The Politics and Purpose of Islamophobia: How Bigotry Against Muslims Helps Sell Endless Wars

maher_harris_hypocrites
Some TV show hosts and commentators, such as Bill Maher and so-called authors like Sam Harris, and others, seem to be on a mission, lately. What kind of mission would be a good question to ask and ponder. Maybe if we first analyze their comments and complaints, we can find out. Mr. Harris, for one, seems so concerned for Muslims that they are themselves more than anyone else victimized by their own religion that he is desperately trying to enlighten them and liberate them from their own faith. Bill Maher, on the other hand, is more upfront about it: he proudly and openly shows his contempt for Muslims and Islam. He’s quick to point out, of course – of course – that his issue is not Muslims, per se, or at least, not all Muslims, but their religion. So, in a way, he’s also, I suppose, concerned about the poor Muslims who have such a bad religion! It’s like seeing someone eat some bad food and trying to stop him for his own sake.

But, the truth of the matter is that he and people like him hate the people who have that religion, which they don’t approve of, rather than the religion, itself. Actually, if you think about it, it’s not even that they hate them for having that religion, but that they hate those who happen to have that religion. These are two different things. After all, religion is just a set of teachings and beliefs and all religions have teachings one may not approve of. Religion is what you either believe or accept, or you don’t. If you don’t agree with its teachings or set of beliefs, you just don’t accept it as your religion. So, religion itself is never the issue. People are. The primary focus for these individuals is the people, rather than their religion. Religion is just an excuse for hating people, just as skin color is, among others. If you’re going to hate one group or another, you can always find reasons.

The question that should be asked is: why now? Why has Islam, or more accurately, Muslims become such an issue, now? What is it about our times that has brought “the problem” of Islam and its followers to fore and made it an urgent issue facing humanity that the likes of Mr. Sam Harris want to solve? Has everyone already got rid of their own reactionary, superstitious and medieval mindset, left over from the dark ages, except Muslims, who should now be educated about their religion by the likes of Sam Harris and Bill Maher? Yes, there are terrorists who happen to be Muslims. Oh wait, they also seem to have dark eyes and dark hair. Wait, their nose also seems to be a bit larger than the Europeans’! What else can we notice about them? If their actions are because of their religion, then there must also be a connection between their dark eyes and hair and their actions, too. The funny thing is (if we can call it that) that these anti-“intellectual” and “sophisticated” idiots say that they agree that not all Muslims are the same, but continue to focus on Islam, which is a way to group them together, and hence reach that very generalization which they deny they’re committing.

If your issue is religion in general or religious thinking such as the acceptance of a divine power and creator and unquestioning acceptance of what a book says or what a prophet has said centuries ago, then you will most certainly find that all religions are pretty much the same and quite similar in that respect. If you want to promote scientific thinking and show that religious thinking is wrong, therefore, it makes no sense to focus on one religion. But, that’s not what these people are after. Underneath all the anti-Islam rhetoric is a deep-seated, not so much xenophobia, mind you, but pure and simple bigotry.
Yes, there are Muslims who do such horrible things as beheading people, which occurs in Saudi Arabia more than any other place, and there are Muslims who don’t and are horrified by it. There are Muslim countries with repressive laws against women, including US friend and ally Saudi Arabia which these anti-Islam crusaders don’t focus on and there are Muslim countries which have elected women as president. There are African countries with majority of Christians who mutilate female genitals and there are Muslims who think that’s a horrible thing to do.

So, what is their mission, if not ridding all humanity of the evil of all religion? What mission can they be on, precisely when the US is going to war against several countries which happen to have Muslim majorities, except give ammunition to such endless wars? They say liberals are being soft on Islam and are not telling the truth about it. Really? Is that the main problem we’re having in our times? Is that what liberals should be talking about which they’re not? It’s not endless wars that we all should be concerned about and try to stop, which liberals are mostly silent about? It’s not the climate change, it’s not hunger, poverty or imperialism? It’s not the genocide taking place in Palestine, which liberals like Bill Maher are conveniently ignoring, but the issue of Islam and Muslims is? Is it a coincidence that at a time of perpetual wars for Empire and corporations, we find some of our “intellectuals” deeply concerned about the religion of those very people the US is bombing? Isn’t that what Netanyahu is trying to do – connect Muslims to terrorism and use that to keep up Americans’ support for the genocide?

If the belief in a certain religion made people terrorists, then it should follow that all – or at least most of – those who follow that religion must be terrorists. And, if one religion was able to make all or most of its followers terrorists, then all religions must be able to do that since they’re not that different in their teachings or power of persuasion. But, they don’t say that all Christians are like Timothy McVeigh or the Nazis or the KKK. The fact is: all the following four logical permutations exist: Muslims who are terrorists, non-Muslims who are terrorists, Muslims who are not terrorists and non-Muslims who are not terrorists. So, on what ground can anyone generalize? Oh, I forgot: they don’t generalize. They say more Muslims are terrorists than any other religious group. But, when reminded about the Crusaders, they say that was a long time ago, whereas now, it’s mostly Muslims who are terrorists. But, what about Nazis who massacred so many Jews in the 20th Century? What about Zionist Jews who went to Palestine from Europe in 1947-1948 and terrorized and massacred Palestinians by shooting and bombing and murdering them and driving them from their homes in the thousands and hundreds of thousands? Were those a long time ago, too? Aren’t the Israelis still terrorizing and massacring Palestinians? Why not attribute that to their religion, too? Why not blame the wars and murderous interventions of the US government on Christianity? Isn’t this mostly a Christian nation with its leaders all proclaiming to be devout Christians?

If their bigoted arguments all seem so stupid and absurd, it’s because bigotry is hollow, shallow and downright stupid. But, although it’s stupid, stupidity is not the main feature of their bigotry; hatred is. And hatred is what’s dangerous. And hatred of one group of people by another is precisely what a super wealthy ruling class at the helm of a mighty corporate Empire needs and uses to make its endless wars more acceptable to its population.

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3 responses to “The Politics and Purpose of Islamophobia: How Bigotry Against Muslims Helps Sell Endless Wars”

  1. Ricardo Roxas says :

    Sam Harris, a rationalist scientifically-minded atheist, bases his opposition to Islam (and other religions) on the utter irrationality, medieval mentality, anti-women attitude, and immoral teachings of Islam. He is just as equally, if not more so, against Christianity and Judaism and many cognates of these religions. He is one of the most fair-minded, most articulate, most logical, and most insightful religion critics of our time. He is not perfect and, like most of us, has said one or two (and some) awful things, for which he has received scathing criticisms. And to the extent I have come to know him, I don’t think he is by any definition a racist. Maybe it would be fair to suggest that reading couple of his books and viewing his online videos would be time well spent.

    Your passion for the issues you write about are well on display. But I think you and your readers would benefit more if you base your conclusions on hard solid empirical evidence (including statistical data) more than you usually do. Furthermore, it would be helpful if you do not carelessly or unjustifiably ascribe to your intellectual adversaries simplistic but false lines of reasoning like:

    “If the belief in a certain religion made people terrorists, then it should follow that all – or at least most of – those who follow that religion must be terrorists.”

    I don’t think Sam Harris ever said that. In fact, he’d be the first person to disagree with this statement. I think the issue here is what may be termed “statistical tendencies”. What it means is that on average, between two religions — e.g., Islam on the one hand, and Jainism on the other hand — if one of these religions prescribes more violence than the other, then, everything else being equal (a condition that almost never exists), the former religion would tend to produce followers who’d be willing to commit terrorism. So, it should not be surprising that Islam is a rather violent religion, say, as opposed to Christianity, at least as the latter is understood in the teachings of Christ, whose character was more like a pacifist. In contrast, Mohammed was a conquering warlord whose mission was to spread the Rule of Islam by the power of the sword all over the world, and he and his descendants came very close to doing just that. Islam — Christianity and Judaism no less — a totalitarian ideology whose message is total submission to the Will of Allah, has certainly little appreciation for the free exercise of individual conscience and individual freedom. So, how could any fair-minded person defend Islam (particularly the most extreme versions of it) and condone those who promote it? Same goes with with such other nefarious religions like Christianity and Islam.

    Read Sam Harris and watch his videos. It will be good for you. Good luck!

    • Sako Sefiani says :

      Thanks Ricardo for reading and commenting, but I wish you’d read it more carefully. In reply to my sentence that: “If the belief in a certain religion made people terrorists, then it should follow that all – or at least most of – those who follow that religion must be terrorists”, you replied: he never said that. Well,I never said that he did. That was not a quote from him. If it were, I would have put it in quotes and said this is what he said. I was making a logical argument, which continued after that sentence. Besides, my article was not just about Sam Harris, but as I said in the beginning, about those like him, including but not limited to Bill Maher and others, who are focusing on Islam and Muslims these days because there happens to be a terrorist group who call themselves Muslim.

      You admit that Sam Harris has said some awful things for which he has been criticized. Yes, he has, like: “Some beliefs are so dangerous that it may be ethical to kill people for believing them.” The irony is that he makes exactly the kind of comments that he blames Muslims and Islam for. And this is the point: people like Sam Harris claim to be criticizing the religion, but end up attacking the followers because that’s their real motive. He’s careful to be seen as against all religions, which I am too, but he leaves his most virulent attacks for Islam, whereas anyone could find just as many, if not more, terrible things the Bible has said. But, again, the point for most of such critics who focus on Islam is not the religion but the people who happen to have that religion and that’s what makes it racist. An intellectual who wants to spread anti-religious and scientific thinking, which I wish I could do myself, would never make such a statements.

      Finally, the point of my article was that such attacks on Islam and by extension on Muslims is not just an intellectual exercise, but are political, especially at a time of perpetual wars in the Muslim world. What is happening is not just that some people in a certain region of the world are unenlightened or violent by nature or due to their religion. What is happening goes much deeper than that and relates to the entire issue of imperialism and world domination for the corporate Empire which I often write about.

      So, you see, I’m not the one simplifying the issue, those who say Islam is the problem are.

      • Ricardo Roxas says :

        It turns out your quote attributed to Sam Harris is off in one word; namely, “beliefs”, instead of “propositions”. This is a minor issue, not worth quibbling about. But this sentence is out of context.

        According to Sam Harris, the following passage seems to have been selectively quoted, and misconstrued, more than any other he has written. It appears after a long discussion of the role that belief plays in governing human behavior, and it should be read in that context.

        “The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.”

        Here are couple of links regarding this:

        http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2

        http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/misquoting-harris/

        It seems to me that you and Sam Harris are ultimately, as well as primarily, dealing with moral and ethical issues at two somewhat separate regions of the moral sphere of humanity’s existence. In other words, the two of you are talking about mostly different things. What would be regrettable, if not tragic, is if the two of you fail to find in each other intellectual friends as opposed to foes.

        You wrote:

        “What is happening goes much deeper than that and relates to the entire issue of imperialism and world domination for the corporate Empire which I often write about.”

        It would be indeed quite enlightening to measure the ravages upon various societies of “the corporate Empire” versus the ever-present millennial ravages of medieval beliefs (like religion) and retrograde cultures. How does one construct a yardstick for such measurements? How does one gather the data for such analysis?

        Good luck to you.

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