Robert Fisk: How Middle America made me feel safer

A lot of times, we never think of what it must feel like to walk around in someone else's skin. One of the most important guidelines that I have ever been adviced to follow was: think about what it would feel like if you were looking through the eyes of the person in front of you. All people want to be happy and safe...all people want to raise there families without fear of violence and hate. It doesn't matter where you are from...it doesn't matter what religion or ethnic background you are a part of... as humans we are the human race...we need to stop marginalizing and subjecting each other to such horrific non-human experiences...please read the following heart-felt TRUE article about people just like yourself...read and try to feel what it really might feel like to be any person mentioned in this article...

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Robert Fisk: How Middle America made me feel safer

Here were 32,000 Muslims saying they were proud to be Americans!

By Robert Fisk, The Independent of London, UK

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GREAT ARTICLE: PLEASE SEE RELATED STORY:
American and Muslim: Six Million People in Search of an Identity
Seattle businessmen, students, Miami housewives... Well, what did I
expect, asks Robert Fisk at the Chicago Muslim convention
by Robert Fisk: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0903-02.htm
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09/09/06 "The Independent" -- -- Every time I enter the United
States, I wonder what the lads in Homeland Security have in store
for me. But last week, Chicago was a piece of cake. I was arriving
from Lebanon, I told the young man at the desk, and I was to address
a Muslim conference. "Gee, you must have had a bad time out there in
Lebanon," he commiserated, stamping my passport in less than 30
seconds and handing it back to me with a scriptwriter's
greeting: "There you go, partner." And so I passed through the
barrier, saddled up my white Palomino in the parking lot, and rode
off towards the crescent Islamic moon that hung over Chicago. Hi Ho
Fisk, Away!

I had forgotten how many American Muslims were south-west Asian
rather than Middle Eastern in origin, Pakistani and Indian by family
rather than Syrian or Egyptian or Lebanese or Saudi. But the largely
Sunni congregation of 32,000 gathered for the Islamic Society of
North America's annual gig were not the hot-dog sellers, bellhops
and taxi drivers of New York. They were part of the backbone of
middle America, corporate lawyers, real estate developers,
construction engineers, and owners of chain-store outlets.

Nor were these the docile, hang-dog, frightened Muslims we have
grown used to writing about in the aftermath of the international
crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001. To about 12,000 of
these Muslims in a vast auditorium, I said the Middle East had never
been so dangerous. I condemned the Hizbollah leader, Sayed Hassan
Nasrallah, for saying he had no idea the Israelis would have
responded so savagely to the capture of two Israeli soldiers and the
killing of three others on 12 July. Later, a worthy imam told me: "I
thought what you said about Sheikh Hassan (sic) was almost an
insult." But that clearly wasn't what the audience believed.

When I told them that as American Muslims, they could demand a right
of reply when lobby groups maliciously claimed that a network of
suicide bombers was plotting within their totally law-abiding
community, they roared. But I warned them that I would listen
carefully to their response to my next sentence. And then I said
that they must feel free to condemn - and should condemn - the
Muslim regimes that used torture and oppression, even if these
dictators lived in the lands from which their families came. And
those thousands of Muslims rose to their feet and clapped and yelled
their agreement with more emotion and fervour than any rabble-
rousing non-Muslim yelling about "Arab terrorism". This was not what
I had expected.

Signing copies of the American edition of my book on the Middle East
some hours later - the real reason, of course, for going to Chicago -
these same people came up to me to explain they were not American
Muslims but Muslim Americans, that Islam was not incompatible with
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Some had stories of
great tragedy. One young man had written out a short sentence for me
to inscribe in the front of his copy of my book. "To my parents and
siblings," he had written on a pink slip, "who perished in the hands
of the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Yousos Adam." I looked up to
find the young man crying. "I am against war, you see," he said, and
vanished into the crowd. There were other more ingratiating folk
around: the Pakistani broadcaster, for example, who wanted me to
talk about his country's peace-loving principles - until I began
describing the continued secret relationship between Pakistan's
intelligence service and the Taliban, at which the interview was
swiftly concluded.

Then there was the young man with Asiatic features who said softly
that he was "Mr Yee, the Guantanamo imam" - who turned out to be the
same Mr Yee foully and falsely accused by the US authorities of
passing al-Qa'ida type messages while ministering to the prisoners
of al-Qa'ida at America's most luxurious prison camp. But there was
no bitterness among any of these people. Only a kind of growing pain
at the way the press and television in America continued to paint
them - and all other Muslims in the world - as an alien, cruel,
sadistic race.

One woman produced an article of June this year from the Toronto
Star about the Israeli town of Sderot, the target of hundreds of
Palestinian missiles from Gaza. "Under fire at Israel's Ground
Zero," ran the headline. "Do you believe in this kind of journalism,
Mr Fisk?" the woman demanded to know. And I was about to give her
the "both sides of the picture" lecture when I noticed from the
article that just five Israelis had been killed in Sderot in five
years. Yes, every life is equal. But who at the Star had decided
that an Israeli town with one dead every year equalled the Ground
Zero of Manhattan's 3,000 dead in two hours? All dead are equal in
the American press it seems, but some are more equal than others.

And I couldn't help noticing the degree to which The New York
Times's Thomas Friedman is stoking the fires. This is the same man,
an old friend, who wrote a few years ago that the Palestinians
believed in "child sacrifice" - because they allowed their kids to
throw stones at Israeli soldiers who then obligingly gunned them
down. Most egregiously for the Muslims I spoke to, Friedman was
now "animalising" - as one girl put it beautifully - the Iraqis, and
she presented me with a Friedman clipping which ended with these
words: "It will be a global tragedy if they (the insurgent Iraqi
enemy) succeed, but ... the US government can't keep asking
Americans to sacrifice their children for people who hate each other
more than they love their own children."

So there we go again, I thought. Muslims sacrifice their children.
Muslims feel hate more than they love their children. No wonder, I
suppose, that their kiddies keep getting Israeli bullets through
their hearts in Gaza and American bullets through their hearts in
Iraq and Israeli bombs smashing them to death in Lebanon. It's all
the Arabs' fault. And yet here in Chicago were 32,000 Muslims,
dismissing all the calumnies and sophistries and lies and saying
they were proud to be Americans. And I guess - for a man who wakes
each morning in his Beirut apartment, wondering where the next
explosion will be - that I felt a little safer in this world.

2006 Independent News and Media Limited

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