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Reinforcing prejudice, stereotyping

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Message Abdus Sattar Ghazali
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Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) cadets used props portraying stereotypically-dressed Muslim men in a February 20 exercise held just two blocks from a mosque used by students at TulaneUniversity in New Orleans, Louisiana.

One cut-out prop depicted a man crouched behind a sheep, while the other represented a man standing behind an oil barrel.

The practice highlights a disturbing Islamophobic trend demonizing Islam and equating Muslims with 'the enemy.' The depiction of a Muslim man in traditional Arab clothing hiding behind a sheep and an oil barrel is a stereotype that portrays all Arabs as being enemies of thestate.

"The use of stereotypical images of Muslims and Arabs by those training to be military officers sends the false and disturbing message that our nation is at war with Islam," said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

Hooper said other recent incidents indicating a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments include vandalism at a Tennessee mosque, an anti-Islam e-mail circulated by sheriff's department personnel in Florida, an Islamophobic panel discussion at a conservative conference in Washington, D.C., and the firing of a Muslim employee in California who refused a supervisor's demand to remove her Islamic head scarf, or hijab.

He noted that a recent survey showed that more than 4 in 10 Americans admit to anti-Muslim prejudice. According to a January 2010 Gallup Center for Muslim Studies report, more than 4 in 10 Americans (43%) admit to feeling at least "a little" prejudice toward Muslims -- more than twice the number who say the same about Christians (18%), Jews (15%) and Buddhists (14%).

The Tulane Hullabaloo community newspaper reported the incident under the title: "AROTC uses cutouts of Muslims as targets." The paper pointed out that the use of props during AROTC lab exercises at other programs varies by university. Representatives of ArizonaStateUniversity, University of California Santa Barbara and San DiegoStateUniversity all said they do not use props representing people during their laboratoryexercises.

Lieutenant Leone Campbell, however, a representative of the University of California Los Angeles AROTC, told the newspaper that its lab exercises have involved the use of props in addition to cadets dressing up asforeigners. "We've had cadets build bunkers and dress up as mock Afghanis," Campbell said.

The news of Muslim props generated a lot of debate about the implications of such a controversial exercise. Tulane Hullabaloo community newspaper published some very illuminating comments by its readers:

- Well this is great.... let's teach these cadets how to be bigots from the start. Let's foster attitudes of ignorance, racism, and bigotry so they can fight the "war on terror'. I can't believe instead of trying to mediate people's and cultures, they are learning how to fuel the war even more and more.

- Give me a break. You need to be modeling this soldiers to be professionals and not brain wash in to think they are fighting a certain culture. I bet you without the traditional clothing the ROTC couldn't tell the difference between a Jew and Arab. You are digging this beautiful in a deepertrench.

- Does it occur to anyone supporting this practice of using these kind of cutouts that such a garb that the cadets are being taught to identify as the enemy's, is also worn by those who are our allies as well and are helping us in ourfight?

Maybe it is these kinds of target practices that are the cause of the high number of civilian casualties that we see in Afghanistan perpetrated by our soldiers who are taught to fire instinctively at a person whom he has been trained to identify as an enemy based on his dress. Not that it matters, for after all they are Muslims and its okay to kill them, but unfortunately it might lead to the murdered man's relatives to join up with the Taliban or the al Qaida which they otherwise may nothave. So if it's not the morality that bothers the red blooded American in us, the impracticalityshould.

- I don't see the reason for all the fuss, the Military is being trained at far deeper levels in fear and hate of Islam and Muslims, but we do not seem to say anything there. The US Naval War College has a Prof. who uses the notoriously hate- and fiction-filled video "Obsession" to teach his students how evil Islam is. USAFAcademy's Gen. Born (again) tries to push Christianity on its cadets and has invited people whose message is that Islam and Muslims are incorrigibly filled with violence and hate of the "Judeo-Christian West". Our US Army in Afghanistan drives around passing Bibles in Dari, hanging crosses on the barrels of tanks and raising high crosses that can be seen from afar.

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Abdus Sattar Ghazali Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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