measures" vary
on the official and the public level: from being inspected
individually at airports to being shunned by the public. This
new perception of Arabs and Muslims as a potential threat
conquered the world after September 11. 2001.
On that gloomy day, the planes swooshed right
through the silver rectangular skyscrapers violently instigating
red and gray flames. At that moment, humans on the planes and in
the buildings were experiencing the unthinkable. The scene
itself was overwhelmingly shocking; but an attempt to picture
oneself on one of the planes or in one of the buildings is
utterly unimaginable. Personally, I cannot foresee a single
normal human being desiring to be in such a state, or even not
minding to be in it. It’s something that the human soul
instinctively rejects. Humans were not designed to be mass
murderers. Yet many defy nature and turn into murderers.
It's humans who drove those planes right
through the buildings packed with humans. It was humans who
killed hundreds of thousands of helpless Japanese in Hiroshima.
It was humans who mercilessly slaughtered millions of innocent
Vietnamese, Africans, Jews, Gypsies, Slaves and others. How
could a human put his or her humanity aside, and act like a
Later, there came the announcement. Osama Bin
Laden: an Arab- AlQaida – an Islamic movement. That is, my
ethnic group and my religion, but definitely not me.
Unfortunately, as soon as the stereotype was generated, it
became almost impossible for the international community to
envision an Arab or a Muslim without linking them to terrorism.
It seemed as if the new categorization of humans around the
world is on the basis of terrorism; depending on your identity,
you're either labeled as a terrorist or not.
As an Arab Palestinian Muslim, I have on
several occasions been mistreated because of my ethnicity and
religion. On those occasions, my person was disregarded and the
newly molded negative stereotypes of my ethnic identity and
religion dictated the manner in which I was treated. At
airports, I was called along with the other Arabs and Muslims to
go to the runway to attend the thorough piece- by- piece
inspection of my luggage before it was lifted to the plane. In
public places (outside of the Arab world), I was avoided by some
people once knowing that I'm an Arab. This prejudice reached the
extent that during a summer in the U.S. with my family, a woman
threatened to call the police if we took our bags with us to the
bathrooms; this was on the beach where my family and I wanted to
wear our bathing suits.
There's no doubt about the fear that the
international community feels after September 11th but this
still doesn't give a green light for racism. The 9/11 attack on
the United States, although the highest in its hideousness in
U.S. history, is not the first of its kind. On April 19 1995,
there was an attack on the Murrah Federal Building in downtown
Oklahoma City. No planes broke through the building, and no
Arabs or Muslims performed nor planned the attacks. At the
Oklahoma City attack, a truck exploded and the attacker was
Timothy Mc Veigh. Clearly, the attacker wasn't an Arab or a
Muslim. He was an American Christian, but still that didn't stop
him from ignoring his humanity and killing civilians including
women and children. Thus, ethnicity and religion aren't an
indication of the person's inclination to perform terrorist
attacks; such an act depends on personal choices and
circumstances and definitely doesn't run in the blood.
A person's humanity should be the sole basis
on which he or she is perceived. Humanity should come first in
interactions, whereas ethnicity, religion, color, language…etc.
shouldn't be an excuse nor a reason for negative or prejudiced
interactions amongst humans. The actions of some who belong to a
certain ethnicity, religion, or color shouldn't be generalized
to the whole. Collective punishment is not the answer.
I may share some identity attributes with
this or that person. But I should not remind you of someone just
because of that. I am myself. I ought to be treated accordingly.
Nagham F. Awadallah is a student at
Birzeit University in Ramallah, Palestine. She is studying
English Literature and Translation.