Arab Revolution in Bahrain
First, I want to comment that the journalist and blogger Angry Arabiya wins the prize this week for having the world’s biggest brass cahones, in my opinion. This amazing young woman is currently being interrogated by the Bahraini police, and tweeting about it when she gets the chance. Holy crap! And her heinous crimes for which she is being interrogated are the police having bogus photos of her at an ‘unauthorized gathering’, having family who voiced their opinion about the regime and refused to apologize for it, and her having a sign protesting torture. What a monster… Kind of puts getting pulled over for a speeding ticket here in the US into perspective. Her dad has revealed that he has been tortured since he was detained, and she still doesn’t know where her husband and brother are. My thoughts and wishes go out to her, and I hope that she is not harmed.
All across the Middle East right now are people who are fighting for their freedom and for the basic rights that most European and North American continent countries have had for decades. I read about some support and comments coming from the US, but I am a bit surprised that I do not hear more, since it is so similar to the struggles that brought us to the Revolutionary War. And then I read about the fear of Arabs in blogs and comments on articles and remember that people have *temporarily* (one hopes) gone bonkers about Islam and anyone perceived as Middle Eastern.
If these revolutions had happened before 911, what would American people’s responses have been? Comedians like Dean Obidallah, Ahmed Ahmed, Maz Jobrani, and Aron Kader have talked about how the day before 911, they were average US citizens with diverse backgrounds like everyone else in the US. On 911, they became Arab. These guys say everything a lot funnier than that. But it’s funny because it’s true, and because if we don’t laugh at our ridiculousness, the remaining people with common sense might lose their minds and stick forks in their own eyes in exasperation.
I’ve known a lot of ‘Middle Easterners’ and a few Muslim folks in my life so far. I think the first experience I had with Islam was our next door neighbors in my apartment complex in Arizona. I don’t remember what nation they were from, but she wore a hijab. The only reason I remember that is because I was curious. But what I remember most about them is that they were a young couple who liked to barbecue. We liked to barbecue too and so we had weekly potlucks, sometimes daily… It never would have occurred to me to be afraid of them or view them as possible terrorists or extremists then…and it doesn’t now either. I missed them when they moved away, they were cool.
I’ve been guilty of briefly taking note of someone wearing a hijab or burka in the past because while I didn’t know what it was called, I was just plain curious. It was different than what I usually saw. However, the more I talked with this couple and with other folks, the more I found that we really weren’t different. As a Jewish person, I actually found, especially from chatting at work with a Muslim co-worker, that we had a lot on things in common. In fact, this co-worker kind of became like a surrogate Jewish-Muslim mom. When my boyfriend at the time visited, and he wasn’t Jewish, and when I ate our director’s delicious pork mole, she responded with, “Are you trying to kill your parents?”
This anti-Muslim mania has seeped into the airlines to the most notable degree. Anything goes if you tack ‘national security’ to the end of the sentence. I acknowledge that there are wackos who want to blow people out of the sky, but like my husband and I were discussing, I’m way more afraid of the home-grown entitled bell-tower crazies whose lives didn’t go the way they planned, than I am of entire populations of regular citizens who happen to wear more clothing than me, and call God by ‘one o’ them dang furrin names’. And as far as the searches, ‘random’, my ass. My husband is Native American, and I am Semitic looking. Especially when he grows a beard, two somewhat dark people of unknown ethnicity equal one searchable ‘threat’, in profiler’s eyes, because unless we’re traveling with a really White midwesterner, we get searched with frequency. And if you have anything that could be interpreted as Islamic, forget it, show up to the airport three hours early, not two. I had a great conversation with a couple of ladies on Twitter. One of them @muslimasoasis expressed people’s confused reactions to her because she is very Caucasian-looking, yet she is a hijabi, and @ayakhalil did a really enlightening sociaological experiment when flying. She noted people’s reactions to her as she normally is with her hijab, and then noted their reactions when she covered it up. Poof, like magic, the flocks of stand-offish were markedly more chatty. Her blogpost is really worth a read at http://sweeteaya.blogspot.com/ Scroll down to the entry Flying Hijabless. No, there’s no racial or religious discrimination in profiling…cough…’national security’.
The countries struggling right now with defining themselves and finding a government solution that works for the majority of its peoples are ancient and their histories and their cultures complex. They are not primitives or ‘noble savages’ or any other such nonsense that we seem to attribute to people we don’t understand, whether or not they have iPads and Netflix. I may not always agree with some Islamic perspectives from the Koran as interpreted by individual people now, but I don’t always agree much with my own Torah either or the people who talk about it. My own opinion is my own, that they were and are very useful documents and paradigms that were set firmly when they were written, in a particular historical context not separable from those paradigms. They got people where they needed to go at the time, and still do.
As for my own ideology, I don’t set much store by what some random person thinks a book did or didn’t say. I’m watching what’s going on in these nations with the fervent hope that the people who are fighting their own autocratic regimes right now, often far scarier to do than the thought of outside invasion, will continue to fight until the world knows the truth they are trying to tell about what is going on there, and until they get the freedoms they are fighting for, right to assemble, right to criticize stupid selfish politicians, right to drive! Viva la revolutions, wherever they are occurring, Bahrain, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and all the others!