The aftermath of the September 11 attack on America’s nerve centres of military and economic power has been an unprecedented tidal wave of rabid anti-Muslim hate crimes and speeches.
News coverage of what has been described as the “worst terrorist attack on US soil” has gone beyond saturation point, and yet images of the planes ploughing into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon are continuously repeated on all the major news organs of the world.
Dramatic footage from dated archives of America’s prime suspect and most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, has provided the image of the face that George Bush believes is the master-mind behind the attacks. This image together with footage of masked people, allegedly Muslims, training in guerrilla warfare in some desert area, allegedly Afghanistan, repeated ad nauseam, has aided anti-Muslim propagandists to denounce legitimate Islamic movements as “terrorists”.
The desire for vengeance has witnessed calls baying for Muslim blood, in addition to the daily reports of atrocities committed against innocent Muslim children in western capitals, as well as arson and bomb attacks on Mosques and Islamic institutions. Thus far more than a thousand incidents attacking the civil liberties of Muslims have been recorded in America. These exclude the brutal slaying of Sikhs, mistaken as Muslims and attacks on Hindu Temples mistaken as Mosques.
None of the war mongering rhetoric emanating from the White House and vociferously supported by self-styled experts on terrorism is likely to dampen the ferocious scale of Islamophobia, despite patronising disclaimers that all Muslims are not terrorists. Indeed such disavowals entrench the perception that the declaration of war on terrorism is indeed a crusade against Islam. Bush’s ultimatum whereby your choice is limited to either being “with America” or “with terrorism”, “with civilization” or “with barbarism” has offered the world, including Arab dictatorships a choice between the West and Islam. Thus this division of geopolitical interests confirms Israel to be an integral part of the West, while it negates the Palestinian struggle as “terrorist”, therefore “barbaric” and not worthy of support by civilised nations.
In fact, the legitimate resistance by Muslims in Chechnya to ward off naked Russian aggression is now also being viewed as “terrorist”, while the old Cold War adversary has been welcomed as part of the American Club.
The struggle for Independence by the Kashmirs will be frustrated even further due to the fact that it’s liberation movement has opposed Pakistan’s complicity which allows the USA it’s air space and bases for the impending invasion of Afghanistan. This places them in the camp of the “other” deserving of the wrath of the Americans and it’s NATO coalition, and by their convoluted logic, should be pulverised into extinction for daring to oppose Uncle Sam.
The dictum “with us or against us” is the new guiding principle, which is now defining International relations. South Africa too is not immune from the despotic demands of this dictate. A recent editorial in The Citizen (September 26) blames remarks made by Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for the plummeting rand. What did she say that coincided with the arrival of the R13 pound? The preceding day’s lead story headlined “ANC sees Israel as racist – Zuma” reported that she quoted to the National Assembly the recent ANC newsletter equating Israel policies with apartheid and Nazism. “These policies are racist,” the Minister said.
Accordingly, The Citizen opines that nations are choosing sides while Zuma “flirts with putting us in the wrong camp”. The camp of barbarians and terrorists? The camp of all the usual suspects: Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, the Taliban, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and rogue states such as Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba?
It appears that to some it does not matter if our constitution and Bill of Rights come under attack as a consequence of demands by the US intelligence networks to suspend a host of civil liberties in order to remain in the American orbit. The proposed anti-Terrorism Bill and drastic changes in the banking industry to flush out “terrorists” and freeze contributions from “Middle Eastern terror networks” will ensure that South Africa’s new freedoms will hinge on the paranoia currently fuelling intense anti-Muslim sentiments.
(Mr. Iqbal Jasarat is Chairman of the Media Review Network, which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.)