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