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On Propaganda and Islamophobia

22 October, 2007

By Abukar Aman


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The daunting reality facing people of conscience is the seemingly impossible task of controlling propaganda in a free society, and how the protected freedom of the perpetrators increases the vulnerability of their potential victims.

In the past few years, while many good things happened to Muslims in America, dark clouds continue to gather over them as a result of relentless propaganda by certain special interest groups. All one has to do is to randomly listen to talk show radio on the AM dial and hear the overtly expressed hate that hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions in America internalize every day and night. And this, needless to say, makes the backlash of any terrorist attack in the US soil a nightmare scenario for all Muslims.

'But, these are words,' the proponents of status quo argue. 'It is not that they are throwing Molotov cocktail bombs in their homes' they insist in order to minimize the power of words.

Perhaps the most powerful skill possessed by human beings (though not all) is the ability to assemble letters and turn them into words, then cultivate these words into dynamic ideas that shape perceptions, condition attitudes, and change minds. And, like all other skills, this too can be used positively or negatively.

Throughout history, words inspired actions that freed generations from the iron fists of despotism. By the same token, words demonized human beings by labeling their thoughts wicked and their lives contemptible, thus justifying policies of repression and oppression against them.

"We constantly speak of human beings in ways which implicitly deny their humanity - in words which reduce them to being mere representatives of a class, mere symbolic representations of some principle. Bourgeois, Bolshevik, Fascist, Communist... ," said Aldous Huxley in a 1936 speech delivered at the Albert Hall, London. "Not one of these words describes the concrete reality of the men and women to whom it is applied... Most people would hesitate to torture or kill a human being like themselves. But when that human being is spoken of as though he were not a human being, but as the representative of some wicked principle, we lose our scruples," Huxley added.

And history tends to repeat itself so long as we don't use lessons of our past experiences to avert recreating another dreadful chapter. Yesterday it was the Jews; today, it is the Muslims enduring a brutal barrage of demonizing disinformation that some compare to the pre World War II atmosphere.

In this age of Reality TV where the real, the unreal, and the surreal are deeply entangled, few have the ability to decipher the disinformation or propaganda for what it truly is. Few would question: Is stereotyping a major religion in its entirety ethical or even prudent? Is there any historical or a current trend supporting the so-called 'Islamo-fascism' propagated by certain vociferous political and religious provocateurs?

(And assuming their charges were correct) The question that begs an answer is, why are the millions of Muslims in the U.S. not wreaking 'fascistic' havoc? More importantly, why do these provocateurs and their Grand Wizards such as Robert Spencer, David Horowitz, Televangelist Pat Robertson, Daniel Pipes, and Steve Emerson, and the cottage industry of fear, outfits such as FrontPage Magazine, JihadWatch, and LittleGreen Footballs keep ranting and raving hate speech that indiscriminately offends Muslims and only gives more fuel to the radical elements?

Hate speech is described as words uttered, recorded, written, pictured, or communicated in any other means (softly or loudly) that are "intended to degrade, intimidate, or incite violence or prejudicial action against a person or a group of people based on their race, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, religion...".

However, as a result of the heinous aggression of 9/11 and the subsequent fear industry, a number of people became desensitized to the dangers of the slithering Islamophobia and its mirrored image, anti-Americanism.

In his radio program on WLW-AM, owned by Clear Channel, host Bill Cunningham had this message for his listeners: "The great war of this generation's time is the war against Islamic fascists... They do not live for life, they live for death. Only through death can they believe they can be with those 72 virgins in heaven and have sex with children for eternity, which is the goal of that religion." And, confident on how frightened into silence Muslims in the US are, when he was asked whether or not he was concerned how his remarks might've offended Muslims, he said he did not get any calls protesting his remarks. So, "I moved on to the Bengals," Cunningham said.

And in the political spectrum, early this summer, while being critical of how in their first two debates the democratic presidential candidates avoided connecting terrorism with Islam, the now frontrunner republican candidate, Rudy Giuliani, had this to say: "During their two debates they never mentioned the word Islamic terrorist, Islamic extremist, Islamic fascist, terrorist, whatever combination of those words you want to use, (the) words never came up... Maybe it's politically incorrect to say that. I don't know. I can't imagine who you insult if you say Islamic terrorist. You don't insult anyone who is Islamic who isn't a terrorist."

Now imagine if media routinely described the widely reported sexual abuses committed by individual members of the Catholic clergy as 'Catholic-pedophiliac culture' and blamed everything on Roman Catholicism or the church doctrine. Or, imagine the Zionist brutal oppression of the Palestinian people being routinely referred to as Zio-Nazism or being blamed on Judaism and the teachings of the Torah!

Recently, however, realists such as General John Abizaid who came to terms that in no way is the venomous rhetoric employed by the propagandists in US' best interest started to speak out.

"Adding the word Islamic extremism, or qualifying it to Sunni Islamic extremism ... all make it very, very difficult because the battle of words is meaningful, especially in the Middle East to people," said the former Commander of the U.S. Central Command.

It is crucial to "figure out how we don't turn this into Samuel Huntington's Battle of Civilizations and we work toward an area where we respect mainstream Islam. There's nothing Islamic about Bin Laden's philosophy, there's nothing Islamic about suicide bombing. I believe that these are huge difficulties that we need to overcome, this notion of Christianity versus Islam. It's not that, it doesn't need to be that," he added.

In its true essence, propaganda is different than other forms of communication as it consciously employs half-truths, falsehoods and misleading information to manipulate feelings and attitudes. Propaganda mainly targets the emotion, because emotions stir the targeted subject into a frenzy of impulsive actions.

Hitler clearly understood this. In his infamous Mein Kampf, he wrote: for propaganda to be more effective it "must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect. We must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public. The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous,"

And while it is often projected as 'factual' or 'historical', propaganda has little or no connection with truth or history. "Historical truth may be discovered by a professor of history. We, however, are serving historical necessity. It is not the task of art to be objectively true. The sole aim of propaganda is success," wrote Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.

Accordingly, both facts and history are treated as ever-morphing blocs of information and accounts whose sole purpose is to be conveniently exploited by those who control their access - subjective media, repressive regimes, think tanks, etc.

Today, these gate-keeping entities subjectively frame the debate through relentless disinformation. They box all Muslims with a point of view together - they label some with the dreaded T-word, and frighten the others into utter silence or into an uncomfortable position of having to prove one's "moderate" inclinations all the time.

The propagandists confidently count on their ferocious "noise machine" made of primarily a network of pseudo-media and loyal bloggers with the capacity to repeat any lie long enough to turn it into the prevailing 'truth'.

Recently, a local interfaith body - the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio - that this author is connected with - announced its plan to host an educational forum called "Many Voices of Islam." Its purpose was to provide Muslims a unique opportunity to define themselves and openly share their various spiritual perspectives. The machine waged a hysterical campaign... accusing the association of lack of patriotism, supporting Hamas, and on exposing the country to greater danger.

Ironically, and perhaps while counting on the herd mentality of the frightened masses, this same propaganda machine promotes David Horowitz's spread-the-hate campaign called "the Islamo-fascism Awareness Week" coming to a university campus near you.

Horowitz and his affiliates' hateful mission was first unveiled in George Washington University when students promoting that event plastered provocative fliers all over the university; the most despicable among them being a poster bearing the image of a Muslim man with Islamic attire that read "Hate Muslims? So Do We!"

Meanwhile (and however symbolic), a silver-lining emerged behind the dark clouds hanging over the Muslims in America. Last week, New York's Empire State Building was lit up in green to honor the Muslim holiday Eid-al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

 

Reader Comments:

"Islamofascism"

This is the term I regularly hear on the chat forums and regularly by the likes of Steve Emerson, Daniel Pipes etc. They are nothing but hat trolls and have been discredited in the past. Yahoo disabled it's commentary feature on it's news story because enough of us got together to petition the amount of hate speech by mostly the kind of internet trolls that can only seem to speak their one dimensional minds on such an annonymous forum. They all seem to learn these terms from those who perpetrate their hate agenda. Yes the media is biased against Muslims. Matt Laurer from the Today Show on NBC has openly used the term "Islamic Terrorists" in many of his commentaries. I think the best way to combat this type of bashing to for us to do the same about those who insight the very same thing. We as humans will never extinguish hate but sometimes you have to use fire to fight fire. Muslims US and abroad should begin to record all quotes by leaders, journalists, politicians and use the very thing they say against us. Start a database of quotes, news clips etc and compile it. There's always a time when those who perpetrate hate often forget about things they said when they themselves come under fire.

Just Johnny 4now, United Kingdom - 22 October, 2007

Mullah rejects progress

I sincerely believe that, our stubborn, ignorant and illusioned Mullahs are the main hurdle in developing real understanding of Islam and starting efforts in bridging the widening divide between the religions. These semi-literate Mullahs are, in fact the covert anti-Islam force with a face of medieval Islam defiant of all progress. Consider the following simple reasons in support of this concept.

1) Quran being the "Ultimate Code of Life" originating about 1,400 years ago and promised by the Ultimate Creator, to provide answers to all questions faced by the mankind, for all times to come till the Judgment Day, than it MUST be a constantly "Progressive Code", providing RENEWALS at appropriate times, answering all emerging questions in time.
2) Islam has adequately provided mechanism to regularly redefine its detailed provisions in the code of life, with a basic condition that, it would not violate the basic essence of Islam encoded in Quran. This is a delicate issue, for which universal consensus is required. Mujadideens have been promised to come periodically and do this job. Since Mujadid is not a prophet, he has to be from within the greater Islamic brotherhood. Can our Ullema agree on this point? Would they agree to accept any such person having universal recognition, as as their Mujadid, even if he is not from within their local clout and may come from anywhere in the world?

3) Islam gives us a DYNAMIC code of life and Quran identifies life with MOVEMENT, a fact openly confirmed by the modern Science. Likewise, Quran identifies DEATH with SAKUT or devoid of MOVEMENT. Therefore, any situation devoid of MOVEMENT or CHANGE is DEATH. Natural conclusion of these explanations is, Islam definitely is, a "Dynamic code of life", providing changes for accommodating all emerging situations in time, so as to satisfy all day to day developing, general as well as specific cases, WITHOUT COMPROMISING BASIC INJUNCTIONS PROVIDED IN THE HOLY QURAN. Can our Ullema agree on this basic and simple definition with their inadequate Scientific knowledge?

4) To be a Mujadid, one has to be completely selfless, which means, he should not have an iota of personal interest or stake involved in dealing with issues related to defining Islam. Can we find and bring out any such a person onto our horizon? Can our Ullema search, agree and bring to light one such person from the entire Muslim world?

5) Women are given half weight-age of vote in Islamic Law (under certain conditions), in comparison to men. Although it is a delicate separate debate in itself, it generally implies that, the women at least deserve 50% say in all legal matters. Can our Ullema unequivocally agree even on this understanding and give women 50 % say, at least in matters related to women-affairs, like Hadood for women?

Crusade of Ullema against women is clearly a non- Dynamic ( and also non-democratic) portrayal of Islamic image to the world. This is the strongest point of dispute which arraigns all other religions against Islam. Ullema (Mullahs,as the West better understand them), are hell bent upon keeping the women confined to preliminary definitions evolved to meet the requirements of a period existing 14 centuries back, which amounts to burying women emancipation and killing all their rights to grow with time. Knowing well how our so called Ullema would react to these questions, as according to our own famous saying, "Two Mullahs can not successfully slaughter a chicken", we least expect honorable and logical answer to any of above questions, which could satisfy the essence of Dynamic ( Living) Islam. Expecting of our "Ullema",(as we know them today), to defend this concept of "Dynamic Islam", on the arena of Universal Muslim Brotherhood and the world at large, is like expecting lions to start grazing.


M.Saeed, Pakistan - 23 October, 2007

Vested interest Muslims

In western world such islamophobic could be counted on finger tips but problem is with neo-moderates and vulgar extremists in Pakistan who have been assigned to provide clues to anti-Islam lobbies. A large number of NGO's are working on this assignments and some graduates of western countries are also perfroming such duties. Gen Musharraf is top propaganda master against Islam and leaves no chance to bash Islam for money.
In west Islamophobic are due to hate but in Pakistan such elements are working as duty. Muslim press is using all such terms and applying to their respective citizens, all Arab countries, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangla Desh, Afghanistan and Turky or top of the list. Each have their own interest from economical benefits to legality of authoritarian rule. Muslim clergy is hypocrite, they cry on cartoons but when hundred of copies of Quran were burnt at Islamabad by Musharraf forces no Mullah condemned it.
Hypocricy with in Islam is more dangerious then propaganda of a few in west.
West is looking some lame excuse to invade on muslim countries by declaring them Islamofascists. Name of Osama and al qaeda is being kept alive to bash muslims. West has created an gignatic image of such shadowy organization that it is considered equal to all Nato forces.
I still have doubt that video messages of Osama are genuine or some body is manuplating sentiments of peoples of western countries, main beneficiary of such videos is govt of Pakistan by receiving 11 billion dollars. western world must think why Bush, Musharraf, Karazai, Noori Maiki type puppets are blaming such peoples to provide room for extremists in west to justify their attack on Islam.

Ghulam Rasool Chaudhry, Pakistan - 24 October, 2007

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