The jailing of a New York Times reporter Judith Miller on the eve of London’s shattering experience may be entirely coincidental, but the cruel irony of her incarceration in Washington while London’s Underground exploded is absorbing.
Miller’s reputation as an Islamophobe flows from Edward Said’s description of her as “trading in the Islamic Threat”. Her particular mission has been to advance the millennial thesis that militant Islam is a danger to the West – that is at the core of Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilizations diatribe.
The carnage in London has supposedly provided Miller-type “experts” a fresh opportunity to indulge in their penchant for Islam-bashing. But this does not remove from media-houses the responsibility to scrupulously ensure that malicious generalizations and speculative pontifications on Islam do not promote Islamophobia.
Is this a realistic expectation given the highly charged emotions in the wake of attack on London while the city was waking up after an exhausting celebration the night before?
Tony Blair’s rushed judgement, while absurd and tragically contemptuous of due process, is reflective of the rage against “Islamic terrorism” which allows media practitioners to drop their guard against distortions and denigrations of Islam and Muslims.
So while a re-energised corps of “experts” -” barring Judith Miller -” are gluttonously gnawing a sumptuous meal of lies and deceit, Muslims in London are facing a backlash of hate and suspicion. Nasty incidents of hate-crimes are being reported daily in addition to the desecration of many mosques.
July 7, like September 11, is inevitably destined to be a date which, in all likelihood, will be characterized as the day London was changed forever. But will the change lead to any form of introspection by the Blair regime?
Blaming Muslims or those who commit atrocities “in the name of Islam”, as Blair has repeatedly charged, does little to inspire confidence in his government. Dawn columnist Mahir Ali makes an insightful observation by describing Blair’s response to the events in London as considerably less ineloquent than his American counterpart.
However Mike Marqusee pointed out in Red Pepper magazine: “While the delivery may be slicker, his ‘us vs them’ worldview was indistinguishable from Bush’s. Even by Blair’s standards, it was a performance of nauseating hypocrisy, as he sought to seize the moral high ground in relation to violence and destruction that he himself helped unleash.”
Indeed if Blair remains indistinguishable from Bush in his misdirected war of terror in Iraq and indiscriminate support for Israeli repression of Palestinians, it would be naÃ¯ve to believe that London’s wreckage will propel any meaningful changes.
Yet it is widely acknowledged that the sporadic bloodbaths over the Northern Ireland question did lead to negotiations, albeit a fruitlessly tedious journey. In the case of the Irish nationalists we remember too how at one time they tried to decapitate the British government during a Conservative Party conference in Brighton.
Even at the height of regular bombing raids, including an audacious attack such as the firing of a missile at 10 Downing Street, Irish nationalists were never demonized as “Catholic terrorists”. Yet the media’s preoccupation with “Islamic terrorism” persists.
As Israelinsider columnist Jonathan Tobin so erroneously put it: “Last week’s atrocity in London, like last year’s in Madrid, added dozens more to the toll of those murdered by Islamic terrorists”.
Like many of his ilk who grace the pages of newspapers, magazines and journals, Tobin embodies the mindset of neo-conservative journalists who have no qualm in maliciously stereotyping Muslims bent on subordinating and beating any Muslim resistance to American-Israeli dominance. Coverage of London’s bombings is a good indicator of this.
Reports on violence related to the illegal occupation of Iraq or Palestine reveal how the menace of Islamophobia has crept into sections of the media. Ethnic and religious profiling, which borders on racism, has become a norm in America and many European countries. Discourse on terrorism appears to be exclusively confined to deeds associated with al-Qaeda with no attempt to probe state-terrorism. Justification for illegal wars is underpinned by these ‘experts’ who share the political goals of the elites.
Fair journalistic practice would demand that organs of the media provide a comprehensive critique of the Blair regime’s foreign policy. Questions of the type posed by Mark Curtis in his book “Web of Deceit”, whether Britain is an outlaw state, a frequent violator of international law and ally of many repressive regimes, are imperative if any meaningful understanding of the events in London is desired.
The bombs in London have not only escalated the stigmatizing of Islam and its adherents; it has also challenged media practitioners to resist fanning hate-crimes against Muslims.