As many writers, including this one, have mentioned more than once in the past, the United States always needs an enemy. For much of the last seventy years, this was dominated by Communism, starting with two world wars and then accelerating with the infamous witch hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R- WI). The U.S. was able to build and expand its vast war machine by scaring the populace into the belief that there was a Communist hiding behind every door, just waiting for the right opportunity to wreak all kinds of havoc. It was this manufactured fear that enabled the U.S. to decimate Korea, and leave military basis there for over 50 years (and counting), and to kill millions of Vietnamese people prior to fleeing that nation in humiliating, well-deserved defeat.
Once the Berlin Wall fell, and many eastern European countries had violent or non-violent revolutions, somehow the glamour of fighting Communism faded. Oh, here and there the leader of a nation that was, perhaps, taking his nation too far to the left had to be eliminated, and this was always done under the lofty banner of freeing an oppressed people, although if they were genuinely oppressed, the U.S. never said it was simply changing their repressive leader for another repressive leader, more to the U.S.’s liking.
But fear-mongering is a tried and true method of operation in the U.S. In 2010, when the government, under Democratic President Barack Obama, decided to elevate itself from Third World status in the context of health care, the opposition party invented the concept of death panels. Here, they proclaimed darkly, government-appointed personnel would determine who was worthy of health care, and who must simply be placed on the side of a mountain to die. The elderly, the infirm, all of society’s most vulnerable citizens, the Republicans warned, would be weeded out by government mandate.
Despite the fact that there was never anything remotely resembling death panels in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act, these myths persist as reality in the minds of some. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who screamed the loudest, protested that an ‘end-of-life’ counseling provision, that was eventually dropped, was simply a euphemism for death panels. This program, which helped dying people write wills, decide on hospice care, etc. was exactly the same as Ms. Palin signed into law when she was governor. It was fine when proposed by a Republican, but deadly when proposed by a Democrat.
In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush and his minions terrified U.S. citizens into believing that al-Qaeda, the organization that had hijacked passenger jets and crashed them into various locations in the U.S., was working closely with the government of Iraq, and it was only a matter of a very short time before unspeakably horrible weapons would be decimating U.S. cities. The fact that al-Qaeda had only a minimal presence in Iraq, and that a bipartisan U.S. Congressional commission said there was ‘no credible evidence’ of Iraq’s complicity in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the fact that United Nations’ weapons inspectors were finding no evidence of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ didn’t matter when fear-mongering couples with war-mongering. Iraq was invaded, with disastrous results for that country and the U.S.
And now that target has been crystallized, with Islam being the new enemy. An ignorant population that understands little beyond white, Anglo-Saxon Protestantism is more than ready to see Muslims as frightening people, little better than savages, who hate the U.S. because of its cherished, if really negligible, freedoms. They wear hijabs and kufeyahs, attend houses of worship without crosses on them, and speak a language that no self-respecting high school ever teaches. They are all, somehow, in the narrow minds of many U.S. citizens, associated with Sharia law, which, in its strictest interpretation, can be harsh. And government officials and right-wing pundits have not hesitated to exploit that concept.
January 29, 2015 marked the eleventh annual Texas Capitol Muslim Day. This event is billed as ‘an opportunity for community members to learn about the democratic political process and how to be an advocate for important issues.’ This does not seem to be anything that should be particularly controversial in any nation that purports to be a democracy. But this was not the case. One state representative, Molly White (R- Belton) disgraced herself by leaving instructions with her staff that any visiting Muslims must renounce terrorism and proclaim their allegiance to the U.S. To add insult to injury, she left an Israeli flag on the reception desk in her office.
Despite considerable criticism, Ms. White persisted in her ignorant display of Islamophobia. She later posted this on her Facebook page: ‘I do not apologize for my comments. … If you love America, obey our laws and condemn Islamic terrorism, then I embrace you as a fellow American. If not, then I do not.’ It seems for Ms. White, every citizen, or at least every Muslim, must wear an American flag label pin (and possibly an Israel flag lapel pin), go around singing the national anthem, and discuss nothing but the horror of Islamic terror. She doesn’t seem particularly concerned about U.S. drone strikes whose ‘collateral damage’ is often innocent people who happen to be Muslim, or the mass killings by Christians of Muslims in Africa. Murder, apparently, is abhorrent when done in the name of Islam, but not when done in the name of Christianity, or by the U.S. government.
The U.S. has unlimited examples of fear mixing with ignorance and begetting violence. Look no further than Ferguson, Missouri, for a recent example of a white police officer, seeing an unarmed black youth and not hesitating to shoot him. Similar incidents would fill volumes to document. And now violence against Muslims, never far beneath the surface but seldom reported, is being condoned and encouraged by a media rabid for an enemy, and a government content to let it do so.
In 2006, when Keith Ellison was sworn in as the first Muslim member of Congress, he took the oath of office with his hand on the Qur’an. This did not sit well with some of his new peers. Rep. Virgil Goode (R–VA) wrote to his constituents about the horror of this event. Such behavior, he intoned, is a threat to “the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America…” Further, he predicted that more Muslims would be elected, and would swear in on the Qur’an. Said he: “…if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Qur’an”. Mr. Goode’s fear of ‘more Muslims elected to office’ apparently resonates with a significant number of voters.
His proclamations are not isolated incidents. Former Arkansas governor and periodic presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has stated that U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration are ‘incapable of knowing the difference between good and evil’, and are ‘bending over backwards to do everything possible to accommodate Muslims but they don’t mind stomping all over Christians and they do it regularly. This is just the most astonishing reversal of true American tradition that I’ve ever seen.’ More of the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that is necessary when inventing enemies.
Arch-conservative commentator Erik Rush, columnist of the radical right’s World Net Daily, last year tweeted that all Muslims should be killed. In an article of January 30, 2015, he said that there is no ‘distinction that exists between Islam and ‘radical Islam.’’ He further said that ‘all Muslims are part of this diabolical design of supplanting Western civilization with an Islamic one.’
These are just a few examples of rampant Islamophobia morphing into hatred and encouraging violence.
There seems to be some general feeling, as articulated so ineloquently by Ms. White, that every Muslim must actively condemn violence done in the name of Islam. As a Christian, this writer feels no need to apologize for the bizarre proclamations of the so-called Christian right, some of which are mentioned above. The peculiar rantings of radical right, Bible-thumping ministers, or the paranoid ravings of extreme rightwing columnists and broadcasters have nothing to do with this writer’s understanding of Christianity. Even more importantly, they have nothing to do with this writer.
Being ‘sorry’ takes two forms. One can be sorry, as this writer is, that Muslims are being harassed, beaten and killed in many parts of the world. However, this writer does not apologize for such behaviors, because he is not perpetrating them. Muslims may be sorry that people were shot and killed in the offices of a French magazine, without apologizing, since they had nothing to do with that crime. The actions of a few do not represent the feelings of the many. This writer may be sorry that so-called Christian pundits declare that marriage equality will bring an end to civilization as we know it, but he does not apologize for those statements, since he is not making them.
But what is any of this? When the media, with complete government consent, views Islam as the enemy and everyone else as the victim, what is the point of logic? Why let facts get in the way of self-righteous hatred? Who is this writer to attempt to deprive the U.S. of the new enemy it has invented?
Yet he will criticize and work to defeat this behavior, so prevalent now in the U.S. and throughout much of the world. It is this Islamophobia, in part, that enables Israel to commit crimes against humanity with impunity. It is this same Islamophobia that enables the U.S. to perpetrate unspeakable terror against countries in the Middle East, all, incredibly, in the name of peace and freedom. That it is all unjust, unreasonable and unsupportable with facts is clear to anyone who will look beyond flashy hashtags and the popular sound bites of the moment. Convincing a population more interested in waving a flag than in human rights and justice is not an easy task. Yet it must be done.