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Jewish World Review July 10, 2002 / 1 Menachem-Av, 5762

Julia Gorin-Mohamed

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Random terrorism | Hesham Mohamed Hadayet was one of the victims in last week's tragic shootout at Los Angeles Airport. And now, as his widow attests, he is being singled out from among the rest, blamed because he is Arab and Muslim.

Blamed not just for the random, spontaneous, isolated shooting spree that it invariably was, but potentially for terrorism and/or hate crimes. As one appropriately indignant WABC reporter emphasized on Thursday, "Just because the shooter was Egyptian and it happened at the El Al counter," investigators are looking into the possibility of terrorism.

Indeed, would it be so inconceivable that after surveying the bevy of competing airlines at LAX-after racking his brain over which to pick from among the likes of Aeroflot, Qantas, Lufthansa and Ukrainian National-Hadayet got tired in front of the El Al counter and settled on it by default? Hypothetically speaking, of course, since he didn't do it.

It's a lucky thing Hadayet sent his family to Egypt shortly before the attack. His wife, Hala Mohammed Sadeq El-Awadly, is saying they might not be coming back. And who can blame them, given the volatile racial climate here?

Hadayet is reported to have been armed with two guns and a hunting knife-allegedly incriminating evidence of his having been the shooter. But is it so inconceivable that Hesham Hadayet was as scared as the rest of us of terror in the skies, and wanted to be prepared for the worst? Furthermore, these items were most likely planted on him by the Israeli El Al security.

The exaggerated furor over this incident is all too reminiscent of the tone surrounding the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington when, in a similar way, the country fixated on 19 Muslim hijackers. Officials and media even managed to connect to all this a plane that crashed in a remote part of Pennsylvania the same day. After all, there were Muslims on board there too. With everyone dwelling on the point that they did it, the point gets lost that it could have been anyone.

Just because terrorist organizations happen to attract many Muslims, it doesn't mean we shouldn't steer clear of drawing biased conclusions.

After all, these organizations don't recruit Muslims exclusively; certainly Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda and the al Aqsa Brigade wouldn't ban non-Muslims expressing interest in suicidal homicide. It just happens that so far the majority of applicants have been Muslim. Still, it is safe to say that these are equal opportunity outfits that don't discriminate on the basis of externals.

In this sense, perhaps it would be instructive to take a page from their book, particularly as regards the crime-solving tactic of racial profiling, which is the real culprit behind the anti-Muslim mood. Why else would we assume that because all the September 11th hijackers were Muslim, the next attack against the U.S. is more likely to be conducted by Muslims than by anyone else?

Besides, there's at least one degree of separation between the average law-abiding Muslim Arab-American and someone who is involved with such groups or supports them financially.

It is counterproductive to stoke the flames of intolerance, as one U.S. Marine did when he called police after the shooting to report that Hadayet lived in his building and sometimes expressed revulsion at the American flag that the Marine had hanging off his balcony. It's as if we've learned nothing from a decade of Bill Maher: true patriots criticize their country. And it isn't even Hadayet's country, so again--perhaps Americans can take an example from this Egyptian national.

Speaking from Cairo, the widow El-Awadly yesterday said that her husband is innocent, that he was a peaceful and non-violent man who didn't have an opinion on Israel. Indeed, this is the first time that he did or didn't kill anyone, Jewish or otherwise. El-Awadly said she believes that he is a victim of American injustice because "in America they hate Islam and Arabs after September 11." Point taken: Witness the typical display of U.S. favoritism toward the dead Jews in this case over the dead Arab.

Is it any wonder, then, that Osama bin Laden became the hero of the Arab world after Sept. 11, even though the tape linking him to the attacks was a fabrication?

Is it any wonder that, even though the Holocaust never happened, what's happening to the Palestinians is just like it?

Is it any wonder that the Arab world compares Ariel Sharon to Adolf Hitler (blessed be the memory of that lone righteous gentile)?

Just like the documents linking Yassir Arafat to weapons shipments from Iran and payments to martyr families were forgeries--even though all such activities are well justified-so is Hadayet innocent of the charges against him. Not only did he not do it, but he is justified in having done it. Indeed, if anyone this week is justified in having done what he didn't do, it's Hesham Mohamed Hadayet.

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JWR contributor Julia Gorin is a journalist and stand-up comic residing in Manhattan. Send your comments by clicking here.

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© 2002, Julia Gorin