The rise and rise of Islamophobia
By Ishmahil Blagrove jr
The so-called "Red Scare," or threat of Communism, has conveniently been replaced by the irrational fear of Islam. Muslims have now become enemy No.1. Within the remit of this so-called "War on Terror" is the dissemination of propaganda aimed at discrediting Islam and associating it with terrorism.
“Are you a communist?” These were the accusatory words sung by Joseph McCarthy, the neurotic, hard-drinking US senator who was the architect behind the US public’s hysteria towards communism in the early 1950s.
The Senate hearings of the House of Un-American Activities, presided over by Senator McCarthy, destroyed thousands of careers and ruined the lives of many more, in a blind witch hunt that sought to identify the “Enemies From Within”: communists and their “red” sympathisers. McCarthy’s reign of terror came to an abrupt and ignoble end when his witch hunt began targeting senior members of the US government and high-ranking military officials.
On 5 May 2003, the US Senate released transcripts from the many interrogations conducted by McCarthy and his henchmen and laid bare an unsavoury period of American History. "Today, by providing broad public access to the transcripts of this era, we hope that the excesses of McCarthyism will serve as a cautionary tale for future generations," said Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine.
But has the USA learnt the harsh lessons of McCarthyism? Has the wider world paused and reflected upon the hysteria which currently pervades our society? The so-called “Red Scare,” or threat of Communism, has conveniently been replaced by the irrational fear of Islam and Muslims have now become that “Enemy from Within.”
When the US invaded Afghanistan under the pretext of the terrorist attacks on the US of September 11, 2001, both George W. Bush and Tony Blair went to great lengths to stress, “This is not a war on Islam, this is a war on terror.”
Yet by their actions and the subsequent actions of the media, it is quite clear that within the remit of this so-called “War on Terror” is the dissemination of propaganda aimed at discrediting Islam and associating it with the wider threat and, in effect, creating a fear of Islam amongst the public.
Terrorism has always been with us, whether perpetrated by the IRA, Baader-Meinhof, Red Brigade, ETA, Carlos The Jackal, or Abu Nidal. It has always been here. The fundamental difference is that terrorism of today has been framed by Western governments and the corporate media as a unified and organized international campaign with Islamic ideological aims rather than political demands.
Islam has replaced communism as the “great evil” and conveniently justifies the billions of dollars the US government has pumped into its defense industry since the Cold War. The fear of Islam has also conveniently found a tangible reason to justify NATO’s continued existence.
Every act of terror perpetrated by someone of the Islamic faith is portrayed as an act endorsed and encouraged by Islam. Al-Qaeda are suggested to be the ideological brain and muscle behind this international campaign, in an attempt to do away with “infidels,” destroy civilization, and impose Islamic Sharia law across the globe.
Yet when the IRA launched its terror campaign across Britain in an attempt to rid the British presence from Ireland, did the media frame it as a Catholic campaign against hard working, law-abiding Protestants?
Had they decided such, they would have had enough information to shape the public’s perceptions, sectarian violence, segregated communities, murders for association with individuals from the opposing faith. Yet, that period of terror was presented through the political demands of the IRA: “British troops out of Ireland.”
Likewise, David Copeland, the young British racist who was intent on sparking a race war, planted bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho, creating havoc and generating a real sense of terror amongst Londoners.
The media went to great lengths to ensure that ethnic minorities in Britain were aware that this was an isolated incident perpetrated by a sick individual with warped values. I dare say, they would not have been so generous had a Koran been found at his home.
The aims of Al-Qaeda and other militant groups are no different from those of the IRA or ETA, their raison d’etre being political rather than religious: the removal of Western troops from Muslim lands. The struggles of the Palestinian people for self-determination are sold to the world through the prism of their Islamic faith rather than their legitimate demands for self-rule.
The Western media fails to put into context the images they broadcast to their audiences; they will show the pre-recorded statement of a suicide bomber asking “Allah” to help him destroy his enemies, or broadcast the words of an Islamic cleric blessing the actions of a combatant.
But, isn’t this what army chaplains do in every Western army? Do not Christian soldiers ask their God to make them victorious over their enemy before they go into battle?
If Islamic broadcasters so chose, they too could broadcast to their audiences video statements of armed Christian soldiers claiming to be doing God’s work and invoking God to crush their enemies. They too could frame the Boy Scouts, the Army and the Air Cadets as the Western media portrays Madrasas: as training grounds for young terrorists.
They too could portray acts of American and British aggression as acts of terrorism against their populations. We are continually informed that acts of terror are blindly initiated by young men who adopt warped interpretations of Islam and believe that they are doing “God’s will.”
Yet does not President George W. Bush also claim to be in communication with God, Whom he suggested instructed him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq?
Editor's note: The concluding part of this piece runs tomorrow
Ishmahil Blagrove jr is a documentary film maker. He has covered stories for such broadcasters as the BBC and Channel 4 news in Britain. He is presently a director of ricenpeas, an online film magazine
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