The Western world, particularly the U.S., has a skewed perception of the Middle East. It seems the U.S. forgets its moral commonalities with the Middle East. This has become conspicuous with recent rhetoric and President Donald Trump’s travel bans.
The hatred for people from the Middle East was evident when former president Barack Obama was critiqued because of his Islamic middle name. This insinuates it is nefarious to be Muslim in the first place.
In Islamophobic circles, conversations about Sharia law are common. Instances of acid attacks and lynchings in the Middle East are highlighted in these echo chambers. The U.S. often impedes progressive conversation by claiming moral superiority to places like the Middle East. The Middle East is often used as a point of reference when refuting critiques of activist groups such as the LGBTQ and feminist movements.
Americans’ sanctimony is hypocritical, as the last officially recognized lynching in the U.S. occurred only 37 years ago in 1981. Religion remains a prominent obstacle in American politics. Many American terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan have based their doctrine in Christianity. The court’s decision on Roe v. Wade was passed over a quarter-century ago, but religion has been an important institution in keeping stigma against abortion alive. Politicians often pander to their Evangelical base and shape American politics around their Christian beliefs.
Politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz have openly stated they place faith before country. It is also ironic that the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" is used to fearmonger. There are more domestic terrorist incidents involving white terrorists than Muslim terrorists, according to a study conducted by The Nation Institute Investigative Fund and The Center for Investigative Reporting Reveal.
It appears the U.S. teaches history with ambiguity, rather than analyzing with nuance. It seems the U.S. is negligent to learn from past atrocities such as the Iraq War. The Iraq War was largely a reaction to the World Trade Center being attacked by 19 Middle Eastern hijackers. These villainous attacks killed nearly 3,000 civilians. Emotions were exacerbated, and anti-Muslim rhetoric had reached its pinnacle. The U.S. then took vengeance and committed their own terrorist attack on the Middle East. Approximately 165,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the U.S. invasion in 2003.
This sprung the germination of many terrorist groups in the Middle East that felt angst toward the U.S. These terrorist groups have enveloped many morally decent people in the Middle East. Many U.S. citizens have stereotyped the majority of people from the Middle East as wicked. Travel bans that plan to quarantine the area just contribute to the evil vacuum created in the region. This allows moral people from the Middle East to either be killed, imprisoned or radicalized.
Politicians still use warmongering rhetoric toward the Middle East, displaying that they have not learned anything from recent wars. A facade of feminism has been employed to combat Middle Easterners, as well. While covering with hijabs is a concept deployed to control women, it is important for U.S. citizens to support Muslim women on the issue.
Malala Yousafzai is an exemplary women’s rights activist. Her advocacy for women’s right to education was inspiring enough for the Taliban to plan her murder. In 2012, she was shot as an order from the Taliban. She was rushed to the hospital and miraculously recovered. Presently, Yousafzai chooses to participate in Islam and wear a hijab.
An ingenuine display of concern with Middle Eastern politics occurred when Trump advocated for the people of Iran, who are on the brink of revolting against a tyrannical government. Trump’s support for Iranians seems misplaced, as they were victims of his proposed travel ban. The U.S. has a history of wanting to topple Iran’s government. It appears as if Trump is only supporting Iranians because of other political interests, especially when his rhetoric towards the nation is demeaning.
Interestingly, the same people who take pride in the U.S. being more progressive than the Middle East are the same people who impede the U.S. from progressing further. In Alabama, 68 percent of white voters voted for alleged pedophile Roy Moore, who shares many common political beliefs with the tyrannical governments in the Middle East. Moore, like some Middle Eastern governments, is against gay marriage, abortion and teaching evolution.
The people fighting to keep the U.S. purely white aren’t the ones who are helping this country progress. This country has progressed in large part because of black Americans, Latinos and other minorities, many of whom are Middle Eastern immigrants. They were the ones who helped Doug Jones defeat Roy Moore in Alabama.
The U.S. has systematic problems. If the last lynching occurred only 37 years ago, then the U.S. cannot claim moral superiority over the Middle East. On a cosmological timeline, the U.S. is less than a second ahead. If society wants to progress, we must be more accepting. A conversation that defines our moral standards should involve everyone wanting to progress regardless of race. Perhaps, if U.S. citizens opened their minds, they’d realize they are more alike than juxtaposed to their Middle Eastern neighbors.
Soheil Saneei is a 19-year-old biological engineering freshman from Metairie, Louisiana.