Since September 11, the Bush administration and its allies have been toiling to make a crystal-clear distinction between Islam and terrorism, seizing every opportunity to say that the bunker-buster bombs, cluster bombs and cruise missiles that are killing civilians in Afghanistan are not aimed at Islam or Muslims.
They have been urging their citizens not to act against other people “because they look different, or happen to believe in a different faith,” as Mr. Bush puts it.
Well, tell that to the pilots and flight crews who kick Middle Eastern-looking people off aircraft because some moron panics at the slightest unintentional gesture by the “suspicious” passenger, who might turn to be an American citizen or a non-Muslim.
In any case, the US assurances seem less than successful both at home and abroad. And Mr. Bush seems to know that already.
On Thursday, Bush told a news conference that he was "amazed" by the hatred many people in the Islamic world had for the United States. "Like most Americans, I just can't believe it because I know how good we are," he added.
And in yet another sign of the cultural divide, according to AFP, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani rejected Thursday a $10 million donation from a senior member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Walid bin Talal, after he criticized US policy in the Middle East.
Aren’t Bush and Giuliani fanning the flames of intolerance by their own words and deeds?
Dear Sirs: Most people in the Middle East know how to make the distinctions you’re fond of espousing. For one thing, we know that the terrorists who carried out the massacres in New York and Washington hate not only Americans, but also Muslims and humanity in general.
For another thing, the Muslim “man on the street” does not hate the American people. He is more sophisticated than that, and understands that governments often act in ways their own people would find repulsive, if they knew the facts.
Therefore, what the Muslim “man on the street” hates is actually the US government’s policies in the Middle East. Millions have taken to the streets for the last week because they see these policies as the root cause of the misery they live in, and the injustice in their part of the world. Most of them can make a distinction, no matter how the Western media spins footage of their demonstrations.
These people will express their opinions, whether US leaders like it or not. The real shame is that civilized countries want democracy at home and abroad only to the degree that people might stand in their way. And when it’s time for US leaders to face their own people to tell them the score, they say: “We don’t know, they seem to hate you so much, even though you’re good people.”
It’s time for the people of American and Europe to know that the rest of the world has no problem with them, as long as Western leaders practice the tolerant and fair values they preach. Most Muslims and Arabs already know how to make the distinctions Mr. Bush is talking about. When are he and Giuliani going to learn to act and speak with the same kind of sophistication?
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )