On Friday, anti-Islamist blogger Pamela Geller pounced on news of a massacre in Oslo. "Jihad in Norway?" she asked. She posted a second item—"You cannot avoid the consequences of ignoring jihad"—and linked to a previous one: "Norway: ALL Rapes in Past 5 Years Committed by Muslims." As the Oslo body count grew, she piled on: "if I hear another television or radio reporter refer to muhammad as 'the Prophet Muhammad,' I think I am going to puke. He's not your prophet, assclowns."
Then things went horribly wrong. It turned out that the suspected terrorist in Norway wasn't a Muslim. He hated Muslims. And he admired Geller.
Pamela's quite a piece of work:
Four days before Breivik opened fire, she posted an item headlined, "Moderates vs. Radicals—What's the Difference?" She joked that "one straps one on, and the other covers for jihad." She concluded that "there really is no difference between muslims and radical muslims."
Geller has pursued this line of attack most aggressively against Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who wants to build an Islamic community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. Abdul Rauf, accused of radicalism by Geller and Republican politicians, has done everything possible to refute the charge. He has denounced al-Qaida as un-Islamic. He has said, "I condemn everyone and anyone who commits acts of terrorism. And Hamas has committed acts of terrorism." He has invited the U.S. government to vet potential funders of his center. He has rejected the idea that Sharia overrides civil laws. And when U.S. forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, the imam declared: "I applaud President Obama for his resolute efforts in the war against terror, including bringing Bin Laden to justice."
Despite these statements, Geller continues to depict Abdul Rauf as a terrorist sympathizer. Her evidence is a series of secondhand, thirdhand, and nonexistent connections.
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And the hypocrisy doesn't end with Geller. It permeates the Republican presidential field. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Newt Gingrich agree with Geller that no mosque should be built near Ground Zero. Herman Cain, in the style of George Wallace, just went to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to support local bigots who want to stop the construction of a mosque there. Rick Santorum told a Christian school audience: "The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical."
ALJAZEERA has a fine, thoughtful editorial by Ahmed Moor, "Norway's attacks reveal world of hatred" that is a worthy read. Ahmed observes that "Initial reactions to the attacks in Norway showed a "clash of civilisations" exists, but not in the way many understood." His editorial points out that there is a built-in mind-set of "blame Islam", even by non-right-wing journalists and politicians. He feels the New York Times has a key part in this, and he has a point, IMHO.
Blame for the Western media's panting pursuit of a non-existent Muslim triggerman quickly focused on the feckless, credulous, overeager and inept source of the NYT's journalistic failure. Will McCants - proclaimed by one of his acolytes to be at the top of a "list of five terrorism experts you can trust" - was quickly discredited. In his defence, he only sought to affirm the confirmation bias that he and the editors of the NYT suffer from. The meme that underpins their worldview goes something like this: "Muslims are bad. When bad things happen, Muslims are responsible." This is a mainstream view in the US today; it cuts across party lines.
Shaping both sides of the narrative
That the purported American left maintains this bigoted outlook is an indication of how successful the right has been at constructing the stage upon which public debate is conducted. Two main anti-Muslim talking points are now taken for granted in this country: First, all terrorists in the West are Muslims; second, we are in the midst of a global civilisational war. These are the dual planks upon which Uncle Sam squats in his Afghani outhouse.
Objective sources have done an excellent job of discrediting the first of the two claims that inform the 21st century American experience. The second point however - that we are engaged in a war of civilisations - is one that I agree with. But the combatants are not Islam and the West. Instead, the war is between the normal, sane people of the world and the right-wing zealots who see doom, destruction, hellfire and God's Will at every turn.