Edward Said, the great Palestinian-American scholar commented that racism against Arabs is the last acceptable form of racism in the U.S. Arabs are constructed as the Other, dark and evil. There have been numerous Newsweek and Time magazine covers depicting angry, bearded Arabs, wearing a checkered kaffiyeh, and brandishing a weapon. Radio & TV talk show hosts compare Islam to fascism. Hollywood movies contribute greatly to negative images of Arabs. They are the enemy du jour. The conventional stereotype of Arabs usually consists of the following elements: They are all wealthy, barbaric, cunning, untrustworthy, mendacious, misogynist, cruel and sadistic. Perhaps the most bizarre comment about Arabs is that they are anti-Semites. Bizarre why? Arabs are Semites. Arabic is a Semitic language. In these formulaic constructions, repeated ad nauseam, an entire people and culture have been reduced to caricatures.
Steven Salaita is the Edward Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut. He is a regular columnist for Electronic Intifada and a member of the Organizing Committee of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. He is the author of Arab American Literary Fictions, Cultures and Politics, Anti-Arab Racism in the USA and Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom.