CYBER SLANDER

 

The cyber space is flush with anti-Arab, anti-Muslim balderdash. ABID SHAH takes a look at some of this growing body of vicious propaganda

 

VILIFICATION OF A FOE IN THE WAKE OF A WAR IS indeed not unheard of. Denigrating his faith too must have been resorted to at some point, or points, of history. A psychological warfare needs its tools. Using them has not to be far from fair until the journey from war to peace is over. Afghanistan today is only limping through this tortuous course.

  Several solemn promises were made to minimise its woes. Among the most important was to confine the battle to suspect’s alone and spare ideology, persuasions and belief. This has, however, sadly been belied. Hate has spilled over, though the military campaign may not take long to be over.

  Bruises and scars left by it on Afghanistan may too heal over time. Yet, the lava of hatred unleashed by it would take time to cool. It is only a click of a mouse away from us.

  Internet abuse has not only been spiraling though the cyberspace, it has snowballed after September 11. It is also being used as a weapon to inflict a blow on Muslims and Arabs indiscriminately and mercilessly. One of the anti-Arab websites exhorts net surfers to boycott Arab oil.

  It says, “Are you directly funding terrorism? The next time you pump gasoline into your car, think twice. Only use the following gas stations as they do not buy oil from the Middle East. Citgo from Venezuela is one of the few OPEC members that is friendly to Israel”. Others recommended by the website are Sunoco, Conoco, Sunclair and Philips.

  Arab countries are referred to as “hell holes and of the third world”. And the website demonises Arab world as filthy. Unfettered use of expletives started with hate mail received by Muslims all over the world after September 11 have set in on these sites. The cyberspace is now occupied by hoardings like ”Say SC** W. YOU to Arabs and their filthy oil. The profits from the Arab oil funds terrorism in India, Israel and throughout the world”. The site gives 25 years to the Arab world when their prosperity would be over, for the oil cannot last beyond that.

  It, however, does not question the collaboration of Arab countries with the Western world for drilling and taking out oil form the wells in Arabia. Nor does it exhort the US and UK to call off economic collaboration with Arab countries to put fetters on them. It does not call upon the countries importing oil from Arabia to cancel their orders either. It addresses consumers alone through pungent rhetoric that betrays no economic outlook worth the name, but that of a petty shopkeeper.

  Its message being as crass and crude as crude oil, the website has quite an impressive fraternity on its margin to take you to different parts of the globe to know more about the “misdeeds of Muslims and Arabs”. One of these linkages offered by the hinduunity.org is jdl, or Jewish Defense League. The jdl attempts an ingenious transposition of faith and communities through the text of the Quran to prove its point. And the purpose of this is to paint Muslims as compulsive terrorists. Muslims without exception are dubbed as wife-beaters, child abusers and rapists. Their scripture is cited as a source of encouragement for these evils.

  Islam as a faith is vilified and the Prophet (PBUH) is called a bigot and worse. Forget the historical fact that for centuries Jews flourished not in the West, but in the Muslim world. Every pogrom in Europe brought flocks of Jews to Muslim and Arab lands where they were received as a cousin race (among Arabs), and as “People of the Book” in other Muslim countries. Stranger than fiction stories pop up on such websites. One of these stated to be by Kevin Quinn talks of an unfamiliar place called Baladullah California. It poses a question, “Why is there an Islamic village in the foothills near Fresno? There is an airstrip and neighbours complain of gunfire”. It is boasted as a video footage by Kevin Quinn, promising to take viewers to Balaldullah. Despite persistent efforts the footage does not open up.

For a while ignore the fact that Washington File writers of the US State Department are writing about such Muslim communities as proof of American multiculturalism. Mr Quinn, Islamic villages are there in America because Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist settlements are there. We are told by the Administration that they are as welcome as you are in the US. Don’t create xenophobia. It is bad for all of us, including you, Mr. Quinn.

Iran Freedom is another linkage offered by Hindu unity where Muslims are dubbed as traitors. It exhorts Iranians to free themselves from the clutches of Arab influence under whose subjugation most Iranians had accepted Islam in the days of yore. Yet history is attempted to be reinvented by the website that describes the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian kingdom of Aryans to have been spread over from southern Europe to Punjab in northern India. It is another matter that Iranians don’t seem inclined to heed the advice and jettison Islam anytime too soon.

Thus, anti-Semitism of Aryans once symbolised by Hitler is ingeniously combined with the Jew-Arab feud despite the fact that Jews were done to death because of Nazi anti-Semitism. Though the fate of

" It exhorts Iranians to free themselves from the clutches of Arab influence under whose subjugation most Iranians had accepted Islam in the days of yore."

 Arabs at the hands of Hitler would not have been different from those of Jews had the former been living in Nazi Germany, these websites conveniently use the term Islamism to channelise hatred against Muslims in general and Arabs in particular. This, in short, is a new spin on anti-Semitism.

This is in sharp contrast to what George W. Bush and Tony Blair had promised before the Afghan war. Repeatedly, the two had asserted that their alliance’s campaign should not be misconstrued as directed against Islam. Bush had said that terrorists had no religion. He had revoked one of his remarks to avoid misgivings and apologised for using the term “crusade” for the alliance’s military campaign.

He had also preferred to call the military operation Enduring Freedom instead of the earlier Infinite Justice, for Muslims believed this to be the prerogative and domain of God alone. Bush had decried attacks against Asians and Muslim immigrants amid the heat of September 11 attack on World Trade Centre and Pentagon. But such discernment and caution sadly end there. And the events following September 11 have brought a divide and a flood of diatribe that appear to be beyond control of the US leaders.  

Fishing in troubled waters is easy. Adding to strife suits those who have been looking towards America to safeguard their own interests. Long standing issues where Muslims have been at the receiving end can best be kept in abeyance by maligning Muslims, their faith and the race of some of them.

Ushering the world into an era which is without fear can only be a pious wish on the part of the leaders of the anti-terror campaign for they appear to have as little control over Bin Ladens of so many denominations as the actual Bin Laden. The only difference being that there is no will even to detect the former lest they have to punish them.

    Thus, the tele images of Bush celebrating I’d with US Muslims get a blow when one finds on Internet that a commemorative stamp on Islam issued on the occasion has invited a call for boycott. The website exhorts whenever you hit the site to shun the stamp, not to receive the mail bearing it and write to the US postal department to scrap this token of “Muslim appeasement”.

  People behind sites like these go into mourning every time the US tries to improve its ties with the Muslim world. When President Clinton met some Arabs, these people went to town complaining that the White House was “inviting terrorists”. The fault of the Arabs was that they supported the Palestinian national cause.

  When President George W Bush invited Muslims for an Iftar dinner at the White House many of these anti-Muslim groups had an attack of colic, which ruined their appetite for days. They don’t want an America that befriends Muslims–the only West-Islam relationship they desire is an adversarial relationship. They did not like it a bit when President Clinton laid down the tradition of sending greetings to American and world Muslims in Ramadhan and on I’d.

 These people were aggrieved when the US released a postal stamp honouring Islam as a major religion of the US and the world. They unleashed a massive campaign to boycott it, and possibly to get it withdrawn. They think that they are “more equal” than the six million American Muslims. They cannot stomach the presence of so many Muslims in the US and would do anything to force them into a corner, if they fail to physically drive them out. Let us hope the American state recognises this and protects its citizens from anti-Muslim hate mongers. After all, this is what the America of Jefferson and Lincoln and is all about—equal rights to all citizens, whatever their race or religion.

  People behind sites like jdl believe that a Christian-Muslim conflict helps their interests and demonisation of Islam is one way of ensuring such conflict. They also rejoice at the thought of Hindu-Muslim conflict. A Christian-Muslim rapprochement is a nightmare for them, a proof of this being Israel’s denial to Yasser Arafat to attend a Christmas mass in Bethlehem despite pleas from the Pope. g


ABID SHAH is a Delhi-based journalist. Formerly associated with The Statesman and Tehelka.com, Shah now works as a freelancer.