A Nasty Taste of Bigotry

Ali John Comegys

Posted Jun 15, 2002      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Im sure we are all very tired, or worse!, of the constant barrage of negative images of Islam and Muslims we see in the press, on TV or the radio, or in print. Humor may help among ourselves to keep our spirits up in these difficult times. For instance, have you ever noticed on the radio “Terrorist” is Muslims last name? Or have you ever wondered where the television crews get that bucket of blood that they throw right after they say Muslim? Or Arab? Seems like the television cannot seem to show an Arab or Muslim without pictures of blood and gore. Although sometimes other disgusting images are used, like the pictures of cockroaches following Barbara WaltersҒ famous interview with Muamar Qadaffi on 60 Minutesђ over a decade ago.

Television images and radio sound bites are short-lived, and usually only played once or twice on the news. The longest lasting negative images, and thus perhapsbut not necessarilyחthe most damaging are the negative stereotypes in print, especially in books. They poison minds for year after year. So what is a Muslim to do?

One fairly simple response is to write a book review. One of the biggest book dealers is Amazon.com If we could alert general readers of the negative stereotypes of Islam in books we might both prevent the sale of some of the objectionable material and voice our concerns.

I recently read a science fiction adventure novel and was horrified and disgusted to find the usual one dimensional Arabs callously murdering anyone in their way and especially offended because the most vile pornographic images and language were reserved for the Arabs in an otherwise mostly decent book. The worst scene in the book involved Arabs making the most incredibly lewd and obscene threats to a nun. This is reminiscent of war time propaganda such as was used by the allies against the Germans in World War One. Remember the Rape of Belgiumђ? And here it is in an adventure novel, the sort of thing read by American youth or passed around the barracks by our soldiers. What better to harden the heart of a soldier on his way to battle or a snitch carefully watching his Muslim neighbors for signs they might be “sleepers”?

I used a couple of techniques I picked up in a Social Psychology class. Among these are be brief and to use colorful and emotion laden imagery. Note the catchy title/ending. It is not necessary to use ones own name. I used my “American” name because I thought the readers might simply discount and disregard the views of someone named ґAli. On reflection this could go either way, some readers might give more credence to a writer with an Arab name protesting anti-Arab stereotypes. Following is the review that Amazon.com ran as written. It can be viewed at Amazon.com by looking at the reviews for the book “Raising Atlantis”

I was excited and happy to buy and read this novel until about half way through. I didn’t really mind the murderous father and the other generally one dimensional comic-book characters because I was happily reading about Rand Flem-Ath’s Antarctic Atlantis and Hapgoods pre-historic maritime culture. But the pornographic murderous Arabs who demonstrate no knowledge of Islam whatsoever and call their enemies “infidels” while not quite raping the ex-nun character and murdering innocents was too much for me. Haven’t we had enough of this sort of cultural character assassination? Is even a novel supposedly about ancient Egypt somehow completely unable to portray modern Egyptians with even a hint of humanity? The treatment of Arabs reminded me of the sort of anti-Semitism put out by neo-Nazis, but transferred to Arabs. Save your money, don’t buy this dog. The characters are weak, the action too often mindless murder, and the science, even by fringe standards, mere backdrop and thin. And the book left a nasty aftertaste of bigotry.