The terrorist attack on the Sikh Temple Must be a wake up call
by Sheila Musaji
In an article on the recent Sikh Temple Shooting in Wisconsin, I noted in an update on the identification of the shooter that
The identity of the shooter is now known. He was Wade Michael Page, who was a former soldier in the U.S. Army. According to CBS News, he was last stationed at the Fort Bragg Army installation in North Carolina, and attached to the psychological operations unit (PSYOP). He had recently broken up with his girlfriend, and is said to have had a 9/11 tattoo on his arm. Note: The Dictionary of Military Terms says that PSYOPS are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. That definition clarifies why this was called an act of domestic terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85).
In that article, I also noted that within the Sikh and Muslim communities there was a feeling that this would turn out to be an attack motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment by an individual who mistook the Sikh Temple for a Mosque. And, I referred to two important articles by American Sikhs — Islamophobia, Sikhophobia and Media Profiling by Simran Jeet Singh and We Are All Muslims: A Sikh Response to Islamophobia in the NYPD and Beyond by Sonny Singh.
Today, much more information has come out about the shooter:
The LA Times reports that Wade Michael Page “was demoted from sergeant to specialist and was not granted an honorable discharge when he left the service in 1998.”
The Washington Post reports “According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that monitors hate groups, Page was a “frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.” He had been “part of the white power music scene since 2000,” when he left his native Colorado on a motorcycle, attended white power concerts in several states and played in a variety of “hate rock bands,” the center said, citing a 2010 interview Page gave to a white supremacist Web site about his latest band, “End Apathy.” The SPLC backgrounder on Page is here .
Think Progress reports that Should law enforcement confirm Page’s ties to white supremacy, and if that proves to be the motive of the attack, it will fit with a growing trend in this country. Hate groups — groups that expressly advocate against a religion, race, or sexual orientation — have been on the rise in the United States, rising steadily since 2000. And the targeting of Sikhs is not new either. Often, the hate crimes against Sikhs originate out of misdirected Islamophobia: Sikh men can most easily be identified by their long beards and turbans, which they wear according to religious doctrine. Assailants will mistake these men for Muslims.
Business Insider published an article (including a photograph) on the meaning of one of Page’s tattoos. They note that “In this case, the Celtic cross — a square cross overlaying a circle — is the symbol of the neo-Nazi White Power movement and the official logo of Stormfront, the online community for political racists. We know that’s likely the true meaning of the Page’s cross because he has the number 14 tattooed in the middle of it. According to the United Methodist Church’s compilation of hate symbols, and the Anti-Defamation League, in fascist culture, “14” stands for 14 words in a quote from imprisoned white supremacist David Lane: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
Sadly, not only Muslims and Arabs, but Sikhs, and South Asians have suffered from bias attacks since 9/11. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the government has investigated “over 800 incidents since 9/11 involving violence, threats, vandalism and arson against Arab-Americans, Muslims, Sikhs, South-Asian Americans and other individuals perceived to be of Middle Eastern origin. The incidents have consisted of assaults with dangerous weapons and assaults resulting in serious injury and death; and vandalism, shootings, arson and bombings directed at homes, businesses, and places of worship.”
As an American Muslim, I can’t help but wonder if this terrible tragedy might not be a manifestation of a culture of Islamophobia, Arabophobia, Sikhophobia, etc. that has been allowed to fester within American society, and has even been incorporated into our government and military training programs. That concern is raised since on the same day as this tragic shooting in Wisconsin, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri was burned to the ground in the second arson attack in a few months. Just last month The Nation published a special issue Islamophobia: Anatomy of an American Panic with a series of articles discussing this at length.
In the article Islamophobia has consequences, I wrote that Islamophobes have attempted to distance themselves from the effects of their words saying:
“We are anti-Jihadists, we are opposed to terrorism, we have never told anyone to use violence or terrorism as a tactic against anyone.” That may be true, however, they have indulged in a discussion about Islam and Muslims that is characterized by extreme rhetoric. The climate they have helped to create or reinforce is one of intolerance, fear, and resentment.
They have espoused and circulated memes such as:
Muslims are more dangerous than others, their very religion is what causes them to be this way, they are liars and you can’t believe anything they say, there may be some good Muslims but it is almost impossible to tell which are the good ones, most are some sort of a fifth column just waiting their opportunity to “go Jihad” or impose Sharia, they don’t respect the Constitution, they want to undermine the foundations of Western civilization, they want to take away everything we hold dear and are just held back until they become a majority, and since they breed like rabbits this “demographic jihad” could happen sooner than people think, , minarets are a statement of supremecism, mosques are incubators of jihad, where there are mosques, there are Muslims, and where there are Muslims, there are problems, they have never made any original contributions to civilization, they will rape your daughters, and convert your sons, Islam is a death cult, Islam is evil, Islam is diametrically opposed to everything we believe in, Islam is not a religion, Islam is a disease, and Muslims are infecting our society with that disease, Europe is rapidly becoming Eurabia and America is next, unless we do something to stop them our civilization is doomed. There is no such thing as Islamophobia, as a phobia is an irrational fear, and fear of Islam is completely rational. It isn’t Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.
... This villification of Muslims, Arabs, and Islam has become relentless. Repeating the same things over and over again has been shown to create credibility. False logic seems plausible, and even outright lies repeated often enough begin to sound like the truth. Sadly, these stereotypes have replaced knowledge with ignorance and misperception, and ignorance fuels hatred of what we don’t know much about. Muslims are consistently portrayed as “the other”, not part of us, and imposible to understand, and so not worthy of tolerance. Just the mention of Islam creates a feeling of fear on the part of many non-Muslims because of what they have heard so often and causes them to believe that this fear is reasonable. There is a propaganda industry involved full time in a demonization of Islam and Muslims, and this lead to seeing Muslims as suspect and Islam as the source of every negative action.
If Muslims are so different from other human beings that there can never be any motive for any action they undertake other than Islam (no Muslim criminals, no insane Muslims, no political, economic, social, or cultural motives for actions), if you can’t tell a moderate from an extremist, and even the moderates are dangerous, then that really does seem to limit the options to either criminalizing Islam, interning and/or deporting Muslims, or carrying out a Crusade or “final solution” against the Muslims.
When this demonization has led to a situation where even politicians and elected representives can make anti-Muslim statements, and even suggest that Islam might not be deserving of the protection of the Constitution, or that Muslims should not have the same rights as other citizens, or that there should be a loyalty test for Muslims in government, that America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization, this simply legitimizes the Islamophobes claims. The ignorant think “You see, even our elected representatives know that Muslims are the enemy”.
Why does it come as a surprise to anyone that someone who really believed that everything they hold dear, their nation, their culture, their religion, their way of life were under attack from a group of people (Muslims) who are dangerous, devious, and relentless, would attempt to strike out in any way they saw as possibly saving themselves, their families, their culture, their nation. Anders Breivik, for example, has said that yes, he did commit this atrocity, but it wasn’t a crime because he had no choice if his country was to be saved.
This is the only direction that the arguments of the professional Islamophobes lead. For them to claim that nothing they have said could have had any influence at all on the actual criminal actions of someone who took such ideas seriously is disingenuous, hypocritical, and a cowardly refusal to face up to any responsibility. Yes, a criminal is the only one ultimately responsible for violent actions, but there are certainly degrees of responsibility. And, to attempt to claim that words have no effect would mean that there is no such thing as propaganda, and that it is impossible for propaganda to have any effect.
... What exactly do they think individuals that they have convinced that they are in imminent danger of an “Islamic takeover” might do to defend themselves against the Muslim menace?
We have free speech in this country, and as long as they don’t break the law, these folks can say whatever they want. That doesn’t mean that we can’t speak out against what they are saying, or that we can’t identify their speech for what it is — hateful, bigoted, evil, dangerous, Islamophobia! In fact, we are not only free to counter hate speech, but it is a moral obligation to do so.
Whether it is extremist Muslims like Al Qaeda calling for a Jihad, or extremist Christians who want to bring on Armageddon (since they’ll be “raptured” they won’t have to suffer) and are calling for a Crusade, or extremist Jews who put Israel above Judaism. There are religious extremists everywhere who are using the internet and other modern means to get their message out more widely than ever before possible. Somehow we have tone down the hate rhetoric and find a way to live together in peace.
All of us must unite against those who spread divisiveness and fear of others who are different from ourselves. Sonny Singh’s important question is one for all of us to answer. He said four months before this terrible tragedy in Wisconsin:
What is it going to take for Sikhs and Muslims to join together in solidarity against the common enemies of racist harassment and violence, racial and religious profiling, and Islamophobic bigotry? Perhaps the recently exposed NYPD spying program (along with the “education” officers have received about Islam) will serve as a wake up call to my community (and other communities for that matter) about how bad things have really gotten. While we Sikhs confront bigotry on a daily basis from our neighbors, classmates, co-workers, employers and strangers on the street, our Muslim American counterparts are systematically targeted by our own government. (I should note that, of course, Sikhs too are profiled by law enforcement in less repressive, though still troubling, ways, especially at airport security).
Sikhism was born hundreds of years ago in part to stand up for the most oppressed and fight for the freedom and liberation of all people. If this isn’t reason enough for us to make the cause of rooting out Islamophobia from the NYPD and other law enforcement and government agencies our own, we only have to return to the bleak reality we Sikhs in the U.S. still face right now in 2012. A time when gurdwaras are still vandalized with anti-Muslim statements, Sikh kids are still being bullied and tormented at school every day, and I am called Osama bin Laden while walking down a Manhattan street for the 258th time (no I’m not counting).
“We are not Muslims” hasn’t been so effective for our community, has it? Even if we do so in a positive way that does not condone attacks on Muslims, simply educating the public about the fact that we are a distinct community and that we in fact “are not Muslim” will not get to the root of the problem. As long as we live in a country (and world) where an entire community (in this case, Muslims) is targeted, spied on and vilified, we will not be safe, we will not be free.
After this most recent tragedy, I would expand his sentiment to - what is it going to take for all of us to come together and say:
We are all Muslims - We are all Sikhs - We are all Jews - We are all Christians - We are all Americans - We are all fellow human beings - We are all our brothers and sisters keepers!
In order for that to happen, I believe we must first look at our bigoted public discourse, and face the fact that we are not living up to our ideals as a nation whenever any minority is demonized and marginalized. In fact, ultimately such bigotry against any minority harms the entire society.
We may never know which particular form of bigotry caused Wade Michael Page to walk into a house of worship and murder innocent people in cold blood. Unless he left written documentation, he may have taken that information to his grave. Whether he did that because they were dark skinned, or because he thought they were Muslims, or because they were immigrants - the awful result is the same. There was no mistaken identity, he targeted people because they were different from him, and therefore beyond compassion.
Those who spread divisiveness and bigotry need to seriously consider what effect they are having. Whatever form of bigotry some find to be “reasonable” whether it is anti-Semitism, anti-Gay, anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, anti-Sikh, anti-immigrant, it doesn’t matter. They are all equally wrong, and they all poison the well of public discourse, and harm us all. Whatever the particular focus of blind hatred, it is corrosive and harms real human beings.
Some articles have appeared that talk about this as a “mistaken identity”, or one particularly egregious example of missing the point was titled Sikhs in metro Detroit fear misdirected hate is behind Wisconsin temple attack. All of those who are presenting this particular point of view need to understand that all hate is misdirected. There is no appropriate target of hatred and bigotry. The Muslim community is no more guilty than the Sikh community, or any other minority community, for the crimes of some members of that minority.
As Prof. Juan Cole said
It is legitimate to criticize Muslim organizations and parties, and to work against violent groups like al-Qaeda. But al-Qaeda is a tiny fringe religious-nationalist movement; far fewer Muslims have been involved in it than white southerners have been involved in the Ku Klux Klan. Nevertheless, American politicians at least implicitly attempted to tar all Muslims with its brush. Like anti-Semitism, racist anti-Muslim discourse has illegitimate properties. It shouldn’t be acceptable to attribute to Muslims a vast general conspiracy. It shouldn’t be acceptable to assert that they are all dishonest and lying about their real beliefs. It shouldn’t be acceptable to lie and allege that they believe in casually murdering non-Muslims. Their religious law, or sharia, shouldn’t be demonized more than the Talmud or Roman Catholic canon law. It shouldn’t be acceptable to accuse them all of waging jihad or holy war.”
... As in Norway, where the Muslim-hating network (fostered also by hateful web sites like “Gates of Vienna,” “Elders of Ziyon,” and a host of others) deeply influenced mass murderer Anders Breivik, so in the United States the purveying of a negative image of Muslims predictably has resulted in violence. In Norway, Breivik targeted what he called liberals soft on the alleged Muslim menace. In the US, Wade targeted people he thought looked like Muslims, the Sikhs. (Actually I don’t know any American Muslims who wear turbans, as observant Sikh men do, but Hollywood stereotypes die hard). As always, hatemongering never only affects the objects of hatred. It distorts and wounds the people who promote it, and it usually spills over onto society in general. Neoconservative anti-Muslim bigots are usually indirectly also promoting anti-Semitism in the long term.
Did Michele Bachmann, Peter King, Daniel Pipes and the others cause the Wisconsin shootings? No. Did they create an intellectual and cultural atmosphere that naturalized such violence against the supposed Other? Well, Bachmann publicly alleged that a minor aide to Hillary Clinton of Pakistani heritage is at the center of a vast infiltration of the American government by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. You decide.
The image emerging of Page is emblematic of America in the past decade and a half. We are a violent country infested by dangerous semi-automatic weapons. Not only do we have far more murders, and especially murders by firearm, than other societies with advanced economies, but we launch far more wars than other such countries, and spend more than the next 20 advanced countries combined on our war industry. The mindset of frontier warriors taming the encircling savages, which goes back to early American history and, later, the legends of the Old West, informs both domestic attitudes and foreign policy. George W. Bush actually talked about the “romance” of fighting the Pushtuns of Afghanistan.
The US mass media suspected that the shooter actually intended to massacre Muslims, and some unfortunately referred to the temple attendees as “innocent,” as though a mosque congregation would not have been equally innocent.
CULTURE OF ISLAMOPHOBIA
In our TAM article collection PREJUDICE, RACIST, OR VIOLENT INCIDENTS AT MOSQUES, you will find incidents of arson, shootings, firebombing, driving trucks into buildings, etc. You will also find many incidents of objections to a local mosque being built or expanded. Here are just a few cases of Islamophobic objections to the simple act of building or expanding a local mosque.
— Phoenix, AZ **— Lomita, CA ** — Santa Clara, CA **— Temecula, CA ** — Alpharetta, GA ** — Lilburn, GA ** — Margate, FL ** — Willowbrook, IL ** — Naperville, IL ** — Orland Park, IL ** — West Rogers Park, IL ** — Palos Heights, IL ** — Florence, KY ** — Mayfield, KY ** — Boston, MA ** — Farmington, MI ** — Ypsilanti, MI ** — Warren, MI ** — St. Louis, MO ** — Bridgewater, NJ ** — Brooklyn, NY ** — Cordoba House/Park 51, NYC ** — Dayton, OH ** — Edmond, OK ** — Lebanon, PA ** — Murfreesboro, TN ** — Longview, TX ** — Sheboygan, WI ** — Madison, WI ** — Wilson, WI **— Waukesha, WI ** SEE ALSO: - ACLU map of nationwide anti-Mosque activity ** - Battles across nation over proposed mosques ** - Opposition to Muslims and mosques grows in U.S. racist caldron, Ray Hanania ** - The politics of mosque building **
In the article Islamic Sharia and Jewish Halakha Arbitration Courts you will find information about the ANTI-SHARIA MANIA sweeping states across the country, instigated primarily by David Yerushalmi, Frank Gaffney, and other members of the Islamophobia industry, and promoted by elected members of Congress and the Senate. The article Anti-Sharia Movements’ Unintended Consquences For Jews, Native Americans, and Others discusses the many unintended consequences.
In the article The Islamophobic Attempt to Marginalize American Muslim Civic Participation you will find a lengthy collection of incidents in which American Muslims and Arabs came under bigoted attacks based on anti-Muslim prejudice. You will also find incidents where non-Muslims came under attack for defending Muslims, or for offering them positions.
In the article What everyone “knows” about Islam and Muslims you will find a long list of bigoted propaganda stating some “fact” that everyone “knows” about Islam or Muslims which are all, quite simply, not facts at all. You will also find a list of lies and distortions made about Islam and Muslims. These are claims that have no basis in fact, but are repeated over and over until most people just accept them as true. They become memes and are transmitted like a virus from person to person.
WHO IS PROMOTING AND FEEDING THIS ANTI-MUSLIM HYSTERIA?
The Islamophobia Industry
It is the same group of Islamophobes consistently creating and spreading anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. Our TAM Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry has a long list of these individuals and organizations and links to backgrounders on each. The key players we identify are
Steven Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Brigitte Gabriel and ACT for America, Frank Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy, Pamela Geller and Atlas Shrugs and AFDI/SIOA, David Horowitz and the Freedom Center, Daniel Pipes and the Middle East Forum, Robert Spencer and Jihad Watch and AFDI/SIOA, and David Yerushalmi and SANE.
There is a reason that many, even outside of the Muslim community see such demonization of Muslims as Islamophobic. There is a reason that the ADL has stated that Brigitte Gabriel’s Act for America, Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) are “groups that promote an extreme anti-Muslim agenda”. There is a reason that The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated SIOA as a hate group, and that they are featured in the SPLC reports Jihad Against Islam and The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle. There is a reason that Geller and Spencer are featured prominently in the Center for American Progress “Fear Inc.” report on the Islamophobia network in America. There is a reason that Geller is featured in the People for the American Way Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism. There is a reason that Geller is featured in the NYCLU report Religious Freedom Under Attack: The Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State. There is a reason that Geller is featured in the Political Research Associates report Manufacturing the Muslim menace: Private firms, public servants, and the threat to rights and security. There is a reason that the SIOA’s trademark patent was denied by the U.S. government due to its anti-Muslim nature. There is a reason that they are featured (with extensive backgrounder articles) in our TAM Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry. There is a reason that these individuals are featured in just about every legitimate report on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.
These people consistently promote the what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims. They generalize specific incidents to reflect on all Muslims or all of Islam. When they are caught in the act of making up or distorting claims they engage in devious methods to attempt to conceal the evidence.
The claim that “truth tellers” are being accused of Islamophobia for no reason other than their legitimate concerns about real issues and that in fact there is not even such a thing as Islamophobia is nonsense. The further claim that the fact that there are fewer hate crimes against Muslims than against Jews also proves that Islamophobia doesn’t exist is more nonsense.
The reason that this is so obvious to so many is that rational people can tell the difference between legitimate concerns and bigoted stereotypes. The Islamophobia of these folks is very real, and it is also strikingly similar to a previous generations’ anti-Semitism.
Elected Representatives, and Military and Government Officials
The problem is that this sort of Islamophobic rhetoric is coming not just from these professional Islamophobes, but is also coming from some Christian and Jewish clergy and community leaders, and from our elected representatives (primarily from the GOP) and government and military personnel who are providing a veneer of respectability to their propaganda.
What is most difficult to understand is how it is possible that individuals who have been elected or appointed to positions of responsibility could be so clueless about the Islamophobes who they seem to consider the “real experts” on Islam and Muslims.
See Islamophobia no longer questioned - even by our elected representatives for an extensive collection of quotes by various representatives, politicians, and government officials. The following are those who have so consistently engaged in anti-Muslim rhetoric that they have their own backgrounder pages: — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) ** —Herman Cain, Presidential candidate ** —Newt Gingrich (R-GA) ** —Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) ** —Rep. Peter King ** —Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) **—Rick Santorum Former R-PA Senator, Presidential Candidate ** —Rep. Allen West, (R-FL) **
Elected representatives, and military and government officials have made many bigoted statements about Islam and Muslims, and for the most part they go unchallenged. Here are just a few of the positions that go beyond bigotry and enter the realm of actually endangering the civil rights of American Muslims. You can read about these, and many more in our lengthy collection of anti-Muslim statements by elected representatives:
— State Rep. Rick Womick (R-TN) called for purging Muslims from the military, and said ‘And if they really are a devout Muslim and follow the Koran and the and the Sunnah, then I feel threatened because they’re commanded to kill me.’.— Candidate Gary Boisclair (D-MI) challenged Keith Ellison in an ad claiming that the Qur’an “undermines our Constitution”. — Ret. Gen. William Boykin said Islam is not a religion, and therefore perhaps Muslims are not protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. — Reps. John Shadegg (Ariz.), Paul Broun (Ga.), Trent Franks (Ariz.) and Sue Myrick (N.C.) formally asked the House Sergeant at Arms to launch an investigation into the “infiltration” of Capitol Hill with interns and staffers. — Reps. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Sue Myrick of North Carolina sent a letter that attacked the Justice Department for sending envoys to an ISNA convention because ISNA was a group of “radical jihadists” — Presidential Candidate Herman Cain said local communities have a right to reject mosques in their community, that Muslims have no place in the U.S. Government, and if elected, he would require Muslim government appointees to take a special loyalty oath. He also claimed that Rep. Keith Ellison had pledged his loyalty to Allah, not the Constitution. — Rep. John Carter (R-TX) suggested that we need a way to somehow identify Muslims serving in the military for the safety of other soldiers. — Rep. Saxby Chambliss R-GA said that to combat terrorism officials should “arrest every Muslim that comes across the state line” into Georgia. — Sen. Diane Feinstein said when asked about meeting with Muslim constituents “I don’t have time to meet with people who don’t vote.” — State Senator Kevin Grantham (R-CO) said mosques are not places of worship like churches, so that needs to be taken into account when approving construction of mosques. — Rep. Valarie Hodges (R-Watson LA) said she approves of funding the teaching of Christianity in public and private schools, but not funding of Islamic schools. — Mike Huckabee said he would like to “amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.” — Dakota City IA councilman Bob Lane placed a sign on his property reading “Never Trust a Man Named Mohamed.”— Rep. Allen West, (R-FL) said “We are in a war against a political, theocratic, authoritarian ideology and it is called Islam!” and “We already have a 5th column that is already infiltrating into our colleges, into our universities, into our high schools, into our religious aspect, our cultural aspect, our financial, our political systems in this country. And that enemy represents something called Islam and Islam is a totalitarian theocratic political ideology, it is not a religion.” — ]Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley in a military training class said “We have now come to understand that there is no such thing as ‘moderate Islam’...This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.”
When elected representatives and government and military officials can make statements like these about an American religious minority, there is something seriously wrong.
How is it possible that individuals in positions of authority can openly call for acts like purging Muslims from the military or requiring Muslim soldiers to be openly identified as Muslims, or for considering excluding Muslims from the protection of the First Amendment of the Constitution, requiring a special “loyalty test” for Muslims to serve in government, excluding Muslims from entering some States of the U.S., declaring war on the religion of Islam? Can you imagine making such statements involving any other minority?
There has been the series of “radicalization hearings” by Rep. Peter King. Our article Answers to Peter King’s Claims About the American Muslim Community responds to the claims made, and refers to a series of articles about these hearings.
Such hearings have focused only on Muslim perpetrators. And, when Rep. King was specifically asked to broaden the scope to include all radicalization no matter its source - he refused. In fact, his response was “To include other groups, such as neo-Nazis and extreme environmentalists in this hearing would be extraneous and diffuse its efficacy. It would also send the false message that our Committee believes that there is any threat equivalency between these disparate groups and Islamist terrorism. Very simply, the Committee cannot ignore the fact that al Qaeda is actively attempting to recruit individuals living within the Muslim American community to commit acts of terror…I will not allow political correctness to obscure a real and dangerous threat to the safety and security of the citizens of the United States.”
In 2009, Janet Napolitano warned about the threat from right-wing extremists, and she was ignored. Our articles Claim that all terrorists are Muslims ignores history and 17,000+ “Islamic terrorist” attacks exist only in fevered Islamophobic brains provide a great deal of information on the fact that extremism, violence, and terrorism are not confined to Muslims. Also see Mother Jones’ A Guide to Mass Shootings in America which notes that “Since 1982, there have been at least 58 mass murders* carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. We’ve mapped them below, including details on the shooters’ identities, the types of weapons they used, and the number of victims they injured and killed.”
Recently Michele Bachmann, Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Thomas Rooney and Lynn Westmoreland, sent letters to the inspectors general of five government agencies responsible for national security to demand they investigate infiltration by the Muslim Brotherhood into the highest reaches of the federal government. We discuss their charges, the Islamophobic source of their information, and the implications of such smear campaigns in the article Michele Bachmann Ups the Ante in the GOP War on American Muslims. In that article, I said
It really does seem as if the GOP has declared war on American Muslims, and that even those in the GOP who are not actively participating in Islamophobia have been silent. The list of elected representatives who have questioned Islamophobia includes almost no one from the GOP. Gov. Christie and Susan Collins, (R-Maine), and now Sen. John McCain are notable exceptions.
When individuals are elected to public office, they take an oath:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
It would seem that some of our elected representatives had their fingers crossed when taking this oath.
All of these folks really need to study the Constitution of the United States to remember that the Congress represents “we the people”, all of us, not just some particular segments of the population.
American Muslims are a part of “we the people”. We are Americans. We are not going anywhere. And, I believe that it is well past time that other Americans begin standing up against this demonization of Islam and Muslims. It would be nice to know that this sort of bigotry is not shared by most of our fellow Americans.
As the MPAC statement on this incident said: The congressional leaders making these accusations along with Bachmann have breached the trust of the public they serve. These members must be held responsible by the media and their constituents. If there was any offense that would warrant a resignation from a member of Congress, it seems that we have reached that point.
There has been a pattern of Islamophobic training:
There was the military anti-Muslim training scandal a lengthy description of which can be found in our articles Is the U.S. Military “at war with Islam”?, and Does the most recent military scandal reflect a deeper problem? You can see excerpts from this anti-Islamic military course here and here. You can see slides of actual presentation materials here. This training included an instructor at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., who taught fellow officers that only a “total war” on Islam would protect America, that they should use “Hiroshima” tactics, target civilian populations, and abandon the Geneva Conventions. Here are a few “facts” that were shared in these trainings:
— “They hate everything you stand for and will never coexist with you, unless you submit.” — “Islam as it currently defines itself is an ideology rather than solely a religion with the normally associated protections we afford such beliefs.” — “It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.” — “The United States has come to accept that radical ‘true Islam’ is both a political and military enemy to free people throughout the world.” — Possible outcomes of an anti-Islam campaign: “Saudi Arabia threatened with starvation, Mecca and Medina destroyed, Islam reduced to cult status.”
This means that U.S. military personnel were being taught that not just terrorists were our enemies, but Islam (and therefore Muslims) in general.
There was the NYPD anti-Muslim law enforcement training and surveillance scandal. Our article The NYPD, the CIA, and “The Third Jihad” gives a complete background on this scandal.
There has been a pattern of Government Agencies, Law Enforcement, and the Military calling on Islamophobic trainers. Our article Where is the U.S. Government Getting It’s Information on Islam and Muslims? gives a comprehensive background on this phenomena with references.
When Islamophobes like Nonie Darwish, Brigitte Gabriel of ACT for America, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, Pamela Geller of AFDI/SIOA, Peter King, Robert Spencer of AFDI/SIOA, Walid Shoebat, etc. are the source of information about Islam and Muslims, then what can you expect other than a dehumanization of Muslims.
The rabid Islamophobia displayed by individuals like Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and many individuals who have made alarming statements about Islam and Muslims is filtering down through American society, and the results are seen, for example, in the objections made against the construction of the Cordoba House in NYC. Many of the statements made have not been an example of a reasonable concern about who these particular Muslims are, but a display of hatred towards all Muslims and the entire religion of Islam. They are also seen in blog posts with titles such as Islam is a disease pretending to be a religion. This is an outcome of the vicious what everyone “knows” demonization of Islam industry.
In an article about a massacre in Afghanistan, I wrote Is it possible that biased training might have contributed to dehumanizing Iraqis, Afghans, and all Muslims? Are “towel heads”, “hajjis”, “sand niggers”, “camel jockeys” not really human beings after all, but simply “the enemy”, even if they are civilians? I also listed a few “isolated incidents” that may have been the result of such bigoted training. In the article What do Navy Seals “learn” by shooting at a target depicting a Muslim woman? a whole series of military incidents of violence towards Muslim civilians is discussed in detail with references to sources. In many of the incidents listed (as well as others) there have been initial denials, and after investigations an acknowledgement, and then apologies to the victims families, and in some cases payments to the families. This however is not likely to mean much to those who have lost their loved ones.
In the article Orange County 2011 or Germany 1933?, I wrote about the incident that happened at a protest of a Muslim fund raising dinner for charity. Councilwoman Debora Pauly said at that protest: “What’s going on over there right now, make no bones about it, that is pure unadulterated evil ... I know quite a few Marines who would be very happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in Paradise.” “Over there” was the community center which Muslim families were entering. I can see no other meaning to Councilwoman Pauly’s statement except that she knows United States Marines who would be happy to kill these men, women, and children because since they are Muslims, they must be terrorists. Another elected representative who attended, Congressmen Ed Royce (R-Calif.) chairs the international terrorism subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I wonder if he listened to what the protestors were shouting, and to what Deborah Pauly said? I also wonder if he agrees with Pauly?
After information about Islamophobic training became public, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) released a statement:
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation ( ) is disgusted by the shocking revelation that officers from all four branches of the U.S. Military were instructed at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) in Norfolk, VA, that the “option” of waging total war on civilian populations of the Muslim faith in a manner similar to the “historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” should be openly embraced and explored. The suggestion that the norms of international humanitarian law, as enshrined by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, are no longer relevant is a reprehensible and criminal concept that has no place in U.S. military doctrine.
Such phrases, as uttered by JFSC faculty member Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, constitute openly genocidal hate speech—the likes of which have led to some of the worst horrors in modern history. What is most troubling, however, is the fact that such abhorrent sentiments were allowed for years to permeate the lecture halls of the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) in Norfolk, VA (see below link for an Op-Ed on Anti-Muslim course content at JFSC, written on 5/08/12 by MRFF Founder and President Mikey Weinstein). MRFF has long been aware of Islamophobic content taught at JFSC, including the use of pathologically bigoted and sectarian figures such as Walid Shoebat and Brigitte Gabriel, who were allowed to pass off their poisonous hatred as “expertise.” In spite of the recent cancellation of such content, as ordered by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. William Dempsey, the gravity of these new revelations makes one wonder how the culture within the U.S. military’s institutes of higher learning could become acclimated to such murderous concepts as the waging of total war against approximately 1.57 billion Muslim men, women, and children around the globe. Such sufficiently advanced incompetence is completely indistinguishable from willful malice.
MRFF calls on the Pentagon to expeditiously take concrete steps towards purging itself of exceptionalist, Christian supremacist, and sociopathic ideologies that have been allowed to bewitch influential figures within the highest echelons of military leadership. Firm countermeasures must be put in place to prevent the further propagation of criminal tactics and military strategies, as exemplified by the hypothetical destruction of Mecca and Medina (the paramount holy cities of the Muslim faith), and the reduction of Islam “to cult status” at the hands of a global “anti-Islamist” coalition bizarrely envisioned by JFSC faculty member Lt. Col. Dooley. Warped and racist perspectives which fail to distinguish between peaceful, civilian practitioners of religious faiths and the militant extremist adherents thereof must be decisively rooted out of U.S. military culture and academia. MRFF calls for the immediate dismissal of Lt. Col. Dooley, as well as an immediate condemnation, deeply probing investigation, and swift trial by courts-martial of those responsible for allowing content advocating genocide to be used to indoctrinate future leaders within the U.S. armed forces. It is high time that bloodthirsty, amoral, and nation-destroying concepts be stamped out of the educational institutions of our nation’s military, and that the time-honored, lofty traditions of our armed forces be restored to their proper place.
The Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) General Martin Dempsey issued a statement saying that all training and educational materials throughout the U.S. military must be immediately reviewed to ensure that no anti-Muslim or anti-Islam references or content remain. In April of 2011, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security announced that an inquiry into the accuracy and effectiveness of current training. In November, the White House ordered a government-wide review, including the military.
That is a good thing, however, I wonder if more will have to be done than simply pulling materials or replacing materials and trainers. A lot of damage has been done by the consistent barrage of anti-Muslim propaganda over the past decade.
It is becoming more and more difficult as an American Muslim not to be afraid of where this increasingly divisive and hateful rhetoric might lead. Polls, Surveys, and Statistics relating to Islam and Muslims show that negative attitudes are widespread. Our civil rights are being restricted, and there are some Americans who are ready to undermine the Constitution in order to deny American Muslims full citizenship, or even to consider internment.
Freedom of speech is protected by the Constitution. That means that individuals have the right to say whatever they want, no matter how offensive, and can’t be prosecuted for that speech. That does not mean that the society does not have the ability to ignore, counter, or challenge that speech as hateful. While even hateful speech is protected under the law, society has the ability to make it clear that those engaging in such speech will not be considered “respectable” members of society.
There will be an immediate reaction to openly anti-Semitic or racist speech. An individual openly espousing such views will not be invited to testify at a Congressional hearing, would not be used as a reference in any scholarly work (except as a negative exaple), would not have their books recommended to law enforcement as a legitimate resource. Politicians and public fighures would not want to be photographed with them.
The result is that societal pressure has been relatively effective in marginalizing hateful speech against most minorities in the U.S. The society at large has made it clear that although individuals and groups have the right to engage in such bigotry, it is not acceptable in ‘polite society’ and will result in those engaging in such activity being sidelined, judged as bigots, asked to publically apologize, etc.
Nathan Lean has written a provocative article Expose the Islamophobia Industry in the New York Daily News discussing this issue. He said
The Islamophobia industry insists that it is not just a fringe minority who distort an otherwise peaceful faith. Instead, they point to the Koran and suggest that terrorists derive their world views from its messages. If that is so, these anti-Muslim agitators are guilty based on the logic of their own argument. After all, Breivik read and interpreted the writings of people like Spencer and Geller. He deciphered their diatribes much like Osama Bin Laden interpreted the Koran. Both men were compelled to act on the messages they digested.
Society has a responsibility to counter these individuals with overwhelming overtures of pluralism — and to systematically push the fearmongers out of public discourse. The consequences of inaction are grave. Just as Bin Laden had several copycats, so too may Breivik. In his closing statement, the Norway killer said that, “My brothers in the Norwegian and European resistance movements are sitting and watching this case while they plan new attacks.”
America And The War On Islam? http://www.eurasiareview.com/11052012-america-and-the-war-on-islam-oped/
Answers to Peter King’s Claims About the American Muslim Community, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/answers_to_peter_kings_claims_about_the_american_muslim_community
Anti-Islam Air Force Academy Speaker a ‘Fraud’ http://www.muslimmilitarymembers.org/article.php?story=20080207030741376
Boykin Backs Out of West Point Appearance, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/boykin-backs-out-of-west-point-appearance
Countering Islamophobic Law Enforcement Training (video - Thom Hartmann & Alejandro Beutel from MPAC talk about experts like Walid Shoebat and the danger such prejudiced rhetoric) http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/blog/alejandro_beutel_on_walid_shoe/
Gen. Dempsey On Military Anti-Islam Class: ‘Totally Objectionable, Against Our Values’, Ali Gharib http://thinkprogress.org/security/2012/05/10/482235/dempsey-islamophobia-totally-objectionable/
Do Bible Verses on Rifle Scopes Represent Christianity?, Sheila Musaji (with article collection on Christians and the military) http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/bible_verses_on_rifle_scopes
DOD rails Rolling Stone for publishing pictures, Fred Childers http://www.ksla.com/Global/story.asp?S=14338461
Does the most recent military scandal reflect a deeper problem? , Sheila Musaji (with a TAM article collection) http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/what-is-our-military-culture
Elected Representatives & Government Officials Who HAVE Questioned Islamophobia, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/elected_representatives_government_officials_who_have_questioned_islam
Evangelical Christian missionaries embedded with American combat troops in Afghanistan, Mikey Weinstein http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/evangelical_christian_missionaries_embedded_with_american_combat_troops_in_/
Excerpts from anti-Islamic military course http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501706_162-57432137/excerpts-of-anti-islamic-military-course/
Federal Funds For Counterterrorism Training Pay For Anti-Muslim Instructors, Ryan J. Reilly http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/03/federal_funds_for_counterterrorism_training_pay_for_anti-muslim_instructors.php
Fundamentalist Christians and the War on Islam, Timothy Gatto http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_timothy__071209_fundamentalist_chris.htm
William Gawthrop, The FBI Trainer Promoting War Against Islam, Paul Woodward http://www.eurasiareview.com/20092011-the-fbi-trainer-promoting-war-against-islam-oped/
William Gawthrop, FBI Analyst: Aim For Islam Like Air Shafts On Jihadists’ Death Star (VIDEO), Ryan J. Reilly http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/09/fbi_analyst_aim_for_islam_like_air_shafts_on_jihadists_death_star_video.php
William Gawthrop, WND’s Terrorism Expert Now Training FBI Agents, Ryan J. Reilly http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/09/wnds_terrorism_expert_now_training_fbi_agents.php
The GOP has declared war on Muslims, Sheila Musaji (with extensive TAM article collection) http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the-gop-has-declared-war-on-american-muslims
Is the Obama Administration Serious about Anti-Muslim Demonization in Law Enforcement?, Thom Cincotta
Islam-Bashing Bigots Train Counterterrorism Agents http://tinyurl.com/29bsgc9
Islamophobia, Real or Imagined (TAM article collection) http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamophobia_real_or_imagined
Islamophobia no longer questioned - even by our elected representatives, Sheila Musaji (includes collection of statements by elected representatives, government officials, and military leaders) http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/islamophobia_no_longer_even_questioned
Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military, Jeff Sharlet http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/05/0082488
Justice Department Official John Marsh: Muslim ‘Juries’ Threaten ‘Our Values’, Spencer Ackerman http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/islamophobia-beyond-fbi/all/1
Peter King’s Civics Lesson for American Muslims, Sheila Musaji http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/peter_kings_civics_lesson_for_american_muslims/0018429
“Kill Team” War Crimes in Afghanistan, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/kill_team
Peter King’s Fourth Hearing Targets Muslims in the Military, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/peter-kings
Manufacturing the Muslim Menace http://tinyurl.com/4qeretq
Military class suspended for view on Islam http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/05/10/military-class-suspended-for-its-view-on-islam/
Muslim-Basher Trains U.S. Military Personnel in Kentucky http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/17/idUS26202+17-Jan-2011+PRN20110117
The Neo-Crusaders, Neal AbuNab http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_neo_crusaders/
New video emerges of US troops cheering wildly as innocent Afghan civilians are blown up, Andrew Gregory http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/03/29/new-video-emerges-of-us-troops-cheering-wildly-as-innocent-afghan-civilians-are-blown-up-115875-23023103
Not so fast, Christian soldiers, Mikey Weinstein and Reza Aslan http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-oe-aslan22aug22,1,2971273.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=5&cset=true
Onward Christian Soldiers, Max Blumenthal http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2003/04/15/in_touch/index.html
Kamal Saleem, the Fraud!, http://mujtahed.wordpress.com/2010/10/17/kamal-saleem-the-fraud/
Kamal Saleem’s Fanciful Conversion Figures http://thefactsaboutislam.blogspot.com/2010/10/abnsat-hoax-kamal-saleems-fanciful.html
Senior U.S. General Orders Top-to-Bottom Review of Military’s Islam Training, Spencer Ackerman http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/04/military-islam-training/
Shoebat says we need to choose war ‘We Need to Choose War!’ http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2006/7/27/174342.shtml
Shoebat omits instances of kindness http://www.dailynexus.com/article.php?a=13205
Soldiers inAfghanistan given Bibles, told to “hunt people for Jesus” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/04/soldiers-in-afghanistan-g_n_195674.html
Top U.S. Officer: Stop This ‘Total War’ on Islam Talk, Spencer Ackerman http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/05/dempsey-islam-irresponsible/
US military course taught officers ‘Islam is the enemy’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/11/us-military-course-islam-enemy
U.S. Afghan atrocities reflect poorly on all, Tony Norman http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11088/1135456-153.stm
USAF Pays Fake “Terrorism Experts” Speakers To Bash Islam ? http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/02/08/452610/-USAF-Pays-Fake-Terrorism-Experts-Speakers-To-Bash-Islam-
U.S. Army Apologizes Over Graphic Afghan Photos http://www.rferl.org/content/us_army_apology_graphic_afghan_photos/3540081.html
US Army’s ‘fatwa’ on Islam and challenges before the Muslim world, Fatima Tanveer http://twocircles.net/2012may20/us_army%E2%80%99s_%E2%80%98fatwa_islam_and_challenges_muslim_world.html
U.S. soldiers’ ‘kill team’ killed Afghanis, used body parts in poker games: report, Corky Siemaszko http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2011/03/28/2011-03-28_us_soldiers_kill_team_accused_of_murdering_afghani_civilians_for_sport_report.html?r=news
US counter-terrorism training ‘presents Islam as inherently violent’, Ed Pilkington http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/09/us-counter-terrorism-training-islam
Video Proves Proselytization Rampant at U.S. Military Bases, Mikey Weinstein http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/video_proves_proselytization_rampant_at_us_military_bases/
The war against Islam, James Carroll http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/06/07/the_war_against_islam/
War against tolerance, Chris Hedges http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080211_the_war_against_tolerance/
‘War on Terror’ Rhetoric Sounds Like War on Islam, Parvez Ahmed http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/war_on_terror_rhetoric_sounds_like_war_on_islam
War with Islam training ‘not surprising’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9720000/9720257.stm
Where is the U.S. Government Getting It’s Information on Islam and Muslims?, Sheila Musaji (with TAM article collection) http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/where_is_the_u.s._government_getting_its_information_on_islam_and_musl
Would three former terrorists be invited by the U.S. Air Force Academy to speak? http://www.mmdnewswire.com/three-former-terrorists-2871.html
Witness for Jesus in Afghanistan http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22544.htm
Whether or not a ‘kill squad’ is to blame, civilian deaths often go unreported, Julius Cavendish http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/julius-cavendish-whether-or-not-a-kill-squad-is-to-blame-civilian-deaths-often-go-unreported-2252474.html
Why Do They Hate Us?, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/why_do_they_hate_us_-_tam_article_collection1/
Why is Halliburton Building Internment/Detention Camps?, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/why-is-halliburton
White House Releases “New” Counter-terrorism Strategy, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/law_enforcement_training_on_islam_and_muslims
Writers Cited in Breivik Manifesto Have Spoken at US Military Colleges as Anti-Terrorism Experts, Chris Rodda http://www.truth-out.org/writers-cited-breivik-manifesto-have-spoken-us-military-colleges-anti-terrorism-experts/1312137721
Your Taxes Fund Anti-Muslim Hatred, Chris Hedges http://www.truth-out.org/your-taxes-fund-anti-muslim-hatred/1305042147