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Re-assessing the war on Islam :: Part One ::
"Long before September 11, 2001, many around the world were seriously suspicious of the US and its allies’ intentions vis-à-vis their war on terrorism. Many analysts concluded that the US is setting a stage for a religious war. Yet many disagreed."
Human history is witness to the fact that the most disastrous consequences of human interaction are always the direct result of two basic factors: naïve assumptions and denial of reality.
The most important naïve assumptions of our age are: 1) The United States’ new unilateralism is no more than "injured innocence," and a natural response of any victim of terror; and 2) Islam is the source of violence and instability.
The single and most important denial of this age is the belief that material self-interest, and not antipathy to Islam, has been the driving force behind US foreign policy.
Long before September 11, 2001, many around the world were seriously suspicious of the US and its allies’ intentions vis-à-vis their war on terrorism. Many analysts concluded that the US is setting a stage for a religious war. Yet many disagreed.
After September 11, aggressive militarism has openly been endorsed by America's corporate and political establishment. “Mainstream” commentators, who represents the outlook of the dominant forces in US ruling circles, now argue that, given its awesome military might, American ambition has been still insufficient.
Many of us still brush aside when Max Boot, editor of the Wall Street Journal, writes that "Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets". The Washington Post’s calls for an "imperialist revival" and the need for Americans to "impose their own institutions on disorderly ones" is just another opinion for those who prefer to live in denial.
But the counter-evidence to such denial is getting much stronger by the day. A list of indicators makes this crystal clear. In the pre-September 11, 2001 environment, analysts based their theory of the US and its allies’ war on Islam on the following indicators.
(1) Vagueness: The vague and open-ended nature of the war against terrorism led many to view it a war on Islam;
(2) Targeting Islam: Many observed that the US may be reacting against a religion rather than merely against some extremist organisations;
(3) Irresponsible media: The reality that ever fewer corporations, all thinking alike, provide the bulk of disinformation about Islam to ordinary Americans;
(4) Fear: Instances where important actions by the US government are based on fear generated over a period of time;
(5) Culture of violence: The extent to which violent attitudes permeate American thinking and then redirected towards an external enemy;
(6) Authoritarianism: Imposing dictators who serve American interests without any fear of accountability of their massive human rights violations and sidelining democracy; and
(7) Militant secularisation: American efforts to separate Muslims from Islam in the name of promoting secularism.
It is now time to re-assess and find whether these indicators have improved or worsened during the past three years. It is time to understand whether the war on Islam is a myth or reality. The world needs to see if there is still some room left to doubt that the intentions on the part of policy makers, military planners and war lord in academia and media are not to undermine Islam as a way of life. Reassessing the situation on the basis of the same indicators gives us the following results.
The pre-9/11 vagueness of the “war on terrorism” has disappeared altogether. It is not a vague war anymore. Muslims thought that the Western Alliance has not defined the so-called war on terrorism, or terrorism itself very clearly. In response, the US 9/11 Commission report has left no doubt for anyone to think that it could be a war on Islam. It has openly declared that it, in fact, is a war on “Islamic ideology.”
What is demonized as “Islamic ideology” is nothing but Islam. If anyone still has doubts the reasons put forward for a war on Islam, he must watch BBC's documentary showing members of the British National Party expressing anti-Islam feelings; read statements from the Norwegian politicians, demanding for a ban on Islam; read the 9/11 Commission's report, confirming ideological war with Islam and read reviews on this report, endorsing the pre-conceived recommendations of the panel and continuing the associated war of words on Islam.
Whether the warlords call it “Islamic ideology” or “Islamism,” these are no more than rancid notions used for demonizing the message of Islam. In a Washington Post op-ed published on July 20, 2004, Senators Kyl and Lieberman argued “the world war against Islamic terrorism is the test of our time.” The objective of adding “Islamic” to terrorism is pat of the broader attempt to undermining Islam as a way of life.
Unlike until late 1990s, no one thinks anymore that the war on terrorism is directed at local militias or some select Muslim organizations. Now the warlords are coming out of their closet with real intentions displayed without any fear. For example, David Brooks clearly states: “emphasizing ideology instead of terror makes all the difference, because if you don't define your problem correctly, you can't contemplate a strategy for victory.” 
So the victory is not intended against terror, as the world has long been duped. It is to overcome an ideology, which the Norwegian politicians have further clarified as Islam “the way it was practiced when it was established in year 600.”
Similarly, with or without universally agreed definition for terrorism, it has become evident as to what is terrorism for the warlords in Washington. Anyone attempting to resist US occupation and working to establish Islamic way of life is a terrorist. The more the war intensifies, the more even American public realizes that it is a war on Islam.
New phrases and notions are used to present some twisted facts about Islam and generate as much fear of Muslims’ desire to live by Islam as possible. For example, the First Jerusalem Summit was held in Jerusalem on October 12-14, 2003. Many political and academic leaders- mostly Jewish and all Zionist - met to develop a joint strategy against what they call "the Totalitarianism of the East represented by radical Islam, as well as against Moral Relativism of the West, which erodes our resolve to fight that evil." At the same time number of people increases who consider this is a “crusade” that the US “must win.”
2). Targeting Islam:
Bush’s first term in the office and his doubtful re-election is ample evidence of the fact that years of groundwork by neo-cons, evangelicals and other warlords in the media and academia have convinced many that they can and they have to suppress Islam.
In the beginning of intellectual crusade, the Economist wrote under the headline, The Islamic Threat: “It is the mightiest power in the Levant and North Africa. Governments tremble before it. Arabs everywhere turn to it for salvation from their various miseries. This power is not Egypt, Iraq, or indeed any nation, but the humble mosque” (March 13, 1993, pg. 25). Later on, the New York Times blared a full-page headline on January 21, 1996: “The Red Menace is Gone, but Here’s Islam.”
Many laughed at those who considered it a war on Islam. Those who were carried away by the initial vagueness of this war are now speechless as the intellectual horror is being translated to physical horror in the Muslim world. There is hardly any doubt left that the target is Islam. Note, for example, a sign outside the non-denominational Living Hope Church in Whitney, Pennsylvania. It reads: "To really remember 9/11, you must remember Islam is the enemy."
Interestingly, it is no more a few “delusional” Muslims alone who cry it is a war on Islam. Many Western analysts have come to the conclusion that even September 11 was staged to demonize Muslims. The trust of the whole strategy is to keep Muslim away from following and living by Islam, and to eliminate all those who may resist.
The situation is far worse than ever before. Even during the Crusades, Europeans sought primarily to recover control of Palestine, rather than to exterminate or convert all Muslims. Admittedly, attempts to suppress a pseudo-religion may succeed when its leaders, headquarters and many of the followers are wiped out, as American law enforcement agents did when their actions led to the deaths of David Koresh and his followers, and the destruction of their Branch Dravidian compound, near Waco, Texas in 1993. But under the blitz of propaganda, many have come to believe that Islam, too, can be wiped out.
They, however, can starve Muslims for decades, occupy Muslim lands, carryout genocides as they did in Iraq, but holding 1.2 billion Muslims from living by Islam is absolutely impossible. Yet influential figures as Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Kenneth Adelman of the Defence Depatment advisory policy board, a former Reagan administration official, earlier criticized Bush for his efforts to assure Muslims that his “war is against terrorism, not against their religion.”
Muslims cannot deceive themselves with thoughts that it is only a war on Al-Qaeda etc when they read and hear from persons in authority such as Randall Price, author of Unholy War, that "In 2002 we ask the question, ´is the US waging a war with Islam?´ If it isn’t, it should be"?
How can we suppose otherwise when the American commentators clearly state that this is "the first US religious war." There is hardly any room for denial. The analysts keep stressing that there is no difference between differently labelled Muslims. They are all one and must be targeted as such. In a seminar on "the identity of our enemy," Daniel Pipes said: "Distinguishing between ´mainstream Islamists and fringe ones is like making a distinction between mainstream Nazis and fringe Nazis." As he put it, "They’re all gunning for the same totalitarian goals, and which methods they’re using at this moment I don’t consider very important at all."
3). Irresponsible media
The media that was considered just biased and irresponsible has proved itself to be accomplice of the war lords busy in genocides across Iraq, ethnic cleansing in Israel and human right violations elsewhere. The only reason, again, is the show of unity and solidarity to the face of “Islamic threat” to a corrupt order.
Muslims used to give media some benefit of doubt until recently. They didn’t hesitate to praise the reporters who worked for the major international media organizations. They were considered as human, whose’ questions, assumptions — even their styles of dress — could show that they ultimately tend to have Western attitudes toward the subjects they cover.
They were given the befit of doubt that their behavior is nothing compared to that of their bosses, the editors and the media executives and the overall policies of their institutions. These bosses are driven, not only by a pursuit of truth, but also by an awareness that their organization will not survive, in a competitive capitalist economy, if it does not show viewers what the establishment and the policy makers want.
The reality, however, proved to be totally against such naïve assumptions about the motives of warlords in the American media in particular. Most Western journalists have gone far beyond tending to become the advocates of their government policies rather than objective and dedicated reporters of the facts. They have become embedded reporters and analysts.
The media has actually played a role in justifying the war on Islam. Here are a few examples:
·*. Persons like Ralph Peters are glorified for making the world believe that "entire [Islamic] religious civilization…must change if it is to survive economically and culturally"?
·*. Instead of blaming individuals, or a particular phenomenon, public is forced by leading newspapers, such as LA Times to read: "Islam's outdated domination theology" needs to be defeated to "give peace a chance."
·*. So many others, like Friedman of the New York Times, love to worship Huntington's rotten theory and try to make others believe that an "understanding [of a 'different Islam'] is the necessary condition for preventing the brewing crisis between Islam and the West from turning into a war of civilizations."
·*. The media never tires of linking "Violence and Islam." Charles Krauthammer is an example whose work praises Huntington and declares: "There is no denying the fact… that 'Islam has bloody borders.'" This is how they fell into pernicious fallacy that civilizations, which are cultural phenomenon, can be treated as if they were responsible political entities. Does it not reduce Muslims identification to merely what they are rather than what they do?
·*. Think tanks and their personalities such as Robert Tracinski are promoted widely in the press and electronic media. They clearly state: "Politicians, the press, and academics have rushed to declare that this is not a war between Islam and the West. Islam, we have been told again and again, is really ´a religion of peace. Perhaps the reason we have to be told this so many times is because it so obviously contradicts the facts."
·*. An associate at the Center for the Study of the Middle East and North Africa, Anthony T. Sulliva, becomes star of Washington Times pages for admitting: "There is the policy posture that suggests Washington’s agreement with the notion that Islam is inherently a ´fanatic´ religion. This belief was recently given voice by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, echoing earlier comments by American officials." And Ignacio Ramonet declared in Le Monde as early as 2001: "You enjoyed anti-communism. You’re going to love anti-Islamism." And the taste of it lies in the media pieces constructed around the argument: "Are we at war with Islam? Most definitely not. But, Islam is at war with us. In fact, Islam has been at war with the West… ever since the days of Muhammad."
·*. Then there are countless cases of implicit value judgments, leading us to whereby comparison of "Evil Vs Good" is made. For instance, in an interview on Cal Thomas radio November 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft said: "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith where God sent his Son to die for you."
It is not that Islam is not what it once was. It is as much tolerant as it was when the Vikings were able to trade in relative safety with Baghdad a thousand years ago. Jews could live safely there too. It is only that the media’s role in portraying Islam as intolerant religion that has nothing to do with a way of life and ability to provide an alternative mechanism for governance has intensified manifold since September 11.
by courtesy & © 2004 Abid Ullah Jan
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