FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Islamophobes Have Arrived

by RON JACOBS

The infrastructure of surveillance present in decades past was never dismantled. Indeed, that infrastructure is enhanced, modernized, insidious and more intrusive than ever. The targets of the agencies doing the eavesdropping have expanded beyond their original focus but the intent remains the same—to infiltrate, intimidate and disrupt those elements in the nation opposed to government and corporate plans. Given the open-endedness of this intention, the net cast by the surveillance machinery and its operators is broad and not very discriminatory. When left unchecked, it becomes a threat to democracy as great as any potential threat it claims to be protecting the populace from.

This scenario becomes clear while reading Arun Kundnani’s recently released text, The Muslims are Coming: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror. By examining the expansion of the national surveillance systems in the United States and Great Britain since the events of 9-11, Kundnani exposes the curtailment of civil liberties and religious freedom implicit in the expansion. Other books on the subject have looked at the role played by the military-industrial complex in this expansion, while still others have defended the increased surveillance and the accompanying curtailment of freedoms. Kundnani discusses the less obvious and more ominous nature of the psychology and intellectual understandings that inform how the surveillance targets are chosen and, ultimately, manipulated.VERSO_978-1-781681596_MUSLIMS_ARE_COMING_large_300_CMYK

Kundnani makes it clear that very little has changed in these two nations’ intelligence communities when it comes to the underlying mindset that determines all subsequent decisions. That mindset is commonly known as Orientalist. Palestinian author and philosopher Edward Said dissected this mindset in his books Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism, essentially calling it a means for the colonial nations to define the non-Occidental world in a manner that insisted on the former’s superiority and justify its desire to dominate the “Orient.”

Kundnani begins his discussion with a relatively quick look at what he terms the culturalists. These are the more extreme exponents of the Islamophobic worldview. Many of the men and women who advised George W. Bush adhered to this school of thought, which accepts the thesis that there is a historical war between the West and Islam and that the global war on terror is but the latest installment of that war. This perception is what led to roundups of Muslims in the United States after 9-11 and what informs the neocon crusade against Islamic nations and movements.

While not easy to dismiss, it is not the culturalists that Kundnani focuses on in his book. Instead, it is the larger and currently popular understanding that takes up the bulk of The Muslims are Coming. This strain of thinking incorporates psychology, questions of theology, and relies on religious and ethnic profiling. Kundnani’s reader is introduced to a look into how law enforcement and intelligence agencies determine which Muslims are “dangerous” and what means should be used to turn or, at the least, neutralize them. Kundnani argues (convincingly, I might add) that the basic criterion used to determine “potential” Islamic terrorists is flawed. This is obvious in the very fact that it is these individuals’ religious understanding that is used to determine their future actions, when it is the political and economic situation that is usually more important in determining one’s political radicalism and response. Yet, according to Kundnani, these factors are considered inconsequential to the dominant “potential terrorist” equation, despite their importance (which is obvious to those not blinded by an anti-Islamist ideology.) To state it succinctly, most governments determine the parameters of the ongoing discussion about the causes of terrorism while leaving out the policies which are often the reason people become terrorists. Of course, the left out policies are those undertaken by the governments themselves—war, economic exploitation, etc.

While reading The Muslims are Coming, I happened to screen the Michael Radford film of George Orwell’s 1984. In his book, Kundnani describes a program initially set up in Britain known as the Prevent program. Designed to identify young men that might turn toward terrorism, this program involved the British intelligence agency MI5, Scotland Yard, local police, mosques, and youth social service workers. In essence, Prevent utilized the psychological model referred to above in an attempt to root out adolescent and young adults who were then observed and occasionally entrapped into criminal acts. Even though these young people had usually not committed any act of terror nor even discussed committing such an act, they were isolated because of the perception they might. Naturally, the fates of Winston Smith and Julia in Orwell’s Oceania came to mind. Their thoughts are criminal, they are approached by supposedly friendly allies, and they are arrested, tortured and reprogrammed. Furthermore, the Prevent program and its imitators in the US and elsewhere limit real political discussion and legal action against policies of the government by making all political action suspect. As John F. Kennedy famously said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” This statement is easily expanded to read not only violent revolution, but also terrorism.

This is a book about western hypocrisy and western fear. It is also about the artificiality of race and the hateful idiocy of its spawn, racism. The content is simultaneously provocative and thoughtful. Kundnani indicts a system based on prejudices and falsehoods and presents a future that is bleak at best unless that system changes. The Islamophobia of western governments has already caused at least two wars this century. Kundnani’s book describes the pervasive surveillance machinery it has also spawned. Simultaneously, he exposes its ongoing role in the imperial domination of the Muslim peoples.

Ron Jacobs is the author of the just released novel All the Sinners, Saints. He is also the author of  The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden.  His third novel All the Sinners Saints is a companion to the previous two and is due out in April 2013.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail