Americans need to understand Middle East issues

By and

We all filter the news according to what appeals and is important to us. The average American’s lifestyle is one that doesn’t express the need to be informed, especially about things foreign and overseas. But when the American government is the leading force in the world and the events that occur in it, Americans should step up and make the news important to themselves.

The news will start to affect lives soon enough. One infamous example is Sept. 11. The terrible tragedies hit home and did not happen without reason.

America, in the eyes of many, is viewed as a bully. When I was living in the Middle East, one of the Arab satellite stations ran an ad with the Statue of Liberty carrying a rifle that said, “America owes blood to the following…” and listed about 25 countries around the world from Guatemala to Indonesia. Being an American and a Muslim, I see both sides. I see why an American can view Muslims as terrorists and why there are hate crimes against them in America, even though most of the Muslims are Americans themselves. I can see why the Iraqi insurgents are viewed as evil enemies when our country invaded Iraq only to get Saddam, the weapons of mass destruction and to liberate the people.

But after we captured Saddam, found out that the weapons we were looking for never existed and saw that Operation Iraqi Liberation spelled out the word OIL, thousands of Iraqis are dead, more are wounded and crippled, and Abu Ghraib is a household name-not to mention hundreds of American soldiers are dead and more are wounded.

I ask: Why? The answer is not far away, especially when you see both sides. I can see why the Muslim world has an entrenched dislike of America, a concept that puzzles many.

America is viewed differently from one person to another in the Muslim world, just as the Muslim world is viewed differently from person to person here. We represent what is known as Western imperialism. It is an imperialism that has changed form over time from its traditional concept.

A dictionary defines the word as, “A nation’s authority by territorial acquisition or by the establishment of economic and political hegemony over other nations.”

Sounds familiar, seeing how American clothes, food, music, movies and language have entered almost every household in the world. And the people of other countries like American culture as it suits modern life.

Islam actually encourages modernization and improvement. But American culture also brings so-called sexual openness and freedom, higher crime rates and other attributes that do indeed contradict other religions and cultures.

Women under Islam have more rights than women have in Western society. Sadly, the media here tried their best and succeeded in portraying the false image of “oppressed” and “captive” women in the Muslim world.

Then there is our political and military imperialism. Our country assumed the position of “policeman of the world,” a self assigned position. Bush declared, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” referring to his War on Terror. His War on Terror has claimed at least 10,000 lives in Afghanistan, a low estimate from the Red Cross. His War on Terror also claimed thousands more lives in Iraq.

Western imperialism dates back to the Crusades in the Holy Land, where thousands of Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, were slain. Then came the colonization of most of the Muslim and Arab world by France and Britain, the Western-assisted establishment of Israel and our blind support of the Jewish state.

These events have all played a role in creating the resentment that is felt in the Muslim and Arab world, where America represents this imperialism.

However, the biggest contributor to this drift is ignorance. Ignorance in the Muslim world prevents them from realizing that the U.S. government’s actions don’t represent the whole American population. Ignorance also exists here in America, where the media are the main contenders in informing the people. Reform is badly needed. When our nightly news headline for two weeks was about Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, we know we seriously have a problem. The American public needs to educate itself.

It is hard with the lifestyle most people live, but the winds of change are here and are increasing in strength. More and more people are well-informed and it needs to continue.

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