Redefinition of Terrorism Still Equates to Islam

In a bizarre twist to America’s notorious “war on terror”, a well known CNN journalist has confirmed a suspicion that many political pundits have had: America’s enemy is Islam!

Lou Dobbs of Moneyline fame, in a recent broadcast, expressed the view that the phrase “war on terror” fails to capture the “true nature of what’s going on”. He chose to describe the conflict as “the war against radical Islamists”, and argued that redefining the “enemy” is essential for clarity.

It appears however, that Dobbs’ controversial remarks were not intended merely to provide clarity on the ambiguous use of the term “terror”, for in a follow-up programme he categorically placed himself in the camp of well-known Muslim bashers who regularly abuse their media credentials to moralise about Islam.

Leaving very little to the imagination, Dobbs summed up that “terrorism” equated to “Radical Islamists” which in turn equated to “the enemy of this country (USA) and civilized societies everywhere.” His strident and provocative view is informed by a discredited perception which patronizingly offers an apology first then strikes blow after blows.

Dobbs follows this pattern which has been fashioned by many known Islamophobes, including White House spokespersons and analysts, whereby Muslims categorized as docile, peace-loving and liberal are acceptable, whereas those “radical Islamists who use their religion, not as a system of personal beliefs, but as the foundation of their ideology, and work to violently destroy innocent people and violently overthrow governments, and to create Islamic states, are without question our enemies”, in his words.

This faulty reasoning and irresponsible characterization of Islam by a senior CNN journalist is indicative of the remorseless media coverage of Islam that dominates the picture today.

It also begs the question whether such slavish and uncritical adoption of views that stress the unvaryingly reductive arguments about Islam is not a reflection of an attitude that elevates Israeli views of Islam’s “dangers”?

After all it is well known that Israel insists that its enemies be adopted as such by its friends. It is in this context that the following statements by Israeli leaders have directly impacted upon the relationships between the world of Islam and the West: Ben Gurion “We fear nothing but Islam”, Yitzhak Rabin “The religion of Islam is our enemy” and Shimon Peres “We will not feel secure until Islam puts away its sword”.

The current discourse on terrorism is not confined to Israeli repression and violation of Palestinian rights to freedom and liberation; it is also fuelled by India’s belligerence over the disputed territory of Kashmir. This terrible saga has its roots in a botched decolonisation that took place more than 50 years ago, when the British partitioned India, to create a majority Muslim state, Pakistan.

Here again a similar reductionist argument is presented to gloss over historical injustices in order to justify a sustained campaign of intense brutality at enormous cost to the Kashmiris – who desire nothing more than freedom and a chance to live in dignity. Contrary to the Kashmiris, India sees the liberation struggle as a terrorist campaign by murderous bandits and in fact has since Sept 11, portrayed itself as being in the front line of the “war on terror”, alongside Israel and America.

To compound the confusion over what is at the heart of the dispute, a senior Time editor-at-large, Michael Elliott has in much the same vein as Lou Dobbs, redefined terrorism by subcategorizing it into “Political” and “Millenarian”.

He regards the first category as “political terrorists” who have an identifiable goal which may be shared by mainstream politicians and cites the example of Israel’s Stern Gang. He also lumps Umkhonto We Sizwe and the Irish Republican Army with the Stern Gang.

The “Millenarian terrorists” are defined as those who possess no political agenda and owe their allegiance not to any institutions or geographical expressions on earth but “to a higher authority in heaven”. Elliott then proceeds to argue that Hamas and Islamic Jihad fall into this category, and therefore political approaches “is a waste of time”.

Lou Dobbs and Michael Elliott, the two latest entrants in the field of Islamophobia will in time hopefully realize that malicious generalizations about Islam will be resisted as much as the oppressive policies their governments selectively pursue in different parts of the world.

(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)