Archive for the ‘ British Pakistanis ’ Category

Memorial for Noor Inayat Khan, SOE Agent and Daughter of Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan

As Reported by The Sufi Times

This past New Years Day would have marked the 96th birthday of Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan, an Indian muslim woman who was shot dead in a Nazi concentration camp in September 1944, after being the first female radio operator to infiltrate occupied France.

Her courage and self-sacrifice during World War II are to be honoured by a memorial which has been proposed to be raised in London’s Bloomsbury area next year. It will be the first war memorial in Britain either for a Muslim or an Asian woman.

The project has the support of 34 Members of Parliament and a number of prominent British Asians, including human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti and film director Gurinder Chadha, OBE. Permission has been granted by London University and the local authority to build a sculpture in Gordon Square. A sculptor has already been commissioned and the organisers now need to raise £60,000 to complete the project, of which about £25,000 has already been raised.

Noor Inayat Khan was the daughter of acclaimed Sufi teacher and musician, Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882 – 1927), who was one of the first people to bring Sufi teachings to the modern Western world. He established the “Sufi Order in the West”, which survives in various forms to this day and has followers around the world.

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s great-grandfather was Tipu Sultan, a king of Mysore who ruled during the time of the East India compay and who had died in battle against the Duke of Wellington in 1799. Hazrat Inayat Khan had been initiated into the Suhrawardiyya, Qadiriyya and Naqshbandi tariqas, but his primary initiation was from Shaykh Muhammed Abu Hashim Madani into the Nizamiya branch of the Chishti order (named after Shaykh Nizamuddin Auliya, died 1325).

Being an accomplished musician, Hazrat Inayat Khan went to America to tour with a group of musicians, playing mainly traditional court music on his veena and singing. During this time, he attracted a number of students to Sufism and met his wife, Ora Meena Ray Baker, an American from New Mexico who was of English-Irish-Scottish descent. They had their first child, Noor, in Moscow (1914), where Inayat Khan had gone to perform. Three more children were to follow: Vilayat (1916), Hidayat (1917) and Khair-un-Nisa (1919).

When Noor was four years old the family moved to Paris. Noor grew up in an environment steeped in Sufi teachings. Her father established a Sufi centre and regularly held Sufi meditation meetings with a growing number of students, lectured widely and authored a number of books.

Noor went on to study at the Sorbonne, and in her mid-20’s became an author of children’s stories. At the outbreak of war Noor’s family returned to her motherland and they moved into rooms in Bloomsbury Square in London. The site of the memorial which is to built in her name is, therefore, very appropriate.

Both Noor and her brother Vilayat decided they would do something to help the Allied Forces in their efforts against the Nazi threat. Vilayat joined the RAF (Royal Air Force) and trained as a pilot, whilst Noor joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). Because of her fluent French, she was given a position in the new Special Operations Executive (SOE) of the British Secret Service. The SOE was desperately looking for radio operators who could be positioned in enemy territory to send back intelligence by wireless.

Her recruiters were not at first convinced of her suitability for the role. One of them noted, “Not overburdened with brains but has worked hard and shown keenness, apart from some dislike of [the] security side of the course. She has an unstable and temperamental personality and it is very doubtful whether she is really suited to work in the field.”

But in June 1943, she became the first female SOE agent to be parachuted into enemy occupied territory in France. According to Sir Colin Gubbins, head of the SOE, she had “occupied the principal and most dangerous post in France”. As a radio operator she was on the front line of intelligence operations, a dangerous role not for the faint-hearted. She was once stopped by the Gestapo whilst cycling with her radio equipment, but managed to convince them that it was a cinema projector.

However, it eventually transpired that the French resistance group she had been sent to help had already been infiltrated by Nazi agents and within weeks of her arrival hundreds of operatives had been arrested and shot.

Noor turned down the opportunity to return to Britain, choosing to remain behind as the SOE’s only radio contact in or near Paris. She was given a life-expectancy of three weeks, but survived for three months.

But then she was betrayed by Renée Garry, the sister of one of her French Resistance colleagues. The reason for this betrayal is not clear. Some reports say Garry was jealous of Noor’s role as an SOE agent, others say she was jealous of her beauty. In any case, she was seized by the German Gestapo and taken to a concentration camp in Pflozheim. Here she was routinely tortured for weeks, but refused to give up any information to her interrogators.

On 11 September 1944, Noor, together with three other female SOE colleagues, were taken by cars to the concentration camp in Dachau, arriving in the dark. During the night, they were tortured again. Early on the morning of September 12, they were marched out to the dog kennels, forced to kneel two by two and each was shot in the back of the head. Their bodies were incinerated in Dachau’s infamous ovens. Her last words before she died were ‘liberte’.

Shrabani Basu is Noor Inayat Khan’s biographer and founder of the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust. She spent eight years researching Noor’s life from war archives and family records, and has more recently been involved in the planning of the new memorial. Basu remarked, “I feel it is very important that what she did should not be allowed to fade from memory, particularly living in the times that we do. Here was a young Muslim woman who gave her life for this country and for the fight against those who wanted to destroy the Jewish race. She was an icon for the bond that exists between Britain and India but also between people who fought for what they believed to be right.”

Of the SOE’s 55 female agents, 13 died in action or at the hands of the Nazis. One of those killed (Violette Szabo) and one who survived (Odette Hallowes) have had popular movies made about their lives.

The initial unfavourable assessment made by Noor’s recruiters was in stark contrast to the note that her commander and head the SOE’s French section, Maurice Buckmaster, later made of her: “A most brave and touchingly keen girl. She was determined to do her bit to hit the Germans and, poor girl, she has.”

In France, Noor is already widely recognized as a war hero. There are two memorials for her, and a ceremony is held each year.

In 1975, a commemoration plaque was installed at the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, by the State of Massachusetts. It displays Noor’s name and the names of the three others who were executed with her on September 12th 1944.

To this day, nothing has been built in Britain to commemorate the life of this Indian Sufi Muslim woman who courageously sacrificed her life for freedom and the British contribution to the war against Fascism. It is hoped that the proposed memorial will be built to redress this oversight.

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Amir Khan on George Lopez

Here is a video of Amir Khan on the George Lopez show after the win against Zab Judah.

Norway Suspect Wanted European Anti-Muslim Crusade

As Reported by The Associated Press

The man blamed for killing at least 93 people during terrorist attacks on Norway’s government headquarters and an island retreat for young people wanted to trigger an anti-Muslim revolution in Norwegian society, his lawyer said Sunday.

A chief surgeon treating the wounded from Friday’s mass shooting, meanwhile, said he believes the attacker used special “dum-dum” bullets that cause massive internal injuries. The doctor told The Associated Press that the killer’s chosen ammo “exploded inside the body.”

The manifesto that 32-year-old suspect Anders Behring Breivik published online ranted against Muslim immigration to Europe and vowed revenge on those “indigenous Europeans” whom he deemed had betrayed their heritage. The document said they would be punished for their “treasonous acts.”

Police said they were analyzing the approximately 1,500-page document. They said it was published Friday shortly before the back-to-back bomb and gun attacks.

Breivik’s lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said his client wrote the document alone. While police said they were investigating reports of a second assailant on the island, the lawyer said Breivik claims no one helped him.

The treatise detailed plans to acquire firearms and explosives, and even appeared to describe a test explosion: “BOOM! The detonation was successful!!!” It ends with a note dated 12:51 p.m. on July 22: “I believe this will be my last entry.”

That day, a bomb killed seven people in downtown Oslo and, about 90 minutes later, a gunman began opening fire on about 600 young people at a retreat on Utoya Island. Police said the death toll in the shooting rose by one Sunday to 86.

That brings total fatalities to 93, with more than 90 wounded. People remain missing at both scenes. Police have not released the names of any victims.

Authorities revealed Sunday that one of the attacker’s first victims on the island was an off-duty police officer who had been hired by the camp directors to provide private security in his spare time. Oslo Police Union Chairman Sigve Bolstad declined to identify the victim.

That detail sheds new light on the confusion many survivors described during the 90-minute massacre. The attacker arrived dressed as a policeman, and some campers were killed when they approached the killer thinking he was there to save them.

Dr. Colin Poole, head of surgery at Ringriket Hospital in Honefoss northwest of Oslo, told The Associated Press the gunman used special bullets designed to disintegrate inside the body and cause maximum internal damage. Poole said surgeons treating 16 gunshot victims have recovered no full bullets.

“These bullets more or less exploded inside the body,” Poole said. “It’s caused us all kinds of extra problems in dealing with the wounds they cause, with very strange trajectories.”

Ballistics experts say the so-called “dum-dum” bullets also are lighter in weight and can be fired with greater accuracy over varying distances. They commonly are used by air marshals and hunters of small animals. Such characteristics potentially would have allowed the gunman to carry more ammunition and fire his weapons at varying targets without adjusting his sights.

Officials at the lakeside scene of the island shooting spent Sunday continuing to account for the dead.

Six hearses pulled up at the shoreline as orange-jacketed Red Cross searchers on small boats slowly explored the extensive shoreline.

Body parts remain inside the Oslo building, which housed the prime minister’s office. In a chilling allusion to the fact that the tragedy could have even been greater, police said Sunday that Breivik still had “a considerable amount” of ammunition for both his guns — a pistol and an automatic rifle — when he surrendered.

Police and his lawyer have said that Breivik confessed to the twin attacks, but denied criminal responsibility for a day that shook peaceful Norway to its core and was the deadliest ever in peacetime. Breivik has been charged with terrorism and will be arraigned Monday.

Lippestad said his client has asked for an open court hearing “because he wants to explain himself.”

Police Chief Sveinung Sponheim said a forensics expert from Interpol was joining the investigation Sunday.

European security officials said they were aware of increased Internet chatter from individuals claiming they belonged to the Knights Templar group that Breivik describes, in fantastical terms, in the manifesto. They said they were still investigating claims that Breivik, and other far-right individuals, attended a London meeting of the group in 2002. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the investigation.

The officials would not confirm whether they had identified Breivik as a potential threat.

As authorities pursued the suspect’s motives, Oslo mourned the victims. Norway’s King Harald V and his wife Queen Sonja and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg crowded into Oslo Cathedral, where the pews were packed, and people spilled into the plaza outside. The area was strewn with flowers and candles, and people who could not fit inside the grand church huddled under umbrellas amid drizzling rain.

The king and queen both wiped tears from their eyes during the service themed on “sorrow and hope.”

Afterward, people sobbed and hugged one another in the streets. Many lingered over the flowers and candles. The royal couple and prime minister later visited the site of the bombing in Oslo. The royals then visited shooting survivors at Ringriket Hospital.

The attacker picked targets linked to Norway’s left-wing Labor Party. Breivik’s manifesto pilloried the political correctness of liberals and warned that their work would end in the colonization of Europe by Muslims.

Such fears may derive, at least in part, from the fact that Norway has grown increasingly multicultural in recent years as the prosperous Nordic nation has opened its arms to thousands of conflict refugees from Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia. The annual Labor Party retreat — which the prime minister, Stoltenberg, fondly remembers attending in his own youth — reflected the country’s changing demographics as the children of immigrants have grown increasingly involved in Labor politics.

The assaults have rattled Norway, home to the Nobel Prize for Peace and where the average policeman patrolling in the streets doesn’t carry a firearm. Norwegians pride themselves on the openness of their society and cherish the idea of free expression.

“He wanted a change in society and, from his perspective, he needed to force through a revolution,” Lippestad, the lawyer, told public broadcaster NRK. “He wished to attack society and the structure of society.”

Lippestad said Breivik spent years writing the manifesto titled “2083 – A European Declaration of Independence.” It was signed “Andrew Berwick.” The document later explained that 2083 was to be the year when European government would be overthrown en masse.

Sponheim, the police chief, said there was no indication whether Breivik had selected his targets or fired randomly on the island. The manifesto vowed revenge on those it accused of betraying Europe.

“We, the free indigenous peoples of Europe, hereby declare a pre-emptive war on all cultural Marxist/multiculturalist elites of Western Europe. … We know who you are, where you live and we are coming for you,” the document said. “We are in the process of flagging every single multculturalist traitor in Western Europe. You will be punished for your treasonous acts against Europe and Europeans.”

The use of an anglicized pseudonym could be explained by a passage in the manifesto describing the founding, in April 2002 in London, of a group he calls a new Knights Templar. The Knights Templar was a medieval order created to protect Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land after the First Crusade in the 11th century.

A 12-minute video clip posted on YouTube with the same title as the manifesto featured symbolic imagery of the Knights Templar and crusader kings as well as slides suggesting Europe is being overrun by Muslims.

Police could not confirm whether Breivik posted the video, which also featured photographs of him dressed in a formal military uniform and in a wet suit pointing an assault rifle.

The video contained a series of slides that accused left-wing politicians in Europe of allowing Muslims to overrun the continent. One image showed the BBC’s logo with the “C” changed into an Islamic crescent. Another referenced the former Soviet Union, declaring that the end result of the left’s actions would be an “EUSSR.”

In London, the leader of Ramadhan Foundation, one of Britain’s largest Muslim groups, said mosques are being extra vigilant in the wake of the attacks. Mohammed Shafiq told The AP he was talking to European Muslim leaders and British police about the need to increase security.

The last 100 pages of the manifesto apparently lay out details of Breivik’s social and personal life, including his steroid use and an intention to solicit prostitutes in the days before the attack.

Also Sunday, police carried out raids in an Oslo neighborhood seeking explosives. Police spokesman Henning Holtaas said no explosives were found and no one was arrested.

Police said the bomb used in the Oslo blast was a mixture of fertilizer and fuel similar to what home-grown U.S. terrorists used to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

A farm supply store said Saturday they had alerted police that Breivik bought six metric tons of fertilizer, a popular terrorist component for car bombs.

Amir Khan, A Son of Pakistan

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Amir Khan is a British boxer. Let’s first get that straight. He represented Britain in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece where he was the only British boxer in the contingent. In those Olympics, the British flag was raised and a medal counted towards their overall tally due to Amir’s performance. At the age of 17, he brought home the silver in his lightweight boxing class and became the youngest British boxer to represent the United Kingdom since Colin Jones in 1976.

Since then, an impressive professional career has blossomed to where presently Khan is the current WBA Super Lightweight champion of the world. He has a record of 26 wins and only one loss with 17 of those wins coming by way of a knockout. That sole loss to Briedis Prescott, where Khan was knocked out in the first round, is the only blemish in his otherwise stellar career. Since that bout in 2008 against Prescott, Khan has gone on to defeat such notable fighters as Marcos Antonio Barrera, Marcos Maidana and Paul McCloskey. Today he is considered one of the best pound for pound British fighters in the world.

Standing in his way to even bigger fame and glory was tonight’s fight against Zab Judah, the IBF light welterweight champion of the world and a fighter who had won five world titles in different weight classes. The fight was thought to be very interesting as Judah is considered a very experienced fighter and someone who was capable of knocking out the lightening quick Khan. The winner of tonight’s fight also would go on to unify the Light Welterweight titles as he would be the IBF and WBA Light Welterweight champion of the world.

In the boxing circles there was also a lot of talk of a potential fight in the near future with the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. prior to Kans’s fight against Judah. Mayweather is considered as one of the best boxers in history due to his impressive undefeated fighting record of 41 wins and 0 losses. In an interesting note, Amir Khan is trained by Freddie Roach who also happens to be the trainer for Manny Pacquiao, the seven division world champion and also arguably one of the best fighters of all time. Pacquiao is the only boxer that Mayweather has refused to fight due to one reason or another. A fight that boxing fans around the world have been salivating at for several years now. A potential fight between Khan and Mayweather will need to suffice the fight fans until and if the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight ever materializes. Therefore saying that the ramifications of tonight’s fight are big would be an understatement in the boxing community.

As for me, my love for boxing must have started at an early age when I learned that my father, on a training trip to the United States, met and had a lengthy meeting with the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali. At that time my dad had gone to America in the 70’s on a training course on behalf of his company. While staying at the Hilton hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, he ran into the world heavyweight champion Ali in the lobby where a crowd was hounding the champion.

Instantly recognizing Ali, who surely must be one of the most famous people the world has ever known, my dad reached out to shake his hand and at the same time uttered “Asalaam-alikum” to Ali. Grabbing my father’s hand, Ali replied with “Walikum Asalaam” and asked where my father was from, to which he replied Pakistan.

Intrigued with meeting a Muslim from the East as he later stated to my father, Ali invited him to his penthouse suite where my dad proceeded to spend close to two hours with Ali and his entourage during which time the champ asked him many questions about Pakistan and Islam. In particular, he was interested in how the religion was practiced as compared to the way practiced by the Muslims of the Nation of Islam in America, an organization that Ali was influenced by.

Having heard numerous accounts of his story growing up along with seeing countless pictures of my dad and Ali during their encounter so many years ago, not only endeared me to the champ but also to the sport of boxing. Since then I have always followed boxing and seen many great fights and boxers. But for the first time, my interests in boxing along with many people of Pakistani origins has piqued further by the arrival on the world stage of Amir Khan.

Although he is known as the pride of Bolton in England where he was born, his Pakistani origins are never far away as they are a big part of his life and spirituality since his family hails from Kahuta in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Kahuta which was previously famous for being the site of Pakistan’s main nuclear facility is now also known as the area of Pakistan where Amir’s family originates.

This nation of Pakistan has in the last few years perhaps become synonymous with terrorism, instability, bombings, religious intolerance and extremism. But for one night, the Pakistani people can raise their head with pride and claim Amir as one of their own. He is a product of their soil who is making the country proud during a difficult time in their history. It is also a credit to his native England that promoted an environment for him to train and succeed. There is no limit to the amount of other talent in Pakistan that would have a chance to succeed if only there were such facilities and opportunities in Pakistan or even stability and security that was provided to Khan in England.

There is no doubt that to many people both inside and outside the nation of his forefathers, Amir Khan represents the best of every Pakistani. To these people. whether they are Pakistani Canadians in Toronto, or a youth in the inner streets of Birmingham, UK or a Pakistani American eating paan on Devon St in Chicago, Amir Khan is one of their own.

As he fought and defeated Judah in Las Vegas Saturday night, Amir Khan looked up and saw the thousands of British fans in attendance who had traveled from the UK and were proudly waiving the Union Jack. Deep inside, he must have known that many more millions in Pakistan and across the world were praying and hoping for even greater future success for him as the hopes and dreams of an entire nation are squarely on his able shoulders.

Manzer Munir, a proud American of Pakistani descent, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

Amir Khan Can’t Get Floyd Mayweather Out Of His Head

By David Anderson for The Daily Mirror

HE may have taken a couple of wrong turn here and there, but Amir Khan insists he is on track for a 2012 showdown with Floyd Mayweather Junior. Just as Ricky Hatton became obsessed with Pretty Boy, so Khan can’t get him out of his head.

Freddie Roach may have floated the idea of a possible clash between Khan and his pal and gym-mate Manny Pacquiao, but Mayweather is the one he wants.

Khan’s plan was to unify the light-welterweight division against Timothy Bradley in his July 23 date before stepping up to face Mayweather at welterweight next year.

His plan took a hit when Bradley refused to honour their agreement to meet and instead the Bolton fighter will take on IBF champ Zab Judah at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay.

Khan says fighting Judah is not too much of a detour from his path towards Mayweather and reckons they could still meet next year.

His new plan is to beat Judah, have one more fight in the autumn before taking on the winner of Mayweather v WBC welterweight champ Victor Ortiz in 2012.

Khan is convinced Mayweather will beat Ortiz on September 17 in what will be his first fight for nearly 18 months and then their paths will finally meet.

“I’m hoping to get Zab Judah out of the way and look good against him, then get one more fight at the end of the year,” Khan said. “Then I’d like to fight the winner of Ortiz-Mayweather, maybe next year.”

Khan could get his wish and Mayweather is currently with his US promoter Golden Boy, which removes one massive hurdle from the negotiations.

As ever with Mayweather, it all comes down to money and if he feels he would get enough from fighting Khan, he will take on the Athens silver medallist.

Khan will have to get in line, though, and there is the small matter of Mayweather v Pacquaio which is still unresolved.

Some of the bitterness between the two camps has gone and that megafight is looking more likely than it has done for 18 months. Khan may have to wait his turn and Pacquiao would love a showdown with Pretty Boy to be his swansong.

Khan can wait and as we keep having to remind ourselves, he’s still only 24.

He’s still developing under Roach’s tutelage at the Wild Card gym and maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he had time to improve even more before facing Mayweather.

Khan Enjoys Early Finish

From Sky Sports

Amir Khan retained his WBA light-welterweight title after a controversial technical points decision over Paul McCloskey in Manchester.

The bout was halted during the sixth round after the challenger was deemed unable to continue due to a cut caused by a clash of heads. Khan was a unanimous victor on the scorecards, with all three judges awarding him a comfortable 60-54 win.

McCloskey’s awkward southpaw style meant the champion did not have it all his own way but there was no doubt who was on top at the time of the fight’s premature end.

But after the contest there was protestations from the McCloskey camp that the cut was not bad enough to warrant the stoppage.

The opening stages of the contest were tentative, with Khan looking to come forward but finding his fast hands matched by the reflexes of the previously unbeaten McCloskey.

Khan looked to be more settled in the second as he landed in bunches, but McCloskey stood firm and landed a left of his own at the end of the round. The challenger even had Khan on the back foot at times and caught him with another winging left hand in the third.

Khan began to fire again in the fourth, landing a sharp right and crisp left before attacking with hooks in the early stages of the fifth. McCloskey’s defences seemed to be weakening in the sixth as Khan landed an impressive flurry but the fight was soon over.

After an accidental clash of heads, referee Luis Pabon called for the doctor, who advised the official to bring an end to the bout.

On the undercard, Leicester binman Rendell Munroe made a winning return to action after his unsuccessful world title challenge by claiming a unanimous points win over Andrei Isaeu.

Craig Watson lost his British welterweight title to Lee Purdy the later claimed a fifth-round stoppage win in their contest.

Islamophobia and Radicalization

By James Zogby for Counter Punch

Let me state quite directly: Islamophobia and those who promote it are a greater threat to the United States than Anwar Al-Awlaqi and his rag-tag team of terrorists.

On one level, Al-Awlaqi, from his cave hide out in Yemen, can only prey off alienation where it exists. Adopting the persona of a latter-day Malcolm X (though he seems not to have read the last chapters of the “Autobiography” or learned the lessons of Malcolm’s ultimate conversion), he appears street-smart, brash, self- assured and assertive — all of the assets needed to attract lost or wounded souls looking for certainty and an outlet for their rage. Like some parasites, Al-Awlaqi cannot create his own prey. He must wait for others to create his opportunities, which until now have been isolated and limited: a disturbed young man here, an increasingly deranged soldier there.

Islamophobia, on the other hand, if left unchecked, may serve to erect barriers to Muslim inclusion in America, increasing alienation, especially among young Muslims. Not only would such a situation do grave damage to one of the fundamental cornerstones of America’s unique democracy, it would simultaneously and rapidly expand the pool of recruits for future radicalisation.

I have often remarked that America is different, in concept and reality, from our European allies. Third generation Kurds in Germany, Pakistanis in the UK, or Algerians in France, for example, may succeed and obtain citizenship, but they do not become German, British or French. Last year, I debated a German government official on this issue. She kept referring to “migrants” — a term she used to describe all those of Turkish descent living in her country — regardless of the number of generations they had been there. Similarly, following their last election, a leading British newspaper commented on the “number of immigrants” who won seats, without noting that many of those “immigrants” were third generation citizens.

America has prided itself on being different. Being “American” is not the possession of a single ethnic group, nor does any group define “America”. Not only do new immigrants become citizens, they also secure a new identity. More than that, as new groups become American and are transformed, the idea of “America” itself has also changed to embrace these new cultures.

Within a generation, diverse ethnic and religious groups from every corner or the globe have become Americans, dramatically changing America in the process. Problems remain and intolerant bigots, in every age, have reared up against new groups, but history demonstrates that, in the end, the newcomers have been accepted, incorporated and absorbed into the American mainstream.

This defines not only our national experience, but our defining narrative as well. When immigrant school children in Europe learn French, German or British history, they are learning their host’s history. In the US, from the outset, we are taught that this is “our new story” — that it includes all of us, and has included us all, from the beginning.

It is because new immigrants and diverse ethnic and religious communities have found their place and acceptance in the American mainstream that the country, during the last century, survived and prospered despite being sorely tested with world wars, economic upheaval and bouts with internal strife. During this time we had to contend with anti-black, anti-Asian, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant, and anti-Japanese movements. In the end, after creating their moment of pain, these efforts have always lost.

They lose, but they don’t always go away. The Islamophobia we are witnessing today is the latest campaign by bigots to tear apart the very fabric of America. We know the groups promoting it. First, there is the well-funded “cottage industry”, on the right, of groups and individuals with a long history of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim activity. Some of the individuals associated with these efforts have been given legitimacy as commentators on “terrorism”, “radicalisation” or “national security concerns”, despite their obvious bias and even obsession with all things Arab or Muslim (in this, they remind me of good old-fashioned anti-Semites who never tired of warning of Jewish threats or conspiracies or who while always claiming to like individual Jews rallied against any and all Jewish organisations).

If these “professional bigots” have provided the grist, the mill itself was run by the vast network of right-wing talk radio and TV shows and websites, and prominent preachers who have combined to amplify the anti-Muslim message nationwide. Their efforts have done real damage. They have tormented decent public servants, created protests that have shuttered legitimate institutions, fomented hate crimes, and produced fear in the Muslim community.

In just the past two years, we have seen a dramatic upsurge in the activity of these bigots. More ominously, their cause has been embraced by national political leaders and by elements in the Republican Party, who appear to have decided, in 2010, to use “fear of Islam” as a base-building theme and a wedge issue against Democrats for electoral advantage.

In the past, only obscure or outrageous members of congress (like North Carolina’s Sue Myrick who expressed nervousness and insecurity because of “who was owning all those 7/11’s”; or Colorado’s Tom Tancredo who once warned that he “would bomb Mecca”) were outspoken Islamophobes. After the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee embraced opposition to Park 51 as a campaign theme, it is hard to find a leading Republican who has not railed on some issue involving Islam or Muslims in the US.

The net impact here is that this current wave of Islamophobia has both played to the Republican base while firming up that base around this agenda. The polling numbers are striking and deeply disturbing. Some 54 per cent of Democrats have a favourable attitude towards Muslims, while 34 per cent do not. Among Republicans, on the other hand, only 12 per cent hold a favourable view of Muslims, with 85 per cent saying they have unfavourable views. Additionally, 74 per cent of Republicans believe “Islam teaches hate” and 60 per cent believe that “Muslims tend to be religious fanatics”.

The danger here is that to the degree that this issue has become a partisan — and in some cases a proven vote getter — issue for the Republican Party, it will not go away any time soon. The longer we are plagued by this bigotry, and the displays of intolerance it breeds (the anti-mosque building demonstrations or the anti-Sharia law efforts now spreading across the country) the longer young Muslims will feel that the “promise of America” does not include them, and they will feel like aliens in their own country.

It is this concern that has prompted many inter-faith religious groups and leaders and a diverse coalition of ethnic and civil rights organisations to so vigorously oppose Congressman Peter King’s (R-NY) hearings that will deal with the radicalisation of American Muslims later this week. They know, from previous statements made by King, of his personal hostility to American Muslims. They also know that what King is doing will only aggravate an already raw wound, creating greater fear and concern among young Muslims who have already witnessed too much bigotry and intolerance.

What they should also know is that in the process of targeting a religion in this way, and engaging in this most “un-American activity”, King and company are, in fact, opening the door for increased alienation and future radicalisation. Al-Awlaqi must be smiling from inside his cave.

-Dr James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute and is a Roman Catholic of Lebanese descent and brother of prominent American political pollster and founder of Zogby Polls, John Zogby.

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