Last year, as I watched the horror of the World Trade Centre attacks unfold on TV, I wrote the following lines for a national British newspaper. “If the dark cloud of Muslim terrorism has a silver lining one prays it is an internal review of US foreign policy, especially with regards to Israel. Yesterday’s attacks are the chickens of America’s callous abuse of others’ human rights coming home to roost.
“The likelihood is that Washington will order its spin-doctors to steer the public gaze well away from itself and towards intensified military efforts to snuff out Bin Laden. That would be the most terrifying outcome of all. One living Bin Laden is better than a martyr who spawns a hundred more.”
At the time colleagues suggested I was being melodramatic. Today, in hindsight, I stand guilty of understatement. Ten months into Operation Enduring Freedom it cannot be any clearer that the war on terror, to use its popular designation, has become a war on Islam.
That much became evident as early as 16 September, 2001, when George Bush junior announced a “crusade” against the suspected perpetrators. Although administration officials would later prevail on the president to try and shoot more from the brain than the hip, his Freudian slip had revealed the contextual frame in which the US would respond. This would be a war between right and wrong, a Manichean struggle between good and evil. In this fight the rest of the world was given two choices. “You’re either with us or against us.”
Needless to say, most of the world has been suborned or bullied into the former. Armed with a consensus built out of fear and political opportunism US forces have prosecuted their war in far flung parts of the world — Kyrgyzstan, the Pankisi Gorge and Basilan to name a few. Their self-assigned mission — the war has never had a UN mandate — to root out terror is in fact a pretext to suppress Muslim liberation movements that stand in the way of Washington’s quest for global dominance. This motive dovetails neatly with the desire of other nations to snuff out their own Muslim insurgencies and separatist movements; from India in occupied Kashmir, China in Xinjiang, and Russia in the autonomous republic of Chechnya, to the Zionists in Palestine, the list is endless.
The war on terror has locked Islam’s relations with the Western world into a dialectic of resistance to occupation and oppression. More importantly it has allowed politics to consolidate its position as the stage on which Muslim-Western interaction takes place and the arena where most ordinary people view Islam. That is unfortunate since in other areas of life, academia, art, and popular culture, the relationship between the two civilisations is much more cordial, certainly less truculent. Given the global supremacy of the Western media the net effect has been a distorted picture of Islam that has only one main purpose — to drum up international support for its government’s policies.
One of the most disingenuous, but effective, distortions has been to reduce the complex Muslim world into two camps, good and bad, a modern twist on the old colonial divide and rule policy. The good guys are those who capitulate before US foreign policy. The bad guys are those who are neutral or who disagree. Another way of describing the two groups is moderates and extremists. The former are characterised by their compliance to a mightier political antagonist, the latter by their decision to resist.
When he came to power Iran’s Ayatollah Khatami was a moderate in the eyes of a West. Now it is clear that Khatami is no sheep in wolf’s clothing and his country is part of the “axis of evil”. Ditto Chechnya. When the current President Aslan Maskhadov signed a peace treaty with the Russians in 1996 he was feted as a moderate. But when Maskhadov decided to fight a new Russian invasion in 1998 he found his former status as militant swiftly restored.
With the opening of other fronts it is hard to escape the conclusion that the war on terror is a war against Islam. In November 2001 the Zionist US columnist for The New York Times, Thomas Friedman, identified another prong:
“US policy makers and analysts now believe that the West is not fighting to eradicate terrorism. Terrorism is just a tool. It is fighting to defeat an ideology: religious totalitarianism. But unlike Nazism, religious totalitarianism can’t be fought by armies alone. It has to be fought in schools, mosques, churches and synagogues, and can be defeated only with the help of imams, rabbis and priests.”
Commenting on this, Jahangir Mohamed, director of the Centre for Muslim Affairs in the UK, writes: “Since there is no equivalent strategy for Christianity or Judaism it is clear the target is Islam and Muslims.
The policy drives the war on terror right into the heart of the education process, and it is not aimed just at children. The US government has allocated $30 million to get a new Middle Eastern radio network up and running. Developers say its programmes will be pitched at the estimated 99 million listeners aged 15 to 34 in an area between Egypt and the Persian Gulf and will seek to counter anti-American sentiment. The unstated aim, of course, is to challenge the pre-eminence of the relatively independent Al- Jazeera — the US bombed the station’s Kabul office at the start of the war on terror — in shaping Muslim public opinion.
It is a sign of how blind the US has become when it believes that it can win over public sentiment with PR and catchy ditties. Where the West, led by the US, is failing is not in the ability to communicate its values — even without a new radio network there is enough Western media penetration of the Muslim world — but rather the content of those values. Western support of Israel, the strangulation of Iraq and preparations for a second full-scale assault, all communicate a malicious desire to impose a foreign secular liberal writ on Muslim peoples against their will. In the face of such an imposition resistance is an inevitable response.
Mr. Faisal Bodi is a freelance journalist and commentator in the UK and editor of UmmahNews.com.