Islamophobia: Between Propaganda and Facts
I am not a hater or a defender of Islam, I am not a spokesperson of Europe or Austria, of leftist or rightist parties, and religion is far away from my interests. I sent this article, “Islamophobia between propaganda and facts” in response to Professor F.H. from the University of Vienna, who wrote to tell me about his speech in acceptance of a prestigious award for his book about islamophobia in Austria. Dr. F.H sent me an e-mail saying: “I have just visited your homepage and thought that you may find this interesting: http://www …”. I read the speech of the doctor and I sent him as answer what I wrote below. I asked him to permit me to publish his speech. I have not yet received an answer from him. Even the issue of “islamophobia” is not something that I see touches me directly, and until Professor F.H. wrote me, was not something I would have given too much thought. I think that labeling this complex political issue as “phobia” on part of the Europeans rests from its urgency and also belittles the real worries of many people.
Thank you for your interest in my writing, and for sharing with me the very interesting text of your speech. I think that it accurately reflects a part of the problem. I normally do not talk about this subject, and religion is also far away from my interests. Your speech about islamophobia brought this issue to my attention again. I think that islamophobia is actually hatred and violence directed against women under the guise of religion and religious differences. Hopefully, on a day not too distant, a cleansing process similar to what has been forced upon the Catholic Church will take place within Muslim communities too. On that day, I will be the first one to open my mouth to relate what I have heard from other women and seen myself.
In my view, and from my experience, we are individually and as communities of immigrants responsible for how the peoples of the countries perceive and receive us. While many people like to think that we come here with rights, it is too often forgotten that we also come here with duties, like respecting the peoples, cultures and customs, the laws and the religion of these countries. We do not need to forget our culture, which is part of us, and we also have no right to impose our culture and values on the Austrians and the other European peoples. As foreigners, regardless of out legal status in these countries which have received us very well on average, we must know how to be foreigners and always remember that each one of us is an ambassador for all of us.
The Austrians, and other European peoples, correctly view us as “other” and “foreigners”, whom they must get to know better before extending us their personal approval or rejection. This has nothing to do with “racism” or “islamophobia” but is normal to thinking, adult persons. Racism, religious discrimination, misogyny and other forms of hatred of the “other” are almost always instigated by groups acting for their own political and/or economic interest, building on this perception of “other” which is natural to us all. “Islamophobia”, the rejection and hatred of all people and things identified as “Muslim” and “Islamic”, is exactly one such phenomenon: hatred of the other because of who and what they are not, instigated by interests which try to remain in the shadows.
But also, “islamophobia” as you call it, does not happen in a vacuum, it happens in the context of many anecdotal events which are perceived and remembered by the silent majority of Europeans who have seen Muslims living here during the last several decades. In my experience, Islam is perceived as misogynist by westerners, and the most often discussed trait of Islam among westerners is treatment of women. Europeans see, and correctly reject in disgust, the miserable conditions in which many Muslim women live and how they are treated. What are most visible to Europeans in public are Muslim women walking around covered to various degrees, in shabby attire which reflects miserable living conditions. Covered Muslim women have become the symbol for everything about Islam that is objectionable. These women at once are the victims of a system of brutal suppression exerted on them by misguided men under the influence of interpretations of Islamic religious literature which are simply wrong, and at the same time they carry the full weight of the rejection of these host societies while being the weakest and most vulnerable members of these Muslim immigrant communities.
While the religion of Islam offers ample material which recommends treating women in the most respectful way, it is true that a morass of customs and a whole culture of hatred based on misinterpretations of the religious texts in ways which are against women exists in most Islamic countries, and that these customs are for the most part followed in Muslim communities throughout the western countries. The religious literature says that “the wives of the believers” should cover (dress) themselves in a way which makes them appear as respectable and respected members of society and which will not specifically identify them as “wives of believers. In cases where a woman of exceptional beauty fears that she will be harmed because of this, she may cover herself.
These orders were given by God to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and to his followers during a time when Islam existed surrounded by pagans not always well-disposed towards Muslims. In my knowledge, there are no Prophets and Khalifas in our day, but merely men imposing their power upon women by use of raw force and under the pretext of wrong interpretations of Islam, and worse, by disregarding all respect for them.
The introduction of covers like Niqab under the guise of religious duty could be seen as blasphemous. For Muslim women living in western societies to cover themselves using Niqab, Burqa or even less restrictive attires, has the net effect of bringing social disadvantages upon themselves and their families, so alone on this account the practice should be viewed as being against the Islamic religion. Cover of any kind should also be seen as unnecessary because all women are protected in their persons and rights by law which are generally respected, and customs respectful towards women which are the cause of pride to many Europeans.
What is much less visible in public, and is never spoken about, is the comportment of Muslim men towards their female relatives and other women. Two cases in point are a recent case which happened in Vienna about which I wrote (see here and see here), and the case of the woman who was recently fined for driving with a veil in France. I saw her husband flippantly claiming on TV that there is nothing in law forbidding one to have a mistress or four. How can these women allow themselves being denigrated in public in such a way, characterized as doxies by the man who is their husband under Islamic religious law? Why did the woman seen with him on TV not spit on him?
Fact is, laws forbidding polygamy in European jurisdictions are routinely circumvented in this way, by declaring the “other” wives as mistresses or not at all. Many Muslim men living here often enough marry several women under Islamic law and not declare these (illegal) marriages before the government. These undeclared wives will then be sent to ask for money from the government, often expressly forbidden by the husband to work even if she would like to. If the woman objects, she will be subject to violence, threatened with divorce or sent back to her parents, what will render her unmarriable and dishonorable, sealing her fate. If there are children, the man often keeps them, as they also mean “income” from social services. This process can be repeated. This practice also bases on a “convenient” interpretation of Islamic literature. Fact is, the Quran allows a man to marry up to 4 women IF he is wealthy and has the means to sustain them. Also, it must be noted that this practice was originally intended to protect widows and destitute women from social decline or poverty, and not so that lazy men could send women to beg money for them.
Today it is still normal to find Muslim women living in Europe submitted to genital mutilation, for them to be locked in by their fathers, husbands or sons, to be brought up to be servants of their male relatives, to be coerced into polygamous relations, to be engaged by their fathers, as children, to boys in far-away lands and to be shipped off as soon as they arrive at puberty. Boys on their part are taught to expect that their sisters, mothers and daughters must obey their whims at once. Woe to the woman of Muslim background who does not submit to this system of suppression and repression, as we must fear being murdered by the family for “honor”, and if this is not possible here, to be shipped back to where the family originated and have the deed done by a cousin or uncle, or be forced to marry somebody there. A personal acquaintance, somebody who has lived for 40 years and prospered here, told me that “to receive a girl in this society is a catastrophe” (because women could learn to think by themselves), from another I know that he shipped a daughter aged 14 off to be married to somebody in a catastrophe area.
In the current misguided discussion about Burka, Niqab and other forms of cover, the losers are women in all cases. The net result of the law proposed in France by that simpleton Sarközy, and similar laws and edicts which will probably follow throughout Europe, will be that most of these women, who must cover themselves in public in order to not fall afoul of their male relatives, will not be able to participate in life beyond the walls of their homes, they will effectively be put under house arrest.
If we wish to eliminate the visible signs of mistreatment and dejection of women within Muslim communities, laws can only be the last step of the process. The change should come from within the communities, and it should involve not only an abstract change in thinking, but the active disenfranchisement of religious and political figures which in any way or form tolerate, condone or even look the other way when it comes to the dehumanization, mistreatment or suppression of women for any reasons whatsoever. This should not be limited to the figures within the Muslim communities, but should extend to judges who excuse violence against women because “such are the customs of the perpetrator”, as was recently the case in a verdict in Korneuburg if I remember correctly.
I think that visibly taking responsibility for the lacking treatment of women from within Muslim communities will go a long way in conferring these communities, and Muslims in general, more acceptance and respectability from outside and ultimately give us influence in the political process of the country.
Beyond the women issue, what the Austrians (and other Europeans) see of us Muslims, and this determines their perception of us, are community markets which are increasingly dominated by Muslim immigrants and which do not meet their expectations of hygiene, a proliferation of Kebab-stands which sell inedible wares and blight the city, favoritism from of the authorities, which are seen as lowering their standards when conceding business permits to immigrants, courts of justice which condone violence against women on part of Muslim men, cover-up on side of the commercial media of crimes perpetrated by Muslim immigrants, vast abuse of the social system on side of mostly Muslim immigrants, gangs of Muslim immigrant youths on the streets who do not care about the customs of the country, who are often involved in violence, harassment of women and petty crime against others.
We must also take responsibility for this, as we can not expect from the common European, Austrian man or woman to understand what causes all these issues, which in sum threaten, to them, to overwhelm the character of this country as a place worthy living in. To them we are people who have brought problems here which did not exist before. I think that these issues should be taken care of, in the best interest of everybody.
The FPÖ and their objectionable anti-foreigner stance, the Swiss minaret referendum and other related issues are perfectly valid and legitimate expressions of the worries of an increasing part of the people of Austria and other European countries. It is wrong to dismiss them as “racist” without a second thought, and we do so at our own peril. The FPÖ, the minaret referendum, and related political issues are at once made possible by decades of constant propaganda demonizing and dehumanizing Muslims, Arabs and anything and anybody related to us, by behavior of immigrant Muslim communities which is objectively and visibly inappropriate when taking in consideration the laws, expectations and values of the Austrians, and by (perceived) attitudes and activities of the academic and political agencies of public life which are appropriate towards exacerbating existing conflicts, not to solve them in the best interest of us all.
What the Europeans and Austrians seldom see, are the many immigrants from Muslim countries who have become doctors, engineers, academics, traders, workers and employees, who together with their families have done their best to integrate into and contribute their part to the society of this country, people who often do not rest on religion as the main trait defining their identity. These people, who do not correspond to the image of retrograde, extremist religious zealots, are seldom shown in the media and are at best given lip service by established political forces. This shows, in my opinion, that the religious groups which are traded as our representatives on the political scene in this country do not represent our interests well, and that they probably do not understand which are the interests of this community outside their own shortsighted views. I hold that our common interests should not be represented against Austrian customs as seems to be the case, but within what is considered acceptable by the Austrians who are not of immigrant background.
While the clienteles of FPÖ and similar forces on the “right” of the political spectrum complain about what are the most visible activities and attitudes of immigrant Muslim communities, my impression is that the “left” of the established political spectrum, out of opportunism, courts out of political opportunism (securing votes) groups constituted around a reactionary religious establishment which at once promotes a role of women which is undesirable by Austrian (actually, any) standards, which promotes exactly the attitudes criticized by the “right”, and which stands in the way of a constructive and lasting integration into a common Austrian culture of Muslim immigrants.
The main outside factor in the generation of “islamophobia” is in my opinion a decades old, pervasive, subtle and brutal propaganda campaign which is being waged through all western media with a very definite and clear intention. The visible political movements of the right, such as FPÖ in Austria, have nothing to do with this campaign; they are only opportunists picking the ripe fruit falling from this tree of evil. Without exception, western media portrays Muslims as a mixture of dangerous wild beasts, crazy religious zealots, woman beaters, terrorists, violence-prone idiots, thieves, rabble, backward, uneducated, dishonest desert-dwellers, and with other even less appealing and even more dehumanizing epithets which hugely overstate and exaggerate social problems which we have.
In sum, this relentless campaign of propaganda against Muslims can be characterized as being the second or third stage of genocide if we restrict our view to Europe – see
I include a quote from that Wikipedia article, which I think mentions clearly what this campaign of vilification of Muslims is about:
… members of the dominant society must perceive their potential victims as less than fully human: as “pagans,” “savages,” “uncouth barbarians,” “unbelievers,” “effete degenerates,” “ritual outlaws,” “racial inferiors,” “class antagonists,” “counterrevolutionaries,” and so on. In themselves, these conditions are not enough for the perpetrators to commit genocide. To do that—that is, to commit genocide—the perpetrators need a strong, centralized authority and bureaucratic organization as well as pathological individuals and criminals. Also required is a campaign of vilification and dehumanization of the victims by the perpetrators, who are usually new states or new regimes attempting to impose conformity to a new ideology and its model of society.
The results of this unrelenting propaganda campaign are impressive, and in sum they have shown themselves as extremely useful for the ruling elites of the western nations, to which Austria ultimately belongs. Countries which are dominantly Muslim or where sizable Muslim minorities live either are ruled by ruthless and murderous dictatorships which are invariably backed by US or European secret services, or they are the victims of interminable strings of wars, overt and covert genocide, or various stages of civil war. In these countries, the suppression of women from the social process is part of the warfare of these western-backed criminal regimes against the peoples which they rule by terror.
This is the picture between Morocco in the West and Philippines in the East. A prime example of such a regime is the wretchedly criminal PA which has been imposed upon Palestine by the zionists. As a result of this propaganda campaign, the genocide against Palestinians being perpetrated by zionist jews is regularly portrayed as something honorable in character, two wars between Iran and Iraq instigated by the CIA and MI6 were somehow dismissed in the media as “business as usual between brutes”, the wholesale destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan and the ensuing genocides perpetrated by the USA against these peoples are portrayed in the media as “the right thing to do”, “our only alternative”, “war against terror”, and other wholesome falsities.
As a result of this campaign, it is possible for Germany to give for free to the criminal operation called Israel six or seven submarines able to launch nuclear weapons; it is possible for president Sarközy to say that he wants to “Karcherize” the banlieus and be applauded as funny instead of being dismissed as the bigoted racist which he is; it is possible for Austria to support with troops for about 40 years the occupation of the Golan heights, in direct contravention to international law, and defend this as “peace keeping”; it is possible for the USA to account for the disappearance of 5 million Afghanis since the invasion in 2001 with a simple “accounting error” claim instead of seeing this as an instance of genocide; it is possible for the zionists to get away with over 60 years of dedicated genocide against us Palestinians and explain it away as “nation building”; it is possible for the city of Vienna to finance at enormous cost a PR campaign of the city of Tel Aviv which is designed to justify and normalize genocide and cleanse the stench of murder from Israel; it is possible for Ehud Barak, a criminal accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, to visit Austria and be called a “friend”. Many other similar instances of insane behavior and shows of moral depravity are all made possible by this campaign, and we see them everyday on TV mostly without noticing them.
This campaign of propaganda and perception management works through all media and many institutions of public life: it consists of computer games such as “Call of Duty 4” or “ Amer icas Army” where Muslim enemies, always portrayed as terrorists brandishing RPGs and AK47 guns can be shot at will; it consists of out-of-place skits by american actor Eddy Murphy which force the line that Muslims are terrorists; it consists of the misrepresentation of legitimate political groups in Muslim countries as terrorists; it happens each time when an Arab or Muslim from far-away lands is called “radical muslim” in news programs such as ZIB; of articles published in zionist newspapers which misrepresent, obfuscate and justify the zionist crimes against Palestinians; it consists of the vile bigot Sascha Baron Cohen and his “Borat” character, and of the director of the University of Vienna who disallowed a speech by Dr. Norman Finkelstein about the zionist crimes in Palestine on his premises of the university.
The most potent weapon of this propaganda campaign is the abstract slander of “anti-semitism”, which, while nobody knows exactly what it means, makes everybody shudders at being the target of this accusation, and it effectively silences any criticism of the many crimes of the zionist interests in its tracks.
This unrelenting campaign of vilification and active suppression of Muslims in western media should concern everybody, Muslims, Christians and also the followers of other religions. To ignore it for much longer will ultimately allow for “justified” outright mass murder against Muslims in many western nations, as has been the case in isolated incidents in Thailand, India, and the Philippines. When that happens, it will be too late, perhaps for decades, to look for a common ground with other population groups.
The campaign is waged by zionist interests, it is designed to vilify, belittle, dehumanize Muslims everywhere in ways not easily identifiable to the casual consumer of media, because they, zionists, perceive Arabs and Muslims (right or wrong) in general as a primary “support group” of the Palestinian cause, which they must discredit and weaken in order to attain legitimacy for their colonization of Palestine. In western countries, among them Austria, the campaign also has the purpose of hindering solidarity between Christians and Muslims, as it denigrates the “other” side and so prevents us to see that we actually have many common interests when we see beyond outwardly apparent differences.
As interested Muslims, we should concern us with solving to the best of our capacity the existing and most visible problems in our communities, starting with the suppression of women. Of equal urgency is that we concern us actively with the propaganda campaign waged by zionist interests against us. We will survive neither as communities nor as individual persons if we do not interest us in these problems affecting us. In order to be able to counter the vilification directed against us, Muslims must first solve the internal problems which affect these communities. We should equally take account of the worries of the host societies into which we have come, not by silencing them and denigrating their worries as racism or worse, but by respecting their laws and traditions, by listening to them attentively and doing our best to find the common ground which we have.
Lastly, it is of primary importance for a peaceful and constructive coexistence to unmask zionism as a poisonous, criminal ideology which parasitizes upon judaism just as the Nazi ideology parasitized upon the idea of being German, because no sensible discussion of politics in any context is possible without extensively analyzing the mostly undue influence exerted by zionists in political and social processes.
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