Nobody can deny that the abduction and subsequent death of Adam Jordan Haseeb was a tragedy, a tragedy of monumental proportions.

As a toddler, Adam was snatched from his Indiana home and taken to Syria by his father, Hakeem Haseeb, although Adam's mother had custody. She tried to have the child returned to her, but the Syrian government would not extradite him and Adam and Hakeem remained there. Several years later, a gas explosion in Syria killed both father and son. Adam was finally returned to his mother, in a pine box. The event made headlines and the world grieved for her and her child. He was eight years old when he died.

The deep sadness of the whole affair is exacerbated by several articles written about it in a major Midwest newspaper. The tone of the articles seemed to say "Another Muslim man snatches his child away to a sandy country, we need to watch out for them." None of the articles gave any autobiographical information about Hakeem Haseeb, or showed a photograph of him, and with good reason: Hakeem Haseeb was American and not of Middle Eastern descent. He was born in Selma, Alabama and his name used to be Jimmie Dawson; he changed it after converting to Islam. If that newspaper had reported these facts, Mr. Haseeb would no longer fit the stereotype of the evil child-abducting Arab man, and the story would not be as sensational. This kind of yellow journalism cheapens little Adam's memory.

Perhaps begun by Betty Mahmoody's xenophobic and irresponsible memoir Not Without My Daughterand perpetuated by such high-profile cases as the abduction of Nadia Dabbagh, the stereotype of the menacing, possessive Arab father pervades American society. This author has heard it said by more than one person that an American woman ought not to marry a man of Middle Eastern descent, because if they had kids he would probably take them to the Middle East and they would never be seen again.

It is true that some men of Middle Eastern descent have had children by American women and then taken the children to their home country and not returned them. However, a perusal of the international parental child abduction cases profiled by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows that the most common destination country by far is not Egypt or Saudi Arabia or anywhere in the Middle East, but Mexico. Arab countries accounted for only a small percentage of the cases. Also, of the children that are abducted to the Middle East by Arab parents, many of them are taken by their mothers.

Muslim theocracies are notorious for not returning abducted children to their home countries, but they are by no means alone in that respect. In fact, the only country that consistently sends internationally abducted children home is the United States. Even those nations that sign the Hague Treaty which promises they will locate and return such children, rarely do. American boys and girls have been taken by non-custodial relatives to virtually every country in the world and were never returned home. This reprehensible behavior is made worse by the racist stereotype that only Arab men are responsible.

The abduction of every child, no matter by whom or where to, is a terrible thing. Let us not make it worse by piling racism on top of it. To paraphrase a slogan often used by the National Rifle Association: Societies don't abduct children. People abduct children.

SOME STATISTICS: These were taken from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website. This listing is by no means complete and its accuracy is not guaranteed.

As of January 6, 2005, 493 children in the United States were listed as abducted by family members. 264 were girls and 229 were boys.

212 children had been missing five years or more and 61 had been missing ten years or more.

3 children were Native American, 16 were Asian, 33 were African-American, 34 were biracial, 180 were Hispanic, and 223 were white. There is no specific listing for children of Middle Eastern descent and they would be divided up among the white, biracial and Asian listings.

Of the abducting relatives listed, 98 were men and 190 were women. Some of the abductors were not profiled on the website, however.

162 of the children were listed as possibly having been taken out of the country. 109 of them were listed as possibly being in Mexico, 18 in East Asia or Australasia, 16 in South or Central American or the Caribbean, 16 in what the author considers to be an Arab country, 11 in Europe, 5 in Africa, 2 in Israel, and 1 in Canada. In sixteen cases the possible country of destination was not listed and in four cases, more than one possible country was listed.

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