The crusader mentality never went away. By ‘crusader’ I am not suggesting that there is necessarily an active desire on the part of Islamophobes to reconquer the Holy Land. No. What I am talking about is the way in which certain politicians, journalists and others seek to produce scare stories for popular consumption; these are scare stories that have a particular historical precedent. These myths have been systematically inserted into public conversations on Islam for the last 9 years. But stories, myths and tropes are only part of it. The English Defence League (EDL) has articulated its discourses around the alleged ‘Islamification of the country’ and have formed themselves into a sort of mass lynch mob ready to crush anyone who dares to get in its way. We see countries like France banning the burqa and politicians like Geert Wilders declaring the Koran to be ‘evil’.
Given the Vatican’s blatant refusal to come clean on the child abuse scandals that continue to dog it, Wilders and others have deliberately blinded themselves to the reality that all mass religions from Catholicism to Hinduism have a great deal of explaining to do vis a vis their methods of social control and the secrets that they keep. No mass religion is free from these sorts of scandals but in the Catholic church such abuse was institutionalized; the perpetrators shielded from investigation by the current Pope. Yet not a word about this from the likes of UKIP, Wilders or the EDL.
The Islamophobia we are currently witnessing has its roots in events that took place over 1000 years ago: the Crusades. While many Muslims have pointed out this fact to their detractors, Western neo-conservative journalists like Douglas Murray have sidestepped the issue. But they can do this no more. The current opposition to Islam is part of this new crusaderist mentality. The comments on this blog sum up this mentality. The issue of the building of a mosque called park51 (in fact a community centre) near ’Ground Zero’ has got American right-wingers foaming at the mouth. Of course, they conveniently and deliberately ignore the fact that Muslims were killed on 9 September 2001 along with Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus and others. Death doesn’t discriminate.
To ensure their opinions found purchase in the public mind, the neo-cons coined a word for Islamist fanatics: Islamofascist. The word is a portmanteau of ’Islam’ and ‘fascist’ and is designed to conjure up images of Hitler and the Nazis, who are a sort of touchstone of evil – true demons. Whenever a new enemy comes along, it is only a matter of time before he is compared to Hitler. Gamal Abdel Nasser found himself labelled as “another Hitler” by British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden during the Suez Crisis of 1956. In truth Nasser wasn’t even a Mussolini yet this comparison found favour with diehard militarists, right-wingers and Daily Mail readers. It was, after all, only 11 years since the end of WWII and memories were of Hitler were still fresh in the mind. In the 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte was used in a similar way. Parents would threaten their children by telling that ’Boney’ would ‘get them’ if they didn’t go to sleep. An effective weapon to keep children in line for sure but what about the adults?
The title of Glenn Beck’s programme has the words “Jihad. Mein Kampf” as if to suggest that the fundamentalists constitute a form of Nazism, complete with its own uniforms and regalia. Somehow I doubt Beck has ever read Mein Kampf...
Funnily enough, Beck has a disclaimer: “I am not a journalist”. That’s all right then. He also ‘reminds’ us of how these fanatics use the “weapon of propaganda”. A bit like Fox News?
Christopher Hitchens has declined the credit for the appearance the word Islamofascism – that’s big of him. The Popinjay says
The term Islamofascism was first used in 1990 in Britain’s Independent newspaper by Scottish writer Malise Ruthven, who was writing about the way in which traditional Arab dictatorships used religious appeals in order to stay in power.
Is that so? That still doesn’t make it right. How would one define Francoist Spain? As Christofascist? We know that Franco was a staunch Roman Catholic and placed the church at the heart of the state yet Franco wasn’t fascist; he sympathized with the fascists and the Nazis. He allied himself with the Spanish Falange, though did not join the Falange until the early 1960′s. In his attempt to explain away the term, Hitchens doubles back on himself,
Technically, no form of Islam preaches racial superiority or proposes a master race. But in practice, Islamic fanatics operate a fascistic concept of the “pure” and the “exclusive” over the unclean and the kufar or profane.
Clear as mud, but that still doesn’t make them ‘fascist’, my former Trotskyite friend; it makes them either religious fundamentalists or religious purists; reactionary conservatives to be precise – not unlike the Generalissimo himself. David Horowitz, another former Trotskyite, came up with the idea of an Islamofascism Awareness Week (sic). Steven Schwartz of the Murdoch-owned Weekly Bog Standard claims that
Good for you, Steve. Schwartz does his best to defend the term, going so far as to offer badly drawn connections between the use of state-sanctioned violence and the activities of Al Qaeda to make his somewhat tenuous point.
Fascism was paramilitary; indeed, the Italian and German military elites were reluctant to accept the fascist parties’ ideological monopoly. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah are both paramilitary.
There is a major difference between the two: Islamic fundamentalists do not roam the streets looking for non-believers to beat up nor do they attack political meetings. Both Hitler and Mussolini used gangs of thugs to smash printing presses and offices of newspapers that opposed them. I see none of this in the cities of the so-called West. Where is the Al-Qaeda equivalent of the squadristi or the Sturmabteilung? They are nowhere to be seen. There are no Islamic fundamentalist equivalents of the Blackshirts, Brownshirts or any other colour of shirt…though the likes of Hitchens would have us believe that these religious fanatics have formed themselves into the kinds of paramilitary units that operated in the 1920′s and 1930′s.
A lot of the mutterings and op-ed pieces on ‘Islamofascism’ are redolent of the rantings of the evidently mad Peter the Hermit who propagated the will of Pope Urban II by claiming Muslims had committed a variety of unspeakable acts against Christian pilgrims. Never mind that Christians had, for centuries, subjected Jews to the very thing that they were now accusing Muslims of – the Hermit wasn’t interested as he was most probably a raving anti-Semite – like most Christians of the period. It was partly because of Peter’s efforts that the Peasants Crusade attracted so many volunteers (Urban II had declared that anyone who took the cross would be given a remission from all sins. A very tempting offer to the superstitious medieval mind). Things haven’t changed great deal since 1096, we may have more advanced technology but our attitudes and our way of thinking is, more often than not, rooted in the past. It is easy to accuse ‘Islamic extremists’ or Islam itself of being mired in the medieval period but our thinking, which we like to think of as ‘enlightened’ is mired in exactly the same place, if not an earlier time. This is particularly the case when one hears Douglas Murray talk about the ‘creeping Islamicization of Europe’. These ‘warnings’ are medieval in their style, tone and delivery.
Islam is often accused by western commentators of treating women as second class citizens. What these commentators ignore is the fact that women, particularly in this country and elsewhere, are paid less than men and are objectified in the media. Feminine traits are ridiculed, sidelined and devalued, while masculine ones such as war-making are celebrated. In the home, women do all, if not most of the work while the men do as little as possible. Then there’s the issue of marital rape, where the husband believes it to be his conjugal right to violate his wife if he so chooses – a pater familias for our time? Perhaps. In the light of this, how are women freer in the west than in Muslim countries? They aren’t and it is a simple matter of cultural relativism that prevents the Islamophobes from seeing the truth. The Patriarchy is near-universal and doesn’t make distinctions between religions.
The way in which the word ‘Islamofascist’ has been used reminds us of how the western political pundits saw Saddam Hussein: as a new Hitler. The construction of demons seems to rest on the last great demon of our recent history. This laziness in thinking exists for a purpose: to convince the gullible and the illiterate that Hitler had been reincarnated in the body of a contemporary figure and, as such, had to be stopped. In the 19th century, the bogeyman was Napoleon Bonaparte whose name was used to keep children in line if they did not say their prayers or go to sleep when told to do so. “Boney will come and get you”!
I am not a Muslim. In fact I do not belong to any religion, mass or otherwise. These mass religions are not concerned with spirituality, rather, their focus is on blind faith and submission. What they all have in common is their vertical structures of power, where an educated (educated in the religious sense) elite controls all aspects of the spiritual as well as the temporal (your body and its needs). It is only The Religious Society of Friends – The Quakers – who have a horizontal power structure.
Finally, here’s a blog from Damian Thompson in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. The title is interesting and demonstrates how Islamophobia has percolated through each level of our society. The misguided belief that Muslims are being ‘pandered’ to for the sake of ‘multiculturalism’ has become a form of universal truth among Daily Mail readers, who were never predisposed to Others of any creed or colour.
In 1977, The Jam declared that “This is the modern world”! Today I would ask “Is this the modern world”? It doesn’t look like it.
Here’s a wind up blog from Andrew Gilligan. If this kind of article was written about Jews and synagogues, there would be trouble. Yet, because it involves Muslims and a mosque that was, allegedly the place where various bombers worshipped, it is ‘fair game’. In this blog, Sunny Hundal of LiberalConspiracy asks “Why is Gilligan still taken seriously”? Good question.
Gilligan wrote an earlier blog about an “Islamist press release” from The Guardian. For Gilligan a small group of cranks becomes a mass movement,
Perhaps it’s because Mr Ali is a senior official of the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe – which works, in its own words, to create an Islamic state under sharia law in Europe. The IFE and the MSF share the same offices.
I won’t happen anymore than I am likely to become President of the United States. Gilligan lives in a fantasy world that is populated by fools, ignoramuses and sockpuppets.