Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Islamophobia: A Bipartisan Project [1 of 2]


by Deepa Kumar

Deep in the Times article, another shocking revelation that hasn’t received as much attention as the “kill list” is the Obama administration’s effort to erase the deaths of some innocent victims by categorizing “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” This excludes them from the civilian casualties count, allowing the administration to claim that civilian casualties have been minimal. All Muslim men in “combat zones” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen have been presumed to be terrorists, and therefore worthy of death, simply for being of “military age.”
How did we get to a place where innocent Muslim men can be killed with impunity around the world with little public outcry? The short answer is that Muslims have been long been constructed as “terrorists” upon whom righteous terror can be rained. The image of the Muslim enemy in the US is not new. While Hollywood and television play a key role in conveying that image to the public, they did not create it. The “Muslim enemy” is inextricably tied to a long history of US imperialism.
The US and the Middle East
After World War II, the United States began take control of the Middle East from France and Britain. In so doing, all forces that stood in the way of US hegemony were cast as enemies, using the language of Orientalism developed in Europe. (I discuss this in greater detail in my book, Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.)
Through much of the 1950s and ’60s, secular Arab nationalists and leftists who failed to cooperate with this US agenda were seen as stooges of the USSR or as “terrorists.” The latter image intensified with the birth of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and its use of armed struggle. The PLO was coded as “terrorist” because of the close relationship between the United States and Israel.
Following the infamous incident at the 1972 Munich Olympics in which a group of Palestinians took Israeli athletes hostage and murdered them, the Nixon administration launched “Operation Boulder,” giving law enforcement agencies carte blanche to investigate Arab immigrants and Arab American citizens in search of connections to “terrorist” activities related to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Thus, a violent act committed in Munich by a handful of Palestinians became the basis on which all Arabs were designated as “suspicious”; the process of racial profiling had begun in earnest.
The “Arab terrorist” morphed into the “Islamic terrorist” after the 1979 Iranian revolution. When US embassy personnel were taken hostage in Iran for 444 days, the crisis generated daily front-page and headline news that effectively associated Islam with terror. Ayatollah Khomeini became the personification of all things evil, and all things Muslim. The Middle East henceforth would be seen through the lens of “Islam,” a distorted construction of the religion and the people who practiced it.
Under President Jimmy Carter Iranians were targeted, but it was for Reagan to take this much further though his counter-terrorism policy. He issued a secret National Security Directive designed to create a network of agencies that would prevent “terrorists” from entering or staying in the US. One program by the Alien Border Control Committee called for mass arrests of immigrants from Iran and from Arab nations. During the first Gulf War, in 1991, the elder Bush launched a surveillance program against Arab Americans, which Bill Clinton would take to an entirely new level with the passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), a precursor to the PATRIOT Act, which, among other things, made it legal to deport immigrants based on secret evidence.

Post-Cold War Politics

The 1990s witnessed a decade between what professor and Middle East expert Fawaz A. Gerges refers to as the “confrontationists” and the “accomodationists” in the American foreign policy establishment. The confrontationists argued that Islamism was the new post–cold war “Other” and that the United States needed to confront and challenge this adversary in the “clash of civilizations” that was to follow. The key ideologue leading this charge was Bernard Lewis (a close associate of the neocons), who penned his views in 1990 in a now-famous essay titled “The Roots of Muslim Rage,” in which he raised the alarm about an impending “clash of civilizations.” Samuel Huntington then popularized this concept in an essay titled “The Clash of Civilizations?” in Foreign Affairs, followed by a book with the same title (minus the question mark). Huntington put forward the thesis that in the new post–cold war era, conflict would be characterized by cultural differences between various civilizations. He named about seven or eight such civilizations, arguing that the Islamic civilization was among the more dangerous threats to the West.
This view was reflected in a slew of other articles. Journalist Judith Miller argued in Foreign Affairs that US policymakers should not try to distinguish between “good” and “bad” Islamists because there was a consensus among all Islamists to defeat the West. Confrontation, rather than co-optation or dialogue, was the only way to thwart this new enemy. Daniel Pipes, Martin Indyk (who served on Bill Clinton’s National Security Council), Jeane Kirkpatrick (a one-time Democrat turned dogged cold-warrior Republican) and others added their voice to this chorus. The “clash” thesis was not a partisan position; confrontationists belong to both political parties. The difference between the accommodationists and confrontationists was not over the goal of US hegemony; it was about strategy and rhetoric. During the 1990s, the accommodationist line dominated in Washington. The Bushpère and Clinton administrations sought to win over Muslim-majority countries by appealing to universal values and, under Clinton, free market policies.
Domestically, however, the hysteria against Muslims mounted during this period. The fear generated by the attempted bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 ensured that in 1995, when white right-wing Christian terrorist Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, Arabs and Muslims were immediately blamed. Congress passed AEDPA in 1996. In short, even before the events of 9/11, the groundwork had been laid for the legalized targeting of Muslims and Arabs.
Page    1      2
Source   Title image

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author (s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statement / s contained in this post.
We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Custom Search