InternationalVolume 14 Issue # 16

Islamophobia and Western media

The world is drifting rapidly towards destruction and disorder due to terrorism, hatred, extremism, prejudice, poverty, inequality, political exploitation, immigration, misuse of artificial intelligence, including print, electronic and social media. There are also some sane voices which are preaching love, tolerance, fraternity, humanitarianism and brotherhood to tackle these threats to the existence of mankind and the world.

On March 15, terrorist Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, killed at least 50 innocent people, including children and women in Christchurch, New Zealand. He attacked two mosques and broadcasted the attacks live on Facebook via a helmet-mounted camera. The terror attacks on Muslims in the mosques have shaken the entire world, especially the Muslim countries. The attacks have brought into focus the rising threat of white supremacy, Islamophobia, prejudice, hatred, gun laws, misuse of media and the role of online chatrooms in spreading hatred, bigotry, extremism and radicalising people.

The Western thinkers and media are trying to dig out the real causes of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments. They also suggest some steps to curb terrorism and Islamophobia.

Almost all leaders of the world have condemned the terror attacks.  But, American and Western politicians and leaders should also stop their anti-Muslim rhetoric, if they want to stop such attacks occurring again in the world, especially in their countries.

It is a harsh reality that Brenton Tarrant’s online manifesto reflects the hatred and teachings of anti-Muslim politicians, intellectuals and leaders. The manifesto reads: “Even if we were to deport all Non-Europeans from our lands tomorrow, the European people would still be spiraling into decay and eventual death,” it continues. “In the end we must return to replacement fertility levels, or it will kill us.” He goes on to refer to his “dislike” of Muslims by referring to the attacks as “revenge” against Islam. He talks of a “white genocide” and describes Muslim immigrants as the “most despised group of invaders in the West.”

HA Hellyer, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute and the Atlantic Council, and the author of Muslims of Europe: the ‘Other’ Europeans, writes: “The themes of that manifesto – that Muslims are invaders, intent on replacing the white majority in Europe and the West – are indelibly linked to others on the far right, such as Anders Breivik, who went on his own murderous rampage in 2011 in Norway. But it has a long pedigree in Western societies and is not restricted to the political fringes”.

Mehdi Hasan, a famous journalist, writes “When I read his manifesto, I couldn’t help but think of high-profile American politicians, such as the President of the United States who said, “Islam hates us,” referred to “people coming out of mosques with hatred and death in their eyes and on their minds,” and compared a caravan of migrants to an “invasion.” Or Sen. Ted Cruz, who called on “law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” Or Sen. Marco Rubio who said he was in favor of “closing down anyplace — whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site — anyplace where radicals are being inspired.” Or Sen. Lindsey Graham who declared: “If I have to monitor a mosque, I’ll monitor a mosque.” Or former Gov. Mike Huckabee who described Muslims in the Middle East coming out of mosques on Fridays “like uncorked animals.” Or even former President Bill Clinton, who suggested at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 that Muslim-American citizenship was contingent on good behavior and proving loyalty: “If you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together.” When I read the alleged shooter’s manifesto, I couldn’t help but recall how right-wing pundits have made so many similar statements — and paid no penalty. For example, author Ann Coulter who has spoken openly of “ragheads,” “camel jockeys,” and “jihad monkeys,” declaimed three days after 9/11 that “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity.” Or commentator Ben Shapiro, who believes that a “majority” of the world’s Muslim population is “radicalized” and has claimed “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage.” Or Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has won the support of neo-Nazis by repeatedly making not-so-coded references to the white genocide conspiracy theory and has also dismissed Iraqis as “semiliterate primitive monkeys.” Or Brigitte Gabriel, friend of the President, who thinks that “a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Quran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday … cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” Or Steve Bannon, former executive chair of Breitbart News and ex-adviser to the President, who has declared, “Islam is not a religion of peace” but “a religion of submission,” and warned that the U.S. could transform into the “Islamic States of America.” When I read the manifesto, I couldn’t help but remember the names of some prominent liberals, too, such as atheist and scientist Sam Harris, who dubbed Islam “the mother lode of bad ideas” and announced “we are not at war with terrorism. We are at war with Islam.” Or TV host Bill Maher, who called Islam “a mafia” and accused “violent” Muslims of bringing “that desert stuff to our world.” Or author and ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has demanded that Islam be “crushed” and thinks “every devout Muslim, who aspired to practice genuine Islam, even if they didn’t actively support the [9/11] attacks, they must have at least approved of them.” Or novelist Martin Amis, who once said, “There’s a definite urge — don’t you have it? — to say, ‘The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.’ What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation — further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan.…I doubt it. “People who can only condemn racism and Islamophobia — being ‘horrified’ and ‘shocked’ — only when so much blood is spilled are part of the problem,” the Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal observed on Twitter on Friday. “Because the rest of the time, they are busy normalising & minimising them.”

It is very tragic that many politicians and media houses in the UK are also not fulfilling their responsibilities. Politicians are also not trying seriously to spread teachings of love and brotherhood among the people of the country. They are not willing to dispel the misconception about Islam and Muslims among the people. Some newspapers, like Daily Mail and the Mirror, have played very bad role in instigating hatred against Muslims. These newspapers are slanting and twisting news which are against ethics of journalism.

Nosheen Iqbal writes in the Guardian: “Islamophobia does not simply exist on the unpalatable mass of the internet. It’s not the preserve of rightwing extremists whom we write off as online nutters. It leaks across public life, in our institutions and our media, to form a pernicious feedback loop and almost nobody cares. If in doubt, consider the lonely figure cut by Sayeeda Warsi, whose calls for an inquiry into the documented Islamophobia within the Conservative party are blithely ignored by government…Both the Daily Mail and the Mirror chose to gorge on the terrorist’s brutality and broadcast his footage to their audience until they were shamed into removing it. How did this angelic little boy grow up to be a mass killer, asks the Mirror. What did his grandmother think of her “good boy” grandson, probes the Daily Mail… It’s an exhausted cliche to point out the hypocritical differences in the way the Christchurch terrorist is being covered by our press and what we learned about, say, the killers of the British soldier Lee Rigby. Or the 7/7 bombers”.

Modern technology has become a very destructive tool in the hands of terrorists. They want to creat fear among people by terrorist activities. Now, with the help of modern tools of mass communication, like TV, social media, Facebook, Whatsupp etc., terrorists are achieving their designes easily and quickly.  Jason Burke, a prominent journalist, writes about this new development in the Guardian: “Terrorism is effective because it always seems near. It always seems new. And it always seems personal…It feels personal because, although statistics may show we are many times more likely to die in a banal domestic accident, we instinctively conclude from an attack on the other side of the street, the city or, in the case of New Zealand, the other side of the world, we might be next. Terrorism always seems near – at least when it happens in an environment resembling our own – because the shocking images on our phones, televisions or newspapers erase the distance between us and the source of danger. It always seems new because although each attack follows a familiar timeline – the first reports amid chaos and confusion, statements by police and politicians, analysis from commentators waking up in successive time zones, the identification of attackers and victims, condolences and flags at half-mast, debates about radicalisation etc – each is unique. In the 1970s, terrorism expert Brian Michael Jenkins famously said “terrorism was theatre”. This succinctly captured its spectacular, performative nature. These days, it seems more like an endless TV series that everyone wishes was over but that everyone watches nonetheless… Terrorism is “propaganda by deed”, the term coined in the 19th century by its first modern practitioners. Violence alone is not enough. That violence has to terrorise – inspire irrational fear and so change minds – but has to radicalise and mobilise too. It has to send a message to enemies, supporters and, perhaps most importantly, those who are neither. Al-Qaida and ISIS made this explicit. So did Tarrant’s “manifesto”. Every change in media technology over the past half century or more, arguably much longer, has made it easier for terrorists to achieve this aim. Then came the biggest change: digital. As media organisations evolved, so did terrorist ones. Top down was out, peer to peer was in. There were citizen journalists who followed broad guidelines but were not formally affiliated to an organisation and “freelance” terrorists who did much the same. The mainstream media were increasingly redundant. Why fight to get on the BBC or al-Jazeera if you could just create your own channels and reach your audience directly? Perhaps the most striking element of the atrocity in New Zealand is how the filming of the video was an integral part. “Let’s get this party started,” Tarrant says, as he gets into his car, talking directly to the viewer. He shoots images of his face in a twisted version of that most contemporary of phenomena: the selfie. The point of the attack is not just to kill Muslims, but to make a video of someone killing Muslims. In Tarrant’s world, on his live stream, in his own mind and those of his followers, he is a warrior, a racial hero, a leader but also, in a wider contemporary sense, a celebrity, if only for a moment. In a terrible, twisted way, he is not wrong.”

All the views clearly show that politicians, hate preachers and biased intellectuals are creating terrorists, instigating white supremacy and Islamophobia by their anti-Muslim teachings. They are using the power of media, including print, electronic and social, to achieve their nefarious goals. Every possible effort should be made to discourage and stop them from the devilish activities. Otherwise, the entire world will plunge into disorder in the coming years.