A recent documentary by Al Jazeera Investigations lifted the lid on the power and influence of what is often termed the Islamophobia industry.
A well-funded network of organisations and groups which work in loose association are funding some of the worst hate and incitement against Muslims in the West. Such groups operate around the world, but primarily work out of the US and Europe.
Some of the most well established Islamophobic hate-mongers are: Frank Gaffney, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Brigitte Gabriel.
The film featured interviews with some of the ordinary victims of such racist incitement.
A group of five young Somali-American Muslims on their way home in 2016 were minding their own business when they were accosted by Anthony Sawina who said “fuck Muslims”, then drew a gun on them before pulling the trigger several times.
Two were injured, but they escaped with their lives and were eventually able to testify. Sawina was sentenced to 39 years in jail.
Reading some of the press coverage, it is striking how none of it describes Sawina as a “terrorist”. It is hard to imagine that if the shooter rather than the victims had been Muslim that the press would not have used the word.
In some of the documentary’s most shocking footage, Islamophobic bigots picket mosques in America, haranguing men, women and children as they enter, using the most outrageously bigoted terms – all for doing nothing more than exercising their right to freedom of religious worship.
Another Islamophobic attack took place against a mosque in Minnesota in August last year. But President Trump refused to condemn the attack, and the Islamophobia industry’s network of websites and social media questioned whether it even really took place – despite the well documented fact that it did.
Sebastian Gorka, then an advisor for Trump, took to Fox News talking of “fake hate crimes” – no surprise considering Gorka is a sworn member of a far-right Hungarian group which historically was allied with Hitler’s Nazi government and helped send Hungary’s Jews to the Nazi death camps during the Holocaust.
The Al Jazeera film documented some of the ways the Islamophobia industry’s incitement and hate-filled ideology filters through to and inspires the perpetrators of such violence.
Anyone familiar with the network that the documentary terms “Islamophobia Inc.” will know that there is a large degree of crossover with groups that can be broadly termed the Israel lobby. And this goes for the respective funders of both too.
Al Jazeera‘s investigative unit closely looked into the financial records of the various foundations and wealthy individuals “that fund Islamophobia incorporated. Most of the donors we examined shared a common association. Almost 80 per cent had vocally or financially supported causes that promote the state of Israel.”
Many pro-Israel organisations these days are also virulently Islamophobic. If you still think of Israel as a state founded to protect and shelter the surviving victims of the Nazi Holocaust – refugees from Europe – then this massive degree of crossover will make little sense.
If you see things that way, I suggest you look again at the realities of history.
Zionism, the political movement which founded Israel, is a settler-colonial ideology intended – not to shelter Jews from persecution – but to compel European Jewish communities to abandon their homelands and instead become settlers in Palestine who can dispossess and displace the indigenous population – the Palestinians.
The fact that the indigenous population which Zionism wanted to displace was in majority Muslim means that it was inevitable that Zionism would develop strong Islamophobic currents – currents which have only gotten stronger in recent years as Israel has gotten more and more right-wing.
The Islamophobia industry and the Israel lobby both emphasise a common myth, one which has become increasingly popular in the years since the 11 September 2001 attacks: “Judeo-Christian civilisation”.
This neologism is intended, not to build common bonds, but to exclude Muslims and build support for Israel and its crimes in the West. The idea of a common “Judeo-Christian civilisation” is a total myth propagated by reactionary forces in the West.
Considering the fact that nominally Christian states in Europe were at war with each other – on and off – for centuries, there is not even a single unified “Christian civilisation”, let alone a “Judeo-Christian civilisation”.
The reality is that historically, majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East sheltered European Jews fleeing European Christian persecution, such as the Spanish inquisition.
But racist and imperialist movements always require an irrational “Other” to contrast unfavourably to the “rational West”. In past times, Jews were viewed by racists at that sly, backwards “Other”, culminating in the horror of the Nazi Holocaust.
In these times, Jews in the West and in Israel are viewed as “the White man” who civilises the “savage jungle” of the supposedly backwards Arabs and Muslims of the Middle East.
Islam is just the most popular scape goat of contemporary demonology. As in all imperialisms, the attempt is made to divide and rule.
But thankfully, many young Jews – especially in the US – are these days rejecting such attempts, and are even becoming more and more critical of Israel and its apartheid system.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.