Image Credit: Illustration by Luis Vazquez/Gulf News

How's this for irony? Americans Against Hate, a self-appointed monitor of bigotry, has accused the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) — whose founder Tariq Amanullah died in the 9/11 attacks — of "spitting in the face of Americans".

The Islamic organisation's ‘crime' was to plan a Muslim Family Day on September 12 to celebrate the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. In fact, the ICNA took the decision not to celebrate on September 11 because, it said, that could be misinterpreted by Americans who know little about Islam; people like the 18 per cent of Americans who seriously believe their Christian president is a Muslim.

Elsewhere in the US, Muslim groups are toning down their social gatherings, aware that the proposed controversial placement of an Islamic Community Centre near Ground Zero has spawned rising Islamophobia. Surprisingly, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which stands for the rights of Muslims, has advised America's Muslim population to "do something about the funfairs and bazaars" to avoid giving bigots an excuse to "bash Islam".

How can this be happening in a country whose secular, democratic values are perpetually touted? How dare Americans Against Hate direct such vile remarks to people who are simply adhering to their own religious beliefs? And why should Muslim Americans feel the need to pander to such revenge-filled ignoramuses, who cloak their bullying with faux concern about the sensitivities of 9/11 victims' families?

If this is the trend, then Christians might consider keeping a low profile during Easter out of respect for the approximately one million Iraqis killed as a result of the March 2003 invasion.

Perhaps Jews might contemplate keeping Hanukkah behind closed doors to commemorate the 1,400 civilians murdered by Israeli troops over 22 days starting on December 27, 2008. And while we're at it, it might be a good idea to ban all celebrations just in case they coincide with tragedies, wars and massacres throughout history.

As horrendously tragic as September 11, 2001 was, it may come as a surprise to (hopefully) a minority of Americans but the US does not hold a monopoly on victimisation.

On the contrary, America has, arguably, manufactured more victims than any other country, beginning with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to Vietnam and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that were waged to avenge 9/11.

However, there is a prevalent culture throughout the US that the only lives that count for anything are American. Everyone else is ‘the other'; people who wear strange clothes, eat unfamiliar foods and follow alien, un-American traditions.

To those of us who believe every life is of equal value no matter the victim's passport, race, colour or religion, it would be comforting to believe such revengeful arrogance in the US is confined to uneducated rednecks, the hopelessly indoctrinated or white supremacists. But, sadly, it is prevalent in Washington where a host of senators are battling to stop the construction of a mosque in Manhattan.


Now Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has jumped on the vengeance bandwagon. She maintains that the families of Lockerbie victims have been denied justice because a year ago the Scottish justice minister released the only person to have been convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Libyan Abdul Baset Al Megrahi.

Released on compassionate grounds in keeping with Scottish law, his mistake was he refused to die on cue. Instead of expiring within the proscribed three-months, he is lingering on thanks to new and innovative treatment. His longevity is offensive to Clinton, who blames Scotland for not keeping him behind bars until his last breath.

Apart from the fact that a slew of legal experts have deemed Al Megrahi's conviction as potentially unsafe, such bloodlust coming from a cultured woman politician is unseemly at best and, at worst, vulgar or ghoulish.

I'm reminded of Genghis Khan, who put the head of one of his enemies on a pole as a victory trophy and paraded it through village after village or, more recently, the US military that ensured that the corpses of Saddam's sons made it to our screens.

Clinton is now calling for Al Megrahi to serve out his sentence while the British government has warned Libya not to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his homecoming, although every Libyan believes in his innocence and he is considered a hero for sacrificing his freedom to enable his country to rejoin the international community. Whether he survives for three months or three years is neither here nor there in the great scheme of things.

Moreover, I cannot relate to Americans who object to a place of worship or who feel insulted that Muslims are gathering together for a religious feast. It's surely time for America to allow the dead to rest in peace instead of sullying their memory with bigotry and retribution against ordinary people just because they are Muslims.

My hope is that America's Muslim communities stand proud against the narrow-minded bullies and bigots in their midst. Any concession to such emotional blackmail will be the start of a very slippery slope from which there may be no going back.


Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at lheard@gulfnews.com. Some of the comments may be considered for publication.