'Necessary Terrorists: Why the West Blames Muslims' - Live Dialogue

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Yusuf Progler

Safar 02, 1423 2002-04-15

by Yusuf Progler

Session Details

Guest Name

Dr. Yusuf Progler

Profession

Professor

Subject

Necessary Terrorists: Why the West Blames Muslims

Date

Monday,Apr 15 ,2002

Time

Makkah
From... 20:30...To... 22:00
GMT
From... 17:30...To...19:00

Name

Ali - United States

Profession

Question

What is your opinion on the 9-11 terrorist acts? Do you think that they serve Muslims?

Answer

It should be relatively clear that, whoever committed those acts and whatever their intentions, they have not served Muslims very well. Since 911, all sorts of barbarous policies and practices have been initiated against Muslims, not the least of which is the ongoing destruction of Palestine, and also including the dismantling of Muslims financial networks, and even curtailing legitimate political activism. At the same time, many people, not only Muslims, have felt a sense of poetic justice in witnessing such attacks against the United States, which has consistently been a sponsor of terrorism throughout the Third World.

Name

Lotfi - United States

Profession

Student

Question

Why are Muslims always singled out as terrorists?

Answer

Great question, right to the point. The short answer is that the US needs some one now, as it has needed in the past, to position as an "evil other" in opposition to its good self. The "evil other" in history has taken on many names and shapes, from despots, to pirates, to bandits, to terrorists. In Western civilization, which is ferociously dichotomous, there is a necessity to define through opposition, and therefore a "terrorist" or some other nefarious character -- real or imagined -- is actually necessary for the maintenance of a western self image. You can trace this back to the crusades, in fact, and carry it on through the enlightenment, the age of imperialism, and into the 20th century. In this framework, Muslims are not "singled out" out as terrorists, since other peoples at other times have suffered the same labeling, which always serves the power interest of the time. During the 1980s, the "terrorists" were nationalists of various stripes, including the African National Congress and its "terrorist" leader Nelson Mandela, about which Bishop Desmond Tutu lamented: "We have wondered why it was that Dr. Savimbi's Unita in Angola and the Contras in Nicaragua were 'freedom fighters', lionized especially by President Reagan's White House and the conservative right wing of the United States of America, whereas our liberation movements such as the Pan-African Congress were invariably castigated as 'terrorist movements.'" At the same time, the question can be asked as to why people so readily accept an image of the Muslim terrorists, which has a lot to do with the legacy of the Crusades in the Christian west, decades of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propaganda in America, and general simplemindedness of most public discourse on such topics.

Name

Imad - United States

Profession

Question

So, Why does the West blame muslims for terrorism?

Answer

See the last answer for some clues. And let me add some more here. First of all, there is no normative definition of terrorism, and its use is itself a tool of propaganda. Besides military might, the colonial and neocolonial powers need to command language and the words we use to describe reality. So in some contexts, "terrorism" has a very specific politicized meaning in a specific context, and this is why the United States has consistently refused to attend any conferences that have sought to define an internationally accepted (and legally binding) way to understand terrorism. We need to think about that, how American and Israel, which have been the aggressors most of the time, have been able to paint themselves as victims of terrorism. So in addition to the long cultural history of oppositional villainous characters, we also need to look at the purpose such blaming serves, and who gets to define "terrorism" and what is left out of that definition. In other words, we cannot talk about terrorism unless we keep in mind that it is a self-serving intellectual construct that is hidden from view by its sheer use, much in the style of the "big lie" principle of propaganda, that if you repeat something often enough people will come to believe.

Name

Mira - United Arab Emirates

Profession

Student

Question

Salaam Professor Progler. Today, Al-Jazeera TV said it obtains a video of the supposedly suicide bomber, who carried out the September 11 attack on the WTC. It seems very unlikely to me that this it is accurate. Why is it that the 'terrorists' keep appearing at specific timings. Could this be another distraction, since the U.S. is very concerned about the current situation of the Middle East? All distractions that has to do with Muslims bring about the issue of 'radical' Islam! Is this a coincidence?

Answer

Good question, you are noticing the trends in media which means your mind is aware of propaganda. Not all news is propaganda, but it has become exceedingly difficult to disentangle the news from the propaganda, and yes the timing of such stories is significant. Distraction is a good word here, and there is certainly a lot going on in the world from which people need to be distracted. The tape proves nothing, and 911 will go down in history like the Kennedy assassination as something about which we may never know the truth. In the meantime, the images and residual propaganda from such acts will continue to have repercussions as long as the United States feels the need to dominate the world.

Name

Yusef -

Profession

Question

How we can give a real meaning to what is famous as "Terrorism"? There are a lot of terroristic activities in Israel and they never call it terrorism.

Answer

That is the point, that "we" can't give it a real meaning, since the meaning has been hijacked by the United States, which began to use the word regularly in the 1970s to describe various forms of Third World nationalism, and Israel, which has insisted on defining Palestinians as terrorists for daring to resist Zionist colonization of their land. Power is not only in guns, and especially in the "information age" power is in words and images, and who rules the world must rule the words and images. Of course, the guns are always there to back it up, but the point is that what we are seeing in the world now is the aggressors framing the victims as terrorists. We need to sometimes separate the reality on the ground from the way we talk about it, otherwise we will be contributing to propaganda by normalizing definitions and concepts that in actuality have no agreed upon meaning.

Name

zahra -

Profession

Question

There is a question in subject, why the West Blames Muslims. I wonder if they are afraid of Muslims, since they cannot controll them easily.

Answer

Good point, and that adds another dimension to our discussion. The West in general, and American and Israel specifically, do fear Islam for a variety of reasons, and as they have done in the past they need to demonize that which they fear. In a bid for unipolar world domination after the fall of communism, the West has been trying to bring various sorts of stubborn holdouts into its sphere of influence. This is what the World Trade Organization and other big financial entities are trying to do, much like the Marshall Plan did after World War Two. Islam is feared not so much for things like "terrorism" and "fundamentalism," since the west has always had much more virulent strains of such aberrations; what is feared is that Islam has its own epistemology, its own way of seeing the world, its own outlook that differs in many fundamental ways from the liberal western outlook being propagated by America. Islam is not alone in this, there are other alternative visions out there, too, some coming from large states like China, but others from various indigenous peoples. The west is insecure of itself now, of its institutions, its military tactics, its self image, its education, economy and many other areas -- there is a profound insecurity in the Western world, a fear that the rest of the world is waking up to modernity as destructive and unsustainable event in human history, soon to pass away of its own accord. This is the real fear, fear of self-destruction, implosion, but it is much easier to try and blame these essentially internal problems on some outside enemy. Enter the terrorist, or the anarchist, or the communists, or whatever monster you can image, even aliens! Anything to distract us from the inevitable dissolution of Western civilization. And it is important to remember the best criticism is that which proceeds from an alternative vision. That is why communism failed, since it shared most of its outlooks with the liberal west. To get beyond complaining, clear thinkers known that living an alternative, creating an alternative, is necessary side by side with criticism, and that is what the west fears most: the potential for any viable alternatives to succeed in thought and practice.

Name

Samah - Canada

Profession

Question

Dear Dr. Progler:

asslamu alikum

Can you shed some light on how the West has been able historically(i mean since the medevil age which you touched upon in a previous answer) to represent muslims in a negative way and how this image is used for selfish politcal ends?

Answer

Sure, great question. It is not a matter of being able to do something, they have just done it whether they are able or not, since what is really going on is a form of self-definition by using the other as proxy. So, for instance, Machiavelli in has famous political treatise used the image of "oriental despotism" was central to his method. The Catholic Church used images of "licentious Muslim sexuality" as a way to define the purity of Christian celibacy. Militant secularists like Voltaire used negative constructs of Islam as a way to discredit all religions. The list is long and interesting, but the them remains the same: Western civilization, in the foundation moments of modernity, constructed its self-image in an opposing mirror which was Islam. This was not based on any reality of Islam the way Muslims lived it at the time; that didn't matter. What mattered was that there was this other civilization out there that most people were aware of but which few really took the time to learn about, and that this other could be put to all sorts of interesting oppositional usages. You find it everywhere when you begin to look, Islam as a proxy to work out internal dilemmas within the West. For example, during the Victorian era, when Europeans got uptight about sexuality, painters discovered the "harem" and the "seraglio" an imaginary place of wanton lust that they could portray in paintings, allowing a certain degree of acceptance of public nudity in those times, since it was not our nudity, it was those backwards and mysterious Muslims. Violence plays the same role, the West is has this unbelievably violent heritage, one hundred million people killed in this century alone, but it cannot come to grips with that it projects its own insecurity about violence onto others, which in some cases turn out to be Muslims. If you try to imagine Islam as an imaginary construct, and you go into Western history, you will find it everywhere, not as reality but as proxy.

Name

Yaser -

Profession

Question

I was wondering what your opinion is on the the current view that wahabbi islam causes militancy in the Muslim world.

Answer

In its current permutation, it probably has something to do with the insecurity of the Saudis and their American sponsors about the way Al-e Shaykh broke ranks with Al-Saud during the Gulf Oil war. There is a history of what you call Wahhabi militancy, too, for instance in the way it was directly toward Shiite Muslims, but lately it has been on center stage because it has caused concern for the West. When Muslims kill Muslims without serving the West's interests, then it is not worthy mention or entry into the history books, but when it is turned against Western interests, we should pay attention to it. I find it amazing, by the way, that our minds are directed to such a great extent by such games. It helps to view the news, most news, not all, but the news like CNN, BBC, SKY, NYT, WSJ not as news but as instructions as to what you should be thinking about on any given day, and, by extension, what you should be thinking about, too. Today we should think about terrorism, tomorrow it might Wahhabi militancy, the next day, anti-globalization rioters, then we can bring the terrorists back around again, just keep watching...

Name

Al Anood - United Arab Emirates

Profession

Question

What is the exact definition of terrorism, according to the United Hates of America?

Answer

Cute way to put it! That is just the point, there is no exact definition, so it can be used for a variety of purposes and the meaning can change when needed. Sometimes it means "anybody who gets in our way" other times it means somebody who resists colonization or other forms of invasion. Look at how Arafat was reworked. For years, the Zionists refused to call him anything but a terrorist, then he suddenly became a statesman after Oslo. However, his new title was contingent upon him "terrorizing" the Islamic resistance in Palestine, which is why the Zionists gave the PLO all those guns. But that plan did not work, since it is hard to shoot your brother and cousin when the real enemy is the occupation and injustice, so now we see Arafat stripped of his statesman garb and unceremoniously returned to his previous status as terrorist. So, what is a terrorist? It is what Israel or America say it is! Now it is getting quite absurd, since after Bush declared a "war on terrorism," whatever that is, every two bit dictator and repressive regime around the world wants to reign in its opposition under the rubric of "fighting terrorism."

Name

Samer - United States

Profession

Question

'Terrorists' according to who? Who has the right to interpret a word? Is it the United States, because it is the only superpower?

Answer

You got it! Of course, some people have tried to offer definitions that are more substantive, like killing or harming civilians for some political or military gain, but that definition is dangerous, since one could then point to the terror bombing of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the terror bombing of Tokyo, or the terror bombing of Vietnam, or the sponsorship of various torture regimes in the Third World how terrorize their own people to make way for things like "progress" and "development." So that definition is right out, and it is more useful to those in power to keep a fuzzy, unclear, ever shifting definition, and sell it hard via the media, from which all alternative voices are excluded.

Name

Mohammad Arshad -

Profession

Question

Is it that Islam is the only Viable alternative to Western modernity and thus the real reason why Islam and muslim are blamed for terrorism and fundmentalism so as to obscure the real problem that the West has with Islam.

Answer

That's partly accurate, though I would not say the only viable alternative. There are various other ways of living that are also viable alternatives to Western modernity. Islam has the added baggage of a long cultural history in the Western oppositional mentality. But yes, Islam is certainly one viable alternative to modernity, and as Muslims continue to show that by building those alternatives on the ground, not just talking about them, it will gain strength and credibility. There are other alternatives, too, emanating from various kinds of indigenous peoples and cultures that have developed ecologically sustainable ways of life.

Name

Omer -

Profession

Question

So what is the source of this collective insecurity the west has about others especially Islam and why other cultures had such an acute insecurity to their oppenants as the West has had?

Answer

It is not very useful to look for sources of such complex problems, since they are often buried in the deep past and in any event unchangeable. A better way to look at the problem is to ask why this mind set continues, and what repercussions is has today, on the ground. Intellectually we can trace some sense of roots of problems, as I have tried to do above, but in the end that is not going to solve anything. At best, it can create disaffection from the West, deflate it a bit, offer explanations for present day realities, but the real work is in studying how such pathological ideas and behaviors continue. There are few, if any, other civilizations that has consistently and over such a long a time created its own self-image vis a vis another. This oppositional mentality may be the cause you are looking for, and some trace it to Pauline Christianity infused with Manichaeism, who really knows, but you can trace the outlines of this thinking without pinpointing the source. That's what I've tried to do. The insecurity, recall, is not really about others; the insecurity in the west now is about itself, irrespective of others. Others can be scapegoats or distractions, but the insecurity of the West is internal. Look at recent history: Bush stole the elections in Florida with his brother's help while a few hundred thousand Zionists are able to elect a butcher as leader, and it is clear that both of these leaders have effects far beyond populations that elected them--that should tell us something about democracy. Look at the financial collapse in Argentina and other places where Western style neo-liberalism is imposed that should tell us something about economic policy. Look at the debates about the meaning and purpose of education in places like the United States; you can look in a lot of places and find evidence of this internal insecurity quite apart from any external threats.

Name

salim - Lebanon

Profession

insurance agent

Question

dont u think that having no plans in our war to get back our rights,is puting us in a midway betwen being blamed as terrorist,or losin our rights?

Answer

The most trenchant criticism, the most effective resistance movement, and the most enlightened seeker of rights, are those who proceed from an alternative vision, who are working to not only resist and destroy but to build and construct. This needs recognition that what you are resisting is not just some incursion or occupation, but an entire system of life and thought, in the end. Without that vision, revolutions and coups or whatever methods are used to remove a system, will just reproduce what they have ousted in a different guise. Of course, to accept this view, one would have to also accept the premise that many of the problems of the world today are systemic and related to the imposition of modernity, which is increasingly becoming to be seen as a non-viable system.

Name

M. Barukhashem - Turkey

Profession

Question

Selam. The Muslim countries has played a crucial role in the ongoing campaign against terrorism. Do we, as Muslims, realize that this is affecting us negatively?

Answer

Not sure I get the question. You need to ask, who are the Muslims countries. Do we mean the governments and regimes? Or the people in the streets, or various non-governmental organizations, or transnational Muslim collectives? Most the Muslim governments were threatened or cajoled into signing on to the war against terror, and some of them are doing it willingly, since the real "terror" for them and for their western sponsors is the dreaded possibility of being ousted by a popular revolution. So this whole war on terror thing is a pathetic example of using an emotionally charged though largely unrelated event to destroy various forms of legitimate resistance. I cannot say if Muslims realize this, or if the governments realize this, you'd probably need to take that on a case by case basis, but in any event it cannot be seen as separate from American sponsorship.

Courtesy: www.islamonline.net

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