Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Muhammad Sahimi Headshot

Call to Burn the Quran: Another Facet of an Industry Called Demonizing Islam

Posted: Updated:
Print

The Rev. Terry Jones, the "religious leader" who has proclaimed Islam as devil's religion, has called on the people to burn a Quran on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. This is a man who says that he does not personally know any Muslims; a man who does not know where the Sharia law came from, and has apparently learned the little, if any, that he knows about Islam by watching YouTube videos.

General David H. Petraeus, the commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, warned that any image of Quran burning will pose a threat to the safety of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. P. J. Crowley, State Department spokesman, called Quran burning "un-American" and "inconsistent with the values of religious tolerance and religious freedom."

Why is it that in a country as great as the United States, a man associated with a small church that supposedly has only 50 members, can create such big waves with his message of hatred? The reason is that demonizing Muslims and Islam have been going on in the U.S., and more generally in the West, for a long time. It would be a grave mistake if we think that Islam bashing began after the terrorist attacks of 2001.

In fact, it began in this country long before those attacks. It goes back all the way to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, the hostage crisis of 1979-1981, the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988, the first Persian Gulf war of 1991, and the crippling sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 1990s that killed 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of malnutrition. So, the war that the United States has been waging on the Islamic World in the name of combating terrorism began at least 30 years ago.

In his outstanding book, All the Shah's Men, Stephen Kinzer goes even further and states that the roots of the 2001 terrorist attacks go back to 1953 when the CIA overthrew Iran's democratically-elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh. So, let us consider the events since the 1979 Revolution in Iran.

With U.S. encouragement, Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980. The U.S., though officially neutral, supported Iraq in its war with Iran. But, the real goal of helping Iraq, while also being involved in the infamous Iran-Contra affairs whereby Israel supplied Iran with weapons, was to make both nations bleed to death. In 1983, one U.S. official declared, "We don't give a damn as long as the Iran-Iraq carnage does not affect our allies or alter the balance of power" (see Dilip Hiro, The Longest War, p. 121).

Henry Kissinger put it more bluntly: "Too bad they cannot both lose." The result: close to 1 million people died. But, that was not the end of the tragedy. Saddam's army that had been supported by the West became a monster, hence setting the stage for the first Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991, which renewed Muslim bashing in the U.S.

When home-grown terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, the first reaction of almost all the "pundits" was, "This has Middle Eastern terrorism written all over it." Muslim bashing went on for at least a day, before the world learned that the terrorists were all-American boys.

When former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked in 1996 about the deaths of Iraqi children as a result of the crippling sanctions imposed on Iraq, she stared into the cameras of CBS Television and responded, "This is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it." Albright and Bill Clinton knew what they were doing to the Iraqis. Denis J. Halliday, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Iraq for part of the sanctions era in the 1996, expressed a widely held belief when he said in 1998: "We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that." [emphasis mine]

And when after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the public was terrified about the anthrax attacks, the idea was propagated and fueled by the right wingers and Islam haters that Saddam Hussein and Muslims were behind the attacks, whereas it was a home-grown terrorist that was committing the crimes. Practically nothing was done to correct the public's perception.

I will not even get into all the propaganda against Muslims and Islam after the 2001 terrorist attacks; almost all of it was sheer lie. An environment was created in which Muslims in the U.S. were living constant fear, and it became unpatriotic not to support the illegal invasion of Iraq.

And, of course, we all know that Muslim haters, George W. Bush, and the neoconservatives, made maximum use of the terrorist attacks of 2001 to advance their agenda. Did Ann Coulter, who is now bemoaning the war in Afghanistan, not declare, "We should invade their [Muslims'] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"?

After referring to the war with the Al-Qaeda terrorists as a "crusade," did G.W. Bush not receive top-secret daily briefings on the "progress" of the Iraq war that began with quotes from the bible?

Who were the advocates of the illegal invasion of Iraq? Who were the people who wanted to remake the entire Middle East - a totally Muslim region (aside from Israel) - by invading it? How many times has Fox News had anti-Muslims pose as "experts," propagating lies, half truths, and exaggerations about them? Too many to count.

But, demonizing Muslims and Islamic nations is not limited to such characters. Was it not Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who threatened to obliterate Iran? Was it not John McCain who sang, "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran"? And they were threatening a large, dynamic, and highly educated Muslim nation whose population is actually pro-U.S.

President Obama has never been a Muslim. He is a Christian. He has said so times. But, one thing that is driving the Tea Party is the belief that the President is a Muslim. Few people have said, so what if the President is a Muslim? What would be wrong with it?

The height of demonizing Islam and Muslims is not even the call by Rev. Jones to burn copies of Quran. He is a fringe figure. It is the opposition to Park51, originally named the Cordoba House, the planned 13-story Islamic community center and mosque, to be located about two blocks from the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. The propaganda, originated by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer and then picked up by all the political opportunists - from Howard Dean to Joe "bomb-Iran-for-Israel's-Sake" Lieberman, representatives Peter King and Rick Lazio- has it that this will be a mosque (which is not) to be built at Ground Zero (which will not be and cannot even be seen from there) and if it is allowed to go forward, it will be a threat to the security of New York and America. Geller, Spencer, and their allies are nothing but fearmongers and demagogues. The two have even founded a center of bigotry called Stop Islamisation of America - an absurd notion in a country in which Muslims do not represent even 5 percent of the total population.

And, here is the latest news. It was revealed last week that eminent scientist Stephen Hawking has stated in his new book, The Grand Design, co-authored by American physicist Leonard Mlodinow, that, "Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."

Many took this as meaning that Hawking does not believe in God. But, whose fault is that? Muslims! An Israeli scientist insisted that Hawking's atheism was because, "He sees what is going on in the world - fundamentalism is spreading. People reach a lot of conclusions that are dangerous; think of Iran, al-Qaida. They want to blow up the world." Can demonizing Muslims get any cruder?

You see, demonizing Islam and Muslims has become very fashionable in the U.S. It has been turned into a highly profitable industry. It has also become a stick to hit the heads of your political rivals. It pays huge dividend, both politically and economically, to demonize Muslims and Islam. So, why should we be surprised that hatred propagated by the likes of Geller, Spencer, Coulter, and Rev. Jones gets traction in some circles?

Some of those who oppose the Park51 project claim that it would be insensitive of Muslims to go ahead with the project in a place so close, or - as the propaganda has it - at Ground Zero. I agree completely that one must be sensitive - although asking for "sensitivity" in this case is absurd. In turn, I would like to ask the readers to consider the following question: How many Muslims have been killed by the United States and Europeans since World War II? Here are the ones that I remember:

The Algerian War of Independence with France killed 1.5 million Algerians. I will not even count how many Muslims were killed when Pakistan and India gained their independence from Britain.

How about the Suez Canal crisis of 1956, when France, Britain, and Israel attacked Egypt? 7500 Egyptian casualties.

Counting the number of people who were killed as a direct or indirect result of the CIA Coup in Iran in 1953 is impossible, because it depends on how we count the dead.

How about the Iran-Iraq casualties of their war, which was provoked and prolonged by the West (see above)? At least 1 million dead.

Shooting down Iran Air 655, a civilian airliner, by USS Vincennes in July 1988 killed all 290 people aboard.

The first Persian Gulf War: About 103000 civilians alone.

The crippling Sanctions imposed on Iraq between 1990 and 2003: Impossible to say. But, the United Nations UNICEF said that 500,000 Iraqi children died due to the sanction. The total number of dead is likely much higher.

The war in Bosnia: Of the about 110,000 killed (many believe that the true number is much larger), roughly 70 percent were Muslims, with up to 50,000 women raped.

The Iraq war: Between 200,000 and over 1 million, depending on who is counting. The war is not over yet. Add to it up to about 4.5 million refugees and displaced people.

The war in Afghanistan: Up to 50,000 civilians so far, and counting. I do not even count the up to 1 million Afghan people killed during its war with the Soviet Union in the 1980s, with up to 5 million refugees.

The total: Way over 4 million Muslims. Should I continue with my counting, or has the point been made?

So, the question is: Where is the sensitivity of the people in the West to the fact that all those Muslims were killed in wars imposed on them by the West?