As the security check line began moving slowly at Washington Dulles airport, one passenger standing a few steps ahead of me appeared particularly uneasy. His dark skin, long beard, trimmed moustache, prayer spot centered on his forehead, and overall demeanor quickly gave away his identity, though he had obviously labored little to hide it. He was a Muslim and a religious one at that. Predictably, a few minutes later he was singled out and his clothes spread across a separate station reserved for those “randomly” selected for extra security check.
In the current climate, those who are not singled out for the humiliation of extra checking are still often daunted by their names — any Arabic or Muslim sounding name —, birthplace — any Arab or Muslim country —, suspicious travel destinations — all Arab and Muslim countries, although some are more “suspicious” than others —, or past records — which can include anything from conventional crimes to a single antiwar comment made to a local newspaper. Airport authorities across the
Obviously such ill treatment is neither deserved nor justified, although I find it interesting that Americans continue to be treated with grandeur status wherever they travel in an Arab or Muslim country. In some Gulf countries, US soldiers also freely roam the streets during their short breaks from
At the same time, decent American Muslim intellectuals, students, and all sorts of law-abiding citizens are losing their posts, fleeing their country, and, at best, being made to endure the suspicious eyes of fellow travelers and security personnel wherever they go. If one compares the collective harm inflicted by individual Muslims on the
Although the flow of Arab and Muslim immigrants to the
In their 1986 study, scholars McMillan and Chavis identify four elements of “sense of community”: membership, integration and fulfillment of needs, influence, and shared emotional connection. In the case of Muslim and Arab communities in the
The main differences are not just between Shiite and Sunni Islam, but also along national lines; in the
While some might prefer to opt for assimilation in these hard times, others cluster in their own clubs and small societies to preserve whatever they can of their cultural heritage.
But “assimilation” is now becoming a tool for survival for Arabs and Muslims. Many women date the removal of their headscarves to September 11, 2001, the same day that many men quietly shaved or significantly trimmed their beards. Even Arabic-sounding names have begun to find an American equivalent, such as Ghassan turning into Gus, or Sami into Sam.
What is truly dangerous in these phenomena is the development of a collective sense of escapism and detachment, as opposed to community. Many are starting to redefine the way in which they exhibit their background, for example, Muslims meeting on religious occasions only, or Arab gatherings based around the redundant themes of humus, belly dancing and Salma Hayek.
No other minority groups in the
-Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in numerous newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press,