There is nothing wrong with Arabs wanting to reform their image in the United States, but they often do so by wrongly attacking the U.S government and its foreign policy as “evil” and against the “peace-loving” Middle Eastern Arab countries. In addition, Muslim governments, including Saudi Arabia’s, seem to be concerned with reforming only Islam’s image and not its substance, what Islam does to the people who live under it.
Reformation, vitally needed in the mosques and schools of the Arab world, is rejected in favor of massive funding for PR campaigns to cleanse Islam’s image in the eyes of the West, especially Americans.
Americans know very little about Arab culture and are so sensitive to buzzwords such as “racism” and “discrimination” that the very culture promoting these anti-social practices in the Islamic world has convinced Americans that it actually is opposed to them. Saudi Arabia is an example of the reality of Islam: Misogyny is a daily practice, religions other than Islam are not tolerated and non-Muslims are officially dhimmis, with only second-class citizens’ rights. As a result of this thinking, in March 2002, 15 Saudi schoolgirls were forced back into a burning school, where they perished, because the religious police patrolling and preserving “morals” objected to their being unveiled.
Words such as “racism” and “discrimination” are never discussed in the Middle East; they are of no cultural value beyond their use in attacking the West. The Saudis certainly have the money to pay professional PR agencies such as Qorvis Communications and Hill & Knowlton, and we are encouraging them. Many Americans previously active in politics and education, such as some former U.S. ambassadors to that country, are now paid lobbyists (some operating covertly) for Saudi Arabia. From educators at our universities and high schools to simple staffers in political organizations that pass as American voices, the Arab world, led by the Saudis, floods our media and political groups with views favorable to the most despotic regimes in the world.
Recently, a member of the political club Southern California Republican Women and Men, who is also on the board of directors, was discovered to be a registered Democrat.
But she was not just a fifth column for the Democratic Party. She had aroused suspicion earlier by her rants at Republican meetings against the foreign policy of President Bush regarding Israel. Exposed, she claimed her change to registered Republican had not gone through because of an error, and she blamed the president of the local club for exposing her.
Her membership in the Republican club was felt by some to be legitimate, and after much internal fighting over this issue, the club split and half the membership, together with the president, actually quit the club. This woman remained on the board of directors, however, not only of this particular club but also of many others that were formerly pro-Israel.
She and her partner, who now works for the U.S. State Department, never missed a meeting of the Republican forum, where they expressed their pro-Arab viewpoints. When I, an Arab American, disagreed with their views and defended President Bush’s war on terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else necessary to fight terrorists in the future, I was met with criticism and a roll of the eyes from the podium. It was only later that I learned this woman’s true agenda.
On August 10, 2004, Daniel Pipes wrote an article titled “The Saudis’ Covert PR Campaign.” In it I found that woman’s name: Mary E. Morris, the same woman who is even now attending so many Republican clubs and spreading her pro-Arab, anti-U.S. views all over the Los Angeles area. The article said that she is also a staffer at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council who praises the Saudi kingdom as “one of the U.S.’s staunchest allies and oldest friends in the Middle East” and ascribes anti-American public opinion in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East to American actions alone: “the U.S. invasion of Iraq is without international validation and the lack of a strong U.S. support of an unbiased settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” according to Morris.
On April 1, 2004, I attended one speech during a two-day conference at California State University, San Bernardino. The topic: “Understanding the Middle East.” Present in the audience were some Saudi diplomats. The speaker from the center for Moslem-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, Dr. Yvonne Haddad, discussed “The Bush Administration and the Credibility Gap.” Her memories of when she first moved to the U.S. were not pleasant. She remembered how an American woman on a bus told her, “Whoever civilized you did a good job.” That was supposed to be an example of how Americans treat Arabs. I still do not believe her story.
She mentioned 9/11 only once, saying that on that day she worried about what the talking heads on TV would say about Muslims. She was very critical of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and said that Mohamed Atta and Osama bin Laden were both justifiably upset with that policy. In her opinion, what really hurt U.S. relations with Arabs and Muslims was the U.S. walking out of the Durbin Conference on racism in South Africa in 2001. She added that Muslims believe that the first President Bush in 1991 declared a crusade against Islam when he invaded Kuwait (something the U.S. was asked to do by the Kuwaitis). She declared President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq to be the “Second Crusade” and she criticized the way Americans justified what she called “the war on Islam.” She claimed the administration’s using the Afghanistan invasion and taking out the Taliban to liberate Afghan women was a hollow excuse for invasion. She stressed that Afghan women did not want to be liberated and criticized Mrs. Bush for being proud of the U.S. liberation of women in that country.
Dr. Haddad, an Arab Christian whose husband works in Jordan, then complained of the treatment of Arabs in the U.S. and wondered why the Department of Homeland Security was not monitoring Jews or Christians such as Pat Robertson the way they are monitoring Arabs. She attacked President Bush by saying that Arabs now call him “Mufti Bush” because he is telling us what Islam should be. She criticized the new Arab TV station, El Horrah, because it shows Muslims in the U.S. saying they are well-treated and happy in America. In the mind-set of this woman who promotes the Saudi and Arab image, we Arab Americans are all suffering in misery and persecution.
Dr. Haddad’s speech never gave any explanation for why Arabs believe what they believe in the Middle East and whether these beliefs are right or wrong. Judgment, condemnation and analysis were reserved only for the U.S. government. The bottom line of her speech was that everything in the War on Terror is the fault of America and President Bush, and that all of us have to watch our language and do everything we can to understand and be sensitive to Arabs. Mentioning Arab terrorism or the duty of Arab American citizens to understand U.S. policy is “racism” and “discrimination.”
This is the mind-set of the Saudi and Arab PR machine and what it wants Arab Americans to believe. It’s all bunk.
Dr. Haddad was applauded by the group of Saudi diplomats present in the audience that day, and I was the only one who criticized her message during the question-and-answer period. There were some students and teachers at my table who were very uncomfortable with the entire speech, some even leaving before it ended. That is what Arab-American students need to do on our campuses when this propaganda machine shows up to try to indoctrinate them into believing what the real racists and purveyors of discrimination in the Middle East want them to believe about our free and democratic country, America.
Sadly, the university’s president was apparently very happy with the speech and promised more conferences, saying this one was the third in only six months. I thought about how indoctrination requires constant repetition and reinforcement until lies become regarded as truth.
The PR campaign in the U.S. on behalf of Saudi Arabia and other Arab despotic regimes is alive, well and shameless. Those who brought the War on Terror to our shores on 9/11 are being packaged here and sold like soap. We must wake up to this fact and expose it in our clubs, our colleges and our everyday contacts with our fellow Americans. Our survival really does depend on it. And all Arab Americans, not just this one Arab American woman, must lead the way.