Mint Press News
By Catherine Shakdam
The horrific terror attacks in Brussels on March 22 were a chilling reminder that radicalism, no matter the ideology that inspires it, is a threat to humanity as a whole, since its expression comes through violence and bloodletting.
According to a Mar. 23 report by the BBC, 31 people were killed in the airport bombing, leaving the nation reeling:
“Belgium is observing three days of national mourning. The nation held a minute’s silence at midday (11:00 GMT) on Wednesday. Belgium’s king and queen have visited the airport and met some of the 300 people injured in the attacks. About 150 people remain in hospital, 61 in intensive care.”
Needless to say that this loss in human life and display of senseless violence profoundly left a scar on Belgium and Belgians, driving home the reality of violent extremism.
Although flights from Zaventem airport resumed on April 3, it is likely Belgium will bear the scars of such vicious attacks for years to come. Trauma is easily inflicted, but takes a great deal of time to properly heal, especially when the only narrative offered by way of a solution is hate itself.
While buildings and streets have already been swept clean, it is the psychological wounds, and the manner in which they have been allowed and, it must be said, encouraged to fester, which are a source of grave concern.
Within days of the attacks on Belgium, the terrorists self-proclaimed faith — Islam — brought far-right flag bearers, and other proud xenophobes out of the woodwork to spill their Islamophobic venom and broadcast their racist agenda of ethno-sectarian segregation and ostracization.
If Americans thought the shameless racism of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump was bad, they weren’t counting on Europe’s very own fascist complex. Racism in Europe is not just a state of mind, or even a political banner. It has become an industry unto itself — a new vibrant sector in an otherwise tired global economy.
And here we were thinking Europe lost its entrepreneurship.
Europe’s dangerous demons
Sarcasm aside, Europe is indeed battling dangerous demons. Demons which the world, and mainly Europeans themselves, thought died long ago with the fall of Nazism in 1945 — back when Germany was gripped by a terrifying ideology that claimed millions of innocent lives.
Then, anti-Semitism was almost a state religion, a political truth professed and preached not just by state officials, but state institutions. The media also played a key role in popularizing, rationalizing and otherwise mainstreaming the hate of the Jews, the hate of this elusive “others” fascists are always so keen on targeting.
Today this hateful, sadistic nihilism is coming back to haunt the world. In this age of globalism, and globalization, fascism, too, has become a global brand.
And while hate might not be a new concept, state officials, industry leaders and other movers and shakers’ show a startling willingness to promote the cultural, ethnic and sectarian narratives which, in the end, might destroy the very freedom they claim to protect.
It would be wise to remember that fascism does not rhyme with civil liberties.
It was Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul that owns Fox News, in the wake of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in France, who suggested that all Muslims share the guilt of terrorism. He stated: “Maybe most Moslems are peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.”
Not only does this statement ignore many protests against terrorism in the Muslim world, but fast forward to 2016 and the rhetoric remains very much the same — if not even more sinister in undertones.
Take comments by Laurence Rossignol, France’s minister of family, children and women’s rights. In a Mar. 30 interview. Rossignol calmly stated that Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab are like “Negroes who accept slavery … Of course there are women who choose it [the veil] … There were American Negroes who were in favour of slavery.”
Who said colonialism was dead? Quite clearly the miasmas of imperialism and ethnocentrism survived America’s grand world democracy-building project and that little charter known as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But what’s truly behind Islamophobia? What if Islam is just a convenient scapegoat in a Middle Eastern game of thrones? What if, and it is a big IF, this rising fascism against all things Arab, Muslim or vaguely Islamic-looking is actually the manifestation of unfettered capitalism?
In other words, Muslims have become a target of choice not because of their faith, or their alleged potential link to radicalism, but because of their geography, and Western powers’ hunger for control in the Middle East. Fear and hate here have been engineered as conduits for imperialism — a mean to justify wars and mass killings.
Imperialism is the ultimate expression of capitalism
Back in 1916, Vladimir Lenin defined imperialism as the ultimate expression of capitalism. Looking today at the phenomenon we call globalization, it appears rather evident that Lenin had an intuitive understanding of capitalism’s core nature.
Lenin’s observations were a reflection of the crises the world was then witnessing, mainly World War I. His pamphlet was meant as an intervention in the sharp political debate which had torn apart the International Socialist Party at the start of the war, and to question whether or not socialism as a movement could, and should back governments’ war efforts.
When war was declared in 1914, socialists in the German parliament voted unanimously to fund it, arguing that they had to defend civilization against the despotism of the Russians. Meanwhile, French socialists said they had to defend revolutionary France against Prussian militarism, and so on, across the board.
Lenin’s Bolshevik Party in Russia was the only socialist organization which opposed Russia’s war efforts on principle. Lenin’s argument was that the war was an imperialist conflict in which all sides were trying to grab more territory and extend their power and influence or, at the very least, hang on to territories to which they had no right in the first place.
Lenin’s writings in Imperialism aimed to describe colonial expansionism as one of the horsemen of unfettered capitalism – unfettered being the key word.
As Phil Gasper, a philosophy professor in Madison, Wisconsin, and regular contributor to the International Socialist Review, told MintPress News:
“Lenin did not claim that there was no imperialism before the late 19th century. As he explicitly noted, ‘Colonial policy and imperialism existed before the latest stage of capitalism, and even before capitalism. Rome, founded on slavery, pursued a colonial policy and practiced imperialism.’”
The point Lenin is driving home is that the new form of imperialism which emerged at the turn of the century was rooted in financial greed — the desire to control wealth, and through it project political power.
Lenin wrote in his book, “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism”:
“general arguments about imperialism, which ignore, or put into the background the fundamental difference of socio-economic systems, inevitably degenerate into absolutely empty banalities, or into grandiloquent comparisons like ‘Greater Rome and Greater Britain.”
Is it that far-fetched to assume that capitalism required more than it already had? That capitalism required more lands and more resources to fall under the control of its corporations and their owners, which neoconservatism raised to the status of multi-billionaires, while the other 99 percent was left to scrounge on leftovers?
It would not be the first time that capitalism has used a proxy conflict to run hide its true agenda. Take the crusades and Pope Urban II’s “the land of milk and honey” tirade in 1066. The Church’s ambitions then were not a simple case of religious zeal, but an imperious need to amass greater riches. Then, too, an excuse had to be given, and so the liberation of the Holy Land was offered by way of justification to the masses. Then, too, Islam was the designated enemy of Western civilization. Rather it was that Muslims controlled those very resources the Western Christian world wanted for itself.
Today, it is radicalism, and the War on Terror, which have allowed for Western governments to remain in a state of perpetual war.
In Libya, NATO exploited a U.N. Security Resolution condemning late Muammar Gaddafi. On March 28, Abdelkader Abderrahmane, an independent geopolitical researcher and analyst on African security wrote,
“NATO’s 2011 intervention in Libya, coming shortly after the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi, was hailed at the time as a ‘humanitarian intervention.’ It was, at least according to the UN Security Council resolution used as authorisation, intended to bring about a ceasefire and end attacks against civilians that ‘might constitute crimes against humanity.’”
Once again, Muslims, Islam, and all those who loosely fit Islam’s ethnic markers — as if faith had a nationality – have been demonized, to be better dehumanized, and then eventually destroyed.
“The ‘war on terror’ — by design — can never end,” wrote Glenn Greenwald for The Guardian in 2013. “It is precisely the intrinsic endlessness of this so-called “war” that is its most corrupting and menacing attribute.”
Towards this anti-Middle Eastern, anti-Islamic build up, the media acts as echo chambers to officials’ narrative of war – on both sides of the Atlantic.
The anti-Muslim narrative
Throughout Europe and the United States, governments deliberately provoke anti-Muslim hatred in response to those very crises they manufactured through careless politicking: the refugee crisis, radicalisation, wars and so on.
Since open colonialism is no longer in fashion, imperial powers must seek other methods of “interventionism” to rationalize their military presence beyond their own borders. Corporate profits are at the core of any campaigns we have seen play out over recent decades — profits and control over resources, and markets. As Amir Samin, the prominent Egyptian-born intellectual said in an interview with l’ Humanite: “Colonialism is Inseparable from Capitalism.”
Who can forget U.S. presidential Republican candidate Donald Trump’s calls in December 2015 for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”? Since then, the Republican frontrunner has made a series of increasingly fascistic and violent demands. From his suggestion that Muslims be put on a national database, to hypothetical internment camps, the billionaire wannabe politician invokes fascism unapologetically.
Needless to say, the narrative he is playing into is scaring the daylight out of Muslims, foreigners, and other people of color. Although Muslims remain the main recipient of Western hatred, it is their otherness which is being singled out – an otherness which is shared by millions across the Western world.
“I have always felt like I was on the fringes of what is acceptable Americanness—being Muslim on top of being black just compounds that, especially after 9/11,” said Dawud Walid, a local Islamic preacher and the Michigan executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in an interview with the Daily Beast last month.
“There are actually people in our community that would literally consider leaving America [if Trump were elected], if not permanently, at least temporarily, to reside abroad,” he added.
If Trump has somewhat become the posterchild of neo-fascism, he is most definitely not alone in his trumpeting of hate:
- France’s Rossignol was only too happy to volunteer her own bias towards Muslims, so have other U.S. and EU officials.
- Then there was David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, whose comments in January linked radicalism, and Muslim women’s modesty or, as he put it, “submissiveness.”
- And David Bowers, the Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, who approvingly invoked America’s history of interning Japanese Americans in concentration camps during the Second World War, when he declared, “It appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”
So much hatred in such a short time! It’s almost as if media and politicians were looking to amplify latent ethnocentrism, leaving listeners to question what they hope to gain.
Racism comes easy if fanned properly. Racism, if looked at rationally, is merely the expression of a warped ethnic sense of self. From that perspective, racism is a universal trait sadly shared by all. It is the weaponization of such a social phenomenon that should cause concern.
Here racism has served warmongers best. In Britain, Cameron even branded opponents of the authorization of war in Syria as “terrorist sympathizers.”
Extreme racism & sexism
If Islamophobia has been instrumental in supporting military interventionism in the Middle East, while shaming any, and all attempts at humanitarian aid or reconstruction; Western capitals’ new found “taste” for nationalism could soon slip into extremism. As usual the main target of such bile remains Muslims and, most particularly, Muslim women.
Judging by the March 30 editorial Charlie Hebdo felt comfortable enough to publish — in English one might add — we are fast approaching those days. Aware of its global readership and media traction, Charlie Hebdo undoubtedly wanted to reach as many homes as possible with its little piece of fascist literature.
The editors wrote,
“The first task of the guilty [Muslims] is to blame the innocent [Western world]. It’s an almost perfect inversion of culpability. From the bakery that forbids you to eat what you like, to the woman who forbids you to admit that you are troubled by her veil, we are submerged in guilt for permitting ourselves such thoughts. And that is where and when fear has started its sapping, undermining work. And the way is marked for all that will follow.”
Of course freedom lovers will argue that Charlie Hebdo is entitled to its hate, just as others are entitled to their opinions. That is after all the principle of freedom of expression!
But what happens when these ideas are put into practice? What happens when Muslims are seen as legitimate targets by radicalized nationalists?
On Sunday, a Muslim woman was purposely struck by a car in Brussels.
Shafaqna News Association, a British-based Muslim news agency, reported: “A Muslim woman was run over by a car which appears to drive at speed towards her during a right-wing rally in Brussels. This attack comes after a flare up in xenophobic attacks against Muslims and ethnic minorities in Belgium.”
Of course such attitudes do little by way of aiding the fight against terrorism, even though fascists would argue that their hate is only a manifestation of their desire to eradicate terror.
As Michael Friedman, Ph.D Clinical psychologist from New York City and member of the Medical Advisory Board at EHE International wrote for The Huffington Post in 2015: “The National Counterterrorism Center clearly states that promotion of inclusion and tolerance, as well as building trust with law enforcement, is critical to reducing vulnerability to radicalization.”
“A recent 2012 investigation found that widespread surveillance of the Muslim community by the New York Police Department did not improve efforts to identify terrorists. It has been further suggested that these efforts reduced trust in law enforcement. In a study of 300 Muslim-Americans, it was found that lower trust in law enforcement was associated with decreased willingness to cooperate with police on terrorism investigations.”
If intellectuals and scholars all agree that fascism only serves to exacerbate radicalization, then why are our officials, and corporate media so intent on driving the bus home?
The question answers itself. As long as media and politicians continue to serve the corporate elite instead of the public, radicalization, in all its forms, will remain both a tool and a weapon of mass-destabilization, mass-indoctrination, and mass-manipulation.
Catherine is a political analyst and reporter for MintPress focusing on the Middle East and the rise of radical movements.