The new “Islamophobia”
by R. Ebrahimi
During a trip I met a female American tourist. It was the time of hostage taking of Western tourists in the Philippines by members of Islamist commando Abu-Sayaf. This young lady asked me if I was feeling responsible… I didn’t understand what she wanted to insinuate. Responsible for what and for whom? She then explained to me: “as a Muslim, you should feel responsible for what your coreligionists commit. It seems normal, specially for someone sensible.” I had a very hard time believing what I was hearing. I, the Iranian child of the Middle East, living thousands of kilometers away from Philippines, and frankly having no knowledge of this country, should feel responsible (this is nothing to take lightly) about what Abu-Sayaf was committing there in the name of Islam. Regardless of who I am or what my beliefs are. My being born Muslim should be enough to engage my person and my responsibility.
- Yes, I feel responsible, I replied. This seemed to satisfy her, she was surely thinking that she was having a sensible Muslim as a rare specimen in front of her.
- And you, do you feel responsible? I asked her. She frowned; she didn’t seem to grasp my question. Responsible for what? She asked me in turn.
- Of what your coreligionists committed indeed, Inquisition, Crusades, the Saint-Bartholomew massacre, colonization, genocides, slavery, serfdom, Napoleonian Wars, First World War, Holocaust, the 60 million of human casualties of the Second World War, atomic bomb, Vietnam, and the assassination of Iraq, to cite only the most atrocious.
She thought it was not similar. Indeed it was not, because among Muslims there is no individuality. We only form a single fabric, although we are more than one billion in number. An act committed by one of us is enough to accuse us all. That’s the least of what people like her think.
And this interesting dialogue took place long before the events of September 11, before Islam became unofficially but openly the vociferous Nemesis of our beautiful Western values of democracy and human rights. Something must have replaced the deceased Communism. Another negative pole must have been found to justify political acts, military actions and wars against terrorism. World’s polarization must have regenerated.
We are well and truly living the new Islamophobia. On both sides of the Atlantic, demagogic voices, terrifying of violence scourge Islam, the so-called Islamic civilization, and Muslims. These voices dangerously recall anti-Semitic lampoons of late 19th Century or even Mussolini and Hitler’s racist discourses. It makes one believe that the world retains no historical lessons.
Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, the present chief of the Italian State declared that “Muslim civilization is inferior to Europe and its history”. Berlusconi is occupying now the seat that half a century ago was Mussolini’s. And honorable American professor Samuel P. Huntington echoes his “clash of civilizations”. Can these levelheaded personalities give us to begin with a definition of what they call “Islamic civilization”? A Senegalese, in the depth of sub-Saharan Africa, an Arab from the Middle East and an Indonesian of the farthest Far East are members of the same “civilization” on the pretext that those among them who practice Islam turn toward Mecca to pray? Again, there is no individuality recognized in Muslims.
Muslims became pawns of a supranational and supra-individual concept: Islam (or Islamism), a very poorly understood concept because of its actual absurdity, supposed to regroup all Muslims under a single enormous label. I would even not evoke what Muslims brought to the world; I will not talk about mathematics or medicine, I would not like to lower myself to the level of engaging in “comparison of civilizations” just as if it was a question of height measurement or a Hollywood rating of the best commercial productions in film.
An Italian journalist named Oriana Fallaci just published a book, “Anger and Pride”. This book hits records of sale in Italy and Spain. Ms. Fallaci carries out a strongly grotesque amalgam between Muslims, delinquent immigrants, and terrorists and pretends to uncover the real face of Islam. She exploits all hyper-mediatic themes of our sad era: ism, insecurity in Europe, prostitution, and fundamentalism; she blames them on Islam, incites to racial hatred, and thus sells books. She pretends that Muslims “ e in baptisteries and multiply like rats”. This book has been published and sold. Imagine for a single instant if a personality as much enlightened as Ms. Fallaci holds similar talks about Jews. She would be accused of being an anti-Semite or a revisionist, and it’s highly probable that her book would not be published at all. Trials would justly shower down upon her. But when racism and revisionism target Islam and Muslims, it apparently does not disturb anyone. It is rare for intellectuals to raise their voices against it. Does a cause need a holocaust to be intellectualized?
Islamophobia has evidently a much harsher and more repulsive face in the United States by conjugated action of latent ignorance of the American People on this subject, Zionist glorification and the events of September 11. In the United States, being a Muslim often equates with exclusively being a Palestinian terrorist (if supposedly they are 10,000, what do they represent in a total Muslim population of 1.1 billion?) In this country, even the evocation of an eventual Palestinian people and their sufferings is politically incorrect and can result in your being a participant of anti-Semitism and subsequently of anti-Americanism. It happens daily during political meetings or academic conferences. The American alternative press reports it every day. The mass culture which wants Islam to be equal to violence, terrorism and peace refusal is reinforced by the silence of intellectual and political authorities to refute such categorizations. Misinformation amplifies this phenomenon. The Arab-Israeli conflict is reported by mainstream media (often right-winged and conservative) through an exclusive siding with one specific party’s viewpoint: Israel.
One of the techniques commonly used by Islamophobes is the arbitrary reference to Koranic texts, taken out of their contexts and presented to masses to demonstrate a so-called intimate and organic relation between Islam and violence. An American personality, whose confession and political orientations have no importance here, appeared recently on the radio with many references to Koran in order to demonstrate that Muslims’ Book encourages Jihad (implying crusade in this case), expansionism, and consequently violence and war. I could also devote myself to this idiotic and malicious game by citing such reference to the Torah (Deuteronomy 7, 23 & 24), which uses even more extreme terms than Koran:
“But the LORD thy God shall deliver those nations unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be exterminated. And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have exterminated them.” Taken out of its context the above phrase sounds like nothing more than an incitation to genocide.
On the CNN TV channel, a very mediatic American priest maintained, with many references taken out of the Koran too, that a religion like Islam not recognizing women’s rights can not be fair and peaceful. I could, in reply to this honorable lover of the Christ and of its apostles, evoke this injunction announced by the Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians (chapter 11):
“The head of the woman is the man (…). Therefore if a woman is not covered, let her also be shaved. (…) A man indeed ought not to have his head covered, being the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. (…) Neither was the man created for the sake of the woman, but the woman for the sake of the man. For this reason (…), the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.”
All racist discourses based on religion are interchangeable.
Muslims have today enemies called amalgamation, ignorance, misinformation, propaganda, intolerance and demagogy. The repeated attacks of the media and of some dark and repulsive personalities like Mrs. Fallaci, who make themselves out to be intellectual elites of our era bring me out of my reserve. One should not be surprised if confronting such a perception shared by so many non-Muslims, being Christian, Jewish, or even Hindu, would in retaliation inspire Muslim youth of the four corners of the world to sustain fundamentalist organizations: the only haven validating their identity.
Meditate on this simple fact: in Gujarat and in Ramllah, men and women are assassinated because their only crime is being born a Muslim, not a Hindu or a Jew. In Italy a book sells based on its only merit of abusiveness and despise towards and for Muslims. Without an intent of downplaying events, victims of what is called “Islamophobia” incomparably outnumber those of the Twin Towers or those of Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem. And all this seems to occur in an atmosphere of general indifference.
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Extracted 09/13/03 from IranMania