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Unformatted text preview: 1Ali Haider Bray, Jennifer ENGL 1302 Comp 2 02/20/2008 Being a Pakistani-American in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York has opened me to the scrutiny of the powerful and the realization of the oppressed. However, the very realization of my oppression is what has resulted in my pursuit of knowledge and the beginnings of power. These and other incidents are not isolated from my own experiences as a Pakistani-American. I am not a Muslim, but the mere mention of my name and my birth country immediately cast a shadow of doubt upon me. I felt the effects immediately after September 11th. I was living in Pakistan, and flying back home to America where my parents lived. On every stop, I was withheld, questioned, and detained before I was allowed to pass so that I could catch my flight. I missed every single one of my flights, which resulted in a 5 day journey that should have only taken 18 hours. I found out later that I had been flagged at my very first checkpoint because of my country of departure, my destination, and my name. I watched as everyone else breezed on through the security checkpoints, the stress growing with every day. I saw the wars waged in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the US policies towards the Middle East and the Muslims world worsen with every day. It was sickening and I felt the world hurtling towards a certain doom. These were my catalysts to researching the history behind the war, the foreign policy, the attacks, etc. As someone who grew up in Pakistan and America, I felt compelled to discover why there was so much conflict and tension between the two. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were part of a terrorist cell, Al-Qaeda, headed by a Saudi exile, Osama Bin Laden. The 9/11 Commission Reports gives a good background to September 11th and the boiling tensions between the Middle East and the United States. In February of 1998, Osama bin Laden, issued a fatwa or religious decree "claiming that America had declared war against God and his messenger, they called for the murder of any American" (May, 47). Simply looking at this, most Americans would be shocked at the call for indiscriminate killing of any and all Americans. There are two things however that must be looked at, before any judgement can be made. First, Islam is a religion of peace and "neither Bin Laden... nor the three others who signed this statement were scholars of Islamic law" (May, 47). Islam is a religion of peace and understanding. Any serious examination of the Holy Quran, the religious text of Muslims, would show that accommodations are made for those of other religions and that war is not to be waged upon anyone unless Islam is first attacked, and in that event, it should not be indiscriminate. Secondly, we must examine the reasons behind Osama bin Laden seemingly issuing this call to arms out of the blue. "In August 1996, bin Laden had issued his own self-styled fatwa calling upon Muslims to drive American soldiers out of Saudi Arabia". The fatwa also "condemned the Saudi monarchy for allowing the presence of an army...in a land with the sites most sacred to Islam" (May, 48). The oppression of Muslims world wide was being felt and it was being dealt by a country that boasted freedom and democracy. Yet it also boasted bases around the world and more importantly in the holy land of Muslims. The United States supports the monarchy of Saudi Arabia, yet seeks to put its puppets in the governments of other Muslim countries such as Iran, claiming the need for democracy and freely elected officials. The relationship between the United States and the royal house of Saud is a long standing and mutually beneficial one that ignores the plight of Muslims around the world. Again, an examination of Islamic law, or shariah, shows the illegality of a monarchy in Islam. The leader is either elected as a successor by the Caliphate or elected by the people in the case of no successor being chosen. There are other claims enumerated by Osama bin Laden against the United States that are equally important. Noam Chomsky in an interview with Michael Albert talked about interviews between Robert Fisk and bin Laden. He mentions bin Laden and his shared "anger felt throughout the region at the ... support for atrocities against Palestinians, along with U.S.-led devastation of Iraqi civilian society" (Chomsky, 59). These two crimes highlight a very Muslimoppressive foreign policy adopted by the United States. In Iraq, U.S. policy in the past fifteen years had devastated the civilian society meanwhile strengthening Saddam Hussein. The U.S. placed him into power and then supported him despite his terrible atrocities such as the gassing of the Kurds in 1988. The United States placed a sociopath into power who wreaked havoc on the country and then the United States went to war twice giving the country little to no hope of developing. The United States' support for Israel began with President Truman's decision to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. $135 million was approved by the United States Congress as an aid package in order to take in holocaust survivors and to provide them with homes. The aid provided to Israel constitutes 30% of the total U.S. foreign aid budget. This makes Israel the worlds largest recipient of foreign aid from the United States. What is interesting to note is the disproportion in this policy. The history of US financial assistance to the Israeli government is documented by the website, the Jewish Virtual Library. There is a growing amount of assistance after 1973 that goes to economic, military, and immigrant grants. Instead of assisting a developing country, this is clearly an attempt at empowering Israel in the very volatile Middle East region so that the United States has a close and strong ally that they can count on. There are clear controversies to this type of support to Israel. First, Israel is already a technologically, economically, and militarily advanced country yet still receives 30 percent of the US foreign aid. Despite the very small population, Israel receives more aid than all countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean combined, and is not required to report what they do with it. The aid also goes into building settlements for Jewish immigrants, which occurs by the demolition of Palestinian homes to provide space. There is an Israeli law of return which provides for homes of all Jewish immigrants who return, guaranteeing them immediate employment, citizenship, and free Hebrew learning. However Palestinian refugees are refused to return to their hometowns after being ousted in both 1948 and 1967. Much of the aid also goes into purchasing United States military equipment which is in turn used on the Palestinians such as uranium depleted bullets. The Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of the United States provides the guidelines for the eligibility of certain countries to purchase US-made weapons and military equipment, states in section 116 that "No assistance may be provided under this part to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." In contrast to these guidelines, the Israeli army engages repeatedly in degrading and inhumane treatments towards Palestinians. This includes prolonged detention without charges, strip searches at various check points, beatings, torture, and home demolitions. According to Amnesty International, Israel is the only country that legalizes torture (http://www.palestinemonitor.org/). Ted Honderich, Britains foremost radical philosopher, provides an excellent insight into the history of Jewish immigration into Palestine and the reasons that do not justify the loss of Palestinian land. He writes that the "greatest suffering of a single people in the twentieth century was the killing of something like six millions Jews by the German state during World War II" (Honderich, 133). He recognizes the monstrosity behind the Holocaust, however he brings up an excellent point that "at the end of the war a homeland for the Jewish people ought to have been created out of Germany. It was not the Palestinians who voted for Hitler in a German democracy and then ran the death camps. It was not the Palestinians who for conclusive reasons, quite separate from retribution, should have given more than help to the Jews, more than compensation. It is Germany, beyond question of doubt, out of which a homeland for the Jews ought to have been carved" (Honderich, 134). Instead, as I have outlined above, the Palestinian Muslims have been oppressed and the US policies which continue to oppress Muslims are supported in the region. The way this is allowed to continue is through the propagandist messages contained in American media. Whenever there is a war, there is bound to be propaganda. "Propaganda campaigns generall seed the soil for successful military operations and are often used to make a person conform to one line of thinking about a military operation or...a war on terrorism" (Snow,21). The way the media has distorted the message of this war on terrorism is very scary when it is closely examined. One way to think about it is that Osama bin Laden has been charged with the attacks on 9/11. He operates a terrorist group that is based in Afghanistan who carried out the attacks on the Twin Towers. When Timothy McVeigh was found to be guilty of the Oklahoma City bombings, the United States rooted out the terrorist and detained him. They did not bomb the state of Oklahoma. That would have been unthinkable. However, the reasons to go to war with Afghanistan were vague and shaky at best. Osama bin Laden did not represent the country of Afghanistan, and so the bombings and subsequent deaths of civilians including children was a horrific image. The war on terrorism has been candy coated so that it is easier to force down the throats of mainstream America. "The world is not divided into white hats and black hats, do-gooders and evildoers, unless you want to believe the world that Spiderman inhabits" (Snow, 23). America has capitalized on the image that it is the purveyors of good around the world and the champions of peace and democracy. Repeatedly in his speeches, President Bush emphasizes the evildoers hatred of America's peace and freedom. This complete ignoring of the facts and what the CIA has termed "blowback" only deepens the problem faced by the United States in winning the support of the Middle East. As a world citizen as well as a person of Middle Eastern descent, I feel it is my duty to inform others of my oppression and that of my region and its peoples. Since I have access to an American university, and American citizens who otherwise might not know the truths behind what occurs in the world, I am able to reach more and more people and open them up to what might not be reported in the media. This is my grab for power in response to my oppression. The fluid dynamic is not mutually exclusive. I am not either totally in power or completely oppressed. It is because of one, that the other follows. Seeing the oppression and then being girded too tight by the ropes of oppression, has led me to engage myself and those around me. Power is not just the knowledge but what is done with this knowledge. I grew up in a community of Muslims where I saw people putting others before themselves in order to create a community of harmony and peace. There was honesty and compassion and not once an instance of jealousy. It is these principles that I want to defend and the people who act according to them. This paper is my first attempt at putting the knowledge of the oppression of the Middle East out there. First it will reach my teacher and my class and then hopefully, it will go outside of the classroom and onto the campus for more people to read. From south Texas, I would like for those outside of the city to read it and pass it on to as many people as they can. The more people know about these issues, the quicker we can start making a change for the better. It is not just those being oppressed that are being affected, but the entire world. September 11th was an atrocity that should not be repeated and neither should those occurring in Palestine and Iraq nor should they be allowed to begin in other countries. BIBLIOGRAPHY May. R. Ernest. 9/11 Commission Report: Barnes and Noble, 2004 Chomsky, Noam. 9/11. New York: Open Media, 2001. "U.S. Assistance to Israel" The Jewish Virtual Library.<http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/> Honderich, Ted. Right and Wrong. New York: Seven Stories Press. 2006 Snow, Nancy. Information War. New York: Seven Stories Press. 2003 "Palestine Monitor Factsheet." Palestine Monitor.<http://www.palestinemonitor.org/>. ...
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- Spring '08