Posts Tagged ‘ Germans ’

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.

World Cup 2010: Football’s India vs Pakistan

By Paul Beckett for The Wall Street Journal

It is standard for newspapers, including ours, to include the following sentence in almost any story about India and Pakistan: The two countries have fought three wars since Independence in 1947. You do not read the same about England and Germany: The two countries have fought two World Wars since 1914. Except at times like this.

For a series of reasons, part historical part psychological, there may be no match up in soccer that is quite equivalent to England versus Germany. Not for the quality of the football although Germany last night ran over England at the FIFA World Cup 2010 with some of the best football of the tournament so far, winning 4-1. Germany now advances to the quarter finals.

Nor does the significance of the game come from the fervor of football in each country. Yes, both are football crazy but there are plenty of countries that take football as seriously, if not more so, as these two do.

But there may be no bigger game when it comes to two nations who view each other as former enemies, now allies and rivals. Indeed, it is hard to imagine any other sporting event where two major nations weave so much national drama into men running around on grass, with the possible exception of when India and Pakistan play at cricket.

Why is this so?

India and Pakistan may have been separated at birth, but England and Germany have their own shared attributes (which certainly don’t get any attention at times like this): They are both northern, beer-drinking, sausage-eating nations; Britain’s current monarchy, the House of Windsor, has German origins; they may be more alike as nations than England is when compared with any nation outside the British Isles (just don;t tell the English.)

Of course, the situations have as many similarities as they do differences. England and Germany are friendly nations (despite what you read in the British press at times like this) bound together by the European Union and NATO. “It is high time to forget (World War II),” said Germany coach Joachim Loew, according to the Associated Press. “This is year 2010, we are all in the EU and it’s highly inappropriate to raise this subject.”

India and Pakistan, meanwhile, are caught in a diplomatic netherworld between war and peace that only now is showing signs of some thaw.

England and Germany, overall, have prospered in the past few decades, even if Germany’s industrial might means its economy has eclipsed that of the U.K.; India has prospered while Pakistan has struggled as the two nations took dramatically different courses, politically and economically, post Independence.

Yet there are times when sport comes to represent something that defines relations, seizes national imaginations and confirms dearly-held stereotypes, and that is the case with England versus Germany at football and India versus Pakistan at cricket.

It is not that the fans of either team hate the fans of the other (despite what you read in the British press at times like this.) It is a strange mix of respect, rivalry, historic ties, insecurities, bluster, hope, fear and a desire to read deeper meaning in a game of football that makes these games so compelling.

It is a time when entire nations stop to watch. When everything else is eclipsed in favor of one game and people want to think they are watching something that will go down in the history books, a marker of where they were when.

“It’s insane, the roads are completely empty here right now,” an Indian friend said in a text from London before yesterday’s kick-off. When Miroslav Klose in the 20th minute pierced a sloppy England defense to score, he followed with: “And the pub goes quiet.”

England also got the required controversial referee’s decision that will let it, as a nation, worry over its beads for years: a shot by Frank Lampard that clearly bounced over the line but which was not allowed as a goal.

That would have equalized the game at 2-2 and who knows what would have happened next, mate, it would have done the England team no end of good mate, you hear what I’m saying, it’s all about the psychology and that was devastating for the lads, just devastating wasn’t it and I’m not saying that Germany didn’t outplay them, mate, but you’re never gonna win when the ref’s an #%^& and mine’s a pint of lager.

“Fabio’s flops are battered in Bloemfontein,” said The Sun, a reference to English manager Fabio Capello. The headline ran on top of a picture of Frank Lampard realizing he hadn’t scored. “Three Lions Muller-ed by Germans…and the Ref,” said The Mirror, a reference to Thomas Muller, who scored goals three and four for Germany and the referee. Imagine an umpiring decision that incorrectly dismisssed Sachin Tendulkar from the crease against Pakistan.

This was a matchup that probably carried greater weight for England than for Germany, even before the opening whistle. Germany has had the better of England in big tournaments in the last several years. Germany also took a famously young side to these World Cup finals; many of them will return four years from now.

Not so England. Only are handful – and not including Steven Gerrard, John Terry, or Mr. Lampard – are likely to have a shot at Brazil 2014.

And now England can sink into its other national sport: getting depressed over the underperformance of its football team. As my friend in London texted: “All you hear is the german girl laughing. Totally quiet otherwise. This is amazing.” Not long after, he added: “This really tortured drunk guy screamed at Rooney at that last corner. And then put his head in his hands. Awesome.”

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