On the matter of speaking out against “fanatics”

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Ray Hanania’s Column

If I have heard it said once, I have said it a hundreds times since September 11th that Arab Americans and Muslim Americans must speak out against fanaticism and extremists.

Most of the people making this demand are either members of the news media, political leaders familiar with Middle East issues, and pro-Israeli apologists.

Apparently, these people don’t read much in the Arab American press because we have been denouncing this extremists and fanatics for years. The problem isn’t with us. It’s with them.

You see, they really don’t care if we denounce the extremists and fanatics in our community. What they do care about is using the demand as a pretext to attack our community.

“If you are really an American, you would denounce these fanatics and extremists in the Arab and Muslim community,” they will retort often in interviews and in published articles.

Their premise is to undermine our credibility in order to make their biased, anti-Arab points.

Worse among these hypocrites are the apologists for the government of Israel and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Talk about calling the kettle black? Sharon and his followers are the most extremist and fanatic people in the Middle East.

These are people who leave the comfort of their homes, usually without prodding, to take up residence in a shack built in a desert on someone else’s property. Naturally, the people (Palestinian Arabs) whose land has been stolen by the Israeli government and given to these “settlers” are angry, creating an unbearable environment.

Who but a fanatic or an extremist who move into a home built on someone else’s land, except for a fanatic or an extremist?

You don’t hear these pro-Israeli apologists denouncing that kind of fanaticism. But you do hear them calling out from their glass houses that we, Arabs and Muslims, must denounce our own extremists and fanatics.

We have. But usually, the news media doesn’t think it’s a story. So it doesn’t get reported.

Yes, we do denounce the fanatics and the extremists. But we don’t limit ourselves to the fanatics and extremists in our Arab and Muslim community.

Unlike our pro-Israeli counterparts, we denounce all of the fanatics and the extremists, including people like Sharon and his government. Or, like the fanatic Israeli settlers who take up residence on land stolen from other people who they know will try to get their homes and lands back.

Fanaticism is not a person who believes he has a right to take his land back. Extremism is not a person who believes he has a right to defend himself against an unjust military occupation.

And that also includes other fanatics like so-called TV commentator George Will, whose arrogant attacks against justified Arab causes drips with hypocrisy, or columnists Charles Krauthammer and Richard Cohen who routinely abuse the fundamentals of fair journalism with their one-sided, partisan attacks of the Palestinian people.

The fact is we do denounce the fanatics and the extremists on a regular basis.

If you haven’t heard it, the problem could be you’re not listening.

(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian American writer based in Chicago and a regular contributor to MMN. His columns are archived on the web at www.hanania.com)

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