Growing Islamophobia

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: George W. Bush, Islamophobia Views: 6765
6765

President Bush reacting to the unearthing of the alleged bombing plot over the Atlantic August 10 remarked: "This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation."

On Aug. 7, during a press conference from his ranch in Texas, he said terrorists "try to spread their jihadist message - a message I call ... Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism". A moment later, he said "Islamo-fascism" was an "ideology that is real and profound". White House spokesman Tony Snow told the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" Aug. 11 that the president will continue to use the phrase.

This is not the first time that Bush and members of his Administration have used this deliberate coupling of Islam with evil ideologies or actions, such as fascism or terrorism. Bush referred to "Islamo-fascism" in his address to the National Endowment for Democracy, Oct. 6, 2005. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) addressing Christians United for Israel (CUFI) held their first Washington-Israel Summit in Washington D.C., July 2006, declaring "Islamic fascism is a mosaic..."

Media baron Rupert Murdoch pontificated in Sydney, Australia June 26, 2006: "You have to be careful about Muslims who have a very strong, in many ways a fine, but very strong religion which supercedes any sense of nationalism wherever they go." 

The term is coined, and was initially used, by radical Zionist pundits and their allies in the Far Right, and is intended to drive a wedge between Western and Muslim communities. The fact that it is already being used by President Bush and his top lieutenant underscore the extent to which Islamophobia is gradually creeping into public discourse. 

Blaming Islam and Muslims for the rise of terrorism that threatens the U.S. and the West is at the heart of the strategy developed by individuals and groups whose systemic attacks on Islam and Muslims, borne out of either ignorance or hatred, constitute the recent and painful reality : Islamophobia. 

Islamophobia reflects an attitude and a posture normally associated with the Far Right, but that has been creeping slowly to the center of political debate. Islam and Muslims are separated out from the citizenry and increasingly presented as a problem to be addressed and a question to be tackled. The last time a world religion was considered a problem and a question was in late-nineteenth-century Europe. Then, the "Jewish Question" was widely debated by both the enlightened and bigots among European thinkers.

Islamophobia is a strategic weapon in the campaign to marginalize Muslim Americans by ideological extremists and paranoid bigots. On one level, Islamophobia stems from ignorance, deception, and misrepresentation. On a deeper level, however, it stems from a very basic human instinct to dominate, exploit, and abuse, combined with a scrupulous attitude that refuse to recognize moral principles and boundaries. While Islamophobia has existed since centuries, perhaps the term became public in Europe in the 1990s.

The twentieth century witnessed great struggles all over the world to overcome bigotry and racism, and to create more open and inclusive societies in which different races, ethnicities, and religions live side-by-side and cooperate for the betterment of society. After many devastating tragedies and wars, including two world wars that wiped out more than 80 million people, a holocaust, and a long civil rights struggle, chauvinism, racism, and bigotry were finally condemned, though not totally rejected. By the mid-twentieth century, the concept that individuals must be treated on the basis of their individual characters and actions, and that no individual or group should be targeted on the basis of religious, ethnic, racial, or national affiliations became widely accepted.

Therefore, the recent efforts that aim at presenting Islam as a challenge and Muslims who practice their faith as a problem are both disheartening and disquieting. They represent a dangerous move to reverse human progress and return to the age of outright racism and intolerance. This renewed focus on Islam as a problem has been justified by invoking security concerns. Many voices, particularly within the U.S. policymaking community, either out of ignorance or prejudice, decided to place the blame for terrorism squarely at the door of Islam. 

The decision to ignore complex and painful realities that give rise to discord and tension between Western and Muslim countries, and to blame it all on a major world religion and its practitioners, will only exacerbate an already dire situation. This exercise in self-delusion can only distract us from confronting the real sources of the concerns on both sides and delay the efforts to bring forth a permanent and lasting solution. Meanwhile, tremendous resources are wasted, and the credibility and prestige of the United States are being undermined.

The failure to understand the profound changes taking place in the Muslim world is not simply a matter of ignorance and lack of insight into Muslim cultures, but a reflection of the bewildering stubbornness of neoconservative analysts in the U.S. and Europe, and their comfort in employing the archaic Orientalist attitudes and tools to analyze relationships between the West and the Muslim world. Muslims are not awarded the dignity of equal human beings with intrinsic values and legitimate concerns, but are often presented as thoughtless and violent masses incapable of articulating their conditions and solving their problems. Consequently, no effort is made to initiate dialogue and exchange, and all energy is focused on devising strategies for the manipulation and control of the Muslim world.

Many self-proclaimed experts on Islam continue to behave as if Islam and Muslims are a distant part of reality and an external problem to address, rather than partners for dealing with common problems and challenges. An increasing number of Muslims are proud Americans, serving American society as professors, businessmen, medical doctors, engineers, lawyers, sports stars, firefighters, police officers, and teachers. Many experts in Middle East and Islamic Studies departments have their ancestral roots in Middle Eastern and Muslim cultures. Many Muslim Americans are active in the debate on how best to bridge the divide, or at least change the perceptions of a divide, between the Muslim world and the West.

Muslim Americans are well positioned to expose the deceptions of power hungry unilateralists, and bridge the divide between Muslim and Western countries. They equally reject the bigoted spirit of exclusivist ideologies that use religion in all its forms as a weapon for achieving political supremacy, and demonize and dehumanize political opponents. Muslim Americans should take a firm and resolute stance against individuals and groups that use violence and terror against civilians in the name of religion, and condemn all campaigns of terrorism by groups like al-Qaeda, as they do condemn those who justify violence and aggression against Muslims in the name of biblical prophecies and religious supremacy.

The time has come for the world to undertake a profound shift in political thinking and practice, similar to the one achieved in Europe in modern times. A democratic and free Europe came to life when the feudal system that privileged a small class of European elites was rejected and replaced with a system based on political equality and the rule of law. A democratic and free world will be achieved when the current political structure that perpetuates political and economic disparity is replaced with one in which all are equally treated under international law, and have fairly equal access to international organizations.

For two centuries, America has shown that it is capable of transcending its limitations and marching behind those who struggle to realize the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality. And throughout its history, America stood behind those who fought for equal rights and equal dignity against self-centered groups that wanted to preserve their privileges. American Muslims must take a firm stand against the militant Religious Right that is bent on denying them the equal dignity they deserve. As long as they uphold the values of freedom, justice, and equal dignity for all, and reach out to other fellow Americans who share with them deep commitment to these values, they are destined, with the grace of God, to defeat the unscrupulous and mean-spirited attacks led by hate mongers and religious bigots.

This article is a condensed summary of a longer paper available at http://aninsight.org/2007/03/islamophobia-call-to-confronting_28.html

Dr. Louay M. Safi writes and lectures on issues relating to Islam, American Muslims, democracy, human rights, leadership, and world peace. His commentaries are available at his Blog: http://blog.lsinsight.org


  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: George W. Bush, Islamophobia
Views: 6765

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Older Comments:
MAZINGER FROM UK said:
Talawat, get a clue. The girls in Pakistan arent trying to impose anything on anybody except defy Musharraf and his thugs who attacked them in their own school. I salute them for their bravery in standing up to the dictator and keeping their neighborhood free of filthy pimps and prostitutes.
Don't you inferiority complex minded simpletons atleast verify what is going on before going off on these stupid little tirades of yours. Get the fact first. Musharraf is in deep trouble and is trying his best to deflect attention away from his crimes.
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TALAWAT BOKHARI FROM PAKISTAN said:
A trend of fascism among the muslims cannot be denied. Even the muslims themselves are suffering from it. Take the case of the girls of Jamiah Hafsah of Islamabad, Pakistan, who have gone wild and are trying to impose their brand of Islam on muslims with 'dundas'.
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BALIGH FROM KSA said:
Asslam-o-Alaikum,

This article is the truth which is hidden behind the curtains but the author has done a wide research on it and presented the truth to the people. "Islam is a religion of peace" this phrase everyone should have fitted inside their heads. Even if some muslims are wrong-doers nowadays, you cannot blame the whole muslim ummah.

Thank you.
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SHAFIQUE FROM CANADA said:
I would partially agree and partially disagree with your view.
Every sovereign country has got it's own independent policy and
freedom
to take it's course of action according to the required
circumstances. I dont think no one has appointed USA as a
police man for world law and order. Being a good nation yes it
may help some country to be guided in the right direction
through peaceful dialogue and effective communication not by
force. Having said that I strongly oppose any extremism and
some Un-Islaimc steps taken by Al Kaida administration/rule.
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MUSLIMA FROM USA said:
This message is to those who own this website, if you want your website to be more popular you should let all visitors what your multimedia. I have not visited your website for a long time, because I cannot watch videos without membership. Most people do not like to fill out membership information.
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COLIN FROM UK said:
I read your article as posted by the MPACUK website. You call on people to see what lies behind the term Islamophobia. You say that is was "coined, and was initially used, by radical Zionist pundits..." Is Zionist a perjorative term in your books. Can I be Christian, Hindoo, Muslim or even Atheist and support the creation and development of a Jewish state, which is what the term Zionist means. In what sense do you use term: for, against or indifferent about a Jewish state? Is there such a thing as a good Zionist?
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MUSLIMA FROM USA said:
Well said, Masha Allah. I would like to add that the best thing Muslims can do today is to have a conference of Muslim scholars all from all over the world in America and declare terrorism in the name of Islam a heresy. Muslim scholars have said it is wrong and sinful, but noone has yet declared this horrible crimes in the name of Islam as heresy. Once that is established Muslims will be able to defend Islam much better, because the crimes done in its name are done by a heretic cult.
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SAM FROM USA said:
The extended paper provides important details about the efforts to demonize Islam and marginalize American Muslims. It is a must read.
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ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
The proper term should be "Muslimphobia", not "Islamophobia".

Islamophobia means fear of Islam as a religion.

Muslimphobia means fear of Muslims as people (whether they practice islam or just pretend to practise it is immaterial; all they have to do is to call themselves muslims).

Are US people afraid of Islam -- I don't think so; they don't even know anything about it.

Regarding muslims, everybody watches TV and knows what is going on in the real world, whether it is Paris, Baghdad, Kandhar or Kabul or Islamabad or Peshawar or Wazirstan or Jerusalem or Darfur or Somalia, and even Cairo. Folks, like it or not, perception is reality.

Either change reality or change perception. Which one, I don't know. Who is going to do it? Well, it is not my job; I am not the one who is crying "Islamophobia".
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