Islamophobia

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According to a recent national survey, 44 percent of Americans believe the US government should suspend civil rights and use surveillance techniques to spy on Muslim Americans.

The poll was commissioned by the Media and Society Research Group through Cornell University’s Department of Communication.

In what may indicate increasing intolerance for Islam and Muslims in America, 22 percent of respondents believed the federal government should profile Muslims as potential internal security threats, and 27 percent of pollsters were in favor of formal registration of Muslims and 26 percent replied that places were Islamic services are held should be routinely monitored by law enforcement agencies.

The poll also indicated that sixty-five percent of Christian respondents believed that Islam is prone to violence more than any other religious faith. Also 50 percent viewed Islamic nations as fanatical, dogmatic and dangerous.

Since most Americans have little, if any, personal contact with Muslims, their views and opinions are shaped and shaded by what they absorb from the mass media particularly television network news channels. Mainstream movies, magazine periodicals, and newspaper articles also play a central role in fashioning Islamic prejudices and fears.

"Our findings highlight that personal religiosity as well as exposure to news media are two important correlates for support of civil liberties," said Dr. James Shanahan, who is one of the authors of the Cornel Report. "We need to explore why these two very important channels of discourse may nurture fear rather than understanding."

Another contributing factor to Islamophobia and hysteria are demagogue authors like Daniel Pipes. Using the successful methodology and ideology of religious bigotry and racism, and receiving tacit approval for his anti-Muslim diatribes from George W Bush who nominated Pipes to be on the board of the United States Institute of Peace, he has reached national prominence.

Mr. Pipes’ jaundiced views have been widely distributed in America and have garnered a large measure of acceptance judging from several polls taken in the new millennium. In an article published in the Boston Globe (12/24/01) Pipes said: ""(The) Muslim population in this country is not like any other group for it includes within it a substantial body of people who share with suicide hijackers a hatred of the United States."

And referring to African American Muslims, Pipes writes, "Black converts tend to hold vehemently anti-American, anti-Christian and anti-Semetic attitudes."(Commentary 6/1/200) How Mr. Pipes arrived at these conclusions were never explained.

Steven Emerson is another prominent author accused of an anti-Muslim agenda. He received national attention for his 1994 PBS production, "Jihad in America" and is almost universally condemned by Muslims as a purveyor of defamatory and racist attacks on the Islamic community. He is also notorious for his "scatter gun" style of journalism and he falsely blamed Muslims for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1994, and the downing of TWA flight 800 in 1996.[1]

Pat Robertson, the nationally syndicated Christian fundamentalist broadcaster has also fanned the flames of fear and hatred, describing Islam as, "Not a peaceful religion that wants to co-exist, but one that wants to co-exist until they can control and dominate and then, if need be, destroy." (2/02)

This is not by accident, but follows a American propensity of scape-goating a particular segment of the population to further the agenda of powerful political and economic elitist groups. This inclination should be a source of alarm for not only Muslims, but for all people because the successful repression of any group makes it easier to circumvent and to violate the rights of all other groups.

The mass media is owned and controlled by corporate conglomerates. For example, Westinghouse corporation has controlling interest in NBC News and Viacom corporation controls CBS. Apparently Islam and Muslims are looked upon as a threat to the hegemony of corporate power and stability.

The mass media is a powerful tool for molding public perception and opinion. This shaping of public prejudices against targeted groups was crucial in the internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II, and is a prime example of how the American people can be manipulated through mis-information and scare tactics to perceive their fellow citizens as dangerous spies and traitors simply because of racial and cultural differences and beginnings. And to arrive at these conclusions without a shred of evidence to validate these suspicions and allegations.

There is also precedent for this in Nazi Germany, where Adolph Hitler utilized his highly efficient propaganda machine to portray the Jews and other non-Nordics as dangerous sub-species on the same level as vermin. In less than a decade millions were exterminated or interned in forced labor camps while the majority of the German populace were guilty of complicity in the holocaust or looked the other way.[2]

In fact, Hitler borrowed many of his ideas of racial purity from America and racial, ethnic, and religious groups have been targeted in America since its inception. Invariably they are first portrayed as somehow menacing and dangerous and their human worth and characteristics are ridiculed and diminished. Thus paving the way for justification for the most brutal and inhumane treatment. The wholesale thievery and genocide perpetuated against the Native Americans is one example. The demonization and exploitation of Chinese immigrants is another. And the astoundingly vicious treatment of Africans during centuries of chattel slavery is yet another.

In more recent times the depiction of Black people in American culture as mentally, spiritually, and socially inferior has culminated in a litany of crimes against them. One of the more infamous was the US Government sponsored Tuskeegee experiments that lasted for a period of 40 years. The federal government through the agency of the US Public Health Service experimented on 399 Black men that were in the late stages of syphilis. The men were not told that they had the disease only that they would receive free government subsidized treatment for what was described as "poor blood." The experiment was an outgrowth of the American eugenics movement which took the country by storm in the 1920’s and was sponsored by some of America’s most prominent and prestigious scientists, politicians, businesses and foundations. And included among its advocates US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. The eugenics movement campaigned to have entire groups of people that were considered inferior or useless either sterilized or eliminated. The targeted groups included immigrants, the poor, the handicapped, the non-White, and even people with speech impediments.[3]

In the 1960’s and the 1970’s the CIA, the FBI, along with state and local police, spied on, jailed and in some instances murdered Americans who were regarded as incendiary or threats to national security. The FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (INTERLPRO) was notorious for using agent provocateurs, legal frame-ups and assassination to further its agenda.[4]

In contemporary America, Blacks are projected as dangerous criminals and reprobates by the corporate controlled media. The depiction of Black communities as crime ridden where police are literally expected to perceive every Black person as a criminal and given the green light to shoot first and ask questions later, is widely known throughout America.

In the aftermath of 9-11 and the advent of military attacks against the Muslim countries of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the threats and saber rattling against the Islamic nations of Iran and Syria, the age old Western habit of portraying Muslims as fanatical terrorists has intensified. This has produced a heightened climate of fear and distrust in America as well as in several European countries, and sparked a rash of assaults, arson and discriminatory practices against Muslims and Islamic institutions. And with the orchestrated American belief that Muslims are at worst blood thirsty terrorists and at best untrustworthy and unpatriotic, the road is open to impose more draconian laws and privacy shattering surveillance techniques.

Since the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, US forces have used sophisticated surveillance technology to keep tabs on Iraqi citizens in an effort to stem "insurgents." Reportedly, plans are also being made to have retinal scans taken of Iraqis and to issue identification cards.[5]

In December of 2004, the United States Congress passed legislation that requires States to relinquish their regulatory authority over driver’s licenses and birth certificates to the Federal Department of Homeland Security. This bill establishes what is effectively a national identification card.

The bill stipulates that beginning in 2005 the Department of Homeland security will issue uniformity regulations to each state requiring that Driver’s licences and birth certificates meet federal standards pertaining to US citizen data and security concerns. All American citizens are to be issued a social security number at birth, which will be included in their Birth Certificate along with biometric markers. And all Birth Certificates will be registered in a Federal Government data base maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.[6] These federally mandated drivers licences will contain information about the bearer’s financial history including credit and cash balances. The Department of Homeland Security also plans to establish an I.D. system for US citizens to use prior to boarding aircraft.

Most psychologists and sociologists agree that the seeds of ignorance, misinformation and suspicion produce fears that lead to divisiveness, hatred, and violence. "The West has feared Islam both religiously and politically ," said Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University. "Today the paradox of Islamophobia remains that many people that are afraid of Islam know very little about it."

With the passing of more restrictive laws and the controversy surrounding the stripping of Constitutional rights and personal freedoms, many are concerned that America is ripe for fascism. And almost all agree that the only way to avert it is with activism, education, communication, and understanding.

"When we speak of Islam, we are speaking of the religion of over 20 percent of the human population spread across the globe and expressed through many cultures," explained Muslim American, Javed Amir. "It is important to recognize the greatness of Islam, its civilizations and its immense contributions to the richness of the human experience."

Also, contrary to the popular belief that Islam is foreign to America, it has roots that go back to African Muslim explorers who arrived in the West before Christopher Columbus and later in the holds of slave ships. (Some historians estimate that as many as a third of enslaved Africans brought to the Americas were Muslims).

"Muslim African Americans are not at odds with the West," says Imam Abdur Rashid. "We are the West."

Notes and References:

[1] "Steven Emerson’s Crusade," by John F Sugg, accessible online at: www.fair.org/extra/9001/emerson.html

[2] Willian L. Shirer, "The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich," Simon and Schuster, Inc. (1960)

[3] Edwin Black, " War Against The Weak," Four Walls Eight Windows, New York, N.Y. (2003)

[4] Ward Churchhill and Jim Vanderwall, "Agents of Repression," (1990)

[5] "American Public Should be Aware of U.S. Monitoring of Iraqis," by Stan Moore ( Posted January 6, 2005 on MediaMonitors.net)

[6] "Will You Accept A National ID Card?," by Devvy Kidd (Posted December 17, 2004 on WorldNetDaily.com

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