United States Of Islamophobia

Sophie Mize, March 7th, 2019 – Honors English IV, 4th Period: American Islamophobia and Genocide. Hatred is a learned behavior and, more than a behavior, it is used as a tool in times of turmoil. Historically, this hatred leads to divisions in society and an inevitable widespread violence. The method of dispersion and implantation of ideals varies, from the identification system and propaganda slander of the Tutsi by the Hutus, to the current brainwashing against those who fail to acknowledge Kim-Jong-un as Supreme Leader of the Republic of Korea, to WWII and the Nazi Party’s systematic genocide of the Jewish people. The population victims are often chosen at a young age, taught how to hate the ‘others’, and equipped with the tools to do harm to them once the time comes.

The United States of America is often thought invulnerable to this method of attack due to its rampant liberal media and lack of restraints on reporting. However, with the rise of ‘fake news’ and the divisive nature of political parties, propaganda has begun to look familiar. The ‘counter-terrorism’ efforts, as well as related propaganda and conviction against Muslim people in the USA, today bear an eerie number of parallels to historical genocides. To examine these parallels more closely, we must establish definitions. Genocide has been defined and redefined countless times by various organizations. For the purpose of this paper, we will use the definition of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which entails several acts, all having in common the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group” (Alispahic 7). We should focus on a specific act: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part” (Alispahic 7). The lead-up to this process heavily relies on propaganda, which is intended to convince the masses to help inflict these conditions; often, the propaganda is part of these conditions. In relation to terrorism and counter-terrorism, the definitions are vague. UNODC suggests this might be due to the fact that leaving terrorism officially undefined “facilitate[s] the politicization and misuse of the term ‘terrorism’ to curb non-terrorist” actions. This allows states to violate citizen rights under the guise of “counter-terrorism efforts”. This is key to understanding the relationship between terrorism and genocide. In its very definition (or lack of), lie propaganda and familiar pre-genocide acts as states attempt to warp perceptions to fit their needs.

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The United States has different definitions of terrorism within various departments. The FBI’s definition focuses more on the consequences and legal qualifiers that categorize an act as ‘terrorism’ (FBI), while the US State Department defines it as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents” (STATE DEPT.). Neither clearly outlines the American civil liberties that could be violated when counter-terrorism measures are enacted. Having a definition doesn’t appear to improve the situation in the USA; political divide leads many to erroneously label broad groups of people and actions as ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorism’. After the September 11 attacks, these accusations most often fall upon people of Middle Eastern descent and/or Muslims. Karen Attiah writes, “Boko Haram — not the Islamic State — is the world’s deadliest terrorist group”. The fact that Attiah has to note this in her article demonstrates the hive-minded viewpoint of many Americans towards the Islamic State. New America illustrates the relationship between worldwide terrorist incidents and an increase in anti-Islamic attacks in the United States, including hate crimes and anti-Sharia legislature. The word ‘terrorist’ is now permanently associated with ‘Muslim’ in the American psyche, and violence has been sparked as a result.

The main reason for this perception is propaganda and false narratives against Muslim groups. This is often subtle. Rather than coming in the form of political cartoons or direct statements, the media, commonly right-wing media, presents facts in a skewed manner. A study conducted found that “attacks by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 357% more coverage than other attacks” (SSRN). Islam and Muslims are often highlighted in violent, militaristic imagery, rather than focusing on other aspects, or leaving the group out of the narrative entirely. Beyond the news, Muslims are often portrayed in fiction as “brute murderers, sleazy rapists, religious fanatics, oil-rich dimwits, and abusers of women” (Jack Shaheen). Racial radicalization and stereotypes are not new to the United States, but the influx of anti-Islamic sentiment and Islamophobia is strongly correlated with global terrorist attacks and the rise of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant). Fear-mongering like this has real-world consequences beyond violence. In 2016, four men claimed to have been removed from a flight due to their appearance, presumably because they were Muslim (Carrega-Woodby). By focusing solely on Islam’s negative aspects and magnifying these negatives disproportionately, America vilifies a diverse and non-racial religion, allowing Americans to justify their expressions of hate and distrust. Cinema plays a significant role in this, for example, the seemingly innocuous movie, “Back to the Future” (1985), features ambiguously Middle-Eastern villains who senselessly gun down their enemies while shouting in Arabic (title?).

Introducing people as a recognizable evil creates a propensity for evil. When a ‘visibly Muslim/Arabian/Middle-Eastern’ character appears on screen, the audience expects their role to be that of the antagonist. Another significant example is that of the film “Iron Man” (2008). The comic version of the character first appears in the issue “Tales of Suspense #39” (March 1963), and is shown being kidnapped in the jungles of Vietnam, with which the United States was at war. However, the movie, released after the September 11th attacks, features a kidnapping in Afghanistan, and presents an amalgamation of ‘Middle-Eastern’ villains in a generic faux terrorist group, ‘The Ten Rings’. This substitution is not a coincidence, but a deliberate echo of the ‘stereotypical enemy’ of the United States at the time of the character’s existence. As part of this trend, the media and the nation have created “visible archetypes” (according to the PDF) for Muslims, which is not uncommon in early stages of genocide. This introduces a vital factor: historical comparisons. Perhaps the most relevant comparison to the above example of “visible archetypes” is that of a 1942 Nazi propaganda comic where “a stereotyped Jew conspires behind the scenes to control the Allied powers, represented by the British, American, and Soviet flags” (Holocaust Encyclopedia).

Today’s politics, where Islamic groups truly seeking to terrorize and politically control the world (such as ISIL) are confused with an entire religion of peaceful citizens, the comic offers an appropriate comparison. Film, as mentioned previously, plays a critical role in the propagation of specific viewpoints towards groups of people and religions. Just as Muslims in today’s media are recognizable by visible, general characteristics, and are cast as villains, the Nazis did the same with the Jewish people by emphasising “the intrinsic evil of the enemies as defined by Nazi ideology” (Nazi Encyclopedia), with ‘intrinsic’ being a common keyword. There are numerous American free-speech radio stations, podcasts, and daytime television shows which malign the Muslim faith and broadcast hateful slander against Muslims. In fact, Republican lawmaker Brian Mast from Florida was caught in 2018 appearing on a self-proclaimed “anti-Islamic” radio show (Bowden). Support for such shows has historically surfaced before a genocide, as was the case in the Rwandan genocide. As the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, stated, “hate media organs in Rwanda —through their journalists, broadcasters and media executives— played a significant role in laying the groundwork for genocide”. In this instance, the aforementioned organizations amplified the rates of violence in their areas exponentially (Maximino).

In doing so, an ‘us vs. them’ mentality is created, and even residents and citizens who feel no compulsion toward one side must pick one in order to have a side at all. This is accomplished through the fact that “war propaganda is often labeled as ‘news’, manipulated to further separate agendas” (Hauschildt), as was also the case in Rwanda. In America, this divide not only falls into religious separations, not only racial separations, but also finds itself picking apart anti-Islamic people from ‘tolerant’ people in the form of difference of political party. Politics, as it turns out, plays one of the most important roles in propaganda and national ideologies. Entire campaigns are run on platforms surrounding religion and opinion towards ‘immigrants’, a word often used as a substitute for Muslims and targets immigration from Islamic nations. On January 27th, 2017, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, enacted what is known as the ‘Muslim Ban’. The ban kept all Syrian refugees from immigrating to America, and prohibited immigrants from seven other predominantly Muslim nations from visiting or immigrating to America for ninety days (ACLU). The president has shown other actions in support of anti-Islamic groups, such as retweeting from a British hate group known for their harassment of Muslims, and inviting the head of Act for America, another Islamic hate group, into the White House for dinner (Beirich). Political moves such as these have a far-reaching impact on the culture of a nation and can sway large groups of people towards a certain opinion.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes have shown a 19% increase in 2016, according to the FBI Census, a rise that so happens to fall around the time of Trump’s campaign and subsequent presidency. They can also destabilize and divide a liberal media culture, although this could be seen as a positive facet, as pre-genocidal incidents rarely involve such high freedom of speech. But campaigning on the platform of thinly veiled hatred of an entire group of people is not unfamiliar to history and fits in well as a precursor to heinous acts. Political goals can be the entire foundation for genocides, as hatred and damaging racial, religious, or ethnic propaganda can create conflict and draw attention to a platform. It allows those who already had misconceptions and prejudice against a certain group to come forward and express such under the guise of supporting a party or person. In addition, it rallies, turning words into violent action. Such examples as the Muslim Ban above, which is a not-so-subtle attempt at creating a certain American ethnic and religious profile, the Nazi Party also instigated similar behaviors. In fact, some of the sentiments were near-identical, as Spartacus says, in relation to the platform of the early Nazi Party, “Jews and other “aliens” would lose their rights of citizenship, and immigration of non-Germans should be brought to an end” (cite). Although the goal isn’t quite as blunt and clear, inspiration clearly hails from the exact same party. The all-clear signal from dominant political leaders and parties has lasting effects on a nation. And it is in part because the aims are nationalist.

Attempts to close off immigration, such as this, and denouncements and subtle support of hate groups (see above) committed by leaders such as Trump, point to a certain sense of nationalism. This is often seen as a precursor to genocide itself. “In Rwanda, the preparations for genocide revolved around an extreme Hutu nationalist political bloc” (Scholarworks). This certainly isn’t a unique phenomenon. However, perhaps the most worrying part of the building Islamophobia in the United States of America is not the visible instances, but the behind-the-scenes “counter-terrorism” movement. This government movement not only targets people of a certain descent and religion, it sends out quiet messages through the above propaganda to facilitate and support their actions, while violating civil liberties and the privacy of American citizens. This institution is a relatively new addition to the world, as a response to the technological advances of the ages, which enable both terrorists and nations to instigate and defend against attacks. These nations are given too many liberties in fulfilling an agenda, largely due to the ambiguity over definitions; leaving ‘terrorism’ as an open-ended concept allows anyone to choose a correct response. Initially, there was open political support for the Muslim people in light of September 11th; President George W. Bush spoke of not blaming Islam for the terrorists who twisted it. However, in the same breath, he brings about fear-mongering in an attempt to justify a new war and—though he may not have known it at the time—decades of internal invasion on the United States. The establishment of this propaganda, the lead-up, the parallels between words and actions, and pre-genocidal instances of both, not only feed hatred into a willing population but also allow the government to act more freely where they see fit. When there’s a common and clear enemy, there’s a possibility to do the most to fight it.

“Terrorism is a support instrument in spreading fear among the population” (UN paper). The United States is creating its own form of domestic terrorism. Even though the concepts of terrorism and genocide might not be equatable, the UN paper also points out that, “terrorism precedes genocide.” This can manifest in various ways. By rising to meet a political agenda with violence, war, and prejudice, the political agenda of the opposing party is proven. Attiah summarizes this well, stating, “The United States’ anti-terrorism agenda could actually be better served with R2P’s (Responsibility to Protect) focus on protecting populations, as opposed to our current ‘kill-them-so-they-don’t-kill-us-here’ approach” (Attiah). Creating an international example and standard of treating violence with peace, instead of paralleling actual pre-Genocidal steps, would foster better relations and help to prevent terrorism. Propaganda in media, reinforced stereotypes, and examples set by high-level politicians and major political parties can all establish a sense of prejudice in a population. It is this sense of prejudice, historically, which can eventually foster genocides such as the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide.

The United States of America ventures into dangerous territory as it exhibits some of these behaviors exactly. In labeling Muslims and ‘Middle-Eastern’ citizens and immigrants as ‘terrorists,’ and in spreading hate and inflating facts about them, the public is burdened with a harmful association between Islam and violence. This association can be used as political points in platforms, allowing the government to perform acts that would have otherwise been deemed ‘too far’. Genocide begins with hatred; it starts with stories and lies and the instigation of fear in large groups of people. It begins by twisting the truth and acts through an overbearing government, always ending with irrevocable actions. The United States has the opportunity here to halt the agenda of the counter-terrorism movement, to set an international example, and establish peace. The best way to prevent genocide is to study it. The best way to end terrorism, indeed any violence, is to stop the hateful conditions from which it arises; to become an educated, peaceful nation. This means ending the ‘war on terrorism’ and beginning to fight against the conditions under which it started.

“Fight Club” Analysis: Main Characters

The movie Fight Club is attempting to represent society as confinement. We are confined by the normal beliefs that our everyday lives should consist only of work and sleep. We see this throughout the beginning of the movie as the main character leads a boring life. He strives to escape the ideals and standards of society and break free. His representation of this is his creation of an imaginary character by the name of Tyler Durden.

Tyler is who he wants to be. He wants to act like him, look like him, feel like him, and do anything that he does. Tyler also represents a mature and masculine man. As the main character sees it, through all of the therapy, need for other’s attention, insomnia, and crying, he feels like he is losing a sense of his masculinity. This is the main reason why the fight club is created. It is a way for all of men who feel they are losing their masculinity to regain it in the act of fighting. It allows them to overcome their overbearing and weak mind and allow their physicality in strength to show.

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The most significant character in the movie that stood out to me was Marla. The whole movie is surrounding the men and their masculinity, and the writer decides to have only one female character, and have her be a mystery. A scene about Marla that stood out to me is when she called 9-1-1 about the girl in the apartment that was trying to kill herself. This girl was herself. On the call, she is very honest with the paramedics about who she is or the “girl in the apartment” is as person. She states herself as human waste, infectious, afraid of commitment, having no faith, and losing the sign of life as she grows older. I feel like Marla’s statement during this scene did not fit in the movie.

Throughout the entire movie, Marla refers to herself in the third person, sort of distancing herself from her identity, acting like she is someone else. On the call, Marla is honest and tells the truth about herself. This stands out in the movie because throughout the entire time, characters have a hard time being honest with themselves, and honest about the identity that they want to have. Unlike the main character, Marla is able to deal with herself and her dual personality head on instead of creating an imaginary character in her head.

The main character creates this other person to deceive himself from who he wants to be. She is honest with herself and doesn’t need an alternate character to prove who she wants to be. We see Marla’s true intentions of wanting to feel more alive through these words and her actions of working at a funeral and attending the support groups. This is how she copes with her split self, who she wants to be, and how she wants to live. However, looking at it at a different perspective, maybe the writer was trying to prove a point. Maybe he is trying to prove that women are more honest with themselves in today’s society.

They know what they want, what their weaknesses are, and how they need to improve themselves. I feel like in today’s society, men are less honest with themselves because they are afraid to admit their flaws, due to a possible recognition of loss in masculinity towards them. Overall through Marla, the writer reveals a mysterious woman that exposes the main character’s conformity within society and his dishonesty with himself. She not only represents a person more open with herself and her feelings but also the general message that women can be more truthful towards themselves and others about who they want to be, what they want out of life, and how they want to live.

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