The term “haji” is not simply an ethnic slur, like “gook,” “jap,” “jerry” or “nigger.” All ethnic slurs entail hostile stereotypes, but “haji” is a specifically religious stereotype based on hostility toward Muslims. In our 2003 book, Weapons of Mass Deception , John Stauber and I described the efforts that the Bush administration has undertaken to rebrand America in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on projects including Radio Sawa , Al Hurra , a “Shared Values ” campaign, and the Council of American Muslims for Understanding . Through glossy brochures, TV advertisements and websites, the United States has sought to depict America as a nation of religious tolerance that respects and appreciates Islam. These words, however, are constantly being undermined by the actual deeds and attitudes of the Bush administration’s most ardent supporters, including soldiers in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the White House has tried to frame the war in Iraq as a “war on terror,” its own supporters keep reframing it as a war against Islam. This is a serious, if not fatal error. Rather than fighting a few thousand actual terrorists, the United States is positioning itself in opposition to one of the world’s major religions, with more than a billion adherents worldwide.
–Sheldon Rampton, from “Hadji Girl”
This is an excerpt from Ramptonâ€™s response to a controversy that begin last summer when a group called The Council on American Islamic Relations complained about a video in which U.S. soldiers were â€œcheering a song that glorifies the killing of Iraqi citizens.” The video was posted online last March. The council reminds us that â€œA “Hajji” is a person who has made the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, but the term has often been used as a pejorative by U.S. troops in Iraq.â€ Perhaps fortunately, the video has been removed from it original spot on YouTube.
The original Council on American Islamic Relations piece: http://www.cair.com/default.asp?Page=articleView&id=2184&theType=NR
Global Seccurity.org’s “Slang from Iraqi Freedom.”
Rampton emphasizes the importance of empathy:
The soldiers occupying Iraq are normal men and women who, in other circumstances, would never commit the abuses that have been documented in Bagram and Abu Ghraib and that are now alleged in Haditha. The situations in which this war has placed them â€” far from home, surrounded by a foreign language and foreign culture, carrying guns and fearful for their lives â€” have brought out behaviors that we would not see otherwise. If American soldiers and Iraqis could meet under different circumstances, things would be different.
I guess we can hope that one day things will be differant.