| Britain’s wars fuel terror. Denying it only feeds Islamophobia!

Britain’s wars fuel terror. Denying it only feeds Islamophobia ~ The Guardian.

Eight years on, nothing has been learned. In the week since a British soldier was horrifically stabbed to death by London jihadists on the streets of Woolwich, it’s July 2005 all over again. David Cameron immediately rushed to set up a task force and vowed to ban “hate clerics”. Now the home secretary wants to outlaw “nonviolent extremist” organisations, censor broadcasters and websites and revive plans to put the whole country’s phone and web records under surveillance.

“Kneejerk” barely does it justice. As for the impact on Muslims, the backlash has if anything been worse than in 2005, when 52 Londoners were killed by suicide bombers. As the police and a BBC reporter described the alleged killers as of “Muslim appearance” (in other words, non-white), Islamophobic attacks spiked across the country. In the first five days 10 mosques were attacked, culminating in a triple petrol bombing in Grimsby.

As politicians and the media congratulated themselves that Britain was “calmly carrying on as usual”, it won’t have felt like that to the Muslim woman who had her veil ripped off and was knocked unconscious in Bolton. Nor, presumably, to the family of 75-year-old Mohammed Saleem, stabbed to death in Birmingham in what had all the hallmarks of an Islamophobic attack last month – or, for that matter, the nearly two-thirds of the population who think there will be a “clash of civilisations” between white Britons and Muslims, up 9% since the Woolwich atrocity.

One key change since 2005 is the rise of the violently anti-Muslim English Defence League, given a new lease of life by Woolwich. More than 40% of Islamophobic incidents recorded by the Muslim organisation Faith Matters last year were linked to the EDL or other far-right groups. “It makes me feel I don’t belong here”, one Muslim community leader quotes his teenage son as telling him this week.

But almost nobody in public life mentions the war. The reason cited by the alleged Woolwich killers – the role of British troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror – has been mostly brushed aside as unseemly to discuss. Echoing his predecessors, the prime minister insisted the Woolwich killing was “an attack on the British way of life”. London mayor Boris Johnson declared there could be “no question” of blaming British foreign policy or “what British troops do in operations abroad”.

Instead, the problem is once again said to be “Islamism”, regardless of the string of democratic Islamist governments elected from Turkey to Tunisia. Or the focus is on the “mistakes” of MI5, as if any amount of spooking could detect the determination of an enraged takfiri killer to exact revenge with kitchen knives and meat cleavers. Whatever the focus, even to mention the western wars that drive these attacks is deemed to justify them.

That is, of course, absurd. Targeting a soldier who fought in Afghanistan might not be terrorism in the sense of an indiscriminate attack on civilians. But the random butchery of an unarmed man far from the conflict by disconnected individuals who have nonviolent political alternatives is clearly unjustifiable in any significant religious or political tradition.

The fact that the US declared the war on terror to be a war without national borders and routinely targets unarmed or unidentified victims has fatally blurred those boundaries. The grisly, intimate killing of Lee Rigby was the absolute antithesis of high technology drone attacks. But both embody the degradation of the human spirit.

There can be no surprise, however, that such attacks take place. It’s not just opponents of the war on terror who predicted from the start that it would fuel terrorism not fight it. The intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic did the same. The perpetrators of one attack after another, from London 2005 to Boston 2013, say they’re carrying them out in retaliation for the vastly larger scale US and British killing in the Muslim world.

It’s true that all kinds of personal factors and experiences help create the mentality to carry out such attacks. But as Abdul Haqq Baker – head of the south London “counter-radicalisation” outfit Street – puts it, the tipping point that has turned people to violence has been shown again and again to be episodes in the war on terror.

There is already some evidence that torture of one of the Woolwich suspects in Kenya – after which MI5 tried to recruit him – may have been such a catalyst. Azad Ali, a Muslim community activist who has advised the Metropolitan police, says there has been a pattern of official abuse of British Muslim activists in Arab countries, apparently using British-supplied intelligence, who are then pressed to work for the British security services when they return home.

What is indisputable is that there were no jihadist attacks in Britain before 9/11, itself claimed as a response to US support for Arab dictatorships, Israeli occupation and murderous sanctions on Iraq. Wars supposedly fought to keep Britain safe have been shown to do the exact opposite.

Given the bloodshed, torture, mass incarceration and destruction that US-British occupation has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the civilian slaughter inflicted in the drone war from Pakistan to Yemen, the only surprise is that there haven’t been more terror attacks.

Three years ago WikiLeaks gave a glimpse of the routine killing of Afghan civilians by British troops – as did the jailing for 18 months of a grenadier guardsman for stabbing an Afghan boy who asked him for chocolate. Now Britain is preparing to supply weapons directly to the Islamist-dominated rebels in Syria. But at home ministers want to use their “Prevent strategy” to freeze out still further nonviolent Islamist groups that have been most effective at isolating those drawn to violence.

Denial of the role of US-British wars, occupations and interventions in the Muslim world in fuelling terror attacks at home helps to get politicians off the hook. But it also plays into the hands of those blaming multiculturalism and migration, feeding racism and Islamophobia in the process. The wars should be ended because they are wrong and a failure – but also because they fuel terrorism and divide communities.

Those who carried out last week’s killing are of course responsible for what they did. But those who have sent British troops to wage war in the Arab and Muslim world for more than a decade must share culpability.
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| After Islamophobic hate crime in New York City, mayor wants public to ‘keep death in perspective!’

After Islamophobic hate crime in New York City, mayor wants public to ‘keep death in perspective’ ~ Annie Robbins and Alex Kane, Mondoweiss.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep Sen’s death in perspective as he touted new historic lows in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals.

“It’s a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York,” Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.

What kind of perspective is Bloomberg referencing? If someone said “I shoved a Jew in front of a train because I hate Jews,” would Bloomberg be touting drops in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals? Quite an insensitive comment, at the very least.

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A horrific crime if we’ve ever seen one–and a reminder that Islamophobia affects many communities outside Muslim ones.

From the AP:

A woman who told police she shoved a man to his death off a subway platform into the path of a train because she hates Muslims and thought he was one was charged Saturday with murder as a hate crime, prosecutors said.

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“I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up,” Menendez told police, according to the district attorney’s office.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep Sen’s death in perspective as he touted new historic lows in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals.

“It’s a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York,” Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation.

What kind of perspective is Bloomberg referencing? If someone said “I shoved a Jew in front of a train because I hate Jews,” would Bloomberg be touting drops in the city’s annual homicide and shooting totals? Quite an insensitive comment, at the very least.

After this news broke, Twitter was aflutter with people pointing to Pamela Geller as one culprit pushing anti-Muslim sentiment in the city. Geller’s organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, recently put up a new crop of ads that features the World Trade Center burning with a Qu’ran verse printed to the right of the towers. 

Geller’s role in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment of the sort that leads to Islamophobic hate crimes should not be in dispute. But what should also be highlighted is how New York City’s own police force has promoted anti-Muslim bigotry time and time again, from surveillance of Muslims that places the whole community under suspicion to training officers with an Islamophobic flick. 

Friend of Mondoweiss Lizzy Ratner made this point in her excellent piece on Geller in The Nation:

Though Geller and her crew are fringe elements, they are not random or spontaneous, idiopathic lesions on the healthier whole. They are, quite sadly, part of this country, outcroppings of something big and ugly that has been seeping and creeping through the body politic for years. In the decade since September 11, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry has become an entrenched feature of our political and social landscape. It lurks in the hidden corners of everyday life—in classrooms and offices and housing complexes—as well as in the ugly scenes that occasionally explode into public consciousness. In the special registration of Middle Eastern men after 9/11. In the vicious campaign against Debbie Almontaser, the American Muslim school teacher who tried to open the Arabic-language Khalil Gibran International Academy (KGIA) and was tarred as an extremist. In the attack on the Park51 Islamic center, more commonly (if less accurately) known as the Ground Zero mosque. In the New York Police Department’s selective surveillance of Muslim communities. And that’s just New York City. All of these instances should have called on our horror and outrage, and in all too many of them, society hasn’t lived up.

This crime appears to be the latest manifestation of New York City’s Islamophobia. This time, it cost a life.

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area.

Sen The Passport photo of 46-year-old Sunando Sen, pushed to his death because a woman thought he was Muslim (Photo: Christie M. Farriella for New York Daily News)

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| Why do Americans know so little about Muslims? Media brainwash!

Study: Anti-Islam Messages Dominate Media Coverage ~ Hamed Aleaziz, ThinkProgress.

Between 2001 and 2008, mainstream media outlets predominantly featured anti-Islam organizations, leading to altered “contours of mainstream discourse.” That’s according to North Carolina Professor Christopher A. Bail’s study that used “anti-plagiarism” software to examine the coverage of Muslims in the mainstream American press. Bail surveyed more than “1,084 press releases about Muslims produced by 120 civil society organizations to 50,407 newspaper articles and television transcripts” during the seven crucial years after 9/11.

Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller feature prominently in Fear, Inc.

Bail told the British Wired magazine that journalists became enamored with the those spouting anti-Muslim rhetoric, and that even though “the vast majority of organizations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages,” journalists so closely followed extremists that the groups became perceived as “mainstream.” Muslim groups, as a result, were sidelined and became less influential. Bail painted a disturbing picture for Wired, saying:

“I think most Americans are exposed to anti-Muslim messages in the media and elsewhere. The danger, I believe, is that many Americans have not been exposed to the positive messages of moderate Muslim organisations because they receive so little media coverage. Perhaps because of this distorted representation, we have seen a recent increase in anti-Muslim attitudes within the United States — even though anti-Muslim attitudes briefly decreased after the September 11 attacks.”

An August 2011 Center for American Progress study, Fear Inc, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, revealed that seven different organizations spent $42 million on efforts that fanned “the flames of anti-Muslim hate in America” over the last ten years. The money helped Islamophobic messages take hold:

Over the past few years, the Islamophobia network (the funders, scholars, grassroots activists, media amplifiers, and political validators) have worked hard to push narratives that Obama might be a Muslim, that mosques are incubators of radicalization, and that “radical Islam” has infiltrated all aspects of American society — including the conservative movement.

And the network has had its effect. “The groups that were getting the majority of the attention, especially after 9/11, were some of the least representative groups, or what I call fringe groups,” Bail said.

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