Anthony Asadullah Samad
*The decision to elevate the assault on Libya and its leader, Moammar Gadhafi, has some very chilling forecasts for normalizing relations with Muslims in America. Libya is involved in a civil war for which no vital American interests are at stake. Libya only controls two percent of the world’s oil, of which the United States is not highly invested.
The destabilization of Libya now threatens the stabilization of the whole Middle East region. Yet the U.S. can’t resist invading another Muslim nation. Interesting. Following the regime change in Egypt, conflict in Libya signals the changing of the guard of a new generation of Arab Muslims trying to sync themselves (not sink themselves) into an ever changing world. There should be concern about America’s role in the Middle East change will be and what the end game looks like. Is this another situation where America gets stuck in and can’t get out.
The rise of Islamophobia in America is in evidence as the United States is at war with three Islamic nations simultaneously. It is even more interesting how President Obama has entered this fray, with less than emphatic vigor, as if an obligatory responsibility for the United States to continue an antiquated role as “defenders of the free world” is a necessity here. It is not. Yet the pundits and experts have framed the President’s role as confusing and minimalist (or even manipulated).
None can agree on why the United States is even involved, only that it somehow had to be involved or America was abdicating responsibility to its Middle East allies. With little (or no) love out there for the President or Muslims among those seeking to return political civility to our nation, it is easy to see that this is a no-win situation for Obama AND America, much less the religion that continues to be radicalized and distorted-Islam. In recent years, the return of Negrophobia in America can’t be denied. But when it collides with Islamophobia, what is the rational solution here?
America is currently suffering from acute Islamophobia. Has been since 9/11. It really turned acute when Barack Obama became a presidential contender, but the heightened national debate around building an Islamic Cultural Center near the Twin Towers site gave cause for alarm and America’s Islamophobic symptoms grew. Let’s be clear what Islamophia is. It’s an unfounded fear or contempt for Muslims, or anybody that fits a profile of a Muslim including Arabs, Sheiks, Indians and bi-racial black people with Arab or Islamic names…even if they’re Christians. America is treating Arab/Muslim nations in the 21st Century like they treated Asian nations for most of the 20th Century. America went to war with three Asian nations (Japan, Korea and Viet Nam) over a 35 year period (1941-1976) in the 20th Century that created a high racial animus (inherent dislike because of conflict of culture) for Asians still in effect today (Asians have the third highest racial animus in the nation behind Blacks and Jewish people). But Arabs are pushing up on them fast. America has invaded three Muslim countries in the first ten years of the 21st Century, and the parallels are alarming. While some people try to deny Islamophobia in America based on reported hate crimes that show many fewer than on Blacks or Jews (largely because of the belief that Muslims are militant or violent), the real phobia comes in the resistance to societal inclusion, where no one wants to be close to Muslims for fear that they might be living with a bomber or “terrorist” as they’ve been framed. CNN, which has been studying black people and black life for the past two years (white people had to reintroduce themselves to Black America after the Obama election phenomenon), will air a special this weekend on America’s Islamophobia, called Unwelcome: The Muslim Next Door.
The increasing hostility toward Muslims and any attempts to show civility toward Muslims is an issue in our society. The commonality that Asians of the 20th Century have with Muslims of the 21st Century is that America tends to pick on the fringe elements in hope to show force and superiority, but end up losing in failure to acknowledge what the people of those countries really wanted, wasn’t what America wanted. A stalemate in Korea and a loss in Viet Nam is the 20th Century legacy that was left of America’s wandering into regional conflicts. A stalemate in Afghanistan and a loss in Iraq should be a cause to pause on Libya. But President Obama, who I think understands the rationality of pausing in the region, had his hand forced by folk seeking to test his virility in the Presidency. For the past two years, there has been this contempt for Obama, that really came out in the health care debate, that showed a more widespread Negrophobic behavior. And America’s relapse into Negrophobia began. Negrophobia has been in America more than 200 years, starting in the Northern states when they became “concerned” about sharing social spaces with free blacks and increasing as manumissions and runaways found refuge in the northern states. Negrophobia actually drove whites into the 19th Century Free Soil movement, which were “slavery free” territories where blacks were excluded in pursuit of a strictly European existence called “White Man’s Country. The North-Midwest and the Northwest part of the country is still the whitest part of the nation today because of this pre-Civil War racial engagement. The election of Barack Obama and the realization that it was hard to make blacks invisible with a black man in the White House (though they still try) has brought a return of Negrophobia (contempt for blacks) to America. White anxiety, fear, suspicion and paranoia is at a 40 year high (since white flight of the 1970s).
Despite the racial animosities that exist around Obama’s Presidency (refusal to acknowledge his statesman status, constant questioning anything he does), the biggest issue they have with him is his nationality and religious identity (read- 20% of America thinks he’s wasn’t born in America, 14% STILL thinks he’s a closet Muslim). For two years, anti-Muslim sentiment (read that, “the Tea Party, the Religious Right, the Republican Opposition Imperative) has called on Obama to renounce Islam, and “prove” he’s not a Muslim. The first two wars, Obama didn’t start and he’s been slow to finish, but this one is the “test” many have been waiting for. He was able to resist it during the Egypt revolution because Egypt has always been an ally in the Middle East (North Africa). However, Libya just regained diplomatic recognition over the past few years, having been on our “enemies list” for alleging having a role in the bombing of Pan-Am 103 in December of 1988. Gadhafi has always denied it and paid a settlement, but was never been viewed in the best of light by the American people. In fact, he has become the poster boy for Islamophobes who point to him as the classic non-rational, extremist actor in the Muslim world leadership. Unlike Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, they just hadn’t had a reason to get at him before now. America getting in the middle of Libya’s protests is like calling the police for a schoolyard brawl…while we have a cause for concern, it is a bit of an overkill. But it’s also a chance for the nation to see how President Obama deals with a Muslim radical leader. So what the Arab Union signed off on the attack, and??? That’s equivalent to Clarence Thomas signing a petition to moving you off he and his neighbor’s block. It’s not really germane to the issue. There is a sovereignty in place that America must respect (but doesn’t). America can’t solve every nation’s conflicts. America’s Negrophobia pushed Obama to act out its Islamophobia It’s an unavoidable collision course that Obama will have to navigate very delicately, lest he crashes and burns. We already have seen that he can’t be seen as “too black.” Now he has to be concerned about being “too pro-Islam.”
And of course, as the leader of our nation, he has to be “pro-American” at all times
Even when it’s wrong and irrational to be so.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21st Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com or on Twitter.com at @dranthonysamad.com.