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Muslim and Arab Americans: What is The Difference?

what is orientalism

There are many differences between Arab and Muslim groups. Those who are Muslim are not necessarily Arabs, and not all Arabs are Muslim. A Muslim is a person whose religion is Islam, while the term Arab refers to ethnicity.

The typical American tends to confuse the two groups, believing them to be one and the same. This categorization and similar generalizations about Arabs and Muslim groups is referred to as Orientalism. Orientalism does not define the differences in origin, cultural practices, or religion for those who belong to either group. These stereotypical views have been problematic for many Arab and Muslim Americans in the years since the 9/11 devastation, and despite the President's reassurance, many Arabs and Muslims were detained, questioned at length, and some were kept against their will for long periods of time. Ironically, many of those arrested were American born citizens.

Racial profiling has been at the forefront of many political discussions, and it would seem that there is still some conflict where civil rights are concerned. As recently as 2007, a bill known as The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act (S.1959 / H.R.1955) has been passed to investigate terrorism. The Center for Constitutional Rights (2007) has argued however, that the bill is unconstitutional and encourages law enforcement officials to unlawfully detain and accuse members of the American public of politically motivated terrorist intentions. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) (2007) may have stated an opposing view best when he said that S.1959 will be "Intruding on the lives and freedom of average Americans and does not make us any safer" (para.1).

Our collective efforts to promote tolerance of Arab and Muslim citizens must begin by educating our children about world religions. Ignorance promotes prejudice and discrimination, and hate crimes are more likely to occur when people fear for their safety. A program designed to foster tolerance introduces different religions to children in schools. Information on Teaching Tolerance (n.d.) programs is readily available through the Southern Poverty Law Center, and grant money can be obtained for those schools who wish to implement the programs into their curriculum.

Before jumping to conclusions and attacking the respective schools and their staff for preaching a new religion to your child, which obviously may be different to one's own beliefs, it is important to understand the concept of such programs and the wording "educating children about world religions", as it does not intend, nor does it teach your child a new religion, rather, it explains the ideals and differences of various religions. Such explanation is necessary if one expects to raise a tolerant new generation, and to give the tools to children so they may raise a tolerant generation of their own.

Reference Center for Constitutional Rights. (2007). Here Come the Thought Police: The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. CCR's Recommendations to Congress. Retrieved November 2008, from http://ccrjustice.org

Center for Constitutional Rights. (2007). Here Come the Thought Police: The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. Government Opposition. Retrieved November 2008, from http://ccrjustice.org Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.)

Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved November 2008, from http://www.tolerance.org

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Comments (1)

Good discussion here, buzzed this one, thanks :)

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