Monday, June 21, 2004


The War on Islam

I read several things today which were quite upsetting. The first is an incident at UC-Irvine that Juan Cole addresses in Informed Comment. At UC-Irvine, there are 11 Muslim students who had planned to wear a stole at their graduation ceremonies with inscriptions in Arabic on one side reading "Lord, increase my knowledge" and on the other "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Messenger." Apparently this outraged some Jewish student groups and outside groups such as the American Jewish Congress. Have these people not heard of religious freedom? Is practicing Islam suddenly against the law? For a much better analysis than I could possibly offer, please read Juan Cole's thoughts on the matter. In essence these groups have equated Islam with terrorism, and they are not alone. In today's Washington Post Express there is an article on the reaction to the beheading of Paul Johnson last week. The article reads:
EAGLESWOOD TOWNSHIP, N.J.| Backlash over the beheading of a U.S. contractor in Saudi Arabia was as clear as a sign in the town where he was born.

"Stamp out Islam," read a cardboard sign that also depicted a hand-drawn boot over a crescent and star. Phil Galasso posted it on a utility pole near his house in Eagleswood Township.

"I'm getting a little fed up with the mindless violence against civilians who had nothing to do with the war in the Middle East," Galasso said Sunday. He called Islam a "vile, bigoted faith" that subjugates women and uses force to spread its message.
Does this man seriously have any idea what is coming out of his mouth? "Bigoted"? Nothing like a hand-drawn cardboard sign to illustrate bigotry (although probably not the way he intended). "Mindless"? Check. "Civilians that had nothing to do with the war in the Middle East"? Actually, Johnson was a contractor for Apache (whose helicopter gunships are used frequently in the Middle East), a fact specifically referenced by his murderers (my point here is not to excuse the murder of Paul Johnson, but to plumb the depths of Phil Galasso's ignorance). The equating of Islam with terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but the rhetoric turns uglier as things get worse in the Middle East (in Iraq and Saudi Arabia most recently). People who were once "Islamic militants" or "radicals" are now commonly refered to in the TV news as "animals" and "savages". It's disgustingly jingoistic and I believe directly encourages ignorance and, eventually, violence.

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