July 29, 2007

Islamophobia

A few months back, one of my readers, Baangal, introduced me to Chaser's War on Everything, an Australian TV-show in the mould of political satire shows like the Daily Show and Colbert Report. Unfortunately the link died out, so I wasn't sure which one s/he wanted me to watch. Searching for it on YouTube produced the following video as a first hit. I found it fascinating and funny at the same time (thanks Baangal!):



I am loathe to argue that racism is the prime motivation behind American/Western foreign policy, although it does play some small role no doubt in threat-perception. And though Australia might not be the best example to draw from (Australian readers, please correct me if I'm wrong), I'd venture to say that domestic security policies tend to be motivated by considerations of race to a large extent, as displayed in that video. I can't even begin to get into what African-Americans and other minorities in America go through at the hands of the police even after the Civil Rights Movement, with great variations from place to place of course. So, I'll just stick to American responses during two security threats to the "Homeland" (note the capital "H", omitting which gets you lynched in Mississippi.)

Islamists such as AQ try to portray American actions in light of a Crusaders' (and Zionists too, oh my! Let us not forget the utterly incongruous juxtaposition of two movements 900 years apart!) anti-Muslim spirit/Islamophobia. This is obviously to miss the point - something that Islamists are very good at - that Islamophobia ties in with more general American attitudes towards the "Other". Neither is this to say that America has NEVER done anything good for people it has perceived as the Other, as the American FAR-left tend to think.

Consider the domestic response to Pearl Harbour. After which the American government responded with the internment of all ethnic Japanese, an astonishing 62% of whom were American citizens (for Trekkies out there, a young George Takei aka Sulu was one of them)!

Following 9/11, one may say that the reaction was almost restrained compared to the above, although accusations of racial profiling in airports were made. (Though not a frequent traveller, as a Muslim living in the West I can say that I've personally never felt it.)

It didn't take Americans themselves long to make the connection between the two. The increasingly-odious, intellectually dishonest and Islamophobic Michelle Malkin wrote a book defending the Japanese internment, with an obvious eye on Arab/Muslim Americans. Please don't read the book, it's not worth your time and effort. As two people far better informed about the dynamics behind the Japanese internment can tell you, it is utterly worthless and they can also recommend some alternative readings if you're suitably interested. And as they can also tell you, that Italian-Americans and German-Americans were not similarly incarcerated despite the Nazi-Fascist threat on the East Coast.

To put all the blame on the U.S. government is over-simplistic if fashionable. The rise of Islamophobia has been facilitated by a lot of things, not least the Western media depiction of Islam/Muslims. And here I fully recognise that the media's role might be a consequence rather than a first cause, but the fact remains that it can do something to make a difference. Acknowledgement of the problem might be a first step; some people are still not quite sure as to what "Islamophobia" really is or if it exists at all. (Whether the label is applicable to Rushdie or not, like the author I'm not quite sure. That man has every reason to be afraid of (some) Muslims and their leaders' irrational fatwas.)

Acknowledgement might lead to the unemployment from respectable media outlets of people who write near hate-speech such as this:

"But our media regularly make the assumption that the book burners and fanatics really do represent the majority, and that assumption has by no means been tested. (If it is ever tested, and it turns out to be true, then can we hear a bit less about how one of the world's largest religions mustn't be confused with its lunatic fringe?)"

For someone as Islamophobic as Hitchens lets himself be known in the above paragraph, denial of the very existence of Islamophobia is what keeps him alive. Given the assumption he's talking about has not been tested empirically, why would the media assume the worst about Muslims, as he does, if it were not Islamophobic? Hitchens instead of condemning this prejudice, simply assumes that empirical evidence might prove them right some day and instead rails against the critics of such media attitudes!

When the Danish cartoons (note the "the") were (self) censored in some states (both Muslim-majority and non-Muslim-majority alike), we all remembered the reaction. The defenders of free speech were crying ever louder about how Muslims were against free speech. Even criticising the cartoons' racist angle became an attack on free speech to some people! Here is Mr. Hitchens' himself at that time.

I was with the free speech advocates. I don't believe in censorship of any kind (Hello Larry Flynt!). I believe in using the voice/art/music of reason in countering hateful propaganda that shows people with turbans and beards sneaking bombs.

Now that the (not "some" - don't buy into the Western media's bullshit) Spanish cartoons have been censored too, what now folks? Where are my free speech brethren of the European/American variety? Come on folks, we have a fight on our hands.

What's worse, these cartoonists were lampooning TWO individuals, not over a MILLION of them in a few simple drawings! The hypocrisy would be tolerable if the magnitude
of it was just a tad bit saner.

While it can be argued that the idiotic response of SOME Muslims definitely deserved greater coverage of the Danish event rather the Spanish one, that still does not excuse the lack of a high-profile free speech campaign or publishers overseas publishing these cartoons simply to make the point about free speech.

Then there was the unequal coverage of two conferences on the Holocaust. This is the Wiki article for the Bali conference, in which sane Muslims and non-Muslims acknowledged the pain and suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. Note the news sources. This is the Wiki article on the Iranian one, in which the STUPIDEST Muslims and non-Muslims I can imagine got together and questioned the veracity of a historical fact. Once again, note the news sources. (My frequent reader from Tel Aviv, I don't know your religion, ethnicity or nationality, but I hope this shows you that there are Muslims who don't think that "all Jews are evil" or some such bullshit, just in case you didn't know it already.)

All this ties in with who is considered a "true" Muslim and who is not, who gets to decide and who does not, and who gets to articulate themselves as the "median" Muslim and who does not, all of which I will hopefully deal with in detail on another post. I leave you with Ayaan Hirsi Ali's astounding article in which she tries to peddle off her own experience in Saudi Arabia (of all places!) and Kenya as the quintessential Muslim experience; and a stand-up routine by the Iranian Omid Djalili that says a bit about how the Western news media gets the most fanatical Muslims to become the "median" Muslim. After all, if you're not "fanatic", you're not Muslim! Just ask Hirsi.

(skip to 6'30" if that's all you want to see, the rest is good too)

2 comments:

Anthony said...

Australian authorities/politicians don't appeal to people's racist prejudices and villify people of Muslim backgrounds.

That's meant to be sarcastic. It's probably not very effective. That's because I'm too angry to write about this issue. If you want to know what I'm angry about, google 'children overboard' or 'Dr Muhamad Haneef'.

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