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Islam and the U.S.A. today.

The woman weighs forty-six pounds. She is too thin to breathe. What's left of her flesh barely covers her bones. Her eyes persist as soft as they are large and brown. She is African. She is probably Muslim. She is dying in Somalia, the country of her birth. In the last six months, hundreds of thousands of Somalis have already died. Children have perished in huge numbers difficult to admit.

Or, those who were captured were twelve to twenty-five years old. Some of them managed to escape from vile detention camps where more than 10,000 girls and young women remain, repeatedly raped by day and by night. Many of them are Muslim. They are casualties of an "ethnic cleansing" that imperils all of the Muslims alive in former Yugoslavia.

Or, on barren land between Lebanon and Israel, 400 men arrived in winter and emptiness. They had been blindfolded and pushed into buses that traveled through the darkness, with illegal speed. They had been seized inside their homes and driven away, at gunpoint, into sudden unimaginable exile. From their enemies each of them received a blanket, a paper bag of food, and $50. They are Palestinians. Most are Muslims. They may not survive. No man can live on no man's land.

Or, roughly two years ago, we launched one of the most relentless and savage bombing assaults in human history. Our target was the city of Baghdad, home to 6.5 million people, mostly Muslim. Even now, that voiceless and beleaguered population must contend with the ferocious consequences of our attack: widespread disease, severe malnutrition, contaminated water, and nationwide cultural and technological wipeout.

Or, during the holiday transition from 1992 to 1993, one of the mainstays of local entertainment was Walt Disney's animated feature film, Aladdin. Except for the hero and the villain, all the men are corpulent and ugly. All the women, including the heroine, appear, throughout, half naked and/or clad in nearly transparent "harem" attire a la Hollywood. The villain turned out to be "a dark man" thinking "dark thoughts." Given the ostensible storyline, one assumes that every character is an Arab and, therefore, Muslim. I cannot imagine black people, or Jews, or anybody other than Arab men and women, drawn in such repulsive, frightening, vapid, and inaccurate fashion, today, without enormous popular and political uproar.

Or, the media gave far more coverage to the "amicable" break between Charles and Diana than they devoted to the terrifying and internecine explosion of violence and counter-violence between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority of India. Nowhere could you find any depth of analysis or appropriate background information. For example, how many Americans understand Britain's colonial responsibility, as regards this latest bloody and tragic outbreak of intraracial hostilities? How many of us know that more Muslims live in India than in Pakistan?

And what does that matter?

While he was spokesman for the Black Nation of Islam, Malcolm X aroused the self-respect of black folks otherwise impervious to organized appeals for unity and discipline. After his pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm became an orthodox Muslim and, among other things, his experience of Islam deracialized his basic take on moral reality.

Who is Muslim and what is Islam?

Or, where does Islam fit "inside" American objectives for the Twenty-first Century?

As religion rises into the incendiary realm of world affairs, we should take care to detect and oppose, de facto and aforethought, U.S. wars against the people of Islam. In the instance of Sormalia and former Yugoslavia, we can verify the impact of our aggression through inertia. In the instances of Iraq and the Palestinians, White House perspectives have led to overt assault, decimation, and unacknowledged, awful suffering.

The first so-called Christian crusade was anything but holy, anything but benign. In the name of their exclusive beliefs, Western white men, again and again, invaded distant Muslim towns and cities. These first "Crusaders" slaughtered all of the "infidels" they encountered in these "infidel" homelands. What is happening now?

The hour is already dreadful, and late, for self-examination of the unfolding, unholy nature of regular American response to Muslim men and women in various extremities of need or self-definition and affirmation. Islam will not fit itself into White House daydreams of "a new world order." Accordingly, we had better get ready to decide, on an altogether public and conscious level, what we, what the U.S.A., plans to do, or not do, about that.

At the moment, we pretend to ignorance of our crimes and we proceed on the basis of racist ignorance of the victims of our crimes.

And the Muslim woman of Somalia weighs forty-six pounds. What is her name? Why is she starving to death? And what names will she call you and me if she ever regains her strength to speak out loud?

And how shall we defend to ourselves our behavior in the context of her needs/her human rights? What is the moral meaning of our own gods?

June Jordan, the poet, is professor of African-American Studies and Women's Studies at the University of California-Berkeley. Her column appears periodically in The Progressive.
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Author:Jordan, June
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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