The instant the horrific news hit that yet another pack of seemingly deranged nut cases debased Islam by shooting up the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish grocery store, nearly every Muslim organization, diplomat, and head of state, no matter their political views, roundly condemned the attacks. All were careful to point out that heinous murders, indeed any killing of innocent civilians, under the pretense of defending Islam, does just the opposite. It distorts it, mocks it, and fuels anti-Muslim hysteria.
The mass killings in Paris are no different. The torrent of chatter on blogs, websites and reader comments, again proved again that anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant groups eagerly exploit the notion that mass murder, terrorism and Islam are one and the same. The murders gave avowed anti-Muslim groups in Germany, Sweden, Holland and France, even more ammunition to tar all Muslims as terrorist.
They’ve relentlessly whipped up this hysteria to pressure their governments to expel en masse Muslim immigrants and impose the toughest possible laws to completely eliminate all Muslim immigrants from entering these countries. The number of their adherents that back their campaign of hate against Muslims has leaped in recent years. It’s in part driven by high unemployment and economic dislocation in the countries. And in greater part from the rising alarm at the wave of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East that have flocked to European countries seeking asylum and economic opportunities
Right wing politicians and anti-immigrant groups in Europe and the U.S. jump on any terrorist attack, even when there’s absolutely no evidence the attack is tied to a radical Islamic terror group, to fuel the anti-Muslim flame. This pattern has been well-established since the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing in 1996.
Then President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno had the good sense not rush to judgment and scapegoat Muslims. The swift arrest of Timothy McVeigh squelched the building mob mania against them. But it didn’t squelch public suspicions that all Muslims were potential terrorists. The federal building bombing propelled Clinton’s 1996 Antiterrorism Act through Congress. Civil rights and civil liberties groups had waged a protracted battle against the bill. The law gave the FBI broad power to infiltrate groups, quash fundraising by foreigners, monitor airline travel, and seize motel and hotel records and trash due process by permitting the admission of secret evidence to expel immigrants. The implication was that present and future attacks would likely be launched by those with an Arab name and face.
President Bush, as Clinton, took the high ground after the 9/11 attack. He did not reflexively finger-point Muslims. The Bush administration publicly assured that profiling was reprehensible and violated legal and constitutional principles, and that it would not be done. But the attack stirred tremors among Muslims that they would routinely be targeted, subject to search and surveillance, and profiled at airports.
The profiling alarm bells went off again after a soldier with a Muslim name Major Nidal Malik Hasan shot up the military base at Ft. Hood in November 2009. The Council on American-Islamic Relations wasted no time and issued a loud and vigorous denunciation of the mass killing. That didn’t stop the pack of Fox Network commentators, conservative radio talk show hosts, writers and some officials from again openly shouting for even tighter scrutiny of Muslim groups.
The scrutiny has taken two major forms. One is the persistent clamor to profile Muslims, those with Muslim sounding names, or those who appear to fit the stereotypical type of what a Muslim supposedly looks like.
The second major hit against Muslims has been the indelible stamp in the public mind that al Qaeda, or other assorted, unnamed Muslim terror organizations or individuals perpetrate every act of mass violence in the world. The heads of Hamas and Hezbollah, Israel’s arch foes, quickly issued lengthy statements denouncing the attacks. And, as other Muslim groups said, it perverts the tenets and spirit of Islam. It further poisons public opinion against Muslims in Western countries and makes them even more vulnerable to vigilante attacks.
The head of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. made the same point, noting that the rabid anti-immigrant groups would say “told you so” and further step up their campaign of vilification of and agitation against Muslims in their countries. The obvious answer is for the top political leaders in France, and Germany to follow the example set more than a decade ago by Clinton and Bush when faced with terror attacks in this country and say in the strongest terms that they will wage war against terrorism, not Muslims.
The maniacal terror attacks in France were clearly hate driven acts perpetrated by loose-hinged individuals. But they are just that, individuals. The swift condemnation of the mass carnage they wreaked by countless Muslim groups proved that. The harsh reality, though, is that it didn’t and won’t stop the anti-Muslim haters from twisting the murders to fuel their anti-immigrant hate campaigns. This makes it even more crucial for governments to hunt terrorists, and not scapegoat Muslims.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.
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