The latest news from the corridors of power in Washington has done little to boost the confidence of the world community, as far as the 'global war against terror' is concerned. The news that the United States will now impose new visa regulations to monitor the entry of Muslim males aged between 16 to 45 by asking them to fill in a form which queries them about their past and personal background- ostensibly to find out if they have had any military training or experience- comes straight out of the' Counter-Terrorism For Beginners' guidebook.
If Washington was looking for a way to alienate and isolate the entire Muslim world and to guarantee that their search for global consensus and support was scuttled, this was it. By stereotyping and demonizing more than a billion Muslims the world over and accusing them of being potential terrorists, the United States has shown that its own approach to the problem of global terrorism is based on little else but hysteria, ignorance and prejudice.
A host of unanswered questions have come to the fore:
First of all, would any potential terrorist- Muslim or not- answer such a silly questionnaire truthfully? Who in his right mind would say "Yes, I have been a terrorist before."
Secondly, would any American or European consent to answering such questions themselves? Of course not- They would immediately protest on the grounds that such questions were biased and prejudiced from the start. (And rightly so, one might add.)
And thirdly, one wonders why the Muslim world alone has been singled out yet again. Why haven't the same questions been asked of Israeli tourists and travelers to the US, many of whom have had military training as well and who may have used Arabs as target practice? And why not ask the same questions of Europeans, considering that practically every European country- from Britain to France, Germany to Greece, Italy to Spain- has had to deal with the menace of terrorism as well?
For now, all the US has achieved is to help glorify the same people whom they regard as terrorists and a threat to their national security. The moral high ground that one desperately needs when conducting a campaign of this nature has been lost.
What is more, they have merely strengthened the cultural, political and ideological boundaries between themselves and the Muslim world. By blacklisting 25 Muslim countries the world over, the US has made it even more difficult for Muslim states to support them in their campaign. How on earth does Washington hope to invite Muslim support in the campaign against terrorism when the very same campaign is underwritten by racist biases and prejudices so blatantly indecent?
Just a few weeks ago I myself was invited to the United States to participate in a conference on terrorism and the solutions to it. Under the present circumstances I find it impossible to step foot in that country, knowing that such deep-rooted prejudices lurk among its leaders and administrators, who clearly have lost all sense of balance and judgment and who can only think of all Muslims- myself included- as potential hijackers or mass murderers. If anyone in the US were to be insensitive enough as to stereotype an African American as a potential mugger or rapist, he would immediately be branded a racist. But American political correctness apparently stops short at the borders of the Muslim world, and it is still all right for them to brand Muslims in generals a threat to their cherished way of life where justice and fair play is said to prevail.
The world cannot sit by and let this happen without protest. Here is a case of a country deliberately stereotyping an entire religious community for purely partisan ends. The rationale behind the move stinks of the worst sort of double-standards and hypocrisy that sticks in the throat, reminding us of the sort of racial stereotyping practiced by the Nazis and Fascists in the past.
One wonders how Americans themselves would react if they were forced to fill in a form that questions them about their personal histories and activities of the past. Such a form might read as follows:
Have you, or any members of your family or your ancestors colonized a country by force and been involved in the genocide of millions of native inhabitants of that land?
Have you, or any members of your family or your ancestors been slave owners?
Have you, or any members of your family or your ancestors annexed and conquered other territories on the grounds that it was your 'manifest destiny' to do so?
Have you, or any members of your family or your ancestors used or supported the use of atomic weapons against civilians in another country?
Have you, or any members of your family or your ancestors been involved in the development of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons?
Have you, or any members of your family or your ancestors been involved in, or supported the effort to destabilize the government of any of the following countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Philippines, China, North Korea, Japan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Nigeria, Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Mozambique, Somalia, Italy, Greece, Russia, Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, etc. (This would include activities such as spying, covert operations, rigging elections, buying politicians, assassinating political leaders, fermenting social unrest, supporting coup d'etats, selling/dealing/supplying arms or drugs or both.)
Such a questionnaire would indeed be repugnant and unacceptable to any American citizen who is innocent of any of the accusations intended or implied. So why can't the powers-that-be in Washington have the commonsense to see that their latest visa regulation is bound to have the same effect on people who, after all, are simply demanding the same rights and recognitions they do?
Dr. Farish A. Noor, Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA