The memory of 9/11 returned once again to haunt us.The deaths of thousands of innocent men and women in New York at the hands of some misguided terrorists, who wanted to achieve their heinous objectives through violence still sadden us. But it also reminds us of the subsequent killings of hundreds of thousands of innocent humans in the Middle-East and Southwest Asia, who had to perish at the altar of unremitting hatred and rage unleashed against a particular brand of religionists by the crusader duo Bush and Blair. The latter were joined by the Zionists and fundamentalists of other faiths, who made the hapless Muslims easy preys of their cruelties and hegemonies across the globe - from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Palestine to Libya and Kashmir.
Debates rage in the USA surrounding the observance of 9/11 on how the country can maintain a balance between security and individual freedom. But the controversies regarding the part played by racism in limiting the civic liberties of religious minorities are ignored during these occasions. The Muslims have been the targets, just as the Jews and Catholic Christians were a century ago. In fact, the processes through which people become victims of racism bear stark similarities. In the first place, the religious minorities are depicted in mass media and government circles as deceitful fifth columnists having little regard for state laws, rules or regulations. Then adherence to their religious dictums is shown to be a threat to the American (Anglo-Saxon Protestant) lifestyle. Lastly, they are discouraged from pursuing religious tenets by equating their religion with a dangerous political ideology.
The Western media has continued to portray the Muslims as terrorists throughout the past two decades. A survey conducted by the University of Alabama revealed that the aggregate of news in the media regarding involvement of Muslims in terrorist incidents was 357 times higher compared to terrorist acts perpetrated by non-Muslims during the period 2006 to 2015. The politicians accorded legitimacy to depicting Muslims as villains through filing litigations against them, imposing excessive surveillance on the community, and expelling them from the country wholesale. Both the Republican and Democratic camps in the USA tried to convey a message through the special registration process 'NSEERS' of the Bush administration and 'Countering violent extremism' project of the Obama administration that the Muslims were threats to the internal security of that country.
This was not the first instance of discriminatory treatment of minorities in the USA. Earlier, the Black Americans, Indigenous Americans and other ethnic minorities were victims of such treatment. In fact, a large segment of the Protestant Christians in the USA has historically used religious identity alongside ethnic roots as a basis for racism. The Jews and Catholic Christian migrants from Europe numbering hundreds of thousands, who migrated to the USA between 1880 and 1924, were also victims of racism in the new land. They were socially identified as citizens of medium category in accordance with the laws in vogue then. Although they were deemed to be of a higher standard than the Blacks, Indigenous Americans, or the Asians, they were treated as inferior to the Protestant Christians coming from Northern Europe.
The White Protestant organization Ku Klux Klan started to build up public opinion against the Catholics from 1920. They waged a campaign claiming the Catholic custom and culture were a huge threat to the Anglo-Protestant nationality. They implanted doubts in the minds of the Protestants that the Catholics were engaged in a secret conspiracy to thwart the concept of individual freedom in the USA. The White nationalists even complained that the teachings of Roman Catholic churches clashed with the liberal and democratic values of the USA. That same conspiracy theory was recently applied during the publicity campaign against the Muslims.
The way anti-Jew sentiments were spread at that time bear strong resemblance to Islamophobia or fear of Islam in modern times. During the early 1920s, the Jews were depicted in the mainstream US media as frauds, separatists, parasitic, dishonest, and agents of the Russian communists. When the number of Jews in the USA crossed 3 million in 1920, the White cum Protestant nationalists started to wage a racist campaign against them based on religion. They began to claim that these Jews were not the original ones; they were Mongols and Khazars of Turkish descent who had adopted Judaism later on. Even up to the middle of the 20th century, negative comments were made in the US media regarding the eye-colour, nose-structure and facial attributes of the Jews. Because of this negative publicity, the Americans started to believe before the Second World War that tortures were perpetrated against the Jews in Europe because of their misdeeds, and they thoroughly deserved it.
And following the incidents of 9/11, the outcome of a similar publicity campaign against Muslims has been quite horrifying. According to a survey conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre, 50 per cent of Americans believe that the Muslims do not belong to the mainstream American citizenry. And only about 48 per cent Americans have some warmth for the Muslims. There appears to have been a deliberate and cold-blooded attempt to belittle the American Muslims since the 9/11 episode by equating their religion with a dangerous ideology.
Bush and Blair succeeded in establishing the doctrine of a new kind of Americanism or Westernism, which asserted that the United States and the West had the right to indiscriminately kill, eliminate or corner the Muslims, even pre-emptively, anywhere in the world, who appeared to them to be a potential threat to the safety of American or Western citizens. In the process, they displayed complete disregard for international laws, the fundamental tenets of justice, basic standards of morality or ethics, and even the prescriptions of their own faiths. By whatever name it may be called, this new brand of cruel, racist, sectarian, egoistic and parochial Americanism or Westernism is certainly not humanism. It is at best a new form of Apartheid, Fascism, or Nazism.
Dr Helal Uddin Ahmed is a retired Additional Secretary and former Editor of Bangladesh Quarterly.