by Tahir Mustafa (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 6, Ramadan, 1434)
Muslims are targeted for demonization because it fits into the US policy of having someone as an “enemy”. By keeping the American public fearful, corporate America can get away with its crimes.
American politicians of every stripe never miss an opportunity to repeat the words of Ronald Reagan, “America is a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.” Barack Obama has frequently uttered words to this effect even if paraphrasing them somewhat. He is fond of talking about “American values,” “who we are” and “we don’t do torture” as he happily orders drone strikes on innocent people half a world away. The torture chamber at Guantanamo Bay remains open and continues to flourish even as innocent people languish there with no end in sight to their illegal incarceration.
Reagan of course was an actor, a third-rate one but he earned his ill-deserved reputation on the silver screen where he often played in cowboy movies. The words he uttered about a “shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere” were not his own. He was reading from someone else’s script — John Winthrop, to be precise. It was from his sermon delivered aboard the ship, the Arbella, that was bringing European settlers (squatters) to the East Coast of America in the year 1630ce. Before the Arbella docked in Boston Harbour, Winthrop said to his flock that had survived a perilous journey across the choppy waters of the Atlantic, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses…”
Even Winthrop was not saying anything original; he was merely quoting Prophet Jesus’ (a) Sermon on the Mount,
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Lord Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14–16).
Far from being a shining city upon a hill, the European settlers “became a curse” for the Native Peoples of the continent. Genocide was perpetrated against them decimating their population from tens of millions to the point that there are hardly a couple of million left in America today. The Natives’ genocide was followed by the slave trade in which millions of Africans — most of them Muslims — were forcibly brought on slave ships to the US. Their religion, languages and cultures were wiped out. Genocide became part of the European settlers’ psyche that they continue to indulge in to this day, now on a global scale.
To justify the gruesome acts of murder perpetrated against Native Peoples, the European settlers projected them as “howling savages” in Hollywood movies. The Africans were branded as slaves and considered less than human, thus, they were not worthy of dignity. The European settlers, however, did not need any justification for their violent acts. It has become a way of life for them in the form of endless wars and occupation of other lands accompanied by the process of demonization.
The demonization project has moved through many phases, from Catholics prior to the Second World War to the Japanese and Italians during and immediately after it. When Communism emerged on the scene as a rival, the “Red peril” became the bogey to justify exorbitant outlays on military hardware that benefited the corporate elite. Since the demise of communism, ironically at the hands of Muslims in Afghanistan, a new enemy had to be invented: the Muslim as terrorist. In fact, an entire industry has developed that manufactures an endless supply of enemies to justify these acts. In recent decades, terrorism has become the catch all phrase to scare the largely uniformed American population. The corporate media has duly played its role in whipping up hysteria.
The “terrorist” label has now become a handy tool in Western propaganda discourse against real or imagined enemies. This is a license to commit unspeakable crimes against innocent people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen or Somalia. Since struggling Muslims everywhere are perceived as enemies of imperialist and Zionist policies of aggression, they are immediately tarnished with this brush. This was not always the case, as those familiar with even recent history would confirm.
Demonization of the “other” has historically been part of the West’s arsenal of weapons dating back to the Crusades or even earlier to justify aggression. Ignoring distant history, the latest campaign of demonization started with the Arabs in the 1950s but was then refined to the Palestinians since the West and the Zionists wanted to create a breach between the general Arab population and the Palestinians. From the West’s point of view, this was smart policy. It de-linked the Palestinian struggle from the broader mass of people in the Muslim East (aka Middle East) region. Notions of Arabism and nationalism were promoted in order to implant in the minds of Arabs the idea that they had little or nothing to do with the Palestinians and that they should not have to sacrifice their “national interest” for the Palestinians. Nationalist regimes, almost all subservient to the West, that dominate the region also actively promoted this idea. Today, we find few Arabian regimes willing to support the Palestinians’ cause or their legitimate rights and aspirations.
The “terrorist” label would have remained confined to the Palestinians had it not been for the events of 9/11. Instantly, Islam and Muslims became the new bogey for the West’s crusading enterprise. The Zionists had been pushing for this much earlier but found few takers in the US. In 1993 then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin became the first foreign ruler to visit the US after Bill Clinton became president. Rabin repeatedly used the term “Islamic terrorists” in his guttural accent during the visit. It was picked up by the Zionist cabal in the media as well as on forums that dominate information flow in the US. The attacks of 9/11 and the ensuing self-serving propaganda fixed the stamp of “terrorist” securely on Muslims. Those not suffering from dementia would recall that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, thousands of Muslims were rounded up in the US and thrown in prisons. Many were brutally tortured; some were killed.
Regardless of one’s opinion of the identity of the 9/11 perpetrators, the attacks occurred in the US, yet all Western governments immediately instituted oppressive Muslim specific anti-terror laws. Islamophobia, always present in Western societies, became respectable and mainstream. Even otherwise liberal commentators joined the hate-filled discourse. “All Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims,” became the standard mantra. Any Muslim or Muslim-looking person immediately became a suspect. Raids on the homes of Muslims, businesses, workplaces and intrusive searches at airports are now routine in the US and many other Western societies. Airline “watch lists” have not only been instituted but keep expanding. With everything computerized, an individual whose name appears on one country’s “watch list” — usually the US — may end up in trouble in another.
There have also been numerous cases of mistaken identity. Take the case of Shahrukh Khan, the well-known Bollywood actor who has on numerous occasions been detained upon arrival in the US. Despite a valid visa issued by the US embassy in Delhi, he has faced harassment and humiliation only to be rescued by Indian diplomatic staff pleading with ignorant US officials. His last name matches someone on the US watch list. People with names like Ahmed, Muhammad, Hassan, Hussain are routinely hauled out at airports for interrogation and intrusive body searches. From eight-year-old girls to eighty-year-old grandmothers, all have been victimized by perverts that pass off for security personnel at airports, especially in the US.
Such acts of harassment pale into insignificance against the backdrop of a determined policy of entrapment of unsuspecting Muslims in the US as detailed in a study by the New York University School of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) published on May 18, 2011. It described how American counterterrorism efforts have singled out Muslim Americans by “sending paid, trained informants into mosques and Muslim communities.” More than 200 people have been prosecuted in what are referred to as “terrorism-related cases.” These are trumpeted as hallmarks of a successful counterterrorism program and amplified by a willing media especially rightwing outlets like Fox News and CNN as well as the army of Islamophobes, most of them hardcore Zionists that have made a career out of demonizing Muslims on behalf of their favourite country: Israel.
Such practices, however, have started to irk some Americans especially those concerned about the rights of innocent people and feel that in due course these intrusive tactics will expand to target all Americans. The airport pat downs confirm such concerns. Even some former FBI agents, American lawmakers and newspaper columnists have raised concerns about such tactics, especially those of the New York Police Department (NYPD) that has been profiling and spying on Muslims for years. In June, US civil liberties organizations filed a lawsuit against the rampant civil rights abuses of the NYPD, with respect to surveillance of US Muslims. On June 24, a lawsuit was filed against the NYPD on behalf of New York City residents represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability and Responsibility (CLEAR) project of Main Street Legal Services, Inc. at City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law.
In the lawsuit, the lawyers say the spying has hindered residents from freely practising their religion. It is the third significant legal action filed against the NYPD Muslim surveillance program since details of the spy program were revealed in a series of Associated Press reports in 2011 and 2012. “When a police department turns law-abiding people into suspects because they go to a mosque and not a church or a synagogue, it violates our Constitution’s guarantees of equality and religious freedom,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project.
As documented extensively by the NYPD’s own records, its Intelligence Division has built a program dedicated to the surveillance of completely innocent Muslims in the greater New York City area. Officers and informants routinely monitor restaurants, bookstores, and masjids, and create records of innocent conversations. The department also sends paid infiltrators into masjids, student associations, and beyond to take photos, write down license plate numbers, and keep notes on people for no reason other than that they are Muslim. An NYPD official admitted that the mapping activities have not generated a single lead, or resulted in even one terrorism investigation. It is this that has raised concerns among former FBI agents that worry that the police are creating their own “homegrown” terrorism plots, “foiling” them for the cameras, and sending Muslim Americans to prison. Some opportunist politicians and police officials — New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, for instance — have also joined this criminal game to target Muslims. They get ample time on such outlets as Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. The more sensational their claims, the greater the air time they get.
As the New York University School of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) report was released in May 2011, a story about two “Muslim terror suspects” broke out in New York. They were accused of plotting to blow up a synagogue and even the Empire State Building, according to Mayor Bloomberg. The media went into its usual frenzy about “homegrown” terrorists and law enforcement bodies congratulated themselves for keeping the citizens safe.
The case in New York, however, turned out to be different in a crucial way. Several news reports noted that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force — that usually works with the NYPD in cases like this — was conspicuously absent from the press conference. WNYC, the public radio station in New York, dug into the story and got two Federal agents to speak (anonymously, but on the record) about the alleged synagogue plot. These federal officials said that the NYPD’s case was “over-hyped,” and they expected that the terrorism charges won’t hold up in court. The very public disagreement between two law enforcement agencies disrupted the usually smooth media narrative about “homegrown,” Muslim American terrorists disrupted by vigilant and effective surveillance.
Terrorism allegations are a cynical game in which Muslims are the primary victims.