By Faheem Khan
On July 22, 2011, the worst terrorist incident occurred in the mainland Europe since Madrid train bombing of 2004. A 32-year-old Norwegian, Anders Behring Breivik, detonated a bomb in Oslo and engaged in a shooting spree in the island of Utoya, killing 76 innocent Norwegians. It now transpired that the perpetrator was motivated by anti-Muslim, anti-immigration websites of the U.S. and Europe. Since 9/11 terrorist attacks, the whole public discourse in the West has been shot through with Muslim hatred. Originally anti-Muslim bias was spewed by marginal media outlets such as Frontpage Magazine. Later it entered into mainstream media. For a full decade anti-Muslim propaganda has been dinned into the ears of western public. The obvious result is the hostility of the public against Islam. When the whole atmosphere becomes hostile against a group of people, such incidents are not surprising. It must be noted that Breivik was only one of the countless individuals who were susceptible to this Islamophobic frenzy. Individuals are amenable to ideas according to their unique personalities and mindsets. There must be numerous others who may have been more poisoned than Breivik. It is just that the malicious animus would not be transformed into malignant velleity. But it does show the extent of anti-Muslim prejudice obtaining in the western societies.
Just before embarking on his carnage the mass-murderer posted his manifesto online. This manifesto reveals his preparations as dogged, obsessive and meticulous. It consisted of quotations from “counter-Jihadist” conservative blogs by Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes, The Gates of Vienna, and the most articulate and readable Fjordman. Some people chose to capitalize on the post 9/11 hostility towards Muslims and made a career out of it. Robert Spencer and Mark Steyn are the most notable examples of such opportunists.
As a matter of fact, there has all along been an anti-Muslim strain in the western public discourse. 9/11 only inflamed it to the surface. G.H. Jansen in his book, ‘Militant Islam’ traces it back to Crusades and Islam’s earliest invasions of Europe in the 8th Century AD. West does not hold similar grudge against other religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Even the great European visionary of 20th century, Sir Winston Churchill, was not above this prejudice. In 1899 he wrote, “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.” The West’s connivance at the genocide of Bosnian Muslims in early 1990′s point to the same syndrome. However, this Anti-Islam bias had only lurked under the surface. It is only 9/11 that brought it to the surface. While Howard Bloom’s ‘Lucifer Principle’ was a notable book, it was never a best-seller. He wrote this book years before 9/11 and smeared Islam an evil civilization. It was Robert Spencer’s ‘Truth About Muhammad’ and Mark Steyn’s ‘Amertica Alone’ that became New York Times best-sellers after 9/11. In the former Robert Spencer has leveled scurrilous aspersions on Prophet Muhammad, and in the latter Mark Steyn said that Muslims were “breeding like mosquitoes”.
Right on the heels of Norway massacre, on a US court orders FBI made public its Power-Point introduction to Islam. [http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/dangerroom/2011/07/Cultural-Interviewing-Interrogation-PowerPoint1.pdf ] FBI used this document to train its agents to interrogate and investigate Muslims. It is full of derogatory and jejune stereotypes about Islam and Muslims. It says, for example, Islam “transforms country’s culture into 7th century Arabian ways”. In the course of their quotidian life Muslims in the U.S. experience harassment at the hands of government agencies. They undergo especially grueling experience at the US airports. One would infer that other government security organizations use the similar treatises on Muslims as well. A few instances have transpired when FBI introduced its agents provocateurs in the mosques and in the Muslim community in the US. They would encourage some deviant elements to undertake some violent action. When they were on the verge of pulling the act off, they would arrest them. It accounts for the suspicion and surveillance carried out against Muslims in the US all the time.
In the final slides of this document, eight books are suggested as a further guide to Islam. All of these books are rabidly anti-Muslim. Out of these eight books, two are by the same phony Islam scholar, Robert Spencer. They are ‘Truth about Muhammad’, and ‘Islam Unveiled’. These books portray Islam a as a violent and backward doctrine. Another book in the list is the notorious ‘The Arab Mind’ by Raphael Patai. In this book Patai describes Arab people as over-sexed, lazy, uncreative, hateful and violent. It is also depressing to see that this book is not only the bible of neo-conservatives think-tanks, but it is also the bible on Arab behaviour for the US military. The U.S. Department of State, too, used to give free copies to officials when they were posted to US embassies in the Middle East.
Incidentally, it lends credence to the thesis of Orientalism put forward by late Columbia University Professor Edward Said. According to him, in the West Islam is painted as ‘the threatening Other’, and Muslims are portrayed as “fanatical, violent, lustful, and irrational.” It all makes for a public discourse tailored to drive western colonialism in the Middle East. Muslim lands are believed to be fit places to dominate, occupy, and exploit for sensual and material benefits. Prof Said’s singular achievement consists in putting Orientalism in the centre of western civilization for the first time in history.
We are living in scoundrel times. In the West, Islamophobic wave has cast us in the light of fifth columnists, whereas in our native countries we are being ruled by brutal and corrupt rulers. But there is a silver lining in this sorry state of affairs. It has made us sorely conscious of our decadence and degeneration. To borrow the words of Fjordman, the same blogger who fueled Mr. Breivik’s massacre, “Muslims in Europe are ranked close to the bottom of all indicators of education and social achievements. Muslims, being 20 % of the world’s population, have produced only three Nobel laureates in science and literature, whereas Jews, being only 0.2% of the world’s population, have received more than 120 Nobel prizes in science, economics, medicine and literature. Jews before WW2 filled up Europe’s universities. Muslims now fill up Europe’s prisons.” The sad part of it is that all of this is true.
A pause must be taken to contemplate why it has come to this pass. Let us reflect on our causes of decline. Suffering sometimes acts as a powerful stimulus to struggle to change one’s plight. Jews had suffered millennia of humiliation and persecution. It is only during and after Holocaust that they emerged strong and regenerated. The decades of captivity, exploitation, and humiliation finally galvanized Arabs into starting current Arab spring. Being conscious of one’s misery is the first step towards rectifying it. Let us not waste the current crisis. Let it awaken ourselves into action. To paraphrase Jawaharlal Nehru in his book, ‘Discovery of India’: we have a long way to go and much leeway to make up before we could assume our station in the van of human civilization. Like it or not, we do not have a choice. Ralph Waldo Emerson advised Americans in19th century not to go to Europe as interlopers. At that age Americans were under inferiority complex vis-a-vis European culture, and would tend to visit Europe to burnish their cultural credentials. And Europeans would look down upon them. Emerson’s advice is equally apt for us in these dark times. Let’s build our own respective societies into more livable places. Let us think ways to regenerate ourselves. Let us put emphasis on education. Let us leave our women alone and not try to oppress them or dictate their lives. And finally, let us try to sustain and protect our amour propre, and not just desperately try to move to the West and continue living there on sufferance.