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Joined at the Hip: Islamophobia and Bigotry

03/11/2015 16:40 GMT | Updated 02/11/2016 09:12 GMT

In the 60s, American journalist Milton Mayer, a writer for The Progressive studied how Julius Streicher, editor of the infamous Nazi broadsheet Der Stürmer in pre-Hitler Germany would often attempt to arouse antisemitic sentiments among the weekly's mostly Christian working class readership. Streicher regularly published truncated quotations from Talmudic texts that, in their shortened form, appear to advocate greed, slavery, and ritualistic murder. Mayer thus coined the term "contextomy" to describe the deceptive gutting of scripture in order to demonize its adherents. In their hateful diatribes, some Islamophobes seem to have taken a page from Streicher's book.

The reality is, you can take a random quote from the bible such as the books of Leviticus, Numbers, or Exodus and falsely portray Judaism and Christianity as barbaric and monstrous as ISIS or the Taliban. Beck would never do that because he'd lose support from his conservative base. In fact, the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, has verses and references of violence that are utterly grotesque and which are, let's just say, of biblical proportions. That is, unless the text is contextualized.

The rapidly growing quagmire of vitriol, xenophobia, and racism is a cause for serious concern. Take this quote from Glenn Beck: "Islam is at the root of everything that terrorists [like] ISIS.. say and do." Imagine, we took any religiously motivated extremists like white supremacists, militant Israeli settlers, or violent Burmese Buddhists, and said that Christianity, Judaism, or Buddhism are "at the root of everything they say and do," would such a book ever see the light of day? One can make a compelling case that all these groups are inspired by and often use religious justifications for their acts of savagery, yet somehow Islam is the problem.

Take their insistence that Islam promotes stoning people to death. What these alarmists won't want to admit is that stoning is never mentioned in the Quran. Not once! However, it is mentioned in the Bible as an acceptable form of punishment. It is prescribed for at least twelve sins, including "for disobeying one's parents!" Indeed, if the Bible were applied non-selectively, almost no one would be spared flogging and stoning.

The fact is, Islamophobes are scaremongers, cashing in on widespread fear, which they and others have helped shore up. They aren't brave trailblazers. They're just trying to make money and build fame by exploiting people's prejudices and susceptibilities. They're simply stabbing an already dead corpse; the 'corpse' being reason and common decency.

By disparaging Islam and opting for gross generalizations and superficial anecdotes, instead of nuanced scholarship, these alarmist crusaders have manufactured a toxic landscape where a lexicon of emotions effectively decimates any space for dialogue. Through contextomy, every Muslim committed to her faith is targeted as an enemy. The underlying claim is that the only way to be a true Muslim is to join ISIS! This is dangerous. As dangerous, in fact, as any terror recruitment campaign.

The cardinal rule in Islamic social conduct is delineated by Imam Ali, the Prophet's appointed heir:

"People are of two kinds; either your brother in faith, or your equal in creation"
This is never mentioned by the Islamophobes. The mission of the Prophet himself is summarized in this Quranic verse: "We have not sent but as a mercy to all of creation". By turning a blind eye to these unequivocal injunctions, hate-mongers are doing exactly what ISIS does; gloss over the parts of the Quran which don't fit their warped narrative.

So are terror groups like ISIS, Muslim? It would be difficult to reply in the negative. That's because Islam has such low entry requirements that almost anyone can technically become Muslim. In fact, all you have to do to acquire Muslim 'citizenship' is to make a verbal proclamation attesting to belief in the one true God and His messenger Muhammad. But are they 'Islamic'? Absolutely not. Just as you can be an American citizen, but also be un-American, like criminals, racists, and thugs. Some terrorists may be 'Muslim', but so veritably un-Islamic that apart from their rhetoric they share absolutely nothing with Muslims. This is why ISIS abhor other Muslims so much, why Abu Bakr al Baghdadi commands the murdering of Shia Muslims in every single one of his messages, "Kill the Shia.. Mutilate their bodies wherever you find them"? How is this justified in Islam? There is absolutely no rationale other than the Saudi-sponsored dogma known as Wahhabism, not Islam.

We must wake up and see the trajectory that bigots are putting us on. Horrid savagery is committed by the likes of Anders Breivik because they are conditioned by jingoists, much the same way as the Third Reich was brainwashed by Julius Streicher and his ilk. Bigotry is the common thread that connects the two, one eventually leading to the Holocaust, and the other going in a similar direction, albeit with a different enemy on the rifle scope.

The fact is, Islamophobia and antisemitism are joined-at-the-hip. Many "anti-islamization" rallies like Europe's Pegida have confirmed neo-Nazis sporting Swastikas and other antisemitic insignia, gracing the protests with their passionate presence. Right now, there's too much at stake if Jews were attacked, but sooner or later they and their scriptures will be targeted because history tends to repeat itself unless old paradigms are torn down and these crusaders of bigotry are shown what Stetson Kennedy called "Frown Power", which simply encouraged people to pointedly frown when they heard bigoted speech.