Sunday, June 26, 2005

Bloggers are quite understandably having lots of fun ridiculing this unbelievably asinine New York Times op-ed column, in which a Muslim Arab-American Harvard student contrasts her chance encounter with a polite, gentlemanly Al Gore with the "everyday hostility" she claims to endure as a headscarf-wearer in Cambridge, Massachussetts. Sure, it's fun to laugh at the author's sophomoric superficiality, spiced with a pinch of breathless celebrity-fawning, as she smugly pronounces herself "frustrated and angry", and charts her declining "faith in the United States", while watching the news headlines on the televisions at the gym where she works out. But the bloggers' fully justified mockery misses by far the bigger irony in the piece.

The author's "alienation" from "what is supposed to be [her] country", she writes, is partly a product of the "stares" she receives when she wears her headscarf. Now, I'm sure it's no fun for her to be stared at. But why, then, would she also object to "America's conflict with the Muslim world"? After all, she describes herself as "fresh-faced and comfortably trendy", and her encounter with the former vice president takes place in a gym where she goes "just about every morning"--alone. Doesn't she realize what her fate would be as a single woman visiting a male-attended gym, alone, in "comfortably trendy" clothing--with or without a headscarf--in just about any Arab country? Stares, I daresay, would be the least of her worries.

Luckily for her, she lives in America, along with "10 million Arab and Muslim-Americans, many of whom are becoming increasingly withdrawn and reclusive". If she thinks she's entitled to blame her government's foreign policy for making her withdrawn and reclusive, perhaps she should try living for a while in her ancestral homeland, where being withdrawn and reclusive is, for women, a form of self-preservation, not a petulant political reaction.

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