A story in the online UK Guardian sent a chill down my back as I read it today. The title of the article was ‘Muslims in America increasingly alienated as hatred grows in Bible belt’, but it wasn’t so much the title that got me; it was the subtitle. It had an ominous and familiar ring about it: “On the anniversary of 9/11, Chris McGreal reports from the Tennessee town where Muslims have lived in harmony with Christians for decades – but where they now feel under threat”.
Muslims and Christians living together in harmony for decades now feel under threat? Where have we heard this before?
The lunacy of hatred, it seems, has caught up with small town America. It’s a hatred that has recently been simmering all across America fuelled by ignorance and the propaganda of the mainstream media.
As the anniversary of 11 September comes around again it has dawned on me that an extraordinary phenomenon has taken place.
When 9/11 happened, we were told that the attack on America was perpetrated by Islamic extremists. Sure, there was a surge of mistrust and even hatred toward Islam from the predictable right-wing of America, but most folk accepted that the attacks of 9/11 were the acts of extremists and, hey, there have been religious extremists from all sorts of religions throughout American history but they don’t reflect the views of ordinary people within those religions most of whom just want to get on with their lives. As a consequence, while there were a few ups and downs, people of Islamic faith generally continued to get on reasonably well with believers of other faiths in the immediate post 9/11 period despite what had happened. But as the years have gone by, rather than what anger there was subsiding and relations with Islam returning to one of tolerance, the opposite has happened. The hatreds, rather than diminishing, have grown and now seem set to engulf everyone.
In the 1990’s the Balkans witnessed an explosion of hatred that seemed to burst as if from nowhere. It resulted in the indiscriminate deaths of tens of thousands, the vast majority of whom were civilians that were callously and cold-bloodedly murdered for no other reason than they were different from those that were murdering them. Most of the dead were Muslims but the slaughter was perpetrated by people of both sides as the hatreds spiralled into a bloodbath where neighbours, literally, who had lived next door to each other for generations, who had shared work, food and drink with each other and had even inter-married, suddenly turned on each other in blind hatred and began mindlessly slaughtering each other.
But there are other eerily similar circumstances in America today as there were in the period prior to the outbreak of wholesale violence in the Balkans in the 1990’s and that is the economic crisis which swept through the whole of the Federated Republics of the then Yugoslavia. The feeling of utter hopelessness and despair that the people of the Balkans experienced as a result of this severe economic crisis was the physical trigger that violently released the years of pent up anger that had been suppressed during the Tito years. Now, as the so-called Global Financial Crisis bites harder and deeper in the US, many Americans are experiencing a similar feeling of hopelessness and despair. This, coupled with American’s anger over the wars that America’s leaders have got them into since the events of 9/11 and 9/11 itself, and American’s are now at the point where many are ready to unleash their fury on those whom they have been told day in and day out by the mainstream media ever since 9/11 are responsible for their woes; Islam and those that are Islam’s practitioners, Muslims.
But the potential for ethnic and religious violence isn’t confined to America. Europe is at an even more advanced state of ethnic and religious potential for violence than the US. Across Europe anti-Islam movements are growing at a horrendous rate. Anti-Islam propaganda and commentary has reached epidemic proportions on the blog pages of the mainstream online media. The English Defence League attracts larger and larger numbers to their anti-Islam demonstrations. In Europe, extreme right-wing anti-Islam parties are gaining numbers at the polls and winning seats on councils and in parliaments. Journalists and commentators in the mainstream press attract massive followings as they call for a halt to Islamic migration, bans on the wearing of Burqas and even bans on building Mosques.
But why now, nine years after 9/11? Why didn’t this happen in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when one would have thought that, if it had to happen, then that would have been the time?
Undoubtedly the mainstream media must bear the responsibility of creating the mood within which this is all happening. Western governments have followed a policy that supports Israel’s stance against the Palestinians and the West’s mainstream media has given them unfettered support. In turn, Iraq and Iran as nations, and despite having fought a bitter war with each other, have condemned Israel for what they have done to the Palestinian people, as have so many people of other Islamic nations. Israel had accused Iraq of supporting the Palestinian’s fight against Israel. The US then found an excuse to eliminate Iraq as an enemy of Israel. Having eliminated Iraq, Iran is now also in the frame to be dealt with as the next Islamic state that is an enemy of Israel, and it is the rhetoric and propaganda of Israel and the West that is now preparing the way for Iran’s elimination as Israel’s enemy that has stirred the pot of hatred of Islam in the West.
I hope that what the world witnessed in the Balkans in the 1990’s wasn’t just a foretaste of what the world will experience itself as the spiral of hatred whirls out of control fed by the West’s own mainstream rhetoric and propaganda.