Will Islamophobes Be Allowed to Obtain Their Ultimate Goal?
by Dr. Abdul Cader Asmal
The year 2000 was a seminal point in the manufacture of the threat of Islamophobia. In that year warning bells were sounded at the increasing mischaracterisation of Muslims as ‘Islamists’. For it became evident that once Muslims were stigmatized as “Islamists” their struggle from tyranny, no matter how just, lost its legitimacy; their victimization by any and all means became legitimate; and as an “Islamist” threat to accepted hegemony that had to be crushed at all cost, the silence of the media was assured (The Muslim Observer, 1/00).
The term “Islamist” was not one used by Muslims to define themselves; rather it was one created by or delivered to the media with a deliberate vagueness to include Muslims of every shade of the spectrum - from political activists, religious radicals , freedom fighters, terrorists, even common criminals, to any practicing Muslim. The diabolic brilliance of the term was that it shifted the focus of any malfeasance directly from the adherent ( the Muslim ) to the religion ( Islam sic ‘Islamist’ ). This blurred the distinction between “Muslim” and “Islamist” so that inevitably every Muslim was an “Islamist”! Consequently, every Muslim struggle from oppression, were it in Russia or Kashmir, China or Kosova, Algeria or Turkey, became an “Islamist” threat , creating a pretext for previously inimical foes to become strange bedfellows against the new-found common enemy.
When Islam was chosen to replace the “evil empire” as a threat to world order, the “Islamist” had to be invented to replace the communist as the bogeyman of the new millennium. For more than 50 years communists were the supreme symbols of hate and fear, and targets of subversion, overthrow or subjugation. It was now the turn of the “Islamists” to be set-up to inherit their mantle. From the media perspective at that time the term ‘Islamist’ with its deceptive simplicity seemed a more user friendly expression that appeared as less of a pejorative slur against Muslims than the more blatantly racist expression of ‘Islamic terrorism’ then in common use.
For its part instead of repudiating this odious designation of their religion the Muslim community allowed itself to be defined by the nefarious agenda of others. The events of 911 provided a carte blanche to the latter to demonize Islam and Muslims with total impunity so that in the neocon-contrived so-called global war on terror the refrain rapidly transformed from ‘our enemies are Muslim’ to ‘Muslims are our enemies’ and that the root of the problem is not just a band of heretic Muslims sic ‘Islamists’ but Islam itself. Such a view was reinforced by the fatuous report of the 911 Commission which made it a point to single out ‘Islamist’ ( which it surely knew would be indiscriminately interchanged with ‘Islamic’ ) terrorism as though terrorism by other religious or nationalistic groups had intrinsic redeeming features. However, when the president of this country stooped to the level of referring to the heretical cult of Binladenism as an example of “Islamofascism” he set a new standard for religious denigration making Islamophobia analogous to communism as the new symbol of hate and fear and a ready target of subversion, overthrow and subjugation. Perhaps the most preposterous exhibition of raw bigotry was spewed by key McCain endorser the Rev Rod Parsley that ‘America was founded in part with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe that September 11 2001 was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore’. The utter contempt with which so many in the ‘enlightened West’ ( in itself a nebulous term of monumental hubris designed to isolate not just Muslims but Islam from a selective club that on the whims of the proponents might from time to time include or exclude Asia, members of the ex-Soviet Union, Africa and South America) have become programmed to view Islam, is as frightening as is the selective global amnesia they have displayed to Islam’s magnificent contributions to the scientific and cultural advancement of today’s civilization.
In fact so effective has the Islamophobic propaganda been that whenever Muslims sic ‘Islamists’ are insulted, humiliated or terrorized, the term ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamist’ is now almost redundant. Whether ghettoized Gazans are slowly strangulated, the Iraqis systematically dismembered, or the Iranians threatened with instant ‘obliteration’ ( by none other than she who would be president) there is little concern, let alone outrage in the ‘West’ because it is only the ‘Islamists’ getting their just retribution. With the prospect that before the next election the Cheney-led neocon cabal will launch an unprovoked cataclysmic pre-emptive assault against the ‘axis of evil’ beginning with Syria, Lebanon and then Iran, ( Margolis,Toronto Sun 4/27/08), the silence of the US media is deafening. This is in stark contrast to the recent supersaturation of the airwaves about the mere riots, as tragic as they were, in Tibet and Myanmar.
The concoction of the term ‘Islamist’ to characterize Muslims helped set the stage for the global hysterical phenomenon of Islamophobia which Muslims foresee as a cover for the systematic deracination of Islam propagated in the name of spreading the message of democracy by the neocon cabal in Washington. Notwithstanding their concerns about a ‘crusade’ against Islam masquerading as the spread of enlightenment , in a recent review by Esposito ( Who Speaks for Islam, 2008), the overwhelming majority of Muslims polled showed no animosity to the richly diverse and non-monolithic ‘West’, in the same voice as they condemned the ‘Islamist’ extremists for their anti-Islamic actions. That Muslims have denounced terrorism in all its forms loudly unequivocally and repeatedly has been documented exhaustively in ‘The American Muslim” by Sheila Musaji who has also meticulously catalogued the ugliness of Islamophobia in its various guises. Whether the overwhelmingly majority of decent peoples in the ‘West’, not to sideline the vast populations of our planet who have been marginalized by this invidious dichotomy of ‘Islam versus the ‘West’ debate, will remain silent or intimidated and allow the course preordained by the neocons to attain their ultimate goal - the colonisation of he Muslim world with a predatory devastation of its infrastructure and rapacious exploitation of its resources, or will denounce Islamophobia for the neo-anti-Semitism that it is, remains to be seen. As an integral part of both Islam and the West and our common humanity, for me ‘neoconism’ is no more representative of the West than ‘Binladenism’ is of Islam. They are both hideous caricatures of the truths, the values and the principles of justice that both America and Islam share with the rest of the world.
The recent directive by the State Department ( The Guardian,UK, 4/25/08) for government officials to display restraint in the use of the inflammatory and derogatory expressions such as ‘jihadists’ and ‘Islamic terrorists’ when referring to Muslim extremists, is an act of excruciating irony for the majority of Muslims who have been protesting such vile depictions of Islam ab initio - it is a directive they view as issued less to mollify the ‘moderate’ Muslims but more as an exercise in pragmatism that such terminology serves only to the aggrandize the extremists thereby frustrating the Islamophobes’ ultimate Machiavellian goal to eviscerate Islam before the neocons run out of time.
Abdul Cader Asmal 5/2/08