News from the Middle East and from the USA
Wadah Khanfar was born in the Palestinian village of Rama on the West Bank in 1968. He is now director-general of Al Jazeera. In the video he explains the role of the Quatar-based channel in the recent Arab revolutions and talks about the promise that these revolutions hold for people in the region, because they come directly from the democratic aspirations of the young. He gives you insight into the politics of a contemporary satellite TV station that has been able to use the recordings of thousands of people in the streets to break state and corporate barriers to grassroots expression and help achieve the unbelievable: an exit from authoritarian regimes backed by billions of dollars of military support and “advising” from the West. Check out one of the most interesting speeches I have listened to in years.
Now compare with another media phenomenon: Brigitte Gabriel. She was born in Marjayoun district of Southern Lebanon in 1964. She is a Maronite Christian who suffered during Lebanon’s long civil war. She then moved to the US to become a voice of hatred against what she calls “Islamofascism.” As the Arab revolutions unfold, with extraordinary progress toward a substantial democracy in both Tunisia and Egypt and tremendous expressions of desire for freedom in countries all across the Middle East, Brigitte Gabriel is touring the USA, rousing crowds and stoking passions with the kind of neo-McCarthy language you find on her website, ACT! for America:
Radical Muslims have declared jihad against Christians, Jews, non-Muslims and secularists – simply because they regard us as infidels. They even target Muslims whom they regard as insufficiently “pure.” The warriors of radical Islam are not only “over there.” Tens of thousands of Islamic militants now reside in America, operating in sleeper cells, attending our colleges and universities, even infiltrating our government. They are here – today. Many have been here for years. Waiting. Preparing.
To believe her you must suspect the suspect the hidden presence of terrorists in all national institutions, as in this quote reproduced by the New York Times: “They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They are being radicalized in radical mosques in our cities and communities within the United States.” Another article from the Times gives the current context of such delirious paranoia: “On Thursday, Representative Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is scheduled to open a series of hearings that seem designed to stoke fear against American Muslims.” In other words, this hate-speech is being supported by Republicans at the highest levels, and in the center of the repressive apparatus installed by G.W. Bush. Here is some more from Brigitte Gabriel:
“In the Muslim world, extreme is mainstream,” she wrote. She said that there is a “cancer” infecting the world, and said: “The cancer is called Islamofacism. This ideology is coming out of one source: The Koran.”
In what ACT! is calling “Open a Koran” day this September, the group plans to put up 750 tables in front of post offices, libraries, churches and synagogues and hand out leaflets selectively highlighting verses that appear to advocate violence, slavery and subjugation of women.
Part of American society appears unable to react to the advent of Middle Eastern democracy with anything but fear, distorted accusations and an obsessive return to the strategically constructed post-9/11 image of all Muslims as civilizational enemies. At a turning point when peace and cooperation could begin to replace hatred and war, extremists in America are making one last bid to polarize the situation permanently and chain us all to the ghosts of the past. Many of these people are probably not going to listen when you try to speak reason to them. However they are just a minority who are forced into the spotlight by the media machines of the Right. Others have to talk back, to organize, to denounce their hate-mongering and to demonstrate how far their allegations are from the truth, on practically every point you can find and especially concerning their claims of support for terrorism within American Muslim communities, which are simply false and abusive. Such claims promote racism and risk turning the United States into a full-on police state.
For some detailed official information on current trends of terrorist activity inside the United States, see this report. We need to know the official facts, to show how wrong these fear-mongers are, and to turn the country’s attention to the real problems of war and dictatorship, both of which are often supported by our own government thanks in part to the likes of Brigitte Gabriel and of the politicians who support her. Let’s argue against the people who want to block off any hope for peace and substantial democracy in both the Arab world and in the USA. Let’s keep the country and the world from sliding back to the conditions of the early 1950s.