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Nedda Alammar Headshot

Can America Speak Muslim?

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I recently read an article in the NY Times that announced the simplest and not yet talked about solution to protecting the US against Muslim extremists. How this was possible, I did not know. No one ever strives for simplicity and everyone talks about everything to the point of exhaustion.

According to the article, the US government has decided that instead of alienating Muslim-Americans, as alienation of an entire religion is proving to be counterproductive, what they will do instead, what will help end this never-ending war against terror, is to recruit them.

Recruit the Muslim-Americans. Hmm, I thought. Interesting.

And then I wondered, what would this effort entail, exactly? Signage? An info session? Cupcakes? At any rate, I thought, if being nice to some Muslim-Americans will make Al-Qaeda any less of a threat to the US, then I say Go For It. Maybe the Christian-Americans will join too.

But as woman out in the world, I have to wonder, since when is nice ever the solution? Girl scouts? Maybe. Sorority rush? Definitely -- but don't overdo it. A lonely Friday night at a pub? Depends on who's around. But American foreign policy? I just don't think so; nice won't cut it. After all, Muslims are on our radar because of 9/11. And 9/11 didn't happen because we were mean. No one can be that mean.

So then what do we do? How do we protect ourselves against Muslim extremists? As an American who reads every word of every headline religiously, I know the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ever present, and a major reason for bad blood between America and the Arab world. But we ignore it. And the more we ignore it, the worse it gets; kind of like unpaid bills -- which we as Americans are more than familiar with. Unfortunately.

Which leads me to question why. Why is it that America, who still holds the superpower title of the world, can't make the Israelis and Palestinians just get on with the peace process? Why do we continue to let them haggle? Don't we know that haggling is for a bazaar?

Perhaps not. Perhaps we as Americans are not as well-versed in haggling as the Middle East. But the thing is, we don't need to be. We're Americans. We can do anything. We can make millions of jobs disappear, we can make homes disappear, we can even make an entire country disappear and call it a war. So why can't we make a dispute over some itty bitty pieces of land disappear as well? Is it that difficult?

Before venturing an educated guess on this complicated topic, I decided to do some serious research. I didn't want to minimize or oversimplify anything. However, after reading nearly fifty years worth of Israeli and Palestinian attacks, accords, resolutions, and talks, I became very dizzy and decided this whole conflict was just Annoying. Reading about it was kind of like watching a five-part Lifetime miniseries of an abusive relationship. Without commercials. How can anyone deal with such an injustice?

But then I realized, after rescuing myself with The Social Network, if there was a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there would be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

All fabulous movie-making aside, perhaps there is some truth to the idea -- that, as we Americans say, it is what it is. Perhaps for the rest of time, Israel will believe her borders are legal, Palestinians will continue to wage violence over Israel, and the US will continue to politely stand by, afraid of appearing anti-Israeli, while allowing the poison of this conflict to spread -- even though everyone knows the one basic truth here: you just can't kick people out of their homes. Not even the Palestinians. No matter how argumentative they are.

But that is neither here nor there.

And so perhaps the NY Times was right. Perhaps being nice to the Muslims is the solution. The simple, doable solution. And so, the article explained, the US government will start researching Islam, delving into the mysteries of its Arab roots, absorbing all that is Muslim and Arab, realizing they are not the same thing. Perhaps they will even learn Arabic.

In unraveling the mysteries of the Arab psyche, they may uncover the 'it is what it is' of the Arab world; the Bedouin saying, translated: I against my brother, my brothers and me against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers.

Simple enough. The good news is, you don't have to be Arab or Muslim to understand it.