Thursday, March 09, 2006

JUAN COLE WRITES AT LENGTH about the vast increase in hatred by Americans toward Muslims as a result of the continuous invective against Islam and linkage between Muslims and terrorism by right-wing forces in the media. He links to a WaPo-ABC News poll that found negative views of Muslims growing among the American public.

As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The poll found that nearly half of Americans -- 46 percent -- have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence.

Prof. Cole writes that the Bush administration has fueled this rising bigotry by consistently equating the Muslim world with the former Soviet Union:

The Bush administration policy is to continually insinuate that the Muslim world is the new Soviet Union and full of sinister forces that require the US to go to war against them. But at the same time, America has warm relations with Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, etc., etc. When Saudi Arabia's then crown prince (now king) Abdullah came to the US, Bush brought him to the Crawford ranch, held hands with him and kissed him on each cheek.

This two-faced policy and self-contradictory rhetoric has contributed to growing hatred and bigotry toward Muslims in the US, which is no less worrisome than the hatred Jews faced in Europe in the 1920s. It is dangerous because of what it can become.

Emphasis mine.

Prof. Cole gives specific examples of the way hatemongers in the press -- people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Chris Matthews; and news organizations like FOX News -- use out-of-context Koranic passages and inaccurate translations from the Arabic to portray Islam as a religion that preaches hatred and violence toward non-Muslims.

I found this section of Cole's piece especially important and moving:

The hatemongers are well known. Rupert Murdoch's Fox Cable News, Rush Limbaugh's radio program and its many clones, telebimbos like Ann Coulter, Evangelical leaders like Franklin Graham, Congressmen like Tom Tancredo, and a slew of far rightwing Zionists who would vote for Netanyahu (or Kach) if they lived in Israel-- Frank Gaffney, Daniel Pipes, Michael Rubin, David Horowitz, etc., etc. And finally, there are many Muslims who have an interest in whipping up anti-Islamic feeling. Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress helped maneuver the US into a war against Iraq with lies about a Saddam-al-Qaeda connection and illusory WMD. The dissident Islamic Marxist group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is now placing equally false stories about Iran in the Western press and retailing them to Congress and the Pentagon.

The hatemongers think that the American public is sort of like a big stupid dog, and you can fairly easily "sic" it on whoever you like. Just tell them that X people are intrinsically evil and that the US needs to go to war to protect itself from them. Then they turn around and blame those of us who don't want our country reduced to footsoldiers in someone else's greedy crusade for being "unpatriotic."

All human beings are the same. They all have the same emotions. All laugh when happy and weep when sad. There are no broad civilizations that produce radically different behavior in human beings. All are capable of violence. (Christians killed tens of millions in the course of the 20th century, far, far more than did Muslims). Few commit much violence except in war. You can walk around any place in Cairo at 1 am perfectly safely, but cannot do that everywhere safely in many major US cities, including the nation's capital, Washington, DC. Even the idea of Islam as a cultural world or civilization opposed to the Christian West is a false construct. Eastern Mediterranean honor cultures (Greece, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Syria) have more in common with each other across the Christian-Muslim divide than either has in common with Britain or the US. And, Muslim states don't make their alliances by religion. Egypt was allied with the Soviet Union in the 1960s, then switched to the US in the 1970s and until the present. Four of the five non-NATO allies of the US are Muslim countries. Turkey is even a full NATO ally and fought along side the US in the Korean War.

Read it, link to it, talk about it. We seem to be rushing headlong toward something really frightening and ugly.

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