By Chris Hedges (excerpts from
The rise in hate crimes against Muslims and acceptance of hate speech as legitimate political discourse signal the morbidity of our civil society. The amplification of hate by commercial media whose sole concern is ratings and ad dollars presages a descent into the proto-fascist nightmare of racism, violence against the marginalized, and celebration of chauvinism, militarism and bigotry.
The attacks on Muslims are only the beginning. There’s a long list, including undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals, liberals, feminists, intellectuals and artists. We’re entering a new dark age. These hatreds have been embraced by an enraged, disenfranchised white underclass. Once a society tolerates the intolerant, as Karl Popper wrote, the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
The anti-Muslim hate talk moves step by step from insults and untruths to calls for vigilantes to attack women wearing the hijab, men wearing kufis, mosques, centers and schools, and Muslim-owned businesses. Soon all marginalized groups will be at risk. It’s what happened in the Weimar Republic.
It’s what happened in Yugoslavia and Israel.
Glenn Beck’s best-seller, It Is About Islam: Exposing the Truth About ISIS, Al Qaeda, Iran, and the Caliphate, posits that a quarter of US Muslims, perhaps 500,000, believe violence should be used to overthrow the state, annul the Constitution and replace our judicial system with Sharia law. His rant against Muslims parallels his rants against undocumented workers. This extremism is moving to the center of political debate. The mainstream press, which prizes sensationalism, has abrogated its role as an arbiter of fact and rational discourse.
What’s dangerous about creeping villainy is that it takes considerable imagination and dialectical abilities to detect it at the moment and see what it is,Kierkegaard wrote in his Journals and Notebooks, and so the villainy creeps forward a little bit each day, unnoticed.
Kierkegaard was scathing about the press. He noted: The daily press is the evil principle of the modern world. The capacity of the newspaper for degeneration is without limit, since it can always sink lower in its choice of readers.
The ideological war began immediately after 9/11. Hatemongers and racists laid the foundations for the collapse of civil discourse. Muslims sat aside for 15 years and allowed reframing of this issue by the extreme Christian right or people like Glenn Beck, says Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf. Programs such as the ë700 Club attack Islam, call it demonic. We’ve had a propaganda machine thatís presented Muslims as a fifth column, anti-Christian, the greatest threat to Western civilization.î
Extremist groups, embodied by the Christian right and Islamic State, have distorted Christianity and Islam to sanctify hatred and bloodlust. These groups prey upon the disenfranchised, most who donít come out of religious households or communities, but who find in clichÈs and slogans a simplistic self-aggrandizing worldview. Converts are catapulted from despair into a Manichean world of good and evil. They’re authorized by demagogues to kill in the name of God.
Groups such as ISIS draw from uneducated, alienated and often oppressed minority groups, said Yusuf, president and co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley. Many have prison records. They have a lot of anger, much of it justified.
Violence unleashed by the US against Muslim communities in the Middle East has radicalized whole populations, which are bombed and terrorized daily. Obama talks about the hateful ideology we’re up against,Yusuf said, but he isn’t addressing the hate that produced hate. The problem is the violence and brutalization that’s occurred in the Muslim world. Pakistani children in areas under drone attacks hate sunny days because of the drones. They only they feel comfortable playing on cloudy days because the drones can’t see them. This terror has consequences.
Yusuf argues the radical ideology of Islamic State, like that of many in the Christian right, is a product of modernity more than antiquity. ISIS promotes a hybrid of Salafi-Takfiri ideology with political Islamism, and a smattering of Baathist brutality, he said. In the 80s and 90s, with the Iranian revolution, people brought previous beliefs into these movements. They gave modernist ideologies the veneer of Islam. ISIS is anything but Islamic. In Islamic law there are strict rules of engagement. The Koran has verses about treating prisoners well. The essence of Islam is mercy and compassion.
Lust for brutality, Yusuf points out, isnít limited to ISIS. He cited Sam Harrisís call in his best-selling book The End of Faith for the West to consider a nuclear first strike on the Muslim world. Harris writes: Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the US and USSR to perch, stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, dewy-eyed at the mention of paradise, acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? The only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be a crime it would kill tens of millions in a single dayóbut may be the only course of action available, given what Islamists believe.î
I didn’t see anyone up in arms about Harrisí statement, Yusuf says. Yet they’re constantly going on about the brutality of Muslims while [Americans] talk about carpet-bombing the Middle East.
Read Dabiq, the ISIS journal in English; it says the ëgray zoneí will be eliminated. ISIS tells Western Muslims mosques will be attacked, women assaulted, they wonít feel safe in their homes. Elimination of the gray zone is central to their strategy. Our living together is what disgusts them. They seek to destroy multicultural, multi-faith civilizations, though thatís what the Muslim world was. Hence, destruction of Melkite and Assyrian churches, which existed for centuries protected by Muslims. This destruction by ISIS is one of the greatest crimes in the history of Islam. These religious communities werenít safe in Orthodox and Catholic Europe, but were safe to flourish in pluralistic societies Muslims created. The worst nightmare for ISIS, like demagogues in the West, is that we reject their call to create a wedge between religious communities.

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