It's difficult to stay away from the Islamic Center controversy at New York's ground zero, especially when a loony (is there a better word?) Floridian pastor inflames the situation by threatening to burn Islam's holy book.
Nevertheless, a discussion of American Islamophobia cannot be avoided. It is real and felt by many Muslims each and every day. That there are fierce debates about the construction of an Islamic Center in an area where a synagogue and churches are already present itself reflects a breakdown of American ideals.
Yes, Americans can soothe their conscience by suggesting that building churches in Muslim countries is difficult. And that 9/11 was carried out by a small group of misguided Muslims in the name of Islam.
I cannot argue with those sentiments. They are true.
However, it is also true that the United States (US) sets higher moral standards for itself than the average nation. American 'manifest destiny' involved a well publicized moral righteousness. American self-perceptions are inextricably linked with the notions of freedom and equality.
Countries, like humans, must walk the walk if they talk the talk. Any Iraqi will tell you the US talks constantly of freedom, democracy and human rights.
Thus, when a delegation of eight Pakistani military generals invited to meet with their US Central Command counterparts in Florida is offloaded and detained at Washington D.C.'s Dulles airport on suspicions of terrorism, serious questions are raised about the way Americans implement their world view.
The Pakistani Brigadiers cancelled their meetings and took the next flight home as soon as the 'controversy' was resolved. But not every Pakistani, or Muslim for that matter, has a star on their lapel. The Pentagon will not intervene, or apologize, to assist ordinary Muslims detained for being 'suspicious.'
Globally speaking US soldiers are more likely to be the ones doing the detaining!
"American Progress" painted in 1872 by John Gast. It depicts the 'civilizing' move of American settlers towards the Western shores
Individuals with Muslim sounding names, especially if they happen to be brown in complexion, are best advised to travel the US quietly. It also helps to leave Self-Respect behind at the check-in counter. Once the Transport and Safety Board has rummaged through Self-Respect, then one may collected it at the destination – not always intact.
It is a self-evident truth that constitutionally ordained civil rights are malleable depending on race, culture and religion. Non-whites including 'Asiatics' and black people know about these 'flexible' interpretations only too well. For economic migrants, America may still be the Promised Land but lately it has been losing some of its sheen lately.