Internet crusaders target all Muslims, not just extremists
The brutal murders of 77 people in Norway in July by Anders Behring Breivik has drawn attention to so-called 'anti-jihad' writers and bloggers.
So far the focus has been on whether the writings of people such as Robert Spencer (above) and Pamela Geller 'inspired' Breivik's terrorist attack. It is virtually impossible to say if this is true, so they should be presumed innocent.
What is undeniable is that dire warnings about 'Islamisation' have become more frequent in Europe and America in recent years. Controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders and US Republicans Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have now be joined by the first Irish politician to attempt to garner votes on the subject, co-opted Fine Gael councillor Joe O'Callaghan, who recently called for burkas to be banned.
Spencer and Geller are not marginal internet cranks however, they have appeared on Fox News, CNN and NBC in America. Spencer has advised the FBI on Islam and his best-selling books have been recommended for its agents by the FBI.
At first glance it would appear that their websites, Jihadwatch.org and Atlas Shrugs are committed to highlighting crimes and oppression by extremist Islamists. They claim to be defending human rights, religious tolerance, freedom of speech and equality for women from Islamic supremacists.
Articles posted on Jihadwatch.org in recent months detail the scandalously short sentences handed down to Islamists for the brutal lynching of three members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim minority in Indonesia, despicable honour murders against Muslim women by their families, repression under Sharia law and the persecution faced by people around the globe who leave Islam.
All very commendable, so far.
The more you look into the sites, however, the clearer it becomes that the 'anti-jihad' writers are not just targeting extremist and violent Islamists, but all Muslims.
Their argument, essentially, is that Osama Bin Laden is the true face of Islam (1) and that the root cause of extremist violence is the religion itself (2). Spencer, the intellectual heavyweight of the movement who regularly quotes from Islamic texts, derides the concept of 'moderate Islam,'(3) and claims that “there is no political Islam, no 'Islamism', no 'Islamists' -- there are only Islam and Muslims.” (4)
According to this school of thought, Muslims who say they don't agree with a violent campaign for world domination either don't understand their own religion or are lying and waiting until Muslims are in a strong enough position to reveal their inner fundamentalist.
The documentary Islam: What the West needs to know, which features many of the most influential anti-jihad writers, makes this point clear. A short TV ad is shown of ordinary Muslim Americans describing their backgrounds and finishes with the statement that “Muslims are part of the fabric of this great country and are working to build a better America.” The contributors to the documentary warn ominously however that the Koran allows Muslims to deceive non-believers in the service of Islam.
This is possibly the most reprehensible claim made by the anti-Muslim writers. If you accepted what they say it would mean that you can't trust your friends, relatives, neighbours or work colleagues if they happen to be Muslim. In fact, all Muslims are suspect according to this poisonous allegation.
Jihad Watch would be better called Muslim Watch as its modus operandi is to collate as much evidence as possible to prove that the Koran obliges Muslims to use violence to conquer the world - and ignores all evidence to the contrary. This is the trademark tactic of internet hate sites, similar to 'Gombeen Nation' which incites hatred against Irish speakers or the 'Jewish Crime Thread' found on neo-Nazi website Stormfront, which seeks evidence to reinforce pre-existing antisemitism.
Jihad Watch mixes real, harrowing examples of violence and oppression by Islamic extremists with transparent and ludicrous attempts to convince readers that Muslims as a whole are a threat to the rest of humanity. All conflicts between Muslims and others are interpreted as part of the global jihad. Resistance by Uighur Muslims to oppression by the Chinese government is therefore part of the 1,400 year struggle by Islam to dominate the world (5).
Spencer even refers to Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci as a 'jihadist' (6) while Geller has described Kosovo as a “radical Islamic state in the heart of Europe” (7) and included Somali piracy as another front in the conflict. It is noteworthy that in the case of Kosovo, the anti-jihadi writers are targeting Europe's indigenous Muslims, people who have been living on the continent for thousands of years, not recent migrants.
The anti-jihadi narrative is that Islam and Muslims are the problem, so they must be opposed in all contexts. Spencer and Geller don't just confine their activities to the internet or TV, they organised the protests against the planned mosque and community centre close to Ground Zero in New York, claiming it was a 'victory mosque' to celebrate the murder of 3,000 people by Al Qaeda on 9/11. They have also targeted recently appointed New Jersey judge Sohail Mohammad (8), America's first Muslim Congressman - Keith Ellison (9), and David Ramadan (10), a Republican Party member who is running for the Virginia House of Delegates. Ramadan is labelled an 'Islamic supremacist' by Geller simply because he doesn't oppose the 'Ground Zero mosque'.
Comments by readers of Jihad Watch leave us in no doubt about the core issue. 'Quranimals', 'subhuman barbarians', 'parasites', 'savages', 'bearded apes in pajamas', 'people infected with the musloid faith', 'vermin', these are just some of the dehumanising descriptions of Muslims that Spencer allows on his site. He himself has called Pakistan a “den of vipers.” (11).
One commenter has called for anti-jihadis to form groups modelled on Irgun and the Stern gang (12), Zionist terrorist groups that were active in Palestine during the British Mandate period, and states that Anders Breivik “chose his targets well” but that anti-jihadi activists should not follow his example “at this time, anyway.” (13). “It's only a matter of time before there's a Pan-European parasite-cleanse,” another commenter predicts (14).
An indication of the grasp on reality that fans of the site have is the claim that “Ireland is becoming just as dhimmified as the rest of Europe. The last time I was there, I barely recognised Dublin. Jilbabs, niqabs, and saffron beards everywhere.” (15).
Anyone who doesn't buy into this world-view is unilaterally dismissed as a 'dhimmi', a term that refers to subjugated Christians and Jews who live under Islamic rule. The media are said to be part of a Leftist-Islamist conspiracy because they don't explicitly explain to the public that the Koran orders Muslims to commit violence against infidels.
If the anti-jihadi activists confined themselves to highlighting human rights abuses by Islamic extremists and governments the charge of Islamophobia would not be true. They go way beyond this legitimate activity however, and demonize all Muslims and all Muslim communities.
The one defence that anti-Muslim writers have to the charge that they are mimicking Nazi Jew-baiting is to say that Jews were not launching terrorist attacks against Germany in the 1930s (16). This is true of course, but just like the Islamophobes, the Nazis were able to mix facts, canards and prejudice to portray Jewish people as a threat to Germany.
It may be extremely difficult for us to comprehend how the Nazis were able to generate such a frenzy of hate against Jewish people, but examining how Muslims are being dehumanized today shows how simple it might have been for them to spread their doctrine of genocide.
All they had to do was highlight the disproportionate number of Jewish people in business, law, medicine, entertainment and the media and to use this as evidence that Jews were conspiring to dominate society. The Nazis also promoted the 'Jewish Bolshevik' conspiracy, claiming that Jews were an imminent threat to Germany through their supposed control of the Soviet Union.
Add in the latent religious antisemitism in Europe and soon you had a large group of people convinced that there was an intractable Jewish 'problem' that had to be 'solved' somehow. Jews could then be barred from certain professions, have their property seized and their citizenship stripped. The Nazis contemplated deporting Jews from Europe but then decided to murder them all as deportation was not 'practical'.
All of the above solutions to the Muslim 'problem' have been backed directly or indirectly by various anti-jihad activists. That's right, all solutions, including the final one. John Joseph Jay, a co-founder of the Spencer/Geller organisation American Freedom Defense Initiative (17) and a board member of its campaign group, Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA) (18), has recommended “old fashion war with wholesale slaughter including indiscriminate death of innocents and babes. down to the last muslim, if necessary.” (19).
Robert Spencer says that Muslims should not be allowed to emigrate to Western countries (20) but claims he does not support the deportation of European or American Muslims. He is however an enthusiastic supporter of people who do, like Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who has said it may be necessary to deport millions of European Muslims (21).
Wilders mixes standard anti-immigrant rhetoric with attacks on the deviant minority du jour - Muslims, based on alleged concerns for human rights. He blames crime among Muslim communities on their religious background and ignores the link between petty criminality, poverty and inequality found in all societies.
He has blithely spoken of deporting millions of Muslim from Europe. To highlight what this would actually involve, let us imagine that his plan was implemented in the UK. Wilders has said that Muslims who won't integrate should be stripped of their citizenship and deported. According to research 40% of British Muslims support Sharia law (22). In a city like Bradford this would mean deporting 30,000 of the 75,000 Muslims living there (23). But what if these English people don't want to leave their country for ever, what if some members of a family support Sharia but others don't? What if no country was willing to accept deportees? How much money would it cost to deport and compensate over a million people in total from Britain? Eventually other 'solutions' would be sought for this 'problem'.
This may sound like a far-fetched scenario, but once you start demonizing and dehumanizing an entire community you've begun to lay the tracks to Auschwitz.
The anti-Islam activists don't just fantasise about futuristic doomsday scenarios involving the ethnic cleansing of Muslims however, they include people linked with actual ethnic cleansing and killing of Muslims in Europe.
One of the contributors to Islam: What the West needs to know, is a man called Serge Trifkovic, a former spokesperson for the Bosnian Serb forces (24) that waged a bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing against Muslims and Catholics in Bosnia.
As Muslims were involved in the conflict, the anti-Islamic writers conclude that it was part of the global conflict between Islam and Judeo-Christian civilisation (the targeting by Orthodox Serbs of Catholic Croats is conveniently ignored).
Trifkovic was a spokesman for the Bosnian Serb government during their onslaught which killed at least 30,000 Muslim civilians (25) (26). This campaign of ethnic cleansing, which involved murdering, torturing and raping civilians, was designed to drive Muslims from their native areas and leave them too terrified to ever return.
He has supported indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic and denied genocide and planned ethnic cleansing took place in Bosnia (27) (28)(29). He spoke for the defence at the trial of convicted war criminal Milomir Stakic (30), whose fiefdom included the notorious Omarska concentration camp.
Trifkovic, whose writings on Islam have been praised by Spencer (31), was also an advisor to former Bosnian Serb President, Biljana Plavsic (32), who pleaded guilty to war crimes against Muslims (33). Plavsic was considered to be 'extreme' by yet another indicted war criminal, Vojislav Seselj. As hard as this may be to believe, Seselj claimed at his trial that Radovan Karadzic also considered her to be extreme (34).
You may never see an outright justification of the monstrous crimes committed against Bosnia's Muslim community by Robert Spencer, Pamella Geller or other writers, but what you will see are attempts to downplay or deny these crimes and repeated efforts to contextualise the Bosnian war as being part of a conflict between peace-loving Christianity and violent Islam (35).
The anti-Muslim writers are as thorough in ignoring extremism in other religions as they are in scouring the earth for evidence that Islam is violent. This may seem like a minor point, but without it demonization becomes much harder. To dehumanize a group of people it must be shown that they are different from 'us', that they are an 'other'. We are peaceful, they are violent; we are enlightened, they are backward; we treat women equally, they oppress women; we are honest, they lie.
If the anti-Muslim writers acknowledged that Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others are not without sin, it would show that 'we' are not that different from 'them' after all, thus making it harder to turn Muslims into social outcasts.
As the quotes at this post show, the anti-jihadi message bears a remarkable similarity to the antisemitism of Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Stuermer. It includes the quoting of religious texts to prove the nefarious and conspiratorial nature of Muslims/Jews, the claim that the Left are allied with Muslims/Jews while governments stand idly by, the slur that Muslims/Jews are deceitful and the contention that criticising Muslims/Jews is not incitement to violence against Muslims/Jews.
Spencer et al would no doubt feign outrage at being compared to Nazis like Julius Streicher, and others may think it unfair or exaggerated. However, given the fact that he portrays the entire Muslim community as a threat, calls for legal discrimination against Muslims, supports advocates of future ethnic cleansing of Europe's Muslims, has collaborated with people linked to real life ethnic cleansing of European Muslims and makes every effort to downplay an act of genocide in Srebrenica (36) – the worst massacre in Europe since the Nazis, the comparision is entirely appropriate.
Demonizing and dehumanizing a community has consequences. In Streicher's case it had personal consequences for him, as he was tried and executed for crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Tribunal despite the fact he had no part in the planning or implementation of the Holocaust. His anti-Jewish writings and speeches were enough to convict him.
Reacting to claims his writings inspired Anders Breivik, Spencer said that this was like blaming the Beatles for the Tate/La Bianca murders because Charles Manson said he was inspired to commit them by their song Helter Skelter (37). This comparison would only be apt however, if Helter Skelter contained lyrics which said Sharon Tate, Leno La Bianca and their friends were involved in an evil conspiracy to take over the US, that the media was helping them and that the US government, police and FBI knew of the plan to enslave the American people but refused to prevent it.
If indeed the Beatles had made such a claim would they be to blame for the Manson Family's violence? It's hard to know, but they would certainly be shunned by society for using such highly irresponsible rhetoric.
If Spencer, Geller and other anti-jihad writers want to show they are not hate-mongering crypto-fascists they must in future restrict their efforts to highlighting religious persecution and intolerance in all faiths, desist from publishing noxious anti-Muslim comments on their websites, end campaigns to restrict the religious and civil freedoms of Muslims and efforts to downplay horrific war crimes committed against Muslims. Above all they must stop targeting 20% of the world's population because they are followers of Islam.
Otherwise there will be no doubt that they are inciting hatred against Muslim people.