by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 11, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1428)
The West’s all-out assault on Islam and Muslims–from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine to the political and military occupation of Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia by the US–has murdered or maimed millions. Muslims living in the West were spared such assaults in the past, but no more. One only has to glance through Western newspapers, magazines or television programmes to feel the intensity of hatred directed at Muslims. While the West has always been intolerant of ‘Others’, since 9/11 the mask of civility has come off, and there is barely the pretence of respecting human rights and the rule of law. Incessant propaganda about the threat to the West’s ‘way of life’ has herded ill-informed North Americans and racist Europeans into supporting oppressive measures against Muslims. While there are some voices of dissent, these have been marginalized by the corporate media working in tandem with the ruling elites. Thus, despite the revelations of the truth about the 9/11 attacks and the build-up to the war on Iraq, the vast majority of Americans still unquestioningly believe the official versions of those events.
To understand the issue, let us review some pertinent facts regarding 9/11. Ignoring the question of who was really responsible, there is no dispute that only America was hit. Although no Afghan was accused of involvement in the attacks, even in the official version of events, Afghanistan was subjected to severe military attack, not just by the US but by a host of European countries. By the same logic, would anyone consider it reasonable for China to attack the US because of its instigation and financial support for the opposition movements that launched the student riots to undermine the Chinese government in 1989? Does Iran have the right to attack the US, in order to force ‘regime change’, because of Washington’s backing for the terrorist Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization (MKO)? In just six months in 1981, the MKO killed more than 4,000 people in Iran, including a president, prime minister, ministers of justice and transportation, members of parliament and other prominent Iranian figures. The US has never officially denied backing these terrorists and now hosts and trains them in Iraq.
Immediately after 9/11 not only the US but also Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands and a host of other Western countries passed oppressive laws specifically targeting their Muslim citizens. Apart from the US, none of these countries had been attacked; so why this rush to pass draconian laws? While racism, prejudice and discrimination have historically been constant features of life in the West, until 9/11 Western governments maintained the pretence that they were not officially sanctioned. Now, official policy has given license to racists and bigots to target Muslims. The result has been a rise in violence and other harassment against Muslims in the West, with France, Germany and Denmark leading the way.
These assaults must be seen in their context: some are directed against Muslim countries; the others against Muslim communities living in the West. Some Muslim countries are subjected to military attacks, others attacked only politically, economically and culturally. In some cases, such as that of Islamic Iran, it is because their rulers refuse to bow to Western demands. In other cases, authoritarian regimes are complicit in Western attacks on Islamic movements, institutions and values. The cultural invasion of Muslim societies is carried out under the guise of promoting freedom of speech. Thousands of pro-Western non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have spread like viruses into the body-politic of Muslim societies. While the West’s favourite puppets, such as Pervez Musharraf, Hosni Mubarak, and the kings Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are supported by Western governments, these NGOs are further supported by civil society institutions in the West, such as charities and human rights groups.
Muslims living in the West face no less serious challenges. In addition to discriminatory laws, racial profiling is rampant and ‘no-fly lists’ deny many Muslims the right to travel without explaining themselves. Muslim symbols such as the hijab, and institutions such as mosques and schools, are under attack. The Islamophobia of secularists in countries such as France and Britain, discreet until 9/11, is now open. Multicultural Canada is not immune from such impulses either. The province of Quebec, which insists on protecting its French identity from Anglo-Saxon influences, is completely intolerant of Muslims. In small towns that have never seen a Muslim, town councils are rushing to pass laws banning hijab and other Islamic practices. One is reminded of the medieval Crusades; Pope Urban II mobilized support mainly among North Europeans who had never had any contact with the Muslims, while Southern Europeans who had experience of Muslims knew better than to be taken in by the Church’s propaganda.
In the West’s campaign against Muslims, it has also found a tiny but vocal minority whose names are Muslim, but who evidently know little of Islam or Muslims. These ‘good’ Muslims (from a Western perspective) immediately justify every outrage perpetrated against other Muslims, and get ample space in newspaper columns and on television to support the Western agendas with all the poisonous zeal of the renegade. Muslims who recognise and reject such voices must speak out to ensure that they cannot claim to be the true representatives of the community.