While each has its distinctive history, like Anti-Semitism
and racism, Islamophobia is a real phenomenon that cultivates hate among
communities, stereotypes a whole group for the acts of a few, and justifies
transgression against the innocent. And like the rest, Islamophobia was
developed and is fostered by special interest groups who often have access to
power in order to reach a political, social, or an economic end.
With few exceptions, gone are the days when the perpetrators
of hate would march with banners explicitly expressing their bigoted
perceptions and attitudes. However, that is hardly an indication that the
phenomenon has seized to exist.
Today, hate speech and propaganda are often craftily
camouflaged as talk radio punditry, political lampooning, speeches, or
Last year, in a bizarre outburst of bigotry that makes Islamophobes
such as David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer objective
intellectuals, radio talk show host Michael Savage of the Savage Nation had
this ranting and raving to share with his audience: �I�m not gonna put my wife
in a hijab. And I�m not gonna put my daughter in a burqa. And I�m not gettin�
on my all-fours and braying to Mecca . And you could drop dead if you don�t
Spewing his hate via hundreds of the over 1,200 radio stations
owned by the notoriously Islamophobic corporation Clear Channel, he continued
his provocative diatribe: �You can shove it up your pipe. I don�t wanna hear
anymore about Islam. I don�t wanna hear one more word about Islam. Take your
religion and shove it up your behind. I�m sick of you.�
Along the same path, albeit more artistically, the July 2008
issue of the New Yorker magazine had on its front page a political caricature
of Barak and Michelle Obama. The couple is standing in the middle of the Oval
Office. Obama is wearing a traditional Islamic dress with turban and sandals.
He is approvingly fist-bumping with a militant looking Michelle as his sinister
left eye gazes away. Michelle is wearing an Angela Davis style afro and a
guerilla fatigue with an M-16 hanging from her back. Looking over them is an
Africa-American looking picture of Osama Bin Laden . . . hanging over the fire
place where the American flag is set on flames.
Then came September 4, 2008 -- the Republican Convention -- where
the merchants of fear and paranoia found their ideal platform. Inadvertently or
otherwise, the underlying theme seemed to be to broaden the definition of the
enemy from a cult-like Al-Qaeda to a much broader, indeed more fluid,
definition that indicts all those who practice Islam as suspect or worse.
Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, condemned
the Democrats for being �politically correct� and avoiding the use of the term �Islamic
terrorism�� to describe the enemy.
Taking the politically synthesized anti-Islamic mantra to
the next level by directly speaking to the race-conscious voters, former
congressional leader Dick Armey, who now leads one of the most power lobby
groups in Washington, had this to say: Barack Obama�s �funny name� could �give
people concerns that he could be or has been too much influenced by Muslims,
which is a great threat now.� Obama is Christian.
It is a shame that the media are less interested in what Mr.
Armey and others who routinely use more provocative and broadly condemning
terms such as �Islamo-fascism,� �Islamic terrorism,� and �Jihadism� to describe
the enemy send to the 7 million Muslims in the United States and 1.2 billion
around the world.
Recently, many localities around the U.S. were hit by a new
�swift-boating� campaign. This one, targeting swing states, is aimed to induce
paranoia by distributing �28 million DVDs� of the propaganda film Obsession: Radical Islam�s War Against the
The film, like any Goebbelian piece of propaganda,
connivingly exploits the human tendency to surrender their capacity to think
critically when their emotions are stirred or fear is instilled in their
hearts. The film does this successfully as it is made from selective footage
from various parts of the world of individuals expressing hate, training, and
committing acts of terror, and the bloody scenes of their crimes. It is a
dangerously effective way of collectively demonizing Muslims, as the so-called
experts featured in the film use all the aforementioned hot button
terminologies to describe the terrorists and interlink all these cases with
their subjective narrative.
This latest campaign is being carried out by an obscure New
York based group called The Clarion Fund whose funders are not known.
In pursuit of their goal to effectively distribute the DVDs
and secure subliminal legitimacy, this group has selectively targeted the
newspaper distribution apparatuses of various cities in critical states. Here
in central Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch has distributed 10,000 copies of the
DVDs through its most widely read issue, the Sunday Dispatch. The same was done
by the New York Times, the Miami Herald and a host of other newspapers.
Venomous hyperbole aimed to stir fear and paranoia and
indict all Muslims continues despite the Department of Homeland Security Office
for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties� conclusion that �Words matter� and its
recommendation that U.S. officials and representatives should � . . . avoid
inflating the religious bases and glamorous appeal of the extremists�
ideology.� According to a memo from the said department, the terminologies used
should depict the terrorists as the dangerous cult leaders they are.
Abukar Arman is a freelance writer who lives in
Ohio. He writes about Islam, Somalia and U.S. foreign policy.