How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?


Moustafa Bayoumi

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A terrorist network of extremist Muslim fundamentalists founded by Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, which has carried out a number of suicide attacks, including the September 11 attacks, against the citizens of countries it considers enemies of Islam (and, often, controlled by Jews). Contrary to the Qur’an, al-Qaeda believes that the murder of innocent civilians is justified and violence is a legitimate means to unite the Muslim world under a single government. Al-Qaeda has become more and more loosely-organized and fragmented since the War on Terror, which the United States launched specifically to destroy it. (In 2011, the United States finally killed bin Laden.)

Al-Qaeda Quotes in How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?

The How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? quotes below are all either spoken by Al-Qaeda or refer to Al-Qaeda. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? published in 2008.
Preface Quotes

The last several years have taken their toll. I ask him about life after September 11 for Arab Americans. “We're the new blacks,” he says. “You know that, right?”

Related Characters: Moustafa Bayoumi (speaker), Sade (speaker)
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

It seems barely an exaggeration to say that Arab and Muslim Americans are constantly talked about but almost never heard from. The problem is not that they lack representations but that they have too many. And these are all abstractions. Arabs and Muslims have become a foreign-policy issue, an argument on the domestic agenda, a law-enforcement priority and a point of well-meaning concern. They appear as shadowy characters on terror television shows, have become objects of sociological inquiry, and get paraded around as puppets for public diplomacy. Pop culture is awash with their images. Hookah cafés entice East Village socialites, fashionistas appropriate the checkered keffiyah scarf, and Prince sings an ode to a young Arab-American girl. They are floating everywhere in the virtual landscape of the national imagination, as either villains of Islam or victims of Arab culture. Yet as in the postmodern world in which we live, sometimes when you are everywhere, you are really nowhere.

Related Characters: Moustafa Bayoumi (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
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Al-Qaeda Term Timeline in How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?

The timeline below shows where the term Al-Qaeda appears in How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Racism, Discrimination, and Foreign Policy Theme Icon
Arab American Identities Theme Icon avoid it; then, the others learn that Sami speaks Arabic and start calling him “al-Qaeda” and “sand nigger,” which he does not particularly mind. (full context)