How Does it Feel To Be a Victim? Ask Prof. Bayoumi


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Moustafa Bayoumi, associate professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, gave a lecture at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) last month titled, “How Does It Feel To Be a Problem: Why Arabs and Muslim Americans Are at the Heart of Today’s Culture Wars.”

Bayoumi is the editor of How Does it Feel To Be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America, a collection of biographical stories about young, Brooklyn-based Arab-Americans that the CMES website describes, among other things, as “a catalog of mistreatment and discrimination.”

Baymoui’s narrative of Arab victimhood extends beyond America’s borders—he is also the editor of, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: the Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How it Changed the Course of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict, as well as co-editor of The Edward Said Reader; victimization has long been a staple of his academic career.

CMES’s Sultan Room—so-named for its Saudi patron, the Sultan bin AbdulAziz Al-Saud Charity Foundation—was full. The audience of approximately 75 students and adults acted like fans; they laughed in all the right places, appeared to be in full agreement with Bayoumi throughout, and offered no challenging questions.

At the time, Egypt’s recent revolution was dominating the headlines and Bayoumi was on his way to speak on a UC Berkeley panel on the subject directly afterward. As a result, his lecture seemed rushed and, at times, the wording sounded remarkably similar to his October 24, 2010, Chronicle of Higher Education article, “My Arab Problem.”

Referencing the situation in Egypt, Bayoumi began his talk by quoting from The Autobiography of Malcolm X: “How is it possible to write about your life when it’s changing so quickly?” Later, he paraphrased Invisible Man author Ralph Ellison: “We are surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass.” He noted that his book’s title, How Does It Feel To Be a Problem, originated with a quote from W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk:

I stole the title from Du Bois; it resonated with me . . . what to do about the increasing dehumanization of the Arab American population.

Clearly, Bayoumi is heavily influenced by African-American literature—the chapters of his book are prefaced by quotes from famous black authors—but in equating African-Americans with Arab-Americans, he is conflating two very different historical experiences.

To support his position that Arabs, including Muslims, in America are “dehumanized,” Bayoumi cited polls conducted by the Economist and the Washington Post, which found—not coincidentally—a steady rise in negativity towards Islam beginning with the 9/11 atrocities and culminating in the Park51 (ground zero mosque) controversy. He omitted any possibility of a rational basis for these negative perceptions and later rejected what he called “the rhetoric of the opposition to the ground zero mosque.” Echoing the project’s organizers, he claimed that

the idea behind Park51 was to improve our image; model our image along successful lines like the 92nd Street Y [92nd Street Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association] a major Jewish cultural institution.

This comparison is inapt in that the 92nd Street Y—in the secular tradition of Jewish community centers—does not include a synagogue, while Park51 is intended to include a mosque. Also, 92nd Street is not near a site where Jews massively attacked New York City.

Bayoumi next addressed the controversy that erupted in August 2010 after Brooklyn College assigned his book as its “common reader,” thereby making it required reading for all incoming students and setting up a “meet the author” discussion. Complaints poured in that the book was too lopsided and the debate eventually—as Bayoumi claimed the college feared—went “viral,” pulling him into “the center of a small culture war.”

Citing retired Brooklyn College philosophy professor Abigail L. Rosenthal, who, in a letter to college president Karen Gould, alleged that “the book smacked of indoctrination,” Bayoumi responded:

Is my writing that powerful? No. They have not actually read my book, but only the Amazon page.

He blamed the “tabloid media” and “conservative bloggers” such as Bruce Kesler—a Brooklyn College alumnus who broke the story by publicly cutting his bequest to the college over the Bayoumi decision—for the controversy. In fact, a variety of publications ran articles on the subject, including the Jewish Week, the New York Daily News, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post.

Summing up his thoughts on the matter, Bayoumi remarked that:

Opposition to my book seems symptomatic of our times . . . all things Muslim or Arab are called radical.

Bayoumi decried FBI counterterrorism efforts involving Brooklyn’s large Arab-American population, comparing it to investigating “the mafia; investigating family structures” and calling it “patronizing.”

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  • Supreme_Galooty

    The Supreme Galooty invites Monsieur Bayoumi to accompany him for one day's travel amidst the bourgeoisie of this ordinary world and THEN comment on the relative depravity of the Jews vis a vis the so called "Palestinians." While the Supreme Galooty is totally convinced that there MUST be actual humans hidden about, here and there, amidst those Arabs who are ignorant enough to call themselves "Palestinians," he marvels at their innability to come forward and identify themselves – except as mere poseurs.

    • His Student

      Prof. Bayoumi is actually a very nice man FROM FREAKIN' CANADA who is currently teaching a Postmodernism / Contemporary Lit class focused on post-9/11 literature. I think you should read his book before wanting to condemn it. As the saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover and certainly don't talk in third person like an idiot.

  • kafir4life

    The muslim victimhood industry is alive and well. CHA CHING!

  • Winghunter

    What Islam Isn't By Dr. Peter Hammond http://bit.ly/62aHxu

    “Islamism is not a movement to be engaged, it is an enemy to be defeated.” http://bit.ly/cCU5LW

    Islam: The Religion of Peace ( And A Whole Bunch of Dead Bodies) http://bit.ly/cY94uX

    Former Muslim Speaks Out http://tinyurl.com/25tztmy

    Muslim Inbreeding http://bit.ly/goVaWd

    Islam Permits Lying to Deceive Unbelievers and Bring World Domination! by Dr. Don Boys http://bit.ly/KIwW1

  • xtb3

    All muslim immigration must be immediately halted. They and their purposeful overbreeding must be cleansed out of every single western country. It happened before in Spain and Europe it must be done again now or in 100 years our descendants will be sub-humans licking sti8nking muslim's feet. Deport every one of them NOW!

    • Anonymous

      What you're proposing now is what Hitler proposed decades ago about the Jews, all for "justified reasons". You really want to be that guy? Those that want to come here to create a new life and to join our society and escape the problems over there should be able to. I have a bunch of friends at a prestigious engineering school, and almost all of them are Muslims / Asians. To deny them of coming here and of education is basically denying yourself of a future. I'm not saying let them all in, but give them the same chance every other immigrant gets.

      • xtb3

        sgt. hassan guns down innocent soldiers in texas, tv producer beheads his wife in ny, iraq who got into this country runs over daughter in honor murder, taxi drivers in minn refuse to take infidels who have bought duty free liquor bottles or blind infidels who have a seeing eye dog, bus driver stops bus in middle of day and prays for 10 minutes, muslim prayer rooms in university – etc etc etc – give them the same rights they give christians, hindus, jews, buddhists and atheists in their country or send everyone of them back because their ways dont belong here. here where people can live together. btw – hitler tried to exterminate the jewish race – the exact same thing muslims are trying right now. that is how a muslim p-iece of sheit stabs a 3 month old baby to death. years of brain washing of that toilet paper mein kampf of theirs although mohammy probably never used toilet paper the pedophile he was.

  • xtb3

    THE AYRAB MEIN KAMPH – KORAN

  • BLJ

    I have a better title:

    "How Does It Feel To Be A Camel Jockey?"

    Go peddle this crap somewhere else "Professor".

    • A student

      He's a distinguished professor who is the nicest person and he's from Canada. I think he wrote this book because he's one of the few people out there who have a dooming last name and color skin and because this, he has to be treated like a terrorist when he's really an educated person who is all about open debates and dialogue and is calmer and nicer than anyone on this forum. Have you even read his book? Do you know what it's about or are you just one of those morons that judges a book by its cover?

  • lanastaslem1

    After 9-11, I accepted the invitation to learn more about Islam. I ordered a Koran. I now understand why women are treated the way they are in "Islamic Republics." The most horrific violence against Muslims in the U.S. since 9-11 has been committed by other Muslims. See "honor killings…"

  • http://www.crusaderknight.blogspot.com James Pawlak

    IN RE JIHADI; Caedite eos, Nevit enim Dominus qui sunt elus!
    Mihi persuasum est amor acerbe.

    Mecca Delenda Est!
    Cato Novo

  • Tyler

    Not sure why I should expect anything different from you, Mr. Horowitz, but this is just a long string of inflammatory statements and convenient false dichotomies. Congratulations!

    I will also congratulate you on the timeliness of this article.

  • xtb3

    OFF with her clitoris!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • moravecglobal

    University of California Berkeley students are victims of theUniversity of California senior management. Just how widespread is the budget crisis at University of California Berkeley? University of California Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau’s ($500,000 salary) eight-year fiscal track record is dismal indeed. He would like to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving him every dollar he has asked for, and the state legislators do share some responsibility for the financial crisis. But not in the sense he means.
    Instead, every year Birgeneau would request a budget increase, the regents would agree to it, and the legislature would provide. The hard questions were avoided by all concerned, and the problems just piled up to $150 million of inefficiencies….until there was no money left.
    Faculty and staff have raised issues with senior management, but when they failed to see relevant action taken, they stopped. Finally, Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) engaged some expensive ($7.2 million) consultants, Bain & Company, to tell him what he should have been able to find out from the bright, engaged people in his own organization.

  • http://www.getlaidtonightinfo.info frederic

    My husband will never chase another woman. He’s too fine, too decent, too old