While each has its distinctive history; like Anti-Semitism and racism, Islamophobia is a real phenomenon that cultivates hate among communities, stereotypes a whole group for the acts of a few, and justifies transgression against the innocent. And like the rest, Islamophobia was developed and is fostered by special interest groups who often have access to power in order to reach a political, social, or an economic end.
With few exceptions, gone are the days when the perpetrators of hate would march with banners explicitly expressing their bigoted perceptions and attitudes. However, that is hardly an indication that the phenomenon has seized to exist.
Today, hate speech and propaganda are often craftily camouflaged as talk radio punditry, political lampooning, speeches, or political infomercial.
Last year, in a bizarre outburst of bigotry that makes Islophobes such as David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer as objective intellectuals, radio talk show host Michael Savage of the Savage Nation had this ranting and raving to share with his audience: "I’m not gonna put my wife in a hijab. And I’m not gonna put my daughter in a burqa. And I’m not gettin on my all-fours and braying to Mecca . And you could drop dead if you don’t like it.”
Spewing his hate via hundreds of the over 1200 radio stations owned by notoriously Islmophobic corporation Clear Channel, he continued his provocative diatribe: “You can shove it up your pipe. I don’t wanna hear anymore about Islam. I don’t wanna hear one more word about Islam. Take your religion and shove it up your behind. I’m sick of you."
Along the same path, albeit more artistically, the July 2008 issue of the New Yorker Magazine had on its front page a political caricature of Barak and Michelle Obama. The couple is standing in the middle of the Oval Office. Obama is wearing a traditional Islamic dress with turban and sandals. He is approvingly fist-bumping with a militant looking Michelle as his sinister left eye gazes away. Michelle is wearing Angela Davis style afro and a guerilla fatigue with an M-16 hanging from her back. Looking over them is an Africa-American looking picture of Usama Bin Laden…hanging over the fire place where the American flag is set on flames.
Then came September 4, 2008– the Republican Convention –where the merchants of fear and paranoia found their ideal platform. Inadvertently or otherwise, the underlying theme seemed to be to broaden the definition of the enemy from a cult-like Al-Qaida to a much broader indeed more fluid definition that indicts all those who practice Islam as suspect or worse.
Rudolph Guiliani, the former New York City Mayor, condemned the democrats for being “politically correct” and avoiding the use of the term ‘Islamic terrorism’" to describe the enemy.
Taking the politically synthesized Anti-Islamic mantra to the next level by directly speaking to the race-conscious voters, former congressional leader Dick Army, who now leads one of the most power lobby groups in Washington, had this to say. Barack Obama’s "funny name" could "give people concerns that he could be or has been too much influenced by Muslims, which is a great threat now." Obama is Christian.
It is a shame that the media is less interested in what Mr. Army and others who routinely use more provocative and broadly condemning terms such as “Islamo-fascism,” “Islamic terrorism,” and “Jihadism” to describe "the enemy," the 7 million Muslims in the United States and 1.2 billion around the world.
Last week, many localities around the U.S. were hit by a new “swift-boating” campaign. This one, targeting swing states, is aimed to induce paranoia by distributing “28 million DVDs” of the propaganda film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.
The film, like any Goebbelian piece of propaganda, connivingly exploits the human tendency to surrender their capacity to think critically when their emotions are stirred or fear is instilled in their hearts. The film does this successfully as it is made of selective footages from various parts of the world of individuals expressing hate, training, and committing acts of terror and the bloody scenes of their crimes. It is a dangerously effective way of collectively demonize Muslims as the so called experts featured in the film use all the aforementioned hot button terminologies to describe the terrorists and interlink all these cases with their subjective narrative.
This latest campaign is carried by an obscure New York based group named The Clarion Fund whose funders are not known.
In pursuit of their goal to effectively disseminate the DVDs and secure subliminal legitimacy, this group has selectively targeted the newspaper distribution apparatuses of various cities in critical states. Here in central Ohio, the Columbus Dispatch has distributed 10,000 copies of the DVDs through its most widely read issue – the Sunday Dispatch. The same was done by the New York Times, the Miami Herald and a host of other newspapers.
Venomous hyperbole aimed to stir fear and paranoia and indict all Muslims continues despite the Department of Homeland Security Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties’ conclusion that “Words matter” and its recommendation that U.S. officials and representatives should “…avoid inflating the religious bases and glamorous appeal of the extremists’ ideology.” According to a memo from the said department, the terminologies used should depict the terrorists as the dangerous cult leaders they are.