Racism against Arabs

I’m wondering about how posters feel about racism against Arabs. Not the easy to realize kind … the crazed terrorists going to blow up the world stereotype … the towel head crap … the “all Arab culture is sick” stupidity … but the implicit racism by those who would otherwise abhor anti-Arab stereotypes. Those who hold Arabs and Arab cultures to a different and lesser standard than what is considered acceptable for “the rest of us” … with the implication that they can’t help being violent, they are Arab. Who work hard against human rights abuses if committed by the US or by Israel, but are fairly silent about those in Yemen or in Saudi Arabia. Those who try so hard to “understand” why some Arab factions would resort to blowing up schoolchildren when they would never try to “understand” if someone who, say, called himself a French Canadian separatist blew up a nightclub in Canada. The underlying racism that justifies the use of these different standards.

It is, IMHO, just as rascist and as damaging as any other Arab stereotypes. There is nothing intrinsic to Islam that justifies such behaviors, so we can’t say that we need to understand a different mora code. I do not believe that Arab culture is intrinsically evil or violent, no more so than any other, any way. Arabs are just as smart as anyone else. Therefore the application of this different and lesser standard to Arab behavior is implicitly rascist.

Sounds like december’s Subtle Bigotry of Reduced Expectations[sup]TM[/sup] to me…

My personal feeling - there are allowances made for all countries with screwed up histories, politics, and economies. Not just Arab countries, nor all Arab countries. Countries in Asia, Africa, South America, etc. One hopes that they’ll get wise and get rich and get human rights ASAP, with or without our help.

The racism IMO would lie in singling out Arab countries for special mention…

But what if you want to try to understand it to try to fix the problem? Or maybe you’re just curious. Personally, I would be interested in the hypothetical psyche of the French-Canadian separatist. Either way, I don’t think you’re holding someone to a lower standard just by invesetigating or understanding. Justifying behavior is another thing entirely. But there is a fine line between saying one understands why a Palestinian might blow himself/herself up, and saying one it’s perfectly all right.


I am not sure I understand the question you are asking in the OP but I’ll give my opinion. In the OP you seem to state that there are different levels of racism.

According to the quoted text there are 2 types of racists. Those who view the violent actions of certain Arabs as a reason to fight vs those who, don’t really mean to be racist, but are because they view Arabs as incapable of thinking even though they aren’t racists.

Pick one.

What the hell do you mean by

“…but the implicit racism by those who would otherwise abhor anti-Arab stereotypes.” Pick one, they are racist or they are not. So, those who abhor stereotypes are the same people who create the stereotypical views?

Man, get it together.


Slee, yes.

People guilty of racist stereotypes usually do not believe that they are. They may even abhor stereotypes, which they see as that which other people do. They just have a keen grasp of reality.

But condescension and diminished expectations is as stereotypic as violent caricatures.

jjimn I suppose that you mean the december comment to be some kind of ad hominim attack? (I’ve seen how he’s been reviled in Pit threads). Do any countries not have screwed up histories? The same people who “understand” abhorrent Arab behavior do not usually make allowances for South American dictatorships or countries in Asia. As for Africa, once apartheid was gone they really couldn’t care much either way. Although some African despots have been critcised and held to reasonable expectations.

No, slee meant that you have raised a subject that december raised in one thread, then opened a second thread to discuss a couple of weeks ago. His points were quite similar to the discussion points you have raised. (It is, actually, one of the few discussions he has opened that actually was worthy of discussion rather than being a thinly veiled Op-Ed piece pretending to be based on facts.)

So am I a racist because I think that being attacked is a perfectly good reason to strike back against the aggressor?

I don’t feel that this makes me a racist. Sure, I think we should defend ourselves by just about any means necessary. From Arabs, right now. Or from anyone else who wants to kill thousands and thousands of people from my country becuase they are from my country. It’s just Arabs now because they are the ones who are blowing up our stuff/people.

And no, I see no reason at all to be merciful towards them on the basis that they are doing it based on some sort of crazy religious view that I don’t fit into.

Certainly not - I meant that what you said is a direct parallel of the same argument december has used IIRC re. Arabs, and also Black society in the US.

Three abbreviations for you: PRC, MFN, QED.

I think there’s a distinction between seeking to understand why somebody engages in such-and-such a behaviour, and seeking to excuse the same behaviour. As has been pointed out, it’s a line that’s easily crossed. But it’s an important line nevertheless.

If I do seek to excuse the behaviour of a terrorist group, it could be, as Dseid suggests, that I am prejudiced against them, in that I don’t regard them as capable of adhering to standards of civilised behaviour, and therefore don’t hold them to those standards. Or it could be that I share their prejudices, and believe their behaviour is actually justified, but haven’t the honestly to say so. Either way, I’m prejudiced.

But if I seek simply to understand their behaviour, it could simply be that I believe that their behaviour must be stopped, and I don’t believe we can really stop it unless we know why they engage in it in the first place. I’m not excusing the behaviour, but it may look to others that my failure to condemn it in unqualifed terms amounts to excusing it. Now, however, it is those others who are prejudiced – against me. They see the issue (with good reason) as a very stark choice between good and evil. For them, no equivocation is possible. Those who fail to condemn this behaviour are in practice supporting it, and that must be taken to be their intent. While this is a justifiable stance, a more nuanced position can be honestly held and honestly defended. My priority may be to stop the unacceptable behaviour. I may believe that outraged condemnation, while entirely justifiable, is ineffective or even counterproductive when it comes to attaining this objective, and that what is called for is an attempt to engage with and understand the issues which lead to this behaviour in the first place. Those who condemn me for this stance and accuse me of prejudice do so because I do not share their analysis of the situation, but their refusal to accept that my position can be honestly held, and their belief that an attempt to understand what is happening can only be explained by a sympathy with what is happening, is not justifiable.

UDS, I must disagree.

Understanding WHY they are terrorists has no value. Killing them, on the other hand, does.

We did not understand the Nazis, or why they did what they did. Heck, 50+ years laters, we STILL do not really understand. But it doesn’t matter; We killed them all. (Well, a few got away.)

From an academic point of view, sure, it would be neat to know what posses people to intentionally kill civilians. But from a practical point of view, kill the terrorists first, find out why they did it, what their favorite color was, etc, later.

Cobblers. A large part of psychological, sociological and political study of the 50s and 60s was spent trying to work out what in hell happened.

With your attitude, ottto, there would be no ceasefires in Northern Ireland.

You can’t blame the USA for being a bit biased towards the streotypical view of Arabs, they’ve just been attacked by terrorists of that ethnic origin.

When Britain was fighting the second world war, we commonly called the Germans Krouts, Huns, Nazis which they were but after it ended we still called them that and it then died down. Was there any tolerance of the Japs in the US after pearl harbour?

The Arab name calling is just a phase, when they see that not all of them are terrorists calling for Jihad but just normal people.

Quite apart from the obvious fact that not all arabs are terrorists (SHOCK!) there is also the obvious fact that the majority of racism comes from fuckwits who couldn’t recognise an Arab if they saw one. This is such a melting-pot area that there’s no set defined features anyway. And in addition to this - all the horrific tales of Sikhs getting beaten up after 11/9, and people of “middle eastern appearance” being shunned/ostracised.

Hi Ottto

You’re assuming that killing, or attempting to kill, the terrorists is necessarily going to be effective at preventing further acts of terrorism. It ain’t necessarily so. And, until you get some understanding of the underlying causes of the terrorist activity, you won’t know whether killing the terrorists is going to help solve your problem.

I’m from Ireland and, if I recall correctly from previous posts, you’re from Yugoslavia. The history of both our countries affords ample evidence that the use of force by a much stronger military power, up to and including the tactic of killing opponents, is not necessarily effective at stopping the progress of a small dedicated group who are willing to use force themselves, and in fact it can be extremely counterproductive. The Nazis were happy to use ruthless force against Yugoslav partisans, but they failed ever to defeat the partisan movement. The British use of force against a not-very-well supported republican revolt in Ireland turned the republican movement into a hugely successful political and military movement which within a very few years had achieved an undreamed-of degree of independence for a large part of the country.

Don’t get me wrong. The United States is entitled to defend itself, and the kind of attacks which the US suffered certainly justify the use of force in response. But it doesn’t follow that the use of force is an effective response, or that it is the only effective response, or the most effective response. Undoubtedly Americans – in fact, all right-thinking people – feel anger at the way in which the US has been attacked by al-Qaeda. A “let’s bomb the sht out of them” response is entirely understandable. But morality, justice and the interests of the US itself demand a more considered approach, which must include an attempt to understand what is happening, and why it is happening. Having arrived at that understanding, the US may well conclude that “let’s bomb the sht out of them” is an important, effective, justifiable and valuable part of the response to al-Qaeda. But without going through that process, Americans can’t ignore the reality that they may be victimising innocent people and making their own problem worse, with the use of force.

I would make the same argument in regard to Israel and the Palestinians, and indeed in regard to most or all situations in which a democratic society is threatened by opponents who resort to force.


I almost have to agree with a fellow boat person :slight_smile:

I simply cannot envision a way to peacefully ‘defeat’ terrorists, short of giving in to their demands. Not that this last batch of terrorists has made any demands that I know of.

Terrorists, as has been said, are radically different from freedom-fighters. My grandfathers did not go to Berlin and set off some bombs in a kindergarten classroom. They fought the Nazis as soldiers, albeit guerrilla soldiers. Your forefathers did not overthrow British Rule by going over to London and setting off some bombs by the London Bridge. It seems that only in modern times have people ‘learned’ to attack civilians, which to my knowledge, has never actually led to succuessfull conclustion for the terrorists.

Then again, short of genocide, there may not be a solution. We like to think that every problem has a solution. Maybe this one does not. I certainly hope someone somewhere figures something out, though.

Actually, I still live in Ireland

To be honest, I don’t think they necessarily are. As has been pointed out in another thread, “terrorist” refers to the methods adopted, “freedom-fighter” to the end which it is sought to acehieve. It is perfectly possible to be a terrorist freedom-fighter.

I don’t think the idea that, in the past, freedom fighters attacked only military targets, and then only in their own homeland, really stands up. I won’t speak of Yugoslav history, but it certainly wasn’t true of the Irish War of Independence.

The issue facing the United States is not whether al-Qaeda are justified in what they do. Plainly they are not justified, but that doesn’t get us very far. How is al-Qaeda to be stopped? Can the United States eliminate al-Qaeda and prevent the rise of another similar movement by purely military means? I think not. Is it in the best interests of the United States carefully to review the circumstances and conditions which gave rise to al-Qaeda, and then to review its own policies and actions to see whether these could be modified so as to alter these circumstances and conditions? Plainly, it is.

Does this mean “giving in” to terrorism? I wouldn’t put it in those terms but, even if I did, so what? The overriding interest of the United States government must be to protect the lives and welfare of its citizens, and this will usually mean avoiding behaviour which is likely to lead to the use of force by enemies (whether terrorists or not). Certainly a complete capitulation to the demands of terrorists would not be right; while it might solve the immediate problem it must tend to encourage future terrorism. But equally a refusal to look at the conditions and circumstances which give rise to the use of force against the United States cannot be in the interests of the American people, and cannot be the right course of action for the US government.

I must be unclear. I had no intention of opening another “how do we respond to terrorism” thread, or such. I did not know of december’s past threads. My question is whether or not applying different standards to different groups is applying a stereotype. I do not believe that myself 100%. I think that there are occassionally actual differences that make different standards appropriate - past inequities, current underrepresentation and a desire to have a diverse workforce or student body, lack of educational opportunity, etc. But the desire to constantly “understand” violent actions from one side of a conflict, while to condemn without qualification the actions of another side - to me bespeaks, at the minimum a bias, more likely a prejudice, and I question which side is thought worse of.

Hi DSeid

I may condemn the actions of one side immediately because I [think I] understand them, while at the same time recognising that I do not understand the actions of the other side.

And you’re still assuming that “desire to understand” = “refusal to condemn”, which I think is false. I condemn the use of suicide bombers by Palestinians, but I still recognise that condemnation alone will not solve the problem, and in order to address the problem we need to understand how it has come about.

Are you referring to the U.S., or the UAE where you are? Because I seem to recall only two incidents here in the U.S.: One Sikh man who was assaulted with a bat in Queens, NY and one who was killed in Mesa, AZ. Not that that makes them any less horrific, but violence against Sikhs in the U.S. was not exactly widespread following 9-11. (You foreigners with your funny dates! :stuck_out_tongue: )

This statement is one I disagree with in general.

IMHO to address a problem, it usually not essential to fully understand a problem.

Dr. John Snow is credited with taking bold action when he sensed that contaminated water from the public pump on Broad Street was the cause of deadly cholera during the 1854 outbreak in London. Nobody understood about germs, but his action, removing the handle of that pump, helped solve the problem.

Another example is aspirin. For many years, medical science didn’t know why it worked, but it relieved pain of millions of people.

Certain steps can be effective in foreign relations in a broad range of situations. One of them is hitting back those who attacked you. It’s better to have more understanding, but without it, retaliation is still likely to be an effective strategy.