by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 5, Ramadan, 1437)
The elite and media outlets never tire of proclaiming the virtues of freedom and democracy in the West. They denigrate others that do not conform to their way of life. How much freedom and democracy are there in the West and what is the nature of these notions? We look deeper.
The Soviet Union’s disintegration and the subsequent demise of communism in 1991 finally exposed the true face of the champions of democracy in the so-called free world. Now they no longer maintain even the pretence of respecting the rights of the people. Gone is the rhetoric of how great the West was vis-à-vis those wicked communists with their gulags and media censorship. Now the West operates its own gulags in places like Guantanamo Bay and earlier Abu Ghraib. Western media outlets, however, continue to act as drumbeaters for the elite’s vile propaganda of projecting a nirvana.
For a quarter century now, Muslims have been special targets of this campaign, blamed for everything that goes wrong under the sun. They are projected as a “threat” to the West’s way of life whatever that may mean. “They hate our freedoms,” proclaimed the former US President George W. Bush. “We fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here” is another lie endlessly repeated to justify illegal wars to an ill-informed public that is perpetually kept in a state of fear by the fifth estate. The easiest way to usurp people’s rights is to scare them and claim to be acting as their protector. These lies are now being exposed and the ruling elites have to take drastic measures to keep their restive populations under control.
The so-called freedoms that Bush and his ilk claimed to be protecting are not under threat from Muslims; they never were. The allegations against Muslims were just a ruse to create mass hysteria against a weak identifiable group. This has been evident in the US as well as Europe. In Canada, the now-ousted Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to whip up anti-Muslim hysteria during his disastrous rule, ramping it up during his failed election campaign. Had he won the last election (October 2015), there is little doubt Harper would have used that as a pretext to strip Muslims of their citizenship and expel many from the country. Most Canadians rejected his racist ideology.
While in power, Harper was fully supported by the right-wing media to demonize Muslims. His ministers spewed anti-Muslim venom that was lapped up by the equally racist media. Mercifully, since his resounding and well-deserved defeat, the environment in Canada has become much more relaxed. Even the right-wing media no longer plays the anti-Muslim card so much.
Unfortunately, Canada is the exception. In the US, the racist demagogue Donald Trump has cranked up anti-Muslim hysteria among ill-informed Americans who have already been pre-conditioned to hate them after years of vile propaganda spouted by media outlets like Fox News and CNN. Even the US establishment — no paragons of virtue — is embarrassed by Trump’s unsophisticated viriol. This is not because the establishment figures are any less racist or any less dangerous; they camouflage their racism and war-mongering rhetoric in terms that would make them appear as if they are peacemakers instead of the war hawks they really are. Despite his silver tongue and smooth talk, Barack Obama has launched more wars against Muslims than his justifiably reviled predecessor.
But it is not only the wars waged abroad that are of concern. Even at home, the few so-called freedoms that are left are being taken away. Those familiar with internal Western policies would readily understand that the ruling elites are using different tactics to curtail even the few freedoms — such as peaceful dissent, assembly etc. — still left to people. Instead, people’s attention is diverted into sexual pleasures and perversions. Keep them occupied with the pleasures of the flesh while we take away other liberties seems to be the plan.
Parliaments/congresses, courts, and even university administrations are being used to clamp down on people’s rights. This is best illustrated by the hysterical policy adopted against the completely peaceful method of protest under the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Zionist Israel. The BDS campaign was launched in 2005 and has now spread to more than 70 countries worldwide. The anti-BDS drive is meant to curtail any criticism of the brutal practices of the Zionist regime against the Palestinians. Even Canada under its new youthful prime minister approved a motion in parliament by 229 to 51 votes on February 22, 2016 claiming BDS promotes “the demonization and delegitimization of the State Israel.” The motion put forward by the recently defeated Conservatives demanded of the government “to condemn all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”
The Western elite are a far greater threat to people’s freedoms than Muslims could ever be, something they have never even thought of.
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT).