In the machinations of Empire, religious and ethnic differences are often used to justify wars and repression. Historical examples abound. Animosity between nations’ ruling elites are framed in religious terms to rile up the populace and convince them the antagonisms between rulers over land and money are actually between the common people over religion. From there, the antagonism disintegrates into hatred and then war. Despite the conclusion of many religious adherents and teachers that all religions are merely different paths to the same godhead, people continue to cave into the fears propagated by other clerics and institutions that only their religion is the one true one. All others, therefore, are false and their followers are infidels. Once the flames of religious hatred are lit, it becomes very difficult to extinguish them. History has proven this over and over again.
Most recently, the world has seen this manipulation of faith take place against Muslims. This is not the first time Islam has been the focus of hate. Various Christian faiths have considered it a demonic religion over the centuries, from the Catholic Church to the small sect run by Terry Jones in Florida in the US. It was Islam, after all, that bore the brunt of the Catholic Crusades in the middle ages. It was also the Catholic Church that ravaged the lands of Spain during the Reconquista; and it was the Catholic Church that forced Jews and Muslims alike to renounce their faith or face death during that same period.
Like most prejudices that the ruling classes and their politicians stir up for their own ends, much religious hatred is based on ignorance and misunderstanding. This is certainly the case when it comes to Islam and its perception among many Christian churches. Despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all derived from the legacy of Abraham, the level of ignorance about this among believers is astounding. Indeed, it would leave one to think that perhaps that ignorance was intentional.
This is one of the points argued in Deepa Kumar’s latest title, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. Kumar traces the history of anti-Islamic imagery in the Christian west: its equation of the religion with Satan and sorcery, mysterious sexual practices and perversions. From this beginning, Kumar draws a line to the development of Orientalist scholarship and its use by colonialist nations to justify their domination and exploitation of what they termed “the Muslim World.” Orientalism is best described by the author of the best book on the subject, Edward Said. “Orientalism,” he wrote, “is a style of thought based upon ontological and epistemological distinction made between “the Orient” and (most of the time) “the Occident Thus a very large mass of writers, among who are poet, novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists, and imperial administrators, have accepted the basic distinction between East and West as the starting point for elaborate accounts concerning the Orient, its people, customs, “mind,” destiny, and so on. . . . The phenomenon of Orientalism as I study it here deals principally, not with a correspondence between Orientalism and Orient, but with the internal consistency of Orientalism and its ideas about the Orient . . despite or beyond any correspondence, or lack thereof, with a “real” Orient.”
In other words, Orientalism is a framework developed by the West to define the non-European part of the world that emphasizes the differences between these two artifices. It often has little to do with the reality of life and thought in the non-European world and is a methodology used to justify the occupation of those lands, the subjugation of their peoples, and the use of whatever means it takes to do so. In addition, it ignores essential facts that do not fit its framework that assumes the superiority of the West. Kumar discusses five myths Orientalism bases itself on and, in doing so, effectively dismantles those myths. While reading this particular chapter it felt like I was reading any number of news articles from the past fifty years explaining how Washington’s enemies were less civilized, less worldly than Americans. Medievalist, sexist, less value placed on human life, incapable of democracy or rational thought; the rationales for opposing Islam are not much different than those given for slaughtering over a million Vietnamese. Kumar looks at these phenomena historically and provides a perspective rarely if ever considered by most Western commentators.
Much of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire is an examination of the relationship between the ruling elites in Washington DC and the various elements of Islam, especially during the last twenty or thirty years. The text takes a look at Washington’s relationships with state and non-state entities. This includes Washington’s self-serving support of the Saud family in Saudi Arabia to the CIA coup in Iran that led to the tyranny of the Shah; from the arming of the Afghan mujahedin against the Soviet army to the endless war on the Afghan people and its expansion into Pakistan via armed drones. Kumar explains the economic, political and military reasons for the skullduggery and death waged in Americans’ name in countries Kumar terms “Muslim majority.” She never lets the reader forget that underlying the entire Islamophobia project is the desire for hegemonic control of the world by Washington.
After exploring the reasons for and the results of the Islamophobic project in the Empire’s outposts, Kumar turns her eye inward to the United States. She chronicles the legal attacks on mosques and Islamic social service foundations under the guise of their “support” of terrorism and discusses the growth of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment stirred up by various right wing and Zionist individuals. Citing the example of the so-called “Ground Zero” mosque, she exposes the politics of the individuals and organizations behind the campaign to prevent the building of that structure. Although many readers identify Islamophobia with Zionists, the neocons and their Christian fundamentalist supporters (Kumar spends a fair amount of tine elucidating on this), the book makes it clear that this phobia is not limited to that particular mindset. In fact, Kumar labels the liberal version of this phobia and the policies it informs “liberal Islamophobia.” This latter incarnation is one that pretends to understand Islam, while simultaneously accepting many of the same myths about the religion maintained by the aforementioned groups.
There’s a lot in this book. Deepa Kumar takes a subject that is often intentionally misconstrued and brings a clarity that incorporates the multiple facets involved. Politics and religion are notoriously dangerous bedfellows, yet they have tended to define human history for as long as there has been such a thing. This phenomenon has only become truer as history moves on. While other books may explain the religion of Islam and its relationship to Christianity better, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire stands alone in its exploration of the relationship between western imperialism and the Muslim-majority world, especially as regards recent history. If recent events in the Middle East and other Muslim majority regions are an indicator, this relationship may be on the verge of a substantial change. This makes reading and understanding Kumar’s text even more essential.
Ron Jacobs can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the publication of the profane pictures of the holy Prophet of Islam in Charlie Hebdo magazine, the West seems to be consciously moving in a direction where chaos will dominate the international arena and a clash of cultures will inevitably run deeper for an indefinite period of time.
Magazine director Stephane Charbonnier said his staff is “not really fueling the fire,” but rather using its freedom of expression “to comment (on) the news [of the blasphemous film] in a satirical way.”
The French magazine has a history of attacking Islam. On February 9, 2006, it also published some cartoons denigrating the holy Prophet. The Grand Mosque, the Muslim World League and the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF) in France filed a suit saying that the cartoons contained elements of racism. In 2007, executive editor Philippe Val was, however, acquitted by the French court. Surprisingly, François Fillon, the prime minister, and Claude Guéant, the interior minister voiced support for Charlie Hebdo.
According to reports, France is closing its embassies and schools in 20 countries, fearing a violent backlash from protestors over the blasphemous cartoons. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said, “Is it relevant and intelligent in this environment to add fuel to the fire?”
The publication of the cartoons, which came immediately after the release of the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, has provoked widespread protests in most parts of the Muslim world.
It is painful to say that the French government has not only authorized such an anti-Islam move but it has also rejected a request by Muslims to hold demonstration in front of the Paris Grand Mosque on Saturday. According to the police ban, organizers of a possible demonstration will face six months in jail and a fine of 700 euros ($900). In a similar move, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls ordered a ban on any further demonstrations against the anti-Islam film made in the United States.
“I have issued instructions so that this does not happen again. These protests are forbidden,” Valls said in an interview with France 2 television network.
Protest is a form of freedom of expression which is denied Muslims in France but is given lasciviously free rein in the anti-Islam moves in the country.
There are abortive attempts by western analysts to interpret the two baneful incidents in the light of freedom of expression and thereby explain away the emotional hurt of the Muslim world. However, to an intellectually trained mind, this seems more than just an insult to Islam and the Muslims.
The calculated move of the French magazine in publishing the insulting cartoons immediately after the blasphemous film indicates a united front forming against Islam in the West. On the one hand, the move can be seen as an attempt to help escalate the crisis in the Middle East region and on the other hand to plunge the world into a vortex where a clash of civilizations is imminent.
Should we naively believe that the anti-Islam film which has caused much uproar and intellectual chagrin in the Muslim world is the work of a Coptic Christian Egyptian fraudster, a small-time porn director and a bunch of extremists who harbor deep hatred against Islam? This is a good question and it deserves an answer. Still, the answer seems to be found in the incident which followed the film i.e. the publication of the blasphemous cartoons.
Seen from an analytical point of view, the entire scenario apparently tilts the scale in favor of the Zionists who capitalize on a large-scale fracas between the Muslim countries and the rest of the world. In fact, they are the ones who will catch the bigger fish in these trouble waters.
Amidst this craftily authored plan, Israel has commenced a series of war games in Golan Heights, the biggest the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has conducted in the six years since the second Lebanon war on Hezbollah in 2006. Military sources say the war game looks like a real war with tens of thousands of soldiers and senior officers, including the artillery and the air force taking part. Israeli officials have announced that the situation in Syria is precariously volatile and that the country is in possession of a huge arsenal of chemical weapons which they fear might fall into the hands of wrong people stockpile if President Bashar Assad is ousted. This is the excuse which they use to justify their military show-off. In point of fact, Israel is readying itself to wage a military encounter in the region by using the anti-Islam scenario.
With the Muslim world in turmoil over the anti-Islam video and cartoons, Israel will be in a position to turn the situation to its own benefit, depict the Islamic world in a negative light with the help of western media and exploit the rift deepening between the Muslims and the West. These facts suggest that there are certain Zionist elements in the West which are fomenting Islamophobia in the world in order to bring about a lethal encounter between the East and the West and serve the interests of Israel in the long run.
Zionist and right wing Christian evangelists exploit US freedom of speech by fuelling sedition and hate between two great religions.
On the other hand, right wing religious elements are manipulating Muslims’ righteous indignation by turning lawful protests into demented violence.
In the US, it is argued that inflammatory speech is protected in the first amendment.
Yet I know of eight people who were unjustly dragged through Los Angeles federal courts for 15 years, accused of distributing less than 50 copies of a news magazine, which highlights the hypocrisy.
It seems the latest Islamophobic film Innocence of Muslims is part of a trend designed to deceptively turn the memories of 9/11 into a lasting conflict between Islam and the West, just one facet in a calculated Zionist crusade to discredit anyone challenging Israel.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it emerged producer Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was only a front for a pro-Israeli US group.
Nakoula, a bankrupt felon who spent 21 months in jail and was fined more than half a million dollars, lacked financial resources to make the movie. His earlier assertions that he collected millions from Jewish donors provide possible clues about the real culprits.
The unsubstantiated pro-Israeli media spin, which suggested his wife’s family in Egypt financed the film, is most likely a diversionary smokescreen to inflame sectarian rift in Egypt.
Israeli pundits have been trying to divide Egypt for 30 years. In 1982, the journal for the World Zionist Organization Kivunim published a treatise declaring that: “Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel.”
In addition, the timing of the film’s release was undoubtedly aimed to coincide with the US presidential election.
It couldn’t be just a coincidence that four years ago Clarion Fund – a shadowy American, pro-Israel, non-profit, tax-exempt organization – produced a similar anti-Muslim movie called Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.
As with this latest movie’s timing, seven weeks before the 2008 presidential election, the fund, along with the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), spent more than $17 million to distribute 28m DVDs in a major mail campaign and inserting copies in more than 100 newspapers and magazines in swing voter states.
The fund was founded by two Israeli-Canadian brothers, movie producer Raphael Shore and Rabbi Ephraim Shore of the Aish Hatorah, another tax-exempt, pro-Israel organization.
EMET’s advisory board includes leading Islamophobic figures such as Daniel Pipes, Frank Gaffney and former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger.
Sadly, while Christian evangelists were coalescing with Zionists to mock the Prophet of Islam, Jewish settlers were vilifying Christ in his native land.
Earlier this month, Jewish settlers, empowered financially by the same tax-exempt US organizations, attempted to set fire to a Christian church in Jerusalem after writing on the walls “Jesus is a monkey”.
It is critical to recognize that this latest repulsive movie is part of a growing Islamophobic industry, promoted and financed by one-issue, tax-exempt Zionist organizations.
The West must deal firmly with this irrational yet measured phenomenon intended to incite and cause harm.
In the east, Muslims must be circumspect when rejecting hate-inspired provocations. Violence only plays into the hands of those attempting to divide followers of religions who share the same reverence for Jesus and God.
- Jamal Kanj (www.jamalkanj.com) writes frequently on Arab issues and is the author of Children of Catastrophe, Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America.
On September 15, McClatchy reported that the anti-American outrage in the Muslim world over a crude YouTube video insulting the Prophet Muhammad had been triggered by a phone call to an Egyptian reporter from a controversial U.S.-based anti-Islam activist:
Morris Sadek, a Coptic Christian who lives in suburban Washington, D.C., whose anti-Islam campaigning led to the revocation of his Egyptian citizenship earlier this year, had an exclusive story for Gamel Girgis, who covers Christian emigrants for al Youm al Sabaa, the Seventh Day, a daily newspaper here. Sadek had a movie clip he wanted Girgis to see; he e-mailed him a link.
“He told me he produced a movie last year and wanted to screen it on Sept. 11th to reveal what was behind the terrorists’ actions that day, Islam,” Girgis said, recalling the first call, which came on Sept. 4. Sadek, a longtime source, “considers me the boldest journalist, the only one that would publish such stories.”
The report made no mention of the provocateur’s extreme pro-Israel views, however. On his blog dedicated to the “National American Coptic Assembly” — of which he describes himself “a president” — Morris Sadek provides an erratically punctuated outline of what he claims should be “The Coptic Position on Israel”:
We recognize the sacred right of the state of Israel and the Israeli people to the land of historic Israel .
“The right of Return” of the Jewish people to the land of their foremothers and forefathers is a sacred right. It has no statute of limitation. The return must continue to enrich the Middle East .
We recognize Jerusalem as simply a Jewish city, It must never be divided, She is, and shall always be, the united capital of Israel .
The future of the Palestinians lies with the Arab states. A Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria constitute an imminent danger to world peace.
The Chantilly-based National American Coptic Assembly, Inc., a private company with a staff of two, has an estimated annual revenue of $97,000. Considering the fawning pro-Israel statements of its principal, it’s not too difficult to speculate as to the source of that revenue.
- Radical Coptic Christian Morris Sadek and anti-Islam (bikyamasr.com)
President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday that influential Qatar-based Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi was not welcome in France, adding to concerns that the French leader is fueling Islamophobia.
Egyptian-born Qaradawi, 86, has been invited to visit next month by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF).
“I told the emir of Qatar himself that this gentleman was not welcome in the territory of the French Republic,” Sarkozy told France Info radio.
Qaradawi, who hosts a popular show on Al-Jazeera satellite television, backed Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and has launched a fund-raising effort for the Syrian opposition.
He had been due to attend the UOIF congress at Le Bourget near Paris on April 6 alongside renowned Egyptian preacher Mahmoud al-Masri.
“I said that a certain number of people, who have been invited to this congress and who maintain or who would like to take positions that are incompatible with the republican ideal, would not be welcome,” Sarkozy said.
Qaradawi, who has close ties with the leadership of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, left the country in the 1960s after being imprisoned by the regime of president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
He is accused of having made homophobic statements and was banned from entering Britain in 2008. He has been banned from entering the United States since 1999.
Sarkozy has fanned right-wing discourse ahead of French presidential elections this year in an attempt to win conservative voters wary of immigration and France’s large Muslim population.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan recently accused the French leader of inciting racism and Islamophobia in a bid to get re-elected.
- French President Sarkozy Sees Opportunity for Censorship, Seizes It (alethonews.wordpress.com)