Tuesday, August 10, 2004


The War on Islam, cont'd

There is a worthwhile piece on CommonDreams from Parvez Ahmed, a CAIR boardmember, about the media's roll in fostering an environment of Islamophobia in the United States. Ahmed argues that it isn't just the Bill O'Reillys, Sean Hannitys, and Michael Savages (who regularly, outspokenly, and unabashedly attack Islam in the most bigoted manner) that twist the "average American"'s view of Islam and Muslims, but the US media in general who, if they do not actively partake in the twisting, sit back without questioning it.
The 9/11 Commission reported with alarming alacrity that 'Islamist terrorism' is the greatest threat posed to the United States. A University of Washington professor of Islamic studies Brannon Wheeler now questions why the commission did not use any Islamic scholar to 'explain Islam, Muslim religious activism or bin Laden.' Journalists in expected their watchdog role should have been more diligent, asking the commission to explain 'Islamist' instead of leaving its meaning open to the imagination of uninformed readers.

Another recent headline stated, 'Saudi security forces kill Islamic militants.' Perhaps a better choice would have been 'Islamic forces kill Saudi militants.' After all Saudi Arabia is a self-described Islamic country whose security forces are 'Islamic' and the militants unmistakably Saudi.

On August 5 three stories came across AP news wires - the arrest in a sting operation of two Muslims, the arrest of a man who allegedly had plans to bomb a federal building, and FBI raid on a home investigating anthrax. Guess which story made your headline news?

Such repetitive slant in media coverage builds an environment in which bigotry fosters. It is thus not surprising that radio and television talk shows are resplendent with both caller and host assertions that Muslims have either not condemned terrorism or have only six degrees of separation from it. A Pew Forum survey shows that 44 percent of Americans believe Islam encourages violence and 49 percent believe one in two Muslims to be anti-American. Neither public opinion reflects reality.
The fact that pretty much half of Americans believe that (at least) one in two Muslims is anti-American is pretty sad. Polls and studies (such as the recent one by Shibley Telhami at UMD) show that increasingly Muslims around the world who have negative views of US foreign policy believe that the US is not acting simply out of strategic reasons, such as control of oil or support for Israel, but in order to hurt Muslims. It seems that this "clash of civilizations" world view feeds off itself as each group increasingly confronts the other side as a monolithic enemy, at the same time setting itself up to be painted the same way by the other. I think there is time to change the tide. I think if Kerry wins the election, one of the things that he needs to make a top priority is to change the language of the war on terror away from "Islamist terror", "jihadists", and "Islamofacism" that has moved from Michael Savage right wing mania into the mainstream discussion. This is very, very important.

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