Like the Fort Hood shooter, Jamal Baadani is a military officer who is an Arab-American and a Muslim. But there the similarities end.
A first sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, Baadani heads the Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military. Its purpose is to counter stereotypes that conflate terrorists like the alleged Fort Hood shooter with loyal Americans like Gen. John Abizaid, an Arab-American who is a member of the association.
As a result of the Fort Hood tragedy, Baadani says he is already seeing a backlash against Muslims and Arab-Americans. At a tea party in Abilene, Texas, as speaker Mark Williams, author of “Exposing the Socialist Agenda,” mentioned Islam, a woman in the crowd yelled, “Get them out of the military!”
The crowd cheered. Ignoring the comment, the speaker continued.
In Tampa, Fla., a Marine reservist attacked a Greek Orthodox priest with a tire iron, calling him an Arab terrorist. After his arrest, he claimed the priest shouted “God is great” in Arabic.
Referring to the Marine reservist, Baadani says, “What was he going to do if he got deployed and had a Muslim or Arab-American Marine like myself in his unit?”
Baadani formed the association of more than 100 military men and women after 9/11, when similar incidents occurred. There is nothing politically correct about Baadani’s message. He condemns Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan as a terrorist, and he calls out Arab-American and Muslim communities for not doing more to isolate extremist elements within them.
“We’ve got to take more proactive steps toward defining this issue and facing it head on,” Baadani says. Referring to the Newsmax story 10 Percent of U.S. Mosques Preach Jihad, FBI Estimates, Baadani says, “If that is the case, shame on them. Get on board. If you don’t want to be on board, then think about somewhere else to go or something else to do. But if someone lives here in America, you’ve got to be patriotic. You’ve got to protect our values and ideals. America gave us a place to come and worship and be free. And we’ve got to respect the Constitution for allowing us to do that.”
Baadani urges Arab-Americans and Muslims to take a stand against radical Islam. He notes that some organizations such as the Arab American Institute; the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; the Muslim Public Affairs Council; and the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Mich., the largest mosque in the United States, denounced the actions of the Fort Hood shooter and offered condolences to the victims and their families.
But Baadani draws a distinction between the radical element of Islam and the vast majority of American Muslims and Arab-Americans who are peaceful, loyal Americans. When Americans actually meet Arabs or Muslims, their negative stereotypes melt away, Baadani says.
“I’ve traveled all over the country talking to different faiths, businesses, churches,” Baadani says. “I’ve talked to Jewish organizations, I’ve talked to Muslim organizations. And one thing I’ve learned in my travels and extensive experience in trying to build a bridge between our community and America at large, is that people don’t know Muslims or Arabs, and so they react out of fear.”
To be sure, “With some people, that fear will never go away, because they’re just racists and bigots 100 percent,” Baadani says. “The majority of the people when they see me and see me smile, when they see me hug them or shake their hand, they say man, you know? My image of a Muslim was nothing like this guy.”
Baadani notes that his best friend is Jewish.
“We always kid each other and go, ‘If they want to know how to solve the Middle East peace process, just come hang out with us at a bar,’” Baadani says. “I’ve celebrated Passover, Hanukkah, various holidays with them. They’ve made me feel like a member of their family.”
In sum, “If there’s anything we can take out of this horrific incident from Fort Hood, that is we have to understand each other,” Baadani says. “We may not have to like each other, but we have to understand and respect each other. You don’t have to like me. But if you can sit across the table and talk to me, that’s a huge win. And we’ve got to do that.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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