United States of America: Need to Strive for Amity
United States of America has been one of the more developed democratic societies. The civic norms and emphasis on the democratic values there has been of a high order within the boundaries of the US, irrespective of its nexus with most of the Non-Democratic states and dictatorial tyrants all over the World. The US citizens have been enjoying democratic rights to a very high degree to the extent that the largest demonstrations against US aggression on Iraq took place in US itself. As US society evolved over a period of time it did harp on Mosaic model, salad bowl model, of cultural-religious relationship, all cultures contribute to the beauty of the mosaic, rather than melting pot model in which all cultures are expected to merge their identity with the dominant culture.
It is in this context that one feels pained by the recent episode of a Florida Pastor, Terry Jones, threatening to burn Koran on the anniversary of 9/11 (2010). His statement was that Koran is an evil book, which has given rise to the cult of terrorism etc. Lots of appeals were made to him, many maneuvers to stop this act, finally before giving up this plan he put a condition that the project for mosque near Ground Zero should be dropped. Even this condition of his was not conceded in the end. What does this whole episode reflect: the opposition to the mosque near ground zero and the consequent targeting of Koran and also the Muslims? Muslims are being regarded by some as the ones responsible for acts of terror! Currently lot of propaganda on the net, through email channels and word of mouth and other mechanisms is going on which aims to demonize the Muslims. The mechanisms used are akin to the tools used by the communalists in India. As the communal propaganda in India has ‘succeeded’ in projecting that the Muslim minority is the threat to the majority population. This is the biggest success of sectarian propaganda. In US occasional Hate crimes and vandalization of mosques has also been reported of late.
A subtle propaganda is on in US that Muslims are going to take over US. It is being propagated that President Barrack Hussein Osama is encouraging the Muslims because of which they are becoming dominant. The first point being made is that Islam is the fastest growing religion in US. This may be true but the reasons for this are to be seen within the dynamics of US society itself. The apparent reason for this is the equation between the dominant whites and the oppressed African-Americans, who feel that the whites have intimidated them from centuries. This act of conversion of some African-Americans to Islam is a statement of getting away from the clutches of White domination. It has nothing to do with the ‘aggressive’ tendencies or whatever of Islam. People are being fed with the propaganda that Muslims are growing fast due to their lack of family planning and polygamy, the basic intent is to frighten the majority that they will loose their majority status. This is something statistically bogus and false. It is being propagated that Muslims believe that killing the kafirs (infidels) is the norm of Islam, is part of the teachings of Koran. This again is a total lie as Koran does point out that killing of even a single innocent person is tantamount to killing the whole humanity. It is also being propagated that President Obama has declared that US is no longer a Christian nation. The spirit of this is obviously that US is a democracy and all religions have equal place in a democratic society. This again is being distorted to frighten the US population at large.
On the other side due to rampant Islamophobia spreading through various mechanisms, the average Muslim does not feel the same as she was feeling three decades ago. Section of Muslims are aghast at the propaganda that Islam is not a religion at all but a political cult, that Muslims cannot be good Americans and mosques are fronts for extreme jihadis. In the context of Mosque near ground zero scary things are coming out about the perception about Muslim community in US, reminiscent of German propaganda, the way in Germany media was saying things about Jews in the 1920s and 1930s (Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, reprinted in Deccan Herald, Sept 08, 2010) Goodstein’s article also hazards a guess that one is not sure whether ‘Hate crimes’ are growing or are on par with previous years. But surely the incipient ‘Hate Feeling’ against Muslims is growing and this feeling is the foundation of divisiveness leading to sectarian violence. We in India have suffered this process over a last century, which has become much more intensified from the decade of 1980. In case of US it is rising in the post 9/11, 2001 phase.
The processes of demonization of Muslims in US and India are similar in pattern, though differing in their expression, timing and intensity. In India, the ‘Hate propaganda’ culminated in the violence ultimately leading the carnages, ghettotization and attempt to reduce their status to the one of a second class citizen. In US the democratic institutions are being eroded by the prevalent propaganda in which media has played no mean role.
Ironically it was the US design to defeat Russian forces in Afghanistan in the decade of 1980s that Washington prepared a syllabus to be implemented in the Madrassa in Pakistan to train Al Qaeda. This module distorted the meanings of the words Kafir (infidel) and Jihad and this Frankenstein’s monster, Al Qaeda type terrorism, has tarred not only the values of Islam and the image of Muslims, it has also tormented the Pakistan society and other parts of the global community in the worst possible way.
Future sociologists will probably study in greater detail the role of demonization of religious communities for political agenda. The parallelism in the processes in US and India is becoming painfully obvious. The other interesting thing about US phenomenon is that this demonization of Islam and Muslims is succeeding the previous phobia against Communists. During the decades of 1950 to 80 US media had focused on spreading fear against communism and Russia. Whatever be the Russian models’ strength and weaknesses, it was partly posing a counter to the imperialist designs of US and promoting the national liberation from the clutches of colonial powers, helping newly independent nations to set up their infrastructure. That was the time when McCarthyism, dogma to Hate Communists, was guiding the US interventions and media policies. Commies, as Communists were called in the US of A, were a no in US, no Visa no welcome. Democratic norms were not applicable in this case.
With Ayatollah Khomeini coming to power in a revolution which overthrew US stooge Raja Shah Pehlvi, US media started crying ‘Islam the New Threat’ and with 9/11 it coined the word ‘Islamic terrorism’, a phrase which became poplar, and caught the 1350 million Muslims by their neck. As for as anti Communist propaganda was concerned it did not much affect the social fabric as no body is a communist from birth. When it comes to Muslims, people are Muslims from birth and even before they understand the political nuances of this cruel, monopolar World a sticker is already on their forehead, the sticker of terrorist, sticker of the one supporting killing of infidels, promoting Jihad etc.
The image of Muslims is being tarred badly in US. In short and long term it will have very adverse impact on intercommunity relations and the democratic norms. Will US Government and society wake up to this threat to democracy. This anti- Muslim, Anti-Islam propaganda is not only tormenting the Muslims in US, but is attacking the democratic norms of America. The right wing propaganda, though catchy and appealing in the short term, as a matter of fact is a serious erosion of the humane and democratic values of our civilization.