The Abuse of Islam in Political Rhetoric

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: George W. Bush Views: 4506
4506

It is becoming fashionable for elected officials in the Anglo-American world, notably in the United States and the United Kingdom, to employ abusive language involving Islam. Phrases such as "Islamic terrorism," "totalitarian Islam," "crimes of Islam," and "Islamic fascism" are freely used, with sadist disrespect, to condemn real and imagined terrorists who practice the faith of Islam. For years, and long before the 9/11 attacks, neo-conservative scholarship has been determined to popularize the concept of the essentialist terrorist [PDF] who purportedly draws his deepest inspiration from the puritanical beliefs of Islam and equipped with cruelty, commits violence against innocent Jews and Christians. According to this, occupations, invasions, territorial thefts, assassinations, house demolitions, human rights violations, and other such grievances have nothing to do with Islamic resistance. Islamic terrorism, according to neo-conservative scholarship, stems from the Sharia, from passages of the Quran, and from a puritanical mindset that manufactures pretexts to maim and kill. These killers, it is further contended, wish to impose Islamic law over the entire world.

Gradually but successfully, the propagandized essentialist terrorist and the attendant abusive language against Islam have entered political rhetoric. Presidents, prime ministers, congressmen, senators, and other officials are now freely using abusive language to malign Islam, not through uncaught moments of Freudian slips but as a policy of expressive audacity.

Commenting on the alleged plan of British nationals of Pakistani descent to blow up US-bound planes over the Atlantic, President Bush said: "This is a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists." Senator Rick Santorum distinguishes between terrorism and Islamic fascism, arguing that terrorism is a tactic but what the West is fighting is "Islamic fascism" which is "truly evil" and which is "as big a threat today as Nazism and communism."

This new trend to openly curse Islam echoes the words of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said: "We should not be apologetic or defensive in defining the problems of terrorism."

One wonders why elected officials in supposedly democratic nations, which tout the principles of equal respect and dignity for all, use abusive language to wound the sentiments of more than a billion people across the world. Several explanations come to mind.

First, the abusive language may be described as an effect of an over-generalization. Suppose that Muslim militants indeed wish to impose Islam on the Anglo-American world, a supposition that even the militants would ridicule as blatant propaganda to infuriate domestic audiences. Though mounted on a questionable supposition, the label is accurate to the extent that the use of violence to forcibly modify the values of a foreign nation is indeed fascism - a definition that, ironically, would also paint President Bush as an American fascist for his forcible democratization of Afghanistan and Iraq. Even if President Bush were declared a fascist, it would be wrong to describe his foreign policy as American fascism because that is tantamount to over- as well as mis-generalization.

Islamic fascism as a descriptive label also fails to capture the limited meaning of describing militants who are supposedly fascists. The label comes across as a prescriptive indictment, suggesting that Islam is intolerant, violent, and aggressively self-righteous in imposing its values on non-Islamic cultures. If Anglo-American politicians are using the label in this broad sense, and thus accusing Islam and not merely the militants, they should say so. If they are using the label in a limited sense and do not wish to antagonize the entire Muslim world or malign the faith of Islam, they must abandon the label. The label of Islamic fascism even in a limited sense is not an intelligent use of the language, for it is susceptible to multiple interpretations. Its use in the broad sense is highly provocative and counterproductive to the war on terrorism. It foolishly alienates all Muslims.

Second, there might be a democratic argument for politicians using abusive language involving Islam. But no American politician would describe pedophilia scandals in some Catholic churches as Catholic pedophilia. Such an over-generalization would be politically unwise because no prudent politician would want to lose Catholic money and votes. Likewise, no politician would use abusive language against Jews or Judaism for fear of alienating that community, not to mention the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which keeps a close tab on what American politicians are saying and doing. Because American Muslims do not have loads of money, lobbying clout, or votes, however, they constitute a minority that can be easily sacrificed and trashed. If this is the reason behind abusive rhetoric against Islam, however, it reveals a sad truth about democracy in general and American democracy in particular which has had a tainted record when it comes to the abusive treatment of minorities including native Indians, Blacks, and others.

Third, there seems to exist an unexamined assumption in American political circles that Islam is a foreign religion, an outsider, the other. Politicians who use abusive language against Islam do not see Islam as part of American multi-religious fabric. Despite their enchantment with secularism, they still see this nation as Christian, perhaps Judeo-Christian, ignoring the fact that millions of Muslims, immigrants and native born, now live in all states of the United States. Hundreds of mosques in America, though under surveillance, furnish indelible signs that Islam has arrived in this country, not to forcibly convert anyone but to enrich American culture, diversity, history, architecture, sciences, and, yes, laws. Let American politicians greet Islam and Muslims with Assalaam ulaikum (peace be upon you) if for no other reason than to remind them that their religion is one of peace and not of violence.

Ali Khan is a professor at Washburn University School of Law in Kansas. His publications are available here.


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: George W. Bush
Views: 4506

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Older Comments:
NOONE FROM NOWHERE said:
though i agree with the writer of this article overall jan has a point
2006-09-09

MAZINGER Z FROM UK said:
Jan, I believe you and other Christofascists are hypocritical. Kafir means non-Muslim so what are you carping about like an incessent cretin? I see Americans commtting terrorism everyday in Iraq....I dont call them Amero-fascists, maybe I should start to use these terms see if the shoe fits the other foot.
The same applies to jewish terrorists killing innocent Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. If there are fascists in the world today its you American and Israel thugs and gangsters who are it. Deal with it.
2006-09-05

JAN FROM USA said:
Let me tell you about abusive language, if calling Christians and Jews (and other non Muslims) KAFIR's isn't abusive , I don't know what is. We are people who believe in God, BUT we do not follow the Islamic religion. It says in the Quran--(5-48)"For each ,We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto Allah ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ).
If not "Islamic fascists" what do you suggest we call these people?. We never see "peace" marches in middle eastern countries, only western flag and effigy burning, by crowds calling for death and destruction being led by some "Islamic religious leader",or another, who becomes a hero to the Muslim people, and the more atrocities done by his bidding the more "loved" he becomes.
About your third point---Islam is (again) the newest religion on the block but does not find happiness being recognized and co-existing alongside people of other religions, but seems to have a need to separate its self for the others and strive not for equality but supremacy over them.
As for your last statement---we would love to greet you with "Assalaam ulaikum " but since you are not allowed to greet us with these words of peace, we would hate to confuse you as to how to answer. us.http://www.islamictimes.co.uk/content/view/158/25/
Show us the "PEACE" that is Islam, and then our attitudes, our perceptions, our words will change , instead of complaining accept responsability for the actions of your muslim brothers, make it "fashionable" to speak out against the wrongs commited in the name of YOUR religion and OUR GOD.....
2006-08-29

WCGAULT FROM USA said:
There is only one problem with the argument that you present. Even more than Americans, it seems that Muslims are abusing Islam. Murder, suicide bombings, and a host of activities that kill more Muslims than non-Muslims are committed everyday, in the name of Allah, and people cheer. Can a Muslim be a facists? Are there terrorists that are Muslims? Certainly! There are also Americans that pounce on that fact at every opportunity. But Muslims have allowed their faith to be hijacked, in a way that should not be occurring in the 21st century. Whether you know it or not, George Bush and his minions do not speak for or act on behalf of my faith. As a Christian I do not beleive a Holy War is possible. If I fight you I fight you for me, and would never sit still for people justifying murder of civilians by using the name of God.
That is something that Muslims should address.
2006-08-28

KAZI MAHMOOD FROM MALAYSIA said:
True...Islam is getting a bashing. Muslims are being punished and are facing abuse. The truth is clear. We are the target of a form of ignorance - self imposed ignorance - by the non-Muslims. However the real culprit in the continued attacks against Islam and Muslims are the Muslims themselves. Muslims are divided on such issues as explained in this article and it is a pity that we can't even unite in facing off an enemy as huge as the US and its neo's (xtians or conservatives or liberals). Many Muslims acts like cowards, hiding their real feelings and afraid of people like us...people like the Americans...and people who are using these fears from the Muslims to continue bash us and our faith. The answer to this is wake up. We need a good sound wake up call and we need to unite in our criticism of the enemies in order to be stong in this face off. Thanks.
2006-08-28

GAIL KNOWLTON FROM UNITED STATES OF AMERICA said:
i am truly sorry for the way the islamic people have been treated. i have been researching the reason for the palestine-israel conflict . i wanted to understand it. the more i learn. the more it breaks my heart. im just a nobody. there is nothing i can do for the injustice i read about. i just had to say im so sorry. not all the americans are against you. all i can say is given time things will get better i hope and pray but i have little faith in my goverment. thank you for your time. take care and may god be with you and your people.
2006-08-28

IMRAN AHMED FROM USA said:
From the days of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) and even before, man has mocked and ridiculed ALLAH'S Religion and HIS Messengers.

This is nothing new. The HOLY QURAN advises us to bear insults with patience and let ALLAH (SWT) deal with the evil doers.

If you think for one moment that words and articles can destroy Islam, after all it has withstood for 1400 plus years, then your faith is badly in need of shoring up.

Read Sura 33, verses 56-58 and you'll get the answer right away.
2006-08-28

MOLNAR FROM USA said:
I couldn't agree more, however our current administration has done an effective job of utilizing the fear of Muslim terrorists to leverage thier quest for control of the vast oil resources of the Middle East. I don't beleive they use that as as thier opinion, but to keep the American people scared enough to support thier war campaign and re-election hopes in November. It's unfortunate that the Muslim community has to suffer so that the American government can fulfill thier agendas.

2006-08-27

HAMZAH FROM AUSTRALIA said:
great article. very incisive paper, the pdf, thank you for posting it.
2006-08-26

CHARLES DOUGLAS WEHNER FROM GERMANY said:
FREEMASONRY entered the British Royal house of Stuart in 1712. It is a "bully club" - if you have some small shame, they bully you into doing something MORE shameful, and MORE and MORE. There is no upper limit - it passes through TERRORISM into the world of NUCLEAR TERRORISM. It despises ALL good religion.

EIGHT Popes spoke against it:
Pope Leo XIII, Humanum Genus, 1884, 2

"At this period, however, the partisans of evil seem to be combining together, and to be struggling with united vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread association called the Freemasons. No longer making any secret of their purposes, they are now boldly rising up against God Himself".

It is NIHILISM. It is REVERSED MORALITY. It is the OPPOSITE of Christianity, but also the opposite of Islam, of the Hindu beliefs, of the Buddhists and so on.

We all agree - even Atheists and Agnostics - that the destruction of the world would be EVIL. The Masonic "creed" is the reverse. To them, the destruction of the world would be BEAUTIFUL. They BRAINWASH (dirty the brain - get it?) each other to believe it.

So there is a DELIBERATE policy of causing total CHAOS in society. The Masonic Major government DELIBERATELY spread "Mad Cow Disease" amongst its own people - 250,000 cows died of it every year. Then Major tried to FORCE Europe to accept poisoned beef. Tony Blair has been bullied into crime, and is now a puppet. In America, "Dubya" Bush was tricked into joining the "Skull and Bones" branch at Yale, and then given degrees for NOT studying. He became a dimwitted, frightened, obedient PUPPET.

So the Muslims are the NEW JEWS. Where Hitler, with his "Holy Lance" copy of Freemasonry badmouthed the Jews, so the British and American Masons are badmouthing the Muslims. In Iraq, they set Sunnis against Shia - where a dispute PREVIOUSLY never existed.

DIVIDE AND RULE.
2006-08-26

RIFAT IQBAL FROM CANADA said:
with assalamoalaikum i remember that once i, calling someone of my friend dialed wrong no and just said assalamo alaikum, the woman on the otherside was quite use to of this sentence so she answered in happy accent walekumus slam, but who are you, so as i was in contact of a non muslim but there was a feeling of peace and happiness even for a few second, as we end the call.
2006-08-26

AMIN KALIMUDDIN FROM USA said:
Please dont waste your time, no body is going to listen to any argument, right or wrong. This much power makes individuals and nations arrogant, and for a while they get away with it. Some day they will pay the price. It always happens.
2006-08-26

RAUF FROM CDA said:
Asalaamu Alaikum.
Comments by some of the readers show not only their love for Islam but also concern for it! It is a shame that it has all come to this. The Bushs' and Blairs' acting as mouth pieces of Israel are indeed responsible for this catastophic situation.
But fret not brothers and sisters. Time is on our side!
As a Muslim I have no hatred for anyone.
Peace is my faith.
The larger problems lies with the kings of our certain countries including the Abdullah's the Karzais' and Musharafs'. They need to learn to say "No".
My wish to all Muslims and non-Muslims is "Peace".
2006-08-26

ISYAKA LAMINU BADAMASI FROM NIGERIA said:
only when muslim acts as directed by the prophet,then they will be free from these abusive words.
2006-08-26

VOR FROM USA said:
Well, for America and israel to continue robbing Muslims lands, resources and using their nations as strategic military bases and their people as subhuman servants of this corporate military monstrosity, Islam and Muslims have to be de-humanized, maligned, and demonized to a point where it becomes ok to murder them. We live in a twilight zone, where state sponsored terrorism is at war with imaginary terrorism. There IS no Islamic terrorism, anyone with a respectable amount of sound intellect can determine that "Islamic terror" (starting from the self inflicted wound of 911) was a necessary invention of the west to allow its murderous global ambitions unabated. The so called war on terror is a racist, bigoted, genocidal murder spree, at its very roots lie human greed, thirst and hunger for ever more power and dominance, intertwined with the fatuous desire to bring a biblical myth into fruition. As much as I hate to say this, but more and more this is starting to look like the war between good and evil, and any force that is capable of mass genocide, forbidding of food and medicine to children, dropping DU on civilian population, causing unknown number of cancer cases and birth defects, supporting brutal tyrants around the world, supporting an illegal and immoral state that was foisted on Palestinians by force, for no other reason but for material gain, global prestige and power, is pure evil.
2006-08-25

IFTIKHAR FROM UNITED KINGDOM said:
SAlaam

British Muslim community was a victim of Paki-bashing in all walks of life for the lasr fity years and British establishment did nothing to redurec the suffering. Now it is victim of terrorism by the British establishment.
2006-08-25

ABDIFATAH SULEIMAN MUSSE FROM USA said:
this is signs that tells you, this people are fullscale war with muslims, and you guys are divided, so what are you waiting for? you have been attacked ,and they will attack your til you protect your faith , Gods will we will Judge them for their wrong doings
2006-08-25

FIRDEUSE FROM KOSOVA said:
eselamu alejkum that using a abusive language is unfair for all muslims over the world .

And improving a abusive language against islam is now how also from the author mentionitet a practice that must not egsist enimore
2006-08-25