Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Islamophobia in Western Media
By Stephen Lendman
Al-Jazeera, CCUN, January 3, 2011
Kumar argues that "Confronting Islamophobia and challenging American
racism toward the people of the Middle East is an essential precondition for
the rebirth of a strong antiwar movement." Its inability or unwillingness to
challenge Islamophobia has been one of its biggest weaknesses. "Our future,
quite literally, depends on building such a movement." Progressive change
depends on a foundation of peace, equal justice, and democratic freedoms,
achievements so far nowhere in sight.
Post-9/11, Western media, especially in America and Britain,
describe Muslims as fundamentalists, extremists, terrorists, and fanatics.
Throughout the West, Islam is identified with violence, when, in fact it has
common roots with Christianity and Judaism. Their tenets are based on love,
not hate; peace, not violence; charity, not exploitation; and a just, fair
society for people of all faiths. You'd never know it from Islamophobic
The Runnymede Trust
identifies eight components, characterizing Islam as:
static, and unresponsive to change;
-- having differing values from
other cultures and religions;
-- being inferior to Western
-- barbaric, irrational, primitive, sexist, violent,
aggressive, threatening, supporting terrorism, and clashing with Western
-- an ideology used for political or military
-- irrationally criticizing Western values;
warranting discriminatory practices that exclude Muslims from mainstream
-- believing anti-Muslim hostility is natural and
A 2004 UK Commission on Muslims and Islamophobia report
titled, "Islamophobia: issues, challenges and action," said 1.6 million
British Muslims live "on a diet of death, hypocrisy and neglect that is
traumatizing and radicalizing an entire generation. What does the future
hold" it asks? How can secular Britain accommodate religious Muslims? What's
been done to counter Islamophobia's debilitating effects? Why has official
action been absent? "Why is the antiracist movement so reluctant to address
prejudice, hate and discrimination based on religion?" Is Western
Islamophobia institutionalized, and at what cost?
Its societies are
led by white, mainly Christian, middle and upper class men. They're
responsible for serving all their citizens. However, non-Muslim white people
institutionalize Islamophobia, instead of denouncing and expunging it.
It's a new term for an old fear since eighth century Europe. Key since the
1960s is the presence of 15 million Western European Muslims, millions more
in America. Resource wars is another factor, mainly for oil and gas. Others
include misperceptions of Islam, wrongly associating it with violence and
terror, as well as exploiting this notion for political advantage.
Supportive media reports then stoke fear and hostility, portraying Muslims
stereotypically as dangerous and threatening.
In America, noted
academicians like Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington promote a clash of
civilization thesis, Huntington saying the West's underlying problem "is not
Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people
are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the
inferiority of their power."
On October 22, 2001, Edward Said's
Nation magazine article, titled "The Clash of Ignorance," criticized both
men, calling their thinking "belligerent." Citing Huntington's 1993 analysis
"The Clash of Civilization?" and Lewis' 1990 "The Roots of Muslim Rage," he
said both men treat Islam(ic) identity and culture in "cartoonlike" fashion,
"where Popeye and Bluto bash each other mercilessly," the more "virtuous"
one prevailing. They and others like them rely on stereotypes and gimmickry,
not reason or informed analysis, Hollywood and the major media always in
Huntington also said "Western ideas of individualism,
liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of
law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state, often have
little resonance in Islamic societies." In fact, "Western values" are mirror
opposite of what Huntington claimed.
A 2002 Paul Weyrich/William
Lind essay headlined, "Why Islam is a Threat to America and the West,"
calling it a fifth column and religion of war. In September 2001, hatemonger
Ann Coulter wrote:
"We should invade their countries, kill their
leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about
locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officials. We carpet bombed
German cities and killed civilians. That's war. And this is war."
November 2001, Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) told NBC Nightly News
that "Islam is a very evil and wicked religion."
In February 2002,
Pat Robertson said Muslims "want to coexist until they can control, dominate
and then, if need be, destroy. (You) can't say that Muslim religion is a
religion of peace. It's not."
Also in February 2002, Attorney
General John Ashcroft called Islam "a religion in which God requires you to
send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sent his
son to die for you."
From then until now, it hasn't let up, notable
figures and media reports spreading hate and fear, supporting global
imperial wars. Contrasting a West/East dichotomy, Edward Said wrote about
colonizers v. the colonized, "the familiar (Europe, West, us) and the
strange (the Orient, East, them)." The strong against the weak. The superior
against the lesser. The belief that might makes right, no matter how
misguided, destructive or hateful.
Professor Deepa Kumar is active
in social movements for peace and global justice. She also conducts research
in areas of war, imperialism, globalization, class, gender, and the media,
including how it treats Islam.
Her recent essay titled, "Framing
Islam: The Resurgence of Orientalism During the Bush II Era" deals with
post-9/11 events relating, explaining the reemergence of "clash of
civilizations" extremism. Under Bush II and Obama, it became "commonsense,"
a dominant political logic.
Kumar considered "five key
taken-for-granted" post-9/11 myths, that:
(1) Islam is monolithic.
In fact, as practiced in dozens of countries globally, it's diverse within
many Sunni and Shiite branches.
(2) It's uniquely sexist. In fact,
no more or less than all major religions. Christian dogma says Eve was
created out of Adam's rib. European and American women once were burned at
the stake as witches. It took them a 100 year struggle to be able to vote.
Their rights have always been attacked, including over their own bodies,
Christian fascists promoting male gender dominance, and right to fetal life
over pregnant women and men.
(3) It's inherently violent and
intolerant, the term "jihad' wrongfully used to connote holy war. In fact,
it refers both to an internal struggle to overcome one's weaknesses, as well
as a lesser one for self-preservation and defense.
(4) The "Muslim
mind" is incapable of reason and science. On September 12, 2006, Pope
Benedict XVI equated Catholicism with reason, saying violent Islam lacked
it. Many others before him made the same argument, as spurious and racist
then as now.
(5) "The West spreads democracy, while Islam spawns
terrorism." As a result, Western civilization must modernize and tame it.
America, of course, disdains democratic freedoms, preferring easily co-opted
despots, not social justice and liberation.
Kumar fights myths with
scholarly analysis, exposing them as hateful and bogus.
September 22, 2010 interview, she examined Islamophobia in America, saying
fear and animosity toward Muslims prevail.
"I don't think, however
that (it) comes from regular Americans. Rather, (post-9/11), the mainstream
media and the political elite have helped generate an attitude toward
Muslims that has been largely negative. Most recently," Tea Party extremists
exploited it. Another group called "Stop Islamization of America" promotes
the notion "that Muslims are conspiring to take over the US."
the major media, and hate groups have manipulated ordinary Americans. "Every
country that seeks to obtain the consent of its citizens for war must
construct an enemy that is feared and hated." Bush officials used Islam,
much like Cold War tactics vilified communists and Japanese Americans were
denigrated and abused during WW II. "Today all Muslims are viewed as
responsible for the events that took place on 9/11," hatemongering and fear
replacing truth, Hollywood and major media reports in the lead.
Films especially depict "Arab men as barbaric, violent, gaudy, lascivious,
and of Muslim majority countries as uncivilized, misogynistic, irrational,
and undemocratic." Major media reports pick it up, "tak(ing) their cues from
the 'primary definers of news,' that is, people who are the key political
and economic leaders." They've largely "branded the Muslim community as
untrustworthy and anti-American." Mainstream media reports echo the same
On January 10, Kumar titled a Monthly Review article, "How to
Fight Islamophobia and the Far Right, in Europe and the United States,"
"An alarming trend (swept) Europe." Far right parties bashed
Muslims and immigrants to achieve "electoral gains in (numerous) European
countries." It showed up in France, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the
Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia, Romania and
Slovakia, hard times the driving force for change, including in America.
"What we are seeing is a right-wing populist movement beginning to
manifest racism at its core." It's both electoral and grassroots "based on
intimidating Muslim communities and Latino immigrants." Islamophobia incites
"war on terror" hysteria and "serv(es) the domestic agenda of the far right
in ways similar to what has gone on in Europe."
centrist approach "only strengthens the far right," as true in America as
abroad. Combating Islamophobia demands exposing it "as the
scapegoating tactic of a system in crisis." To prevail, however, requires
"political and economic alternative(s) to neoliberalism and war," but don't
expect major media help promoting them.
Socialist Review March/April 2007 article titled, "Islam and Islamophobia"
explained how, over the previous year, Muslim-bashing in America and Europe
was relentless. It's no different today. Their common thread "is a polarized
view of the world," a classic good v. evil struggle, hyperbolically
portraying a democratic West against barbaric, uncivilized Islam, wanting to
create "an Islamic empire stretching from Europe to South East Asia." Never
mind that people of all religions and ethnicities everywhere want social
justice, freedom and peace.
Orientalists, however, view the West as
"dynamic, complex, and ever changing," while Islam "is static, barbaric, and
despotic." It needs "Western intervention to bring about progressive
change," what Islamic societies can't do for themselves.
argues that "Confronting Islamophobia and challenging American racism toward
the people of the Middle East is an essential precondition for the rebirth
of a strong antiwar movement." Its inability or unwillingness to challenge
Islamophobia has been one of its biggest weaknesses. "Our future, quite
literally, depends on building such a movement." Progressive change depends
on a foundation of peace, equal justice, and democratic freedoms,
achievements so far nowhere in sight.
lives in Chicago and can be reached at
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to
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