Thursday, October 11, 2007

Spreading Awareness or Smearing a Religion?

Counterpunch, October 10, 2007

Horowitz's Latest Hate Campaign Heads for Campus

By GARY LEUPP

With much fanfare, a collection of far-right ideologues backed by right-wing "think tank" money are proclaiming an "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" on college campuses beginning Oct. 22. It is a calculated effort to vilify Islam in general, place Muslim Student Associations on the defensive, and generate support for further U.S. military action in the Islamic world.

Muslims constitute about a quarter of the world's population and around two percent of the U.S. population. They include members of many ethnic groups. Arabs are a minority in the Muslim world; the most populous Muslim countries (Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh) are non-Arab. The Muslim world is complex and divided, religiously (into Sunni, Shiite, and other groups) and politically. There are Muslim absolute monarchies, constitutional monarchies, secular states and Islamic republics. To understand this world, one needs to dispassionately examine it, avoiding stereotypes.

But immediately after 9-11, the Bush administration, having no patience with "nuance," set about trying to link the secular republic of Iraq with the (mostly Saudi) al-Qaeda religious fanatics. It believe that having been attacked by al-Qaeda most Americans would support an attack on the completely unrelated target of Iraq. But what did al-Qaeda and Iraq have in common? The former hated the latter for its suppression of Islamic religious activism, and its tolerance for Christians and other religious minorities. But somehow Bush was able to conflate the two, so that even today about a third of Americans believe Saddam was involved in 9-11. Those on the Christian right are most inclined to this view, and to embrace sentiments like those expressed by right-wing extremist Ann Coulter in National Review Sept. 13, 2001: "We should invade [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." But they're joined by secular neoconservatives like Norman Podhoretz who has called on Bush to bomb Iran, which he calls "the currently main center of the Islamofascist ideology."

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