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2004 Racism Watch Calls for Action to End Use of Anti-Arab Books by the U.S. Governmentby Open-Publishing - Friday 4 June 2004
Ted Glick, 973-338-5398
Manning Marable, Director of African American Studies
at Columbia University, today called for immediate
action to be taken to end use by the U.S. military of a
book, "The Arab Mind," by Raphael Patai. In the words
of Brian Whitaker, Middle East correspondent for
Britain’s Guardian newspaper, the book presents "an
overwhelmingly negative picture of the Arabs."
"It is outrageous that a book full of racially charged
stereotypes and generalizations would be a major source
of alleged ’knowledge’ about Arab people within any
branch of the government," Marable charged. "It reminds
me of how Africans and Native Americans, later joined
by Mexicans, Asians and other Latin people, were
dehumanized for centuries over the course of our
nation’s history. Such overt racism is not only wrong
and backwards, it is dangerous, having a direct
connection to what took place at Abu Ghraib and other
U.S.-controlled prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan."
In an article posted on May 24th on the Guardian
7792, 1223525,00.html, Whitaker explains that the use
of "The Arab Mind" was mentioned earlier this month by
Seymour Hersh in an article in the New Yorker magazine.
Hersh says, "The Patai book, an academic told me, was
’the bible of the neocons on Arab behaviour.’ In their
discussions, he said, two themes emerged-’one, that
Arabs only understand force, and two, that the biggest
weaknesses of Arabs is shame and humiliation.’"
Whitaker explained that "my own further enquiries about
the book revealed something even more alarming. Not
only is it the bible of neocon headbangers, but it is
also the bible on Arab behaviour for the US military.
According to one professor at a US military college,
The Arab Mind is ’probably the most popular and widely
read book on the Arabs in the US military.’ It is even
used as a textbook for officers at the JFK special
warfare school in Fort Bragg."
Among the racist generalizations made in the book,
according to Whitaker:
– that, as the title implies, there is one "Arab mind."
"The idea that 200 million people, from Morocco to the
Gulf, living in rural villages, urban metropolises and
(very rarely these days) desert tents, think with some
sort of single, collective mind is utterly ridiculous,"
Whitaker charged. -that Arabs "hate" the West; -that
"the Arab view (is) that masturbation is far more
shameful than visiting prostitutes;" -that "once
aroused, Arab hostility will vent itself
indiscriminately on all outsiders."
Other disturbing statements made in the book include:
– "The fact remains that under traditional Islam,
efforts at human improvement have rarely transcended
ineffectuality." -What emerges. . . is the picture of a
human type which readily and frequently throws off the
restraints of discipline and, especially in mass
situations, is likely to go on a rampage." -"The
unwillingness of the Arabs to ’dirty their hands,’ to
engage in manual labor, is a trait not easily
Patai concludes his book by stating that "the challenge
facing the Arab world in the 1980’s [conclusion written
in 1982] is to digest the overwhelming influx of
Western things, techniques, skills, and knowledge. . .
Its successful accomplishment will require total
dedication and concentration, which will be possible
only if the Arabs can rid themselves of their obsession
with and hatred of Zionism, Israel and American
imperialism. . ."
Whitaker describes the book as "a classic case of
orientalism which, by focusing on what Edward Said
called the ’otherness’ of Arab culture, sets up
barriers that can then be exploited for political
Marable called upon George Bush to immediately issue an
order that this book should no longer be used within
any branch of the U.S. government, and he called upon
John Kerry, Ralph Nader, members of Congress and others
to demand that he do so. He also called for a
Congressional investigation into the curricula being
used in the military and government departments
interacting with Arab countries.
"A public repudiation of the views expressed in this
book and a Congressional investigation into the nature
of the curricula being used to ’educate’ those
interacting with Arab and Islamic cultures is one part
of what is necessary to demonstrate to the world that
action is truly being taken to get to the bottom of the
Abu Ghraib scandal," Marable explained. "Those who
claim the mantle of political leadership must
demonstrate that they ’get it’ when it comes to
opposing racism, and taking these steps is a clear-cut
way to do so."
2004 Racism Watch was founded in early February at a
national meeting in Atlanta, Ga. Members of its
Advisory Committee include Edward Asner, Ed Begley,
Jr., Noam Chomsky, Ron Daniels, Barbara Ehrenreich,
Bill Fletcher, Jr., Manning Marable, Elizabeth
Martinez, Cynthia McKinney, Phil Tajitsu Nash, Susan
Sarandon, Ron Walters, Tim Wise and Howard Zinn. George
Friday and Ted Glick are the National Co-coordinators.
More information can be found at www.racismwatch.org.