There She Goes Again
When we last heard from Fatina Abdrabboh a month ago, the Harvard graduate student had just dropped her keys at the gym while running on a treadmill. Not everyone who drops their keys gets to write about it in the New York Times, but Abdrabboh's unique background--she's a Palestinian-American--apparently filled a certain writers' quota in the Times' Op-Ed section. Of course, it also doesn't hurt that she is attending Harvard, something she has in common with most of the Times editorial staff.
As for dropping her keys, it was supposedly a pivotal moment in her life, occurring just as her faith in America was in danger of slipping away forever--thanks to the Muslim-bashing President George W. Bush. And dashing to her rescue was none other than former Vice President Al Gore (Bush's 2000 election opponent and yet another Harvard grad), who picked up and handed back her keys. As Abdrabbah recalls:
It was nothing more than a kind gesture, but at that moment Mr. Gore's act represented all that I yearned for - acceptance and acknowledgment. There in front of me, he stood for a part of America that has not made itself well known to 10 million Arab and Muslim-Americans, many of whom are becoming increasingly withdrawn and reclusive because of the everyday hostility they feel.The whiny, paranoid Abdrabboh, who cannot seem to make up her mind whether to remove or don her hijab (head scarf), is back up to her old tricks. This time, she has convinced the Christian Science Monitor to air her grievances. In the short span of a month, Abdrabboh--who shortly after 9/11 had complained to the Detroit News that her "freedom of identity and expression are gone" as a result of the Patriot Act--has twice been given an audience of millions to listen to her gripe about the oppressive anti-Muslim bigots that dominate her Cambridge, Massachusetts surroundings. And once again, she cannot help but think that Americans are picking on her because she looks like a Muslim:
Last month, while driving home from the airport, I managed to get lost in construction detours. I rolled down my window and asked a woman in the car next to me for directions: "Will this road take me into Cambridge?" I couldn't believe my eyes when she ignored my question and rolled up her window.First off, I found it scandalous that Jimmy Carter or even hometown favorite John Kerry did not materialize in the roadway to give Abdrabboh directions back to Cambridge. But then I realized that Carter was busy in England criticizing the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and that John Kerry was not the right man for Abdrabboh, as he graduated from Yale and has Jewish ancestry.
It was broad daylight. I had not - before then - considered my appearance frightening or abnormal. Apparently she did.
Maybe Bush voters are just much more likely to drive their gas-guzzling Halliburton-mobiles on the highways leading out of Logan Airport. That would seem to make sense, given that BusHitler started the Iraq War to enrich his friends in the oil industry. Still, it's a bit of a stretch for Abdrabboh to imply that all Cambridge-area drivers are biased against Muslims - after all, Kerry did outpoll Bush in Cambridge by nearly 8-to-1 in the 2004 election.
Then Abdrabboh describes yet another incident that should enrage blue-staters. And by sheer coincidence, the culprit hails from Texas, the home state of...President Bush.
I recently participated in a phone-a-thon for a religious studies program at Harvard. A friend tapped my shoulder and said her caller wanted to speak with a Muslim. I took the phone. It turned out the man was a preacher from Texas and wanted to know when Muslims "were going to join the rest of the enlightened world and rid themselves of fanaticism." I tried to explain that the matter was far more complicated than simply blaming the beliefs of a billion people and that it was misguided to blame Islam for the actions of its fringe extremists. The preacher interrupted me and said I sounded like "every other wishy-washy" Muslim ambiguous about condemning terrorism. Needless to say, he didn't donate to the program.Despite Al Gore’s heroics, it may have been too little and too late to change Abdrabboh’s mind about Americans. The pendulum has swung back towards her original view that Americans are, by-and-large, anti-Muslim.
Of course not everybody reacts to Muslims this way. But I'm convinced it's the reality - not my paranoid view - that many do. I'm optimistic that as a nation we can move beyond stereotypes and embrace the millions of Muslims in America - that we can break down the crazy expectation that someone like me who wears hijab cannot possibly be "fully" American.In actuality, the saddest fact of all is that major newspapers like the New York Times and Christian Science Monitor continue to give a serial malcontent like Abdrabboh a channel with which to broadcast her distorted and truly paranoid views of American society. Her complaints about being watched and then ignored by non-Muslims— all while living in the liberal enclaves of Ann Arbor and Cambridge—are so trivial as to be laughable. And don’t get me started about her ridiculous brush with Al Gore at the gym.
After nearly four years of publicly whining about being picked on by Jewish professors and forced to put away her "I am Muslim" t-shirt, hijab and "Free Palestine" computer screen saver, Abdrabboh finally reveals that she “categorically condemns terrorism”. To which I have to ask, what took you so long?