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John Passant

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August 2010



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Making hate respectable

The demonization of Islam is one of the ugliest faces of the U.S. imperial project, argues the editorial in the US magazine Socialist Worker.

SINCE WHEN is it a sign of “sensitivity” and “tolerance” to oppose the building of a house of worship? When that house of worship is a mosque, and you’re a politician seeking mileage out of the hysteria that can be whipped up around 9/11 and the “war on terror.”

In recent weeks and with increasing intensity, anti-Islam bigots have focused their hate on plans for the construction of mosques around the country. But a proposed Muslim community center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center has become the national lightning rod, thanks to the provocations of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and various Tea Party zealots.

The crusade in Lower Manhattan is more than the ravings of racists. It represents the crudest face of the ideological offensive to justify U.S. wars and occupations in the Middle East and beyond, as well as stepped-up repression at home.

Those campaigning to block the mosque from being built claim they’re concerned about the feelings of families of the victims of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center–as if Islam and its 1.6 billion adherents around the world all bear responsibility for 9/11.

But the most vile racism lurks just beneath the surface.

“The monument would consist of a mosque for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god…and a ‘cultural center’ to propagandize for the extermination of all things not approved by their cult,” Fox News contributor and Tea Party Express chairman Mark Williams wrote on his blog.

“The terrorists of Islam, for whom any day is a great day for a massacre, are drooling over the positive response that they are getting from New York City officials over a proposal to build a 13-story monument to the 9/11 Muslim hijackers. Consider it for what it is, a 13-story-tall middle finger being flipped at the victims of 9/11 and America as a whole by animals.”

In the run-up to a vote by the New York City Landmarks Commission that could have stopped the proposal for the mosque and community center from moving ahead–the commission, to its credit, voted unanimously not to block the plan–the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) lent its undeserved image as an organization dedicated to “religious tolerance” to the racists.

“Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman told the New York Times. Referring to families who lost loved ones on 9/11, Foxman continued, “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”

Never mind that many families of 9/11 victims expressed support for the mosque. And never mind that equating the September 11 attacks with the Holocaust might seem to diminish the murder of 6 million Jews during the Second World War in precisely the way that the ADL so frequently laments.

Anti-mosque crusades in other cities and towns have also gained traction, according to the New York Times:

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican candidates have denounced plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision, and hundreds of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting.

In late June, in Temecula, Calif., members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.

In Sheboygan, Wis., a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food store bought by a Muslim doctor.

There have been other outbursts of anti-Muslim hate–including Glenn Beck’s call for a “Militia Day” to protest Muslim Family Day at the Six Flags amusement park in Chicago on September 12, and South Carolina state Sen. Jake Knotts’ description of his opponent for the Republican nomination for governor, state Rep. Nikki Haley, as a “raghead” (Haley is actually a Methodist who was born in India and converted from Sikhism).

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THESE DIFFERENT expressions of anti-Muslim bigotry have a common source–and it isn’t simply the racist pandering that is the stock and trade of right-wing political leaders like Palin, Gingrich and Beck.

The demonization of Islam is the ideological face of the U.S. drive to control the flow of oil from the Middle East and to project its military and political influence around the world.

From the beginning, the U.S. “war on terror” has been framed as a war to defend “Western values” from barbarism, medieval cruelty and irrationality. On the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, George W. Bush put it this way:

Since the horror of 9/11, we’ve learned a great deal about the enemy. And we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings, and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations.

The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation…This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations. In truth, it is a struggle for civilization. We are fighting to maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations.

Of course, the “war on terror” is really about controlling oil and defending the power of the U.S. corporate and political elite. But Bush–as well as his inheritors, including Barack Obama–would never be taken seriously if they called on Americans to send their sons and daughters to kill and be killed in the Middle East and Central Asia, to accept billions of dollars spent on war and the military every month, and to surrender their civil liberties in order to assure that U.S. corporations controlled the flow of Middle East oil.

The American empire has never told the truth about why it goes to war. The stated reasons always mask the real aims. “The spread of free markets” is the rhetorical cover for the economic domination of U.S. corporations, and “defending democracy” is code for installing puppet regimes that serve U.S. interests–and whether they win or steal elections is beside the point.

So the “war on terror” is justified by demonizing the enemy for “hating our freedoms,” as Bush famously said–with the American political and media establishment concocting a distorted version of Islam to serve the scapegoating.

Every imperial conflict generates bigotry aimed at “the enemy,” whether the basis is racial, religious or cultural. Once mobilized, this hate takes on a life of its own, reflected and refracted in the mainstream media and stoked by racist politicians.

The Vietnam War, for example, gave rise to vicious anti-Asian racism–so intense that Arizona Sen. John McCain, considered a moderate Republican, declared to reporters during his 2000 presidential campaign, “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.”

The history of scapegoating for empire runs through the Japanese internment camps during the Second World War, the anti-German riots during the First World War, and the doctrine of Manifest Destiny that justified 19th-century Americans spreading “civilization” across the North American continent by wiping out the Native American population that stood in their way.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

FOR ITS part, the Obama administration has been all but silent while right-wingers have stepped up their crusade against Arabs and Muslims–except for the times when it added fuel to the fire.

For example, following the killing of 10 aid workers in Afghanistan in early August, apparently by Taliban forces, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement denouncing the “despicable act of wanton violence.”

But where was Clinton’s outrage at the “wanton violence” of U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan? In just two years, most of it under Obama and Clinton’s watch, these attacks have killed nearly 1,200 people. As senseless as the murder of aid workers is, the U.S. is clearly guilty of far more lethal atrocities.

For that matter, when have the media given the same front-page prominence to the serial massacres carried out by U.S. forces–whether the bombardment of wedding parties or shooting sprees by U.S. soldiers on patrol? Instead of acknowledging any of this, the media exploited the killings of the aid workers to highlight the brutality of the Taliban–which will only add to the wave of hate directed at the Muslim community in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the anti-Islam crusade is stirring opposition–sometimes from surprising sources.

Newsweek magazine’s thoroughly mainstream commentator Fareed Zakaria returned an award and $10,000 honorarium given to him five years ago by the ADL in protest against the organization’s statement opposing the mosque in Lower Manhattan.

Zakaria wasn’t alone in his disgust for the racism whipped up by the right–whether in New York or elsewhere. In Murfreesboro, Tenn., when members of a local mega-church organized a march against the planned construction of a mosque, local activists formed Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom and–on one week’s notice–organized a 500-strong counterprotest to assert the right of Muslims to exercise their right to religious freedom, free from persecution, harassment and threats.

These expressions of resistance to the tide of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim racism show that the U.S. population doesn’t march in lockstep with the racist right. From Murfreesboro to Lower Manhattan, these protests give a glimpse of what’s possible–and necessary–to challenge the bigotry spawned by the U.S. “war on terror.”



Comment from dl
Time August 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm

I Understand the aritcle was linked from another Socialist website, but the first part of this piece of writing comes off as rather screed-like. Not surprising to see Abe Foxman’s ethical backflip here though, considering his hawkish stance toward Israel, it’s just natural for him to carry a bit of a concomitant unease about Islam. I also think the addition of John Mccains’ use of the G**k epithet was a bit disingenuous, considering his treatment as a POW, but that’s all largely orthogonal.

Whatever can be said of this proposed Mosque construction, and I don’t have the gall to comment on it, not being American but it certainly has failed on the count of promoting community cohesion. BTW @ Peter Piper, if you happen to read this, was that you I saw over at Dennis Mangans’ blog (whom I used to read a fair while back) ? Just asking.
Regards, DL.

Comment from Arjay
Time August 20, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Most of the oil and gas exists in Muslim countries.Iraq was a lie and so it will be revealed was Afghanistan.

There are now some 1250 Architects and engineers, 400 scientists and hundreds of other academics calling for a truely scientific study into 911.

Very few people know about WTC building 7 , 47 stories high which no plane impacted.It took NIST 6 yrs to put a sham study,much of which they have now retracted.

911 at the very least has the stench of LIHOP,ie let it happen on purpose.There is evidence of extensive for knowledge both in the sharemarket and on the media.The scientific evidence, witness evidence,expert evidence all point to WTC 7 being a controlled demolition.If one building was wired with explosives, then all 3 WTC buildings were basically a controlled demolition.

http// I have met Richard Gage it’s founder , Prof Steven Jones and Prof Niels Harritt.They are all people of high integrity and courage who have put their careers and lives on the line for our freedom.Become aware!

Comment from Arjay
Time August 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm


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