- Post-9/11, Western media, especially in America and Britain,
describe Muslims as fundamentalists, extremists, terrorists, and fanatics.
Throughout the West, Islam is identified with violence, when, in fact it
has common roots with Christianity and Judaism. Their tenets are based
on love, not hate; peace, not violence; charity, not exploitation; and
a just, fair society for people of all faiths. You'd never know it from
Islamophobic media reports.
- Islamophobia Defined
- The Runnymede Trust identifies eight components, characterizing
- -- monolithic, static, and unresponsive to change;
- -- having differing values from other cultures and religions;
- -- being inferior to Western societies;
- -- barbaric, irrational, primitive, sexist, violent,
aggressive, threatening, supporting terrorism, and clashing with Western
- -- an ideology used for political or military advantage;
- -- irrationally criticizing Western values;
- -- warranting discriminatory practices that exclude Muslims
from mainstream society; and
- -- believing anti-Muslim hostility is natural and normal.
- A 2004 UK Commission on Muslims and Islamophobia report
titled, "Islamophobia: issues, challenges and action," said 1.6
million British Muslims live "on a diet of death, hypocrisy and neglect
that is traumatizing and radicalizing an entire generation. What does the
future hold" it asks? How can secular Britain accommodate religious
Muslims? What's been done to counter Islamophobia's debilitating effects?
Why has official action been absent? "Why is the antiracist movement
so reluctant to address prejudice, hate and discrimination based on religion?"
Is Western Islamophobia institutionalized, and at what cost?
- Its societies are led by white, mainly Christian, middle
and upper class men. They're responsible for serving all their citizens.
However, non-Muslim white people institutionalize Islamophobia, instead
of denouncing and expunging it.
- It's a new term for an old fear since eighth century
Europe. Key since the 1960s is the presence of 15 million Western European
Muslims, millions more in America. Resource wars is another factor, mainly
for oil and gas. Others include misperceptions of Islam, wrongly associating
it with violence and terror, as well as exploiting this notion for political
advantage. Supportive media reports then stoke fear and hostility, portraying
Muslims stereotypically as dangerous and threatening.
- In America, noted academicians like Bernard Lewis and
Samuel Huntington promote a clash of civilization thesis, Huntington saying
the West's underlying problem "is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is
Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority
of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power."
- On October 22, 2001, Edward Said's Nation magazine article,
titled "The Clash of Ignorance," criticized both men, calling
their thinking "belligerent." Citing Huntington's 1993 analysis
"The Clash of Civilization?" and Lewis' 1990 "The Roots
of Muslim Rage," he said both men treat Islam(ic) identity and culture
in "cartoonlike" fashion, "where Popeye and Bluto bash each
other mercilessly," the more "virtuous" one prevailing.
They and others like them rely on stereotypes and gimmickry, not reason
or informed analysis, Hollywood and the major media always in lockstep.
- Huntington also said "Western ideas of individualism,
liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule
of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state, often
have little resonance in Islamic societies." In fact, "Western
values" are mirror opposite of what Huntington claimed.
- A 2002 Paul Weyrich/William Lind essay headlined, "Why
Islam is a Threat to America and the West," calling it a fifth column
and religion of war. In September 2001, hatemonger Ann Coulter wrote:
- "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders
and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating
and punishing only Hitler and his top officials. We carpet bombed German
cities and killed civilians. That's war. And this is war."
- In November 2001, Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham)
told NBC Nightly News that "Islam is a very evil and wicked religion."
- In February 2002, Pat Robertson said Muslims "want
to coexist until they can control, dominate and then, if need be, destroy.
(You) can't say that Muslim religion is a religion of peace. It's not."
- Also in February 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft
called Islam "a religion in which God requires you to send your son
to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sent his son to die
- From then until now, it hasn't let up, notable figures
and media reports spreading hate and fear, supporting global imperial wars.
Contrasting a West/East dichotomy, Edward Said wrote about colonizers v.
the colonized, "the familiar (Europe, West, us) and the strange (the
Orient, East, them)." The strong against the weak. The superior against
the lesser. The belief that might makes right, no matter how misguided,
destructive or hateful.
- Professor Deepa Kumar is active in social movements for
peace and global justice. She also conducts research in areas of war, imperialism,
globalization, class, gender, and the media, including how it treats Islam.
- Her recent essay titled, "Framing Islam: The Resurgence
of Orientalism During the Bush II Era" deals with post-9/11 events
relating, explaining the reemergence of "clash of civilizations"
extremism. Under Bush II and Obama, it became "commonsense,"
a dominant political logic.
- Kumar considered "five key taken-for-granted"
post-9/11 myths, that:
- (1) Islam is monolithic. In fact, as practiced in dozens
of countries globally, it's diverse within many Sunni and Shiite branches.
- (2) It's uniquely sexist. In fact, no more or less than
all major religions. Christian dogma says Eve was created out of Adam's
rib. European and American women once were burned at the stake as witches.
It took them a 100 year struggle to be able to vote. Their rights have
always been attacked, including over their own bodies, Christian fascists
promoting male gender dominance, and right to fetal life over pregnant
women and men.
- (3) It's inherently violent and intolerant, the term
"jihad' wrongfully used to connote holy war. In fact, it refers both
to an internal struggle to overcome one's weaknesses, as well as a lesser
one for self-preservation and defense.
- (4) The "Muslim mind" is incapable of reason
and science. On September 12, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI equated Catholicism
with reason, saying violent Islam lacked it. Many others before him made
the same argument, as spurious and racist then as now.
- (5) "The West spreads democracy, while Islam spawns
terrorism." As a result, Western civilization must modernize and tame
it. America, of course, disdains democratic freedoms, preferring easily
co-opted despots, not social justice and liberation.
- Kumar fights myths with scholarly analysis, exposing
them as hateful and bogus.
- In a September 22, 2010 interview, she examined Islamophobia
in America, saying fear and animosity toward Muslims prevail.
- "I don't think, however that (it) comes from regular
Americans. Rather, (post-9/11), the mainstream media and the political
elite have helped generate an attitude toward Muslims that has been largely
negative. Most recently," Tea Party extremists exploited it. Another
group called "Stop Islamization of America" promotes the notion
"that Muslims are conspiring to take over the US."
- Films, the major media, and hate groups have manipulated
ordinary Americans. "Every country that seeks to obtain the consent
of its citizens for war must construct an enemy that is feared and hated."
Bush officials used Islam, much like Cold War tactics vilified communists
and Japanese Americans were denigrated and abused during WW II. "Today
all Muslims are viewed as responsible for the events that took place on
9/11," hatemongering and fear replacing truth, Hollywood and major
media reports in the lead.
- Films especially depict "Arab men as barbaric, violent,
gaudy, lascivious, and of Muslim majority countries as uncivilized, misogynistic,
irrational, and undemocratic." Major media reports pick it up, "tak(ing)
their cues from the 'primary definers of news,' that is, people who are
the key political and economic leaders." They've largely "branded
the Muslim community as untrustworthy and anti-American." Mainstream
media reports echo the same theme.
- On January 10, Kumar titled a Monthly Review article,
"How to Fight Islamophobia and the Far Right, in Europe and the United
- "An alarming trend (swept) Europe." Far right
parties bashed Muslims and immigrants to achieve "electoral gains
in (numerous) European countries." It showed up in France, Austria,
Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Greece, Hungary,
Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, hard times the driving force for
change, including in America.
- "What we are seeing is a right-wing populist movement
beginning to manifest racism at its core." It's both electoral and
grassroots "based on intimidating Muslim communities and Latino immigrants."
Islamophobia incites "war on terror" hysteria and "serv(es)
the domestic agenda of the far right in ways similar to what has gone on
- A weak-kneed centrist approach "only strengthens
the far right," as true in America as abroad. Combating Islamophobia
demands exposing it "as the scapegoating tactic of a system in crisis."
To prevail, however, requires "political and economic alternative(s)
to neoliberalism and war," but don't expect major media help promoting
- Kumar's International Socialist Review March/April 2007
article titled, "Islam and Islamophobia" explained how, over
the previous year, Muslim-bashing in America and Europe was relentless.
It's no different today. Their common thread "is a polarized view
of the world," a classic good v. evil struggle, hyperbolically portraying
a democratic West against barbaric, uncivilized Islam, wanting to create
"an Islamic empire stretching from Europe to South East Asia."
Never mind that people of all religions and ethnicities everywhere want
social justice, freedom and peace.
- Orientalists, however, view the West as "dynamic,
complex, and ever changing," while Islam "is static, barbaric,
and despotic." It needs "Western intervention to bring about
progressive change," what Islamic societies can't do for themselves.
- Kumar argues that "Confronting Islamophobia and
challenging American racism toward the people of the Middle East is an
essential precondition for the rebirth of a strong antiwar movement."
Its inability or unwillingness to challenge Islamophobia has been one of
its biggest weaknesses. "Our future, quite literally, depends on building
such a movement." Progressive change depends on a foundation of peace,
equal justice, and democratic freedoms, achievements so far nowhere in
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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