With the US engaged in air strikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria and with voices calling for deeper engagement in both conflict zones, the American public is being bombarded with commentary and analysis about ISIL, Syria, Iraq – and Muslims. Unfortunately, too much of it is a stringing together of clichés. More disturbing is the extent to which this crisis has provoked another round of uninformed conversation about Arabs and Islam, fuelling fear and hatred of Arab and Muslim Americans.
While a few knowledgeable individuals have been invited to make media appearances, all too often the networks have dragged out a cast of “regulars” – former military officers, current or former elected officials and other paid “talking heads”. They may know a few choice Arabic words and can use them in a sentence, but they are not experts. I’m sorry to sound elitist, but some guy who made a fortune in real estate and happened to be elected to Congress is not, in my book, qualified to speak about countries he’s never visited or cultures he’s never studied.