"... Earlier this month in the UK, Richard Peppiatt, a reporter for the tabloid newspaper The Daily Star, quit after refusing to continue publishing fake anti-Islamic news stories he says he was ordered to write. The newspaper had recently decided to flirt with the far-right group, the English Defense League, whose anti-Islamic marches have been garnering much attention and support from working-class Brits (the paper's main demographic) throughout the country. ..."
April 27, 2010. Nine days away from the UK general elections. Phil Woolas, Immigration Minister and incumbent leader of the Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency is facing possible defeat as rival Liberal Democrat, Elwyn Watkins, gains ground on the Labour Member of Parliament. Campaign advisers for Woolas are worried; with their candidate tarnished by association to the unpopular prime minister Gordon Brown, and facing the possibility of tactical voting that could overturn his already slim majority, Joseph Fitzpatrick, campaign manager, emails his colleague Steven Green to discuss strategy. "If we don't get the white folk angry he's gone," he warns.
Over the next week, campaign literature floods the constituency, aligning rival Watkins to Islamic extremists, and Woolas as the sworn enemy to their fanatical demands.
May 6, 2010. Woolas wins by 103 votes.
It's a strategy endorsed throughout the western world, and one that has proven immensely successful since the global economic crash of 2008, as politicians take advantage of the increasingly bitter, desperate and divisive climate the crisis wrought. With elections looming in the US and much of Europe next year, right-wing parties, financed by the same groups that perpetrated the financial disaster, are embracing the strategy with increasing zeal.
You would think with unemployment just below 10 percent and a disapproval rating of 71 percent, French President Nicolas Sarkozy would have more to think about than halal food in school canteens. But non, for even the broody distractions of the smoking-hot Carla Bruni can't avert the pint-size conservative from sticking it to Islam. With polling for next year's elections placing him behind the resurgent far-right National Front party, Sarkozy has become increasingly vocal towards France's six million Muslims.
After declaring the rather-arbitrary concept of multiculturalism "dead" last month, as well as lambasting proposals by some schools to include halal food on their menu, on April 5, Sarkozy's UMP party will hold a national debate on the role of Islam in secular French society - an event which has caused controversy even among the president's ranks, with technical adviser for diversity Abderrahmane Dahmane last week dismissed after he advised Muslims not to support the UMP in protest.
Also in April, a similarly controversial ban on the burqa will go into law after Sarkozy acquiesced to the demands of the right-wing who saw the wearing of the full-face veil as an affront to their nation's creed of liberté, égalité, fraternité. An investigation carried out when the bill was initially proposed last year found 367 women would be affected by the ban - a finding so low, red-faced, knee-jerk fear-mongers ordered another investigation which to their relief found the slightly more frightening number of around 1,900.
Bans on the burqa and niqab (the less-threatening veil that merely covers the face) are in vogue throughout Europe at present, in much the same way as Sharia Law has become the fashionable threat du jour among all self-respecting Islamophobes in the US. Even traditional bastions of democratic liberalism are getting in on it, with increasing support being found for the stripping of Muslims' clothing.
In Denmark, home of the controversial 2005 cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad, a burqa ban is being proposed as the right look towards elections later this year. A recent academic report looking into the ramifications of such a ban found that three (yes, three) women would be affected by the full veil ban, and between 100-200 who opted for the more airy niqab.
In the Netherlands , home of the controversial douchebag, Geert Wilders , 400 of the country's 17 million inhabitants will be affected by a ban initiated by Wilders himself after recent elections saw him make enough ground to force his way into a ruling coalition government.
And in Sweden, home of hot blonds and even more hot blonds, an estimated 100 obviously-not-hot-blonds would be affected out of the nation's 9 million citizens following last year's electoral gains for the far-right Sweden Democrats party whose campaign video depicting a gang of burqa-clad Muslims overtaking a sweet old, granny in a race to welfare payments was deemed too incendiary for television broadcasters. (It subsequently became a big hit on YouTube among inbred Swedes physically capable of thumping in the # with their malformed hands.)
All three had the same thing in common as every other nation currently witnessing a surge in anti-Islamic discrimination: an economic crisis that destroyed tens of millions of jobs that disproportionately affected society's most vulnerable.
It's a correlation that has historical precedence.
In the 1930s, the economic distress felt in Germany in the aftermath of both the first World War and the Great Depression had led to an unemployment rate of over 30% by the time Adolf Hitler came to power in 1934. His National Socialism party, previously relegated to political insignificance with support mainly coming from the upper-middle class and business tycoons, saw their support rise dramatically as working-class Germans saw the charismatic Fuhrer as the solution to their socio-economic ills. Within this climate the evil machinations of the regime were allowed to flourish, as rational citizens reduced to economic despair offered themselves with increasing susceptibility to the stigmatizing propaganda of the Nazi leadership.
Modern-day Germany largely avoided the worst of the latest Wall Street-induced recession but has still witnessed anti-Islamic rhetoric seeping its way into the national dialogue as Chancellor Angela Merkel looks towards next year's elections. Echoing the sentiment of allies Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Merkel last October declared multiculturalism to be dead, while earlier this month the interior minister for Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party stated that Islam didn't "belong" in Germany, a remark that understandably proved controversial in a nation already tainted by its historical persecution of minorities. The comments follow on from the publication last year of 'Germany Is Making Itself Redundant', a book written by a former member of the central bank, Thilo Sarrazin, which caused much uproar with its claims that the growing number of "undereducated" Muslims, resistant to cultural assimilation, were making Germany "more stupid". (Not "stupider", Rob H.)
In the last week, the US has witnessed a number of examples of anti-Islamic sentiment, some overt, some - in a manner popular among a right-wing too embarrassed to publicly express their moronity - via dog-whistle declarations. Republican Peter King's McCarthyist trials, James O'Keefe's latest sting aimed at dismantling institutions antithetical to corporate America, and Mike Huckabee's 'misspoken' comments aimed at appeasing the sizable group of Birther morons still cognitively capable of turning on a radio, all stemmed from the same desire to stoke further Islamophobic unease for political gain.
While Huckabee, a potential GOP nominee for next year's presidential elections, was rescinding his initial comment stating President Obama was born in Kenya (only to subsequently make an explicit reference to Islamic schools Obama lived among for a few brief years of his childhood in Indonesia,) Peter King was commencing with his public hearings into the extent of "radicalization" among Muslims in American communities, basing this disturbing theater of unabashed ignorance on the erroneous, unfounded right-wing myth that states 85% of mosques are led by extremists; a decade-old meme sourced to an obscure Californian cleric who has never offered evidence for his claims. (Considering the preponderance of religion in modern America, evidence-based claims probably aren't regarded with as much reverence as in the rest of the western world.)
Where Huckabee and King succeeded in sowing further seeds of anxiety into a populace in which an already disturbing 20 percent are estimated to believe their self-avowed Christian president is a Muslim, 26-year-old activist O'Keefe failed miserably.
At least in the unedited version of his video.
Dressing in what he most likely assumes to be Islamic garb (having seen his pimp costume, I don't think the guy really has the greatest of grasps on the reality of the stereotypes in his head), O'Keefe attempted to goad outgoing NPR exec Ron Schiller into expressing the kind of anti-Semitic, pro-Hamas sentiments those on the right like to believe liberals indulge in regularly. But Schiller didn't provide him the satisfaction, instead offering relatively tame remarks castigating the overly-religious stupidity of the stupidly over-religious. Unsurprisingly the maliciously-edited videos proved catnip to those in certain parts of the media whose political interests are intertwined with those of O'Keefe, and, like his previous stings appear to have been coordinated with particular members of Congress seeking to destroy political bugbears that run contrary to their own ideologies; but far more surprising, however, was the remarks from Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze, which, after viewing the entire two-hour tape, dismissed it as intentionally misleading and designed to lie .
All this merely a week among many that preceded it in which America's less than 5 million Muslims have been maligned and scapegoated for political expediency.
And not a single example best represents this disgusting practice than that which occurred last year only months before the mid-term elections.
There's something strange, in your neighborhood...
The Zadgroga bill shouldn't have had too much trouble getting passed. At a relatively low cost of $7 billion, aimed at providing health benefits for 9-11 first responders, it wasn't like it was poor black people or women looking to dictate their own lives who were reaping the benefits from the potential law. But for nearly two years, Republicans had remained intransigent, refusing to provide Obama with any perceivable success, and they weren't about to stop for 9-11 heroes. But saying no to those who embodied the brave, patriotic spirit of the immediate period following the deadliest terrorist attack in American history represented a risk with midterm elections on the horizon. So who did Republicans call for divine intervention?
The Islamic center to be built on 45–51 Park Place, Manhattan, had already been proposed in late 2009. Two blocks away from Ground Zero - the location of the World Trade Center attacks brought about by people who, according to former president George W. Bush, despised America's role as "beacon of democracy" to the world - little protest was made when the New York Times reported the plans on its front page on December 8. Come May when building permission was granted, opposition was relegated to the incoherent whines of right-wing bloggers. Indeed, Fox News had featured the issue on its 'editorial' shows only twice, on Shaun Hannity's show, the whole month. In June, it was featured once, again via Hannity.
The first Republican rejection of the Zadroga bill came on July 29 when it failed to reach the necessary two-thirds majority in the House of Represenatives. 243 Democrats and 12 Republicans expressed support for the bill, against 155 Republicans and 4 Democrats who opposed, leading to a 255-159 vote.
In the month of July leading up to the failure in the House, Hannity discussed the '9-11 mosque' on four shows throughout the entire month. The only other coverage elsewhere came via On the Record with Greta van Susteren when she hosted Newt Gingrich three days before the Zadroga bill failed.
Fox News coverage of the 9-11 mosque picked up the immediate week after Republicans rejected the 9-11 bill. Within the first two weeks of August, Hannity featured the issue on 8 shows. Special Report with Bret Baier focused on the mosque for the first time a week after Zodroga failed. Bill O'Reilly covered it daily throughout the first week of August and continued to focus on the topic as the nation's beacons of democracy started to stand up in defiance of the religious building's construction.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was the face of the Islamic center. Despite having received praise for his proposals when interviewed on Fox News by Laura Ingraham in December, 2009, Rauf became progressively more vilified as the controversy swelled. Links to terrorism abounded in the blogosphere, amplified via dog-whistle declarations purporting to be straight news stories on Fox News, and openly embraced by the right-wing punditocracy.
Contributors to the center included Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who had donated $300,000 towards Rauf's foundation. Al-Waleed also happened to be the second-largest shareholder in News Corps, the company, led by Australian news magnate Rupert Murdoch, behind the Fox News channel. With his $2.3 billion, 7% stake in News Corp, and News Corp's mutual $70 million, 9% stake in Al-Waleed's media conglomerate, Rotana, ties between the two were evidently close. But while Fox News pundits repeatedly inferred shady dealings behind the dreaded affront to American liberty situated on Park51, making unsubstantiated links to all manners of global terrorist organizations funding the building, no mention was made of Al-Waleed. "Should we worry that terror dollars could be funding the project?," asked Fox Business Channel's Eric Bolling. Yes, but not corporate dollars.
For Al-Waleed was a martyr. For the gods of Reagan, Thatcher and Friedman.
Thanks to the furor created around the mosque Fox helped build, nobody even noticed the Zadroga bill. Nobody was there to point out the ludicrousness of a mere $7 billion towards 9-11 heroes being rejected by uniform Republican opposition. As the ninth anniversary of the attacks approached, normal Americans weren't lining up outside fire stations or police buildings in the streets of New York, urging their Congressmen to overlook politics and come to the rescue of those who felt no such reluctance in the aftermath of 9-11, they were amassing outside mosques and hurling vitriolic insults at anyone with a beard and a braincell.
Like the Tea Party movement, resentment was manufactured by those with money and interests not being shown the subservient reverence they believed they were due.
Failing to meet Senate voting requirements again in early December, the Zadroga bill would finally be passed on December 22 after Republicans received the $81.5 billion worth of tax cuts for the top two percent they'd demanded. Zadroga was compromised down to $4.2 billion .
By that point, the 9-11 controversy had dissipated, with the midterm elections having diverted the focus to the intentionally-misinterpreted remarks made by Obama about Republicans getting on the "back of the bus" being turned into a further round of racially-fuelled dog-whistle declarations. Democrats subsequently received a whipping from the electorate, as Republicans got off scot-free, power transferring back into their hands as they sought to quell the economic recovery for their own political gain.
The 9-11 mosque; the undercover videos; the congressional witch trials; the dog-whistles - they're all part of the same underlying strategy currently being adopted throughout Europe: using the fear of minorities whose customs are alien to us as a tool for votes.
The 4.8 million Muslims in America aren't trying to enforce Sharia law on the unsuspecting public; that's a self-evident fact to any rational observer. But yet, over a dozen states are presently proposing laws aimed at preventing such an imposition on state law (many unashamedly lending from a template offered to them by Arizonan white supremacist, David Yerushaimi ).
That we focus on the actions of the few who seek to hurt us over the many who don't is understandable. But ignoring the fact that majority exist simply because their normality doesn't have as explosive an impact on our conscience is not.
As a self-confessed atheist, liberal douchebag, I don't feel any affinity to Islam or those who follow its guidance. I find the literal interpretations that are allowed to fester in certain parts of the world as equally abhorrent as the literal interpretations Christianity used to get away with in Europe before citizens began to escape its authoritative shackles (largely on the back of those certain parts of the world now rendered less 'civilized').
But the treatment of Muslims today has precedent in the treatment of blacks and Jews before them - minorities whose strange exoticism is exploited by those in power to avoid responsibility for the stagnant, albeit personally-rewarding, society they oversee and maintain. Like the unions and foreigners I referred to in my previous columns, the actions of the few are skewed to portray the whole, all to benefit those who seek to perpetuate the status quo that keeps us and them apart and me and you divided.
The way we tackle the problem of Islamic extremism and terrorism isn't by holding vote-winning show trials or introducing redundant laws aimed solely towards maligning an entire community - it is by criticizing these bastards who do as much to recruit vulnerable minds to such extremes as those cowardly clerics spreading their vile propaganda through YouTube videos and training manuals; it is by confronting those vulnerable minds and educating them to the reality that they too are being manipulated by others into judging the whole by the few.
You can't wage a war on Islamic terrorism while simultaneously engaging in a war against Islam, and expect to ever succeed. Only those looking to profit off such a cyclically-redundant approach would ever suggest otherwise.
Earlier this month in the UK, Richard Peppiatt, a reporter for the tabloid newspaper The Daily Star, quit after refusing to continue publishing fake anti-Islamic news stories he says he was ordered to write. The newspaper had recently decided to flirt with the far-right group, the English Defense League, whose anti-Islamic marches have been garnering much attention and support from working-class Brits (the paper's main demographic) throughout the country. Having worked on such fabricated stories as one in which the paper decried a local council's decision to spend taxpayers' money on Muslim-only public toilets (conjuring up racist imagery by referring to the toilets as "squat-holes"), subsequently celebrating the paper's success in stopping the "non-existent Islamic cisterns of evil", Peppiatt decided he'd had enough. Writing a resignation letter to Daily Star owner and former porn magazine baron, Richard Desmond, and sharing the email with various newspapers, Peppiatt warned against the incendiary rhetoric of the newspaper's reporting:
"You may have heard the phrase, 'The flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil sets off a tornado in Texas.' Well, try this: 'The lies of a newspaper in London can get a [guy]'s head caved in down an alley in Bradford.'
If the biggest boon to an electoral campaign team is getting the white vote angry, the biggest threat is getting the entire vote educated.
If we continue to allow people to profit off Muhammad, we'll all end up broke.