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Posted: August 10, 2002

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The Echoes of the Past

by Wahida Valiante

Long before Jews were herded into concentration camps, a climate of hatred against them had been methodically and relentlessly pursued through the German media and the government ministry of propaganda. Today, many people object to hearing comparisons drawn between racist propaganda directed against Islam and Muslims and that which occurred against Jews during the 1930s. After all, they point out, we live under a democratic government and there are no concentration camps for Muslims. In fact, to hear them tell it, there is nothing at all threatening Muslims in North America.

But those same voices who argue against making the harsh parallel between Nazi Germany and the present day have never sought to extend them to the historical reality that the slaughter of Jews was only possible because of the long and vitriolic propaganda campaign of deadly misinformation.

In 1993, Samuel Huntington wrote "The Clash of Civilizations," in which he articulated very clearly his anti-Islam position. He writes in Clash. "The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism," "It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power." For nearly a decade now the propaganda machine has been in full force to "solve the Islamic and Muslim problem." The agenda is to manipulate public opinion so utterly and thoroughly that Muslims would soon be universally viewed as no more than expendable animals and their faith of Islam as a violent, illegitimate religion.

The current blood-letting policy of America toward the Muslim world is the culmination of a campaign so thorough in its viciousness that its perpetrators feel morally justified in carpet-bombing Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, they feel equally justified in imposing such inhumane sanctions on Iraq that thousands of innocent children and infants have died through preventable disease and neglect.

This same policy has also allowed America to support Israel both militarily and politically, so that this client state of Washington can freely commit its own atrocities, destruction, closures, economic strangulation, and intimidation of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories. No amount of state-sanctioned terrorism against Palestinians is condemned because the majority of those killed and maimed are supposedly Muslim terrorists and not innocent palestinian women and children.

Russia, likewise, has continued to commit genocide against Chechens without any fear of serious censure by the international community. On the home front, American authorities were able to round up thousands of Arab and Muslim citizens in the midst of a civilized nation after the September 11 tragedies and incarcerate them without any due process of law.

Samuel Huntington's co-religionists, Daniel Pipes (Middle East Policy Advisor), Steve Emerson (Jihad in America), and Bernard Lewis (Roots of Muslim Rage) have lead the sustained media assault on Muslims in North America and on Islam as a religion. For more than a decade they have pumped out denigrating and demonizing images of Muslims as "the others," juxtaposing them with idealized images of "civilized" Americans. It is no coincidence that Bernard Lewis, America's foremost Islamophobic spokesperson, wrote his article "Roots of Muslim Rage" immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union (Atlantic Monthly, September 1990). Samuel Huntington followed in 1993 with his infamous "The Clash of Civilizations" (Foreign Affairs): he obviously modelled his title from missionary Basil Matthews' 1926 book "Young Islam on Trek: A Study in the Clash of Civilizations."

Their obsession with Islam has caused them somehow to retard their thinking processes to the point where they are compelled to repeat the same formulas again and again. Regrettably, others have joined in on the vitriol against Islam and its adherents. Novelist V.S. Naipaul, who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his anti-Islam book, after September 11, 2001, reacted to that tragedy with his own hawkish diatribe on clashing civilizations,in which he grandiosely affirmed Islam's supposed calamitous effect on world "civilization."

In the ongoing effort to demonize Islam and Muslims, the media have been joined by some Christian fundamentalists, many claiming to be born-again believers whose religious energies are focused on the eventual destruction of Islam's third holiest place "The Dome of the Rock"-- Jerusalem -- in order to built a new temple so that their Messiah can return. Imagine a prophet of Jesus' (peace be upon him) stature needing a building as a landing-pad to bring message of peace to this tortured world!

Another little-known fact is that the arrival of the Messiah also will mark the end of all Jewish life. According to some interpretations of Biblical prophecy, the Jews will either convert to Christianity at Jesus' second coming, or will be killed if they refuse -- and all this bloodletting supposedly will happen in the name of religion.

So far, the triumphalist campaign seems to have been very successful in the United States, especially after September 11, 2001. Muslim and Arab citizens have become the target of ethnic profiling, supposedly as potential terrorists or supporting parties to it. And over just a few months, a draconian slate of laws has been passed to squeeze Muslims out of every aspect of American life -- government, education, economy, etc. Even Muslim charities, which have been the backbone of organizations providing financial help to victims of ethnic cleansing, brutal occupation, and state-sanctioned terrorism, have been adversely affected by the pall of suspicion thrown over all Muslims.

Steps to disenfranchise and disempower Canadian Muslims are also being pursued just as relentlessly, on a scale of calculated and increasing severity. According to a recent Toronto Star article, "the case of Mohamed Mansour Jabarah should raise alarms here, not because of his alleged role in an alleged terrorist plot, but because of the casual way in which Canadian government authorities handed over a Canadian citizen to be jailed -- without charge -- by a foreign power."

The National Post leads the Islamophobic pack, followed by various self-proclaimed experts on Islam. Some spread their disinformation in the public media or preach an ultra-conservative fundamentalist line to evangelical Christians. Print and broadcast personality Michel Coren is a popular name among this group. According to his latest hypothesis, the world's 1.2 billion Muslims are no more than blood- thirsty terrorists who simply hate our way of life and are out to "get" the good folks of North America. This, he tells us, is a result of Islamic teaching -- conveniently forgetting that a mere handful of fanatic individuals caused the death of thousands of innocent Americans. Coren would also prefer if Muslims did not mention, thankyou very much, the 800 years of peaceful co-exsistence in Spain among the three leading monotheistic religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- under Muslim rule.

Remember how effectively German public opinion was manipulated by the media? It was done so relentlessly that otherwise rational Germans saw no crime in the vandalism and looting of "Kristallnacht," for example, when numerous Jewish businesses and shops were destroyed. We must never forget that when an ongoing, relentless atmosphere of hate has been established against any one religion, it compromises and devalues the religious and civil liberties of all citizens.

As people of good conscience and good will, we share in the responsibility of ensuring that America never travels that terrible road.

Mrs. Valiante is national vice-chair of the Canadian Islamic Congress. She is a professional family counselor who recently visited Palestine as part of a fact-finding medical team. While there, the team visited refugee camps, health care clinics, hospitals, orphanages, local and international charities and women's refugee centres, and spoke with social workers and local Palestinian families.

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