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Weekly Diaspora: Fort Hood, Pundits and Immigration Reform

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This post is a weekly feature by Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger.

First it was immigrants from Mexico, now Muslims in the armed services. After the tragic shootings at Fort Hood, conservative pundits are verbally attacking Muslims and Arab-Americans, much like they have vilified the immigrant community. The complexities of Islamic faith are being glossed over and “Muslim Terrorist” is stamped upon any act of violence involving their community. As a result, nuanced voices are buried in favor of suspicion and violence.

Dr. Riad Z Abdelkarim loves and serves this country, but is lumped in with alleged and actual enemies of the state due to his faith. In an article for The Progressive, Abdelkarim writes about his sense of anger and betrayal over the Fort Hood massacre. He is angry that the perpetrator of such harm is an American and as a doctor. He feels betrayed because the killer practices Islam, which is a beautiful and inspiring faith to Dr. Abdelkarim. “The Fort Hood murders are a huge setback” to the progress that Arab-Americans and American Muslims have made to clear the “guilt by association” that has affected their communities since 9/11, writes Abdelkarim.

The Real News Network also thoughtfully examines the aftermath of Fort Hood. Host Riz Khan gives background on shooter Nidal Malik Hasan and explores the effects of the Fort Hood shooting. Kahn asks “If a Muslim commits a serious crime in America, is that crime seen as that much more deadly?”

The violent culture that many U.S. citizens attribute to Islam and Arab-Americans criminalizes everyday people. For example, a bit of Arabic script led to a frenzied media reaction when Texas border guards found “ski jacket with three unusual patches” in Hebbronville, Texas in 2005. The patches were irresponsibly described as “terrorist garb” by “right wing media,” according to the Texas Observer. “One [patch] featured a lion’s head, a parachute and Arabic script, another an airplane flying toward a tower and the words ‘Midnight Mission.’ The third patch read ‘Daiwa.'”

It all made for a “fine story,” as Melissa Del Bosque writes. But the results were not so dramatic. “Daiwa” is an ad for a “popular fishing company,” the Arabic is the symbol of a “defunct air brigade in Syria” that was in fact “anti-Islamist,” and the jacket more than likely bought at one of the “pulgas” (flea markets) located closer to the border. It is fortunate that the voices trying to connect Al Qaeda and Mexicans were not successful.

In RaceWire, Debiyani Kar reports on the Obama administration’s latest announcements that immigration reform would come in 2010. Kar cuts to the heart of the issue, reminding us that “it is time to pause and make the connection again between (im)migration and globalization.” If our nation is truly interested in addressing the roots of the problem, rather than passing sweeping reform every decade, we have to address this issue. Meanwhile, Kar also reminds us that migrants “are not waiting for legal reforms to take control of their economic futures,” and wield their own economic power.