Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1234, (19 - 25 February 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1234, (19 - 25 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Muslims targeted in the US

In the hate-filled US media, all terrorists are Muslims, just as all Muslims are guilty until proven innocent, writes Ramzy Baroud

Al-Ahram Weekly

 The murder of three American Muslims at a University of North Carolina condominium on Tuesday, 10 February, was no ordinary murder, nor is the criminal who killed them an ordinary thug.

The context of the killings, the murders themselves and the media and official responses to the horrific event is testimony to everything that has gone wrong since the United States unleashed it’s “war on terror”, with its undeclared, but sometimes-declared enemy; namely, Islam and Muslims.

Horrific as it was, the killing of a husband and wife, Deah Shaddy Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha, and Barakat’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, by homegrown terrorist Craig Stephen Hicks is the kind of violence that can only fit into a greater media and official narrative. This narrative designates millions of innocent Muslims, in the US and across the world, as enemies or potential terrorists.

In recent years, countless television hours and endless space in numerous media have been dedicated to vilify and demonise Muslims. Attempts by Muslims to distance themselves from every militant grouping, ideology and tendency have done them no good. A Muslim is a terrorism suspect until proven innocent, especially if he is a bearded, brown-skinned man or a woman wearing a headscarf.

The end result of this dehumanisation has been racism, racial profiling, extrajudicial killings and war. It was only a matter of time before that violence reached the nominally safe Muslim communities in the US itself.

The episode of dehumanisation is long, complex and protracted. It is also quite clever, for it involves billion-dollar media outfits and Hollywood itself, which has an awful track record regarding the negative and stereotyped representation of Arabs and Muslims.

The outcome is a whole industry that is predicated on double standards and half-truths.

The ongoing enthusiasm for more military interventions means that the supposed “moral awakening” inspired by the advent of President Barack Obama rarely registered in the collective psyche of the nation. While there is ample evidence that Americans are “tired” of war, that very war fatigue should not be conflated with a departure from the type of dialectics that rationalised war in the first place.

 In fact, while cheerleaders for war might change political camps, ideology or even religious philosophy, ultimately they are the same breed of people: a mostly white, male-dominated and chauvinistic tribe of well-funded politicians and media pundits, with an unquenchable thirst for “intervention.”

Hicks, the terrorist who killed the three young Muslims, subscribes to a school of thought known as New Atheism, what religious scholar Reza Aslan refers to as the school of “anti-theism.” It is, in part, another hate-filled platform, and despite its supposed disdain for all religions, its malicious energy mostly targets Muslims.

The followers of New Atheism, of course, are different from the majority of atheists, who don’t use that designation to foment hate against a specific religious group. The anti-theist idols include the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris who, according to Aslan, respond “to religion with the same venomous ire with which religious fundamentalists respond to atheism.”

In one of his Facebook posts, Hicks, a lover of guns, quoted Dawkins: “The last vestige of respect for the taboo disappeared as I watched the ‘Day of Prayer’ in Washington Cathedral, where people of mutually incompatible faiths united in homage to the very force that caused the problem in the first place: religion.”

But, of course, not any religion, but Islam. Let alone that such an ignorant breed pays no heed to any relevant political context, they foolishly blame a whole religion for what is essentially a political conflict.

Did they ever pause to wonder if it might be possible that invading countries, killing, raping, pillaging, destroying mosques and churches and urinating on the dead has something to do with why many Muslims hate US foreign policy and are willing to use violence in response?

Hicks, based on that same foolish, murderous logic, hated the three Muslims whom he murdered.

But hating Muslims is not your everyday racism and prejudice, which has been “as American as apple pie and Napalm” (a funny, sad line from the American TV comedy, M.A.S.H.). It is readily available fodder for the ongoing war and future war in Muslim countries. It is the required amount of dehumanisation needed to wage war.

This is why Islam and Muslims are equated with terrorism, and why terrorism is used almost exclusively to describe violent acts committed or allegedly committed by Muslims.

The same champions of this invalid logic are those who constantly push the line: “All Muslims are not terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.”

The assumption might be inane, but the intention is anything but. It absolves the war criminals who planned, executed and justified the war; the soldiers who did the fighting; and those who ensured that there can be no legal accountability for its numerous awful deeds — including the killing and maiming of millions.

Instead, it puts the onus on ordinary Muslims, who are set up to prove their innocence to no avail, to absolve themselves from a crime they never committed — in fact, to answer for someone else’s crimes.

But Hicks, who walked into the flat of three students in Chapel Hill, NC, and shot them, execution style, was not a Muslim. He comes from Christian heritage. He is not black or brown, but white. His name is not Ahmed, but Craig.

That changes everything.

Neither the police nor the media would describe his crime as a hate crime, let alone terrorism, although his terrorism is in a way unique . His type resides on the top of the food chain in terms of race, gender and other criteria. Yet, somehow, he is politically frustrated. Go figure.

He is not a member of a radicalised generation born into oppression, foreign invasion, poverty and other untold humiliations. If that was the case, one could, at least to a degree, fathom the hate, deconstruct the anger or even rationalise that violence is a natural outcome of a certain reality.

Hicks is part of the Fox News demographic: a gun-touting, unreasonably and immeasurably angry, white American. Self-proclaimed atheist or otherwise, it matters little.

Hicks, we are told, killed the students “execution style” because of a dispute over a parking space.

The same way that Chris Kyle — the American Sniper — made 164 confirmed “kills” in Iraq, targeting “savages” because that’s what national heroes do.

 And US wars and sanctions on Iraq killed, starved and wounded millions to bring democracy to the Arabs.

 This selectively, insane, logic will persist, however, because there are millions of unrepentant politicians, extremist media pundits and well-armed men and women who refuse to see the recklessness of their “logic.”

 They will continue to feed the violence — which didn’t start on 11 September 2001, unlike what Hicks is led to believe — and spit out the most dangerous of militant phenomena, Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and all the rest.

 It is time for Muslims to demand that Obama issue more than a statement. The United States government and hate-filled media must be called to account. These outrageous double standards must end, before more innocent lives are taken.

The writer is founder of

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