by Taj Hashmi* 18 November 2020
This is an appraisal of Islamophobia, mainly in the West, and the so-called Westophobia among Muslims from a different viewpoint. I believe that since all wars are “trade wars”, the ideological conflicts between Islam and Western civilizations are primarily motivated by economic reasons, so they are “trade wars” by other means! I have mainly cited examples from the US and France, which has recently emerged as the most Islamophobic nation in the world. I have argued that hate crimes or even racial/communal jokes often lead to physical violence against the objects of a joke, hate, and ridicule. Hence denigrating or hating Jews and their religion is a criminal offence in 17 European countries. I have argued that since in the light of the history of Jewish pogrom in Russia, Poland, and elsewhere in eastern Europe, and the Holocaust in Germany, Austria, and elsewhere in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s anti-Semitism is considered a hate crime, so, Islamophobia or Islam bashing should also be declared a hate crime, as it often leads to physical attacks on Muslim minorities in the West. The prejudicial portrayal of Islam as a violent faith has also led to multiple invasions of Muslim-majority countries, especially Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya in the last three decades or so. Hence the necessity of making Islamophobia a hate-crime, in the East and West! The nature of Islamophobia or hate-crime against Muslims in France is slightly different from America and the West in general. While France, especially the Macron Administration, is aggressively explicit in demonstrating its hatred for everything Islamic or Muslim, the US and other Western nations are quite subtle and more hypocritical. They also discriminate against Muslims and invade Muslim-majority countries – again and again – they refrain from making public assertions that demonize Islam and its adherents.
Throughout human history, we see people from one tribe, one religion, or one nation denigrate, and even fight and annihilate the “others”. The ubiquitous “we” and “they” are much older than human history. The root cause of this hate is economic, and all wars in the name of religion, homeland, democracy, freedom, or socialism are actually “trade wars”. People compete against each other primarily for economic reasons: better job or business opportunities, raw materials, markets, trade routes, etc. And, manipulative and clever leaders – rulers, priests, and others – manufacture half-truths and lies to justify the denigration of the “others” and defending their wars. This has been going on since the days of Alexander, the Crusades, Chengis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler, Bush Sr., and Bush Junior. As capturing trade routes, sources of raw materials, and markets from the Arabs motivated some West European monarchs to wage the Crusades with “fatwas” from the Popes to justify the invasions of Palestine and adjoining areas, so was the motive behind Columbus’s discovery of the “shortest route” to India. Columbus sought help from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela of Spain to convert Indians into Christians to defeat the Arabs/Muslims to capture their colonies, trade routes, and markets.
And, we know giving a dog a bad name before hanging him is as old as West European Crusades (1096-1271) against Islam and Muslims, and what followed after Columbus landed on the shores of the West Indies in 1492. Both the Crusades and Columbus’s so-called “Discovery of America” were preludes to Western colonizers’ rampant plundering of wealth, after killing and enslaving indigenous people from the Americas to Asia, Africa, Australia, and other places in the world. Thus, Islamophobia isn’t an end in itself but a means towards something much bigger: the domination of the resource-rich Muslim World after demonizing the Muslims as barbarians, terrorists, and threats to Western civilization. One wonders, what else but only the further accentuation of the mutual hatred and mistrust between the backward and weak Muslims, and the advanced and strong West, would be the outcome of the ongoing hate-crimes against Islam!
Most people don’t know that Islamist terrorism, which is very different from the politically incorrect “Islamic Terrorism” is only around thirty-year-old, never existed before the end of the Cold War in 1990. As the end of the Cold War ushered in the new wave of Islamophobia in the West, so did it signal the beginning of Islamist terror and insurgency against the West and other adversaries of Muslims, across the world. The West badly needed an enemy to oil its most profitable industrial complex, Eisenhower’s “Military Industrial Complex” to manufacture and sell more arms to sustain economically. It also wanted to secure the oil-producing Middle Eastern (Muslim-majority) countries from the clutches of the Shiite Islamist regime in Iran, which had emerged as a threat to Western interests in the region. Paradoxically, the West nurtured Sunni Islamism against Shiite Iran and the Soviet Union in the last decade of the Cold War, only to fight it in the following two/three decades. With the defeat and disappearance of the mysterious “Islamic State” (aka ISIS or ISIL) in December 2017, the world has virtually entered the post-Islamist, post-terrorist phase of history. Barring sporadic and very small-scale Islamist terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Middle East, Europe, and elsewhere in Asia and Africa – which have been mostly lone-wolf terrorist attacks – in the last three years, Islamist terror only exists in the imagination of the hardcore Islamophobic minds and those who benefit most politically from the phenomenon, in the West and East. The West and its allies elsewhere – India and Israel, in particular – are, however, in a denial mood! To them, Islamist terror poses an existential threat to Western civilization, India, and Israel. The “beneficiaries of Islamist terrorism” often stage false-flag “Islamist terror attacks” or provoke backward and ignorant Muslims across the world. Unfortunately, the bulk of Muslims globally represent the least educated, least urbane, and underdogs. Many of whom are emotional and fanatical, willing to kill “enemies of Islam” and get killed in the process to embrace “martyrdom”. Although the Qur’an is specific about what the Muslims are supposed to do to a blasphemer of Islam and Prophet Muhammad – to ignore the blasphemer or critic of Islam, and to leave his/her company quietly without resorting to any counter-attack, verbal or physical – Muslims in general want violent retaliation against all blasphemers of Islam and Prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims approve of Ayatollah Khomeini’s infamous “fatwa to kill” Salman Rushdie for his denigration of Prophet Muhammad and his family.
Meanwhile, during the last thirty-odd years, the West has revived its millennium-old hatred for Islam and Muslims. As Emmanuel Macron (among many Western leaders) publicly calls Islam a “violent faith”, “a problem”, and “an enemy of Western civilization”, so does Donald Trump. The dissipation of Islamist terrorist threat did not dissipate Islamophobia in the West. Knowing fully well the consequences, the West provokes Muslims by denigrating their religion and Prophet Muhammad only to make them retaliate against such provocations, to justify its “War on Terror” in the name of restoring the elusive World Order. The West promotes and rewards Islamophobes, especially those born in Muslim families, such as Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasreen, Arshad Manji, and others. Most importantly, many of the Islam-bashers coming from Muslim families suffer from some psychological disorder. They struggle with their atheism, which many of them not being able to fully absorb, demonstrate their “atheism” by publicly saying extremely bad things about Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an. It’s, sort of, comparable with the nouveau riche syndrome. They can’t keep their atheism to themselves without showing off their lack of faith in Islam by publicly being offensive to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an. Some of them also aspire to be in the limelight by being offensive to Islam, which they know would lead to extreme/violent reactions from Muslims (who represent the bulk of the not-so-educated and enlightened people on earth) against them. And, that would endear them to the Islamophobic West, who would protect them and give wide publicity to their anti-Islamic writings, although in the name of promoting the freedom of expression, but actually to demonize the Muslims to justify its War on Terror or the neo-colonial ideology in the post-Cold War world! Islam bashers from the Muslim community becomes celebrities in the West and India (which, of late, has literally become the most dangerous country for Muslims in the world). Rushdie, Hirsi, Nasreen, and Manji may be mentioned in this regard.
As Islamism and Islamist terror and anarchy have .emerged with greater intensity than ever before in the 1990s – after the end of the Cold War – so has the centuries-old but dormant Western Islamophobia becomes much more intensified than before. There’s absolutely no reason to assume that Western Islamophobia is a post-9/11 syndrome. Far from it! The extremely Islamophobic Hollywood movie “True Lies” depicting Muslims as the worst terrorists that ever existed in history was made in 1994; and moments after the Oklahoma City bombing by a White American “Non-Muslim” Timothy McVeigh, American media and analysts jumped to the conclusion that it was an Islamic/Muslim terrorist attack on America! America and the West as a whole need an enemy to rally support for their hegemonic warfare across the world and to divert people’s attention from internal socio-economic and political problems. During the Cold War, the enemy was communism and the Soviet Union, afterward, it’s still Islam and the 1.8 billion adherents of the faith! Interestingly, while ultra-right White Supremacy has emerged as the gravest security threat in America, Islamist threat has remained on the top of the list of terrorism!
Islamophobia or Islam bashing is a hate crime. And, hate or denigration of any individual or community is an important factor behind terrorist activities. One Western scholar has aptly elucidated this: “Men such as Osama bin Laden would never have followers if there were no victims of humiliation in many parts of the world, victims who are young, intelligent and dynamic men, and who are willing to die avenging their humiliations” [Evelin Gerda Lindner, “Humiliation as the Source of Terrorism: A New Paradigm”, Peace Research, Vol. 33, No.2, p.59, November 2001]. And, we have been witnessing this since the First Gulf War against Iraq in 1991. The West loves to provoke Muslims to see them retaliate violently. It’s simply a ploy to highlight Islam as the biggest adversary of Western civilization.
The provocations come in the form of some scurrilous and extremely hateful writings, cartoons, movies, and posts in social media against Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and the Qur’an. What started with the Western promotion/glorification of Salman Rushdie and his ridiculously provocative anti-Islamic fiction The Satanic Verses in 1988, provoked a storm of angry protests from Muslims across the world did not stop there. One Islamophobic writing following another, portraying Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist in cartoons (the first one came out in Denmark in 2005 and later reproduced by the Charlie Hebdo in France, once again in October 2020) and extremely anti-Islamic movie like Fitna in West Europe and elsewhere have become normative since the publication of The Satanic Verses. The rabidly violent Muslim reaction to Rushdie’s portrayal of Prophet Muhammad’s wives as prostitutes, in the East and West – especially Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa to kill Rushdie for the fiction – added more fuel to the fire of Islamophobia across the West, and elsewhere. Without defending Muslims’ violent reaction to Rushdie’s fiction, let alone Khomeini’s atrociously un-Islamic fatwa to kill him, one believes what the Western Islamophobes and hatemongers have been doing to denigrate Islam and Muslims in the world definitely fall in the category of hate-crime against Islam and Muslims – à la the denial of the Holocaust in 17 European countries. Interestingly, while Holocaust Denial is a hate-crime, hate-crimes against Islam has remained decriminalized, for some strange or not-so-strange reasons, across the West! In view of this one may legitimately assume that among the so many “double standards” the West has been nurturing for centuries against Afro-Asian people, and their culture (including religion), Islamophobia is the most potent, virile, and vicious after the official end of racism and apartheid in the West, including the US and South Africa. The West, later joined by Israel and India, directly or indirectly promotes Islamophobia, mainly to provoke Muslim anger and retaliation.
As mentioned above, some rabid atheists or Islamophobes emanating from Muslim communities in Bangladesh and elsewhere attack Islam to come to the limelight after Salman Rushdie had become a celebrity in the West. Bengali writers like Taslima Nasrin and Humayun Azad, among a few others in the 1990s, started writing fiction, essays, and poems ridiculing Islam and Muslims in all possible ways. Scores of atheist bloggers in the country, mostly coming from Muslim families, also started writing extremely scurrilous things against Islam and its Prophet. Some of them got killed by Muslim fanatics, in retaliation in the past few years. And, Bangladesh witnessed its biggest showdown between orthodox but non-violent Islamists belonging to the Hefazat-e-Islam and blasphemers of Islam and Prophet Muhammad in May 2013. This ultimately led to scores of deaths among the Hefazat supporters, killed by Bangladeshi law-enforcers in Dhaka in the wee hours of 5th and 6th May 2013.
Again, Islamophobes in Bangladesh and abroad have one thing in common, their obsession with Islamist terrorism and terrorist attacks, mostly imaginary and exaggerated ; and both of them love to use the expression “Islamic terrorism” instead of the politically correct “Islamist terrorism”, as their prime concern isn’t about preventing or fighting the dying and imaginary Islamist terrorism, but it’s all about their obsession with Islam and inventing a new boogieman “hell-bent” to destroy Western capitalism after the demise of the Soviet Union in the wake of the Cold War. Bangladeshi Islamophobes (mostly nominal Muslims or atheists from Muslim families) hate everything Islamic or Muslim out of self-deprecation, inferiority complex, and desire to prove something to the external powerbrokers. They are mostly favour- and power-seekers from Islamophobes outside Bangladesh.
As all wars are trade wars, all discriminatory acts against certain sections of the population anywhere in the world, and their persecution on racial, religious, and other grounds have been primarily motivated by economic and political reasons behind the façade of trumped-up causes and excuses. As Blacks in the US, until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were officially discriminated against due to certain undefined/unexplained reasons or excuses, the root of racism in America was economic. America needed cheap labour and slavery was the most convenient (albeit grossly unethical) means to have it. And, they needed a “rational explanation” to justify the institution as late as the 1860s, to make it permanent or long-lasting. Thanks to the government-sponsored apartheid and justification of enslavement of the Black people, the bulk of the ordinary White Americans believed in the inferiority of the Black people as something designed by God, hence justifiable and necessary. Even after the abolition of slavery and the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, many White Americans still believe in White Supremacy and marginalization of all Black and “Coloured” people. Muslims in general fall under these two categories. Thus, the discrimination against Muslims and public objection to their culture, religion, attire and food habit that exists today in the US and elsewhere in the West are legacies of old prejudices and practices. Thus, Islamophobia in the West is integral to the racist prejudice that has never totally died out in the psyche of many White people. It’s no exaggeration that in 2016 White supremacists voted Trump to power as they believed they had “lost America” to a black man, Barack Obama. White supremacist voters were almost going to re-elect him in 2020. In sum, White supremacy and Islamophobia in America, and as a whole in the West, are the two sides of the same coin!
Since unlike France Islamophobia in the US, Britain, Germany, and elsewhere in the western world is quite subtle, and is reflected mainly in their foreign policies, I single out France as the exception in this regard. In the name of promoting the freedom of expression, the Macron Administration defended the Charlie Hebdo cartoon lampooning Prophet Muhammad, because, it knew the rich dividend the cartoon would bring to the Administration! As expected, zealous and fanatical Muslims reacted violently against the cartoonist and the French Government. One of them brutally beheaded the cartoonist. The beheading of the cartoonist once again convinces people that Muslims adhere to a violent faith; and that it’s time to retaliate against Muslims. And, this sentiment further justifies the virtual French occupation of Muslim-majority countries like Chad, Mali, and Niger.
French President Emmanuel Macron publicly asserts Islam is “a religion that is in crisis all over the world”, and tweets, “We will not give in, ever”. France has also been killing Muslims in Chad and Mali, in the name of countering Islamist terrorism, and in reality, to control their mineral resources. Angela Charlton explains why France, in particular, has incited so much Muslim anger, while almost all Western countries are more or less discriminatory against Muslims and foment Islamophobia. She attributes it to the country’s “brutal colonial past”, “staunch secular policies”, and the “tough-talking president who is seen as insensitive toward the Muslim faith”. The main reason why Muslims are so angry with France is that a nation of 67 million having five million Muslims, it marginalizes and ghettoizes its Muslim population. The offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad and Macron’s irresponsible Islamophobic assertions and his tacit support of the cartoons added fuel to the fire of Muslim anger (Angela Charlton, “Why France incites such anger in Muslim world”, AP, October 31, 2020 https://www.yahoo.com/news/ap-explains-why-france-incites-150223566.html?guccounter=1). Quite ludicrously, Macron has also asserted that secularism has never killed anybody! Meanwhile, some Muslim fanatics killed several non-Muslims in France and Austria.
As what France did to its Muslim-majority colonies in Africa, so what it is still doing in some of its former colonies in West Africa is disgusting! France killed around 1.5 million in Algeria under its colonial occupation. It’s unbelievable but true that in the early 1920s, A French soldier sent a postcard bearing a picture of severed heads of “rebels” (freedom fighters) in Morocco ( https://martintristramrose.org/2015/01/23/a-warped-mirror/ ) . The French prejudice against Muslims is far from dying out today. French National Front leader Marie Le Pen has recently asked for the re-introduction of the death penalty in France, to punish non-White and Muslim criminals. Currently, there are more than 5,000 French troops in Mali, Niger, and Chad, engaged in “Operation Barkhane” in the name of combatting jihadist groups, which is the largest French overseas military operation since the Algerian War in the 1950s-1960s. However, the French excuse for its military operations in West Africa is “protection of local and regional political order, good governance, and long-term stability” of the region. The reality is somewhat very different. As French troops defended one of the worst dictatorial regimes in Africa, the one run by Mobutu in Zaire (1965-1997), they have been defending the various dictatorships in Chad since the 1960s. In 1986, French troops fought against the Libyan-backed rebels in Chad. In the name of stabilizing African political orders, France has been promoting its own business interests, including mining in Mali and adjoining countries. Last but not least, the French Government’s singling out Islam and Muslims as security threats to France is nothing but a clever ploy to justify its military interventions in Muslim-majority west Africa.
Without responding to Macron’s grossly prejudicial and “uninformed” comments about Islam is a “religion in crisis” and secularism not being “ever responsible” for any killing in history, one may remind the President that from the French Revolution to the Napoleonic wars, French people alone killed tens of thousands of people in France, Russia and elsewhere in Europe in just two decades following the Revolution. And, those killings had everything to do with secular revolutionary and imperialist warfare, nothing to do with any religion! He should be told on his face that almost all devastating wars throughout history – from World War I to Vietnam War, and the Western invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria – were fought in the name of freedom, democracy, and empires. In sum, although Islamist terrorism today in 2020 is around thirty-year-old, Islamophobia in the West predates the Crusades. However, there was a dissipation in Western hate and hostility to everything Islamic or Muslim after World War I. One may impute this change in Western strategic thinking to the emergence of communist Russia as the most formidable challenge to Western hegemony and capitalism. However, as discussed above, the dissipation of Islamophobia in the West during the Cold War was just the lull before the storm. Last but not least, it’s evident now, Islamophobia in the West is all about winning as many trade wars as possible! Nothing could be more profitable than selling weapons among allies and enemies to fight their common enemy: “Islamist Extremism”!
A little elaboration of the ambivalence of the West towards the Muslim World during the Cold War helps us understand the West’s love-hate relationship with Muslims. On the one hand, the West promoted, armed, and protected select Muslim-majority countries, such as Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and Arab kingdoms against communism; and on the other, helped the Zionists to get their “promised land” (Israel) in Palestine in 1948. It also staged anti-people coup d’états in Syria (1949), Iran (1953), invaded Egypt in 1956 after President Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal and destabilized the entire Muslim World. The process of destabilization, regime change, and literal annihilation of millions of Muslims in the Muslim World has been an ongoing process since the end of World War I. And, consequently, the West forced several Muslim-majority countries, from Algeria to Egypt, Libya to Sudan, and Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Indonesia (up to 1965) to join the anti-Western camps. However, the process was reversed through Western manipulation. The West succeeded in installing several friendly, autocratic regimes in countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, and later Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Islamism has remained as the main alternative political ideology to challenge these regimes and their mentors in the West. In short, for centuries the West and Muslims have had love-hate relationships. Unfortunately, since the end of the Cold War, Islamophobia and Islamism have been the main ideologies that nurture mutual hate and mistrust among Non-Muslims and Muslims, across the board. Both of them seem to have hit the cul-de-sac bypassing the streets of tolerance, mutual respect, and mutual trust!
As mentioned above, paradoxically, the West promoted Sunni Islamist extremists against the Soviet Union during the last decade of the Cold War (1980-1990), and when it was convenient and useful to cut them down, it did it with surgical precision in the wake of the Cold War. And, as also mentioned above, the West conveniently and frequently provokes Muslims by denigrating their religion and Prophet to incite sections of ignorant, zealous, and fanatical Muslims to make them run amok, resorting to terrorism so that it could justifying its neo-imperialist invasions of resource-rich and strategic parts of the Muslim World. A new trick to win age-old trade wars! We may cite multiple examples of Western duplicity in nurturing and crushing Islamist terror and militancy since the dawn of the Cold War in 1945. Examples abound!
During 1945 and 1990, the West in general favoured Sunni Islamist terror and extremism, more so after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 to defeat its communist adversary. The catalogue of American and Western interventions in the Muslim League since the end of World War I is pretty long. Even during the War, with a view to getting Arab support for the Anglo-French Allies against Turkey, British and French governments played very dubious role in the Arab World by making false promises and deceptive agreements with Arab rulers. On the one hand, the Anglo-French imperialists promised King Sharif Hussein of Hijaz that for his support for their war efforts, he would become the King of Entire Arab Lands after the War. But in 1917, the British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour declared theta His Majesty’s Government would create a Jewish State in Palestine. And, we know how the Anglo-French imperialists divided the Arab World into artificial states like Jordan and Lebanon out of Greater Syria, to serve their long-term interests to control the strategically important Suez Canal and the entire region. The Western imperialists also controlled Iran and neutralized Turkey after World War I. Soon after the end of World War II, a new overlord entered the arena of world politics. It was the United States of America, which was equally vile, vicious, and treacherous for the Muslim World. The US, which was also one of the main proponents of democracy and freedom, toppled so many democracies in the Muslim World and beyond. And, the Anglo-American-French methods of controlling the World were slightly different in the post-World War II era. Since so many Afro-American countries had been decolonized after 1945, instead of directly controlling the former Western colonies through physical occupation, Western neo-colonial methods were slightly different, albeit as vicious and exploitative as before! They were outright terroristic by any definition of the expression. In 1949, CIA toppled the democratically elected government of President Shukri al Quwatly in Syria, by staging a military coup by a Syrian officer, known as the “American Boy”. In 1953, the Eisenhower Administration staged another coup in Iran and removed democratically elected Prime Minister Dr. Mosaddeq, only because he nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (presently known as BP or British Petroleum). It’s noteworthy that with a view to overthrowing the democratically elected Mosaddeq government of Iran, who nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (presently known as BP or British Petroleum), the Eisenhower Administration bribed (the Shiite) Ayatollah Kashani to wage a violent protest against Mosaddeq, which eventually followed by a military coup that toppled his government.
In Egypt, the West also used the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, albeit in vain, to overthrow the nationalist government of President Nasser, who in 1956 nationalized the Suez Canal, jointly owned by Britain and France. The Western use of Islamist fanatic jihadists were unparalleled in history. During the Afghan “jihad” against the Soviet Union in 1979-1989, the West used Islamist radicals in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Contrary to the popular perception, not any Muslim leader but Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s Polish-American National Security Advisor, who sporting a turban and brandishing a sword in early 1980 at Peshawar (Pakistan) formally declared America’s “jihad” against the Soviet Union. America was so enamoured by the Mujahedeen that President Reagan invited their top leaders for coffee at his Oval-Office in the White House. He also compared them with the Founding Fathers of the United States. And, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in early 1990, while sections of the fractured Mujahedeen turned into warlords and eventually the Islamist obscurantist Taliban emerged out of them to terrorize Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan for several years, the West just turned a blind eye to all the Islamist terrorism and anarchy in a distant part of the world, until 9/11. As we know, the rest is history!
The history of Western military intervention in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, which isn’t yet over completely, is a dark chapter in world history. The West, which was mainly responsible for the creation of the Taliban and the various factions of the ethnoreligious Mujahedeen groups in and around Afghanistan, later had a disastrous fallout across the Muslim World and beyond, from Mindanao in the Philippines to eastern Thailand; and from Myanmar to Bangladesh, and India to Pakistan; and from Central Asia to the Middle East, North Africa, central and western Africa; Europe, North America, and beyond. Interestingly, in the post-9/11 world, the West in general, and the US, in particular, have been untiringly denigrating Islam as the fountainhead of terrorism, and demonizing the Muslims in general as the foot soldiers of Islamist terror and anarchy. As if every Muslim is a potential supporter of al Qaeda, Taliban, and the elusive ISIS!
In short, Islamophobia in the West has a dark history, which is all about the use and abuse of Islam and Muslims and is positively correlated with Islamist terrorism (the real ones and the false flag operations) and the so-called counterterrorism (CT) and counterinsurgency (COIN), which are multi-billion-dollar operations, mainly run by the Military-Industrial Complex in the West. And, we know the Military-Industrial Complex in the US alone, rob billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money, all in the name of defending the nation. Meanwhile, after the Western occupation of Afghanistan, Western troops not only destroyed cities and hamlets, and killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians since October 2001, but for a decade and a half, they made multiple billion dollars from the illicit poppy cultivation under the very nose of Anglo-American troops. Thus, one may argue, Islamophobia in the West has been the main chapter of the book on Western “strategic communication” or, advanced planning and political warfare, against the Muslim World. Interestingly, neither the “Desert Storm” of Bush Sr. and the “War on Terror” by Bush Jr. used Islamophobia to legitimize their illegitimate invasions of Iraq in 1991 and 2003. The former justified his invasion in the name of ushering in a “New World Order”, where invasions of one country by another – as Iraq did to Kuwait in 1990 – wouldn’t be tolerated anymore! Instead of saying bad things about Islam, Bush Jr. and his allies defended their illegitimate Iraq invasion by concocting stories about Iraq having some lethal “Weapons of Mass Destruction” to destroy the West and Israel. It’s noteworthy that Bush Jr. always defended Islam as a “religion of peace”. This, however, doesn’t mean that he and his allies had any love lost between themselves and Islam and its adherents. They directly attacked Iraq to ensure that no Muslim-majority country would pose an existential threat to Israel, or become too powerful to contain, and control any resource-rich or strategically important country or region. As mentioned above, all wars are “trade wars”, so, Islamophobia is an ideology to justify wars against Muslims. And, as it happened in 1991 and 2003, both the Senior and Junior Bush successfully won their “trade wars” without being explicitly Islamophobic out of sheer political expediency. Thus, Islamophobia is the last resort of many Western powers, which are hell-bent to keep Muslim nations subservient and least dangerous to their neo-colonial interests. If they can subdue a Muslim nation or two without being publicly Islamophobic to remain politically correct, they resort to other “justifications” to achieve their goals.
The hatred of Islam could be real or fake, depending on who is in command! While Bush Jr. wouldn’t hesitate to bomb Muslim cities and hamlets asserting publicly “Islam is a religion of peace”, Trump and Macron, on the other hand, prefer to demonize the religion and its adherents as “anti-West” and “problems”. Last but not least, Macron’s portrayal of Islam as “a religion in crisis” stirred up the Muslims so much that many Middle Eastern countries have started boycotting French goods, and President Erdogan of Turkey has expressed his doubts about the mental health of the French President (Nabila Ramdani of BBC on Macron’s Islamophobia etc. “A Religion in Crisis”, October 31st 2020,
It’s heartening that Amnesty International in an article on 12th November 2020, “France is not the free-speech champion it says it is” ( https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/11/france-is-not-the-free-speech-champion-it-says-it-is/) has exposed the hypocritical stand of the French Government about its proclaimed support for the freedom of speech. While the Macron Administration condemns the killing of Samuel Paty, the French teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a class on freedom of expression, as an onslaught on freedom of expression in the country, the Article argues: “But they [the French Administration] has also doubled down on their perpetual smear campaign against French Muslims, and launched their own attack on freedom of expression. Last week, for example, French police interviewed four10-year-old children for hours on suspicion of ‘apology of terrorism’ they apparently questioned Paty’s choice to show the cartoons”. Amnesty International further mocks the French Administration’s double standard on freedom of expression:
The French government is not the champion of free speech that it likes to think it is. In 2019, a court convicted two men for ‘contempt’ after they burnt an effigy depicting President Macron during a peaceful protest. Parliament is currently discussing a new law that criminalizes the use of images of law enforcement officials on social media. It is hard to square this with the French authorities’ vigorous defence of the right to depict the Prophet Mohammed in cartoons.
Finally, one can’t agree more with Amnesty International that: “The right to freedom of expression also protects the ability to criticize the choice to depict religions in ways that may be perceived as stereotypical or offensive. Being opposed to the cartoons does not make one a ‘separatist’, a bigot or an ‘Islamist’.” The renowned British defender of human rights and human dignity condemns the French Administration for not allowing French Muslims to wear Islamic symbols or dress in schools or in public sector jobs. I fully agree with Amnesty International that the French government’s “rhetoric on free speech is not enough to conceal its own shameless hypocrisy”. I believe, the French government’s using the expression “radicalization” as a euphemism for “devout Muslims” is anything but freedom of expression.
We know there was nothing called Islamic or Islamist terror anywhere in the world before the 1990s, during the Cold War, or ever before during the 1,400 years of Islamic history. Barring the terrorist activities of a section of the Ismaili Muslims (the Assassins, aka Hashishiya or Hashishiyyin in Arabic) during 1090 and 1275 (who killed Sunni Muslims), there never existed in history any terrorist group in the name of Islam, let alone sanctioned by the religion. The Qur’an in the most unambiguous terms denounce the killing of any innocent human being: “…whosoever kills a human being, except (as punishment) for murder or for spreading corruption in the land, it shall be like killing all humanity; and whosoever saves a life, saves the entire human race” (Surah al Maidah, or Chapter 5:32). So, it’s evident that whoever blames the Qur’an as a violent book, hence Islam as a violent faith, does so out of sheer ignorance or prejudice against Islam, which is plain and simple Islamophobia. Even the so-called “most violent” verses in the Qur’an, from Surah al-Tauba or Chapter 9:4-6, are full of compassion for non-belligerent non-Muslims, instructing the Muslims not to harm or kill them. Thus, it’s evident that all acts of demonizing Islam and Muslims as violent or terroristic are politically motivated hate crimes to justify the subjection, marginalization, and even the killing of Muslims in the name of peace, order, democracy, freedom, and whatever is convenient to do so by the Islamophobes (see Taj Hashmi, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, SAGE Publications, 2014, chapters 2,3 & 4).
Although Islamophobia and “Westophobia” are primarily “trade wars” in other names, yet people on both sides of the fence sadly think they hate and fight each other to defend their respective faiths, ways of life, culture, and civilizations. They are willing to kill and die for what they consider sacred and essential for their existence. Both are actually subject to elite manipulation, who somehow convince them, what Marx calls “false consciousness”, which is a pseudo-truth or blatant lie generated consciously by elite manipulators by establishing their “cultural hegemony”. This process of elite manipulation of the hoi polloi is much older than all known human history and civilizations. The West has been doing this against Islam and Muslims since the days of the Crusades, Reconquista in Spain in 1492, and the beginning of European colonization of the Muslim World in general; and since the Iranian Revolution (1979) and the First Gulf War (1991), in the modern world. One may ask the question if Muslims are the worst killers and terrorists in history, in the last 500-odd years, how many unarmed and innocent civilians and children got killed at the hands of Muslims, and how many at the hands of the so-called “civilized” people in the West! The answer would be less than 10 million and more than several hundred million, respectively. And, how many Muslims have so far joined the Islamist terrorist outfits in the last 30-odd years? Not more than five to 10 thousand out of a total of 1.8 billion Muslim population in the world, around 3,000 on 9/11! Then again, there are multiple “conspiracy theories” or not-so-unconvincing arguments about who orchestrated the catastrophic 9/11, Muslims or somebody else!
Then again, the story about Islamophobia or hate crime against Muslims in the West and “Westophobia” of Muslims remain incomplete without highlighting the level of ignorance and intolerance among Muslims of all shades and colour. Thanks to the overpowering influence of the mullah – which includes all the different types of Islamic scholars, from famous madrasas like Al Azhar, and Deoband, from a mufti to a muhaddis (hadis scholar) or to an imam, Sufi and waez (Islamic speaker/demagogue) and others – the overwhelming majority of Muslims everywhere in the world (including those residing in the developed West) are ignorant about teachings of their scripture (the Qur’an), and almost totally rely on the problematic Hadis literature (which developed more than 200 years after the demise of Prophet Muhammad, mainly based on hearsay and local traditions and Biblical stories, lies, and legends) narrated by the mullah. Thus, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are semi-literate, intolerant, and many are fanatical to the extreme. In short, most Muslims represent the poverty-stricken, backward people of the world. They are only comparable with Hindus and most people in Sub-Saharan Africa, who are equally backward and primitive. Hence, intolerant and superstitious. I give this account of Muslims to explain their level of intolerance. Anyone, they consider an enemy of Islam, or a blasphemer of Prophet Muhammad, they believe must be killed. And, they have been killing so many so-called “enemies of Islam” and “blasphemers” of the religion, especially in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and even in their adopted homelands in the West. The recent killing of the French school teacher who showed a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad in his classroom is another example in this regard.
To conclude, I believe that as no Muslim has the right to kill anyone for one’s speech, writing, or ridiculous activities, such as burning down the Qur’an, drawing indecent pictures of Prophet Muhammad, throwing pork into a mosque, or setting fire to or damaging/destroying mosques (à la the demolition of the Babri Mosque in India) as violent retaliation against blasphemers of Islam and Prophet are specifically forbidden in the Qur’an; similarly, those who publicly denigrate Islam and Muslims, and even discriminate against and physically attack them or even kill them are no different from the Nazis and anyone who is anti-Semitic and justifies the mass and sporadic killing of Jews in Germany, Russia, Poland, and elsewhere. By the way, anti-Semitism is purely a European and Christian reconstruction, not an Islamic one, which is still around among White supremacists in North America, Europe, and elsewhere.
Now, those who argue that since anti-Semitism is primarily racism, which is about hating the Semitic people or Jews this racial hatred and prejudice could lead to violent attacks and killings of Jews as it happened before, is a fallacy. Firstly, Arabs are also Semitic, and the expression has more to do with language than race and religion. Secondly, if hatred of a racial or linguistic group like the Semitics or Jews (as if Arabs are not Semitic!) might lead to pogroms of Jews or even another Holocaust, why on earth prejudice and hate against Muslims wouldn’t result in similar violent attacks on or mass killing of Muslims! I have argued above, a logical exposition to the whole issue of Islamophobia requires an immediate declaration of Islamophobia in any name and form be considered a hate crime as anti-Semitism is in 17 European countries. As I have cited above Evelin Gerda Lindner, who believes humiliation of an individual or a community often leads to terrorism, so it’s time to address the problem of Islamophobia which has already transformed some Muslims into terrorists, who are willing to die and kill avenging the humiliations of Islam, Prophet Muhammad, and the Qur’an. Most importantly, while the world is fast entering the post-Islamist, post-terrorist phase of history – even after the emergence and subsequent disappearance of the mysterious Islamic State (which, seemingly was a creation of the West to destabilize the Middle East) – Islamophobia should be declared a hate crime or a criminal offence across the world, in the US, France, and beyond. Sooner the better!
*The writer is a retired Professor of Security Studies at the APCSS in Honolulu (Hawaii). His major publications include Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (SAGE Publications, 2014). He holds a Ph.D. in modern South Asian History and is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (FRAS).