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Islamophobia: Slogan Of
Empire's March

By Ram Puniyani

04 November, 2007

Many an academic debate is coming, many a discussion
around the targeting of Islam and Muslims are being
conducted World over. These are openly propagating
against Islam and Muslims. These criticisms are from
many a quarters. Even many of those believing in
liberalism, an integral part of democracies, are also
speaking in the same language. Also those trying to
understand the politics behind the current
Islamophobia and accompanying demonization of Muslims
are conveniently labeled as commies and bypassed by
the mainstream of society without giving a due thought
to the arguments put forward by them. Britain, the
pioneer in democratic movement is riddled with subtle
presence of both these phenomenon. Its leaders
occasionally adopt a subtle language, which tantamount
to depicting Islam as a violent religion and Muslims
as the terrorists, with the rider that these "Islamic
Terrorists' can not be compared to other practitioners
of violence like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam
and Irish Republican Army's methods of times not too
long ago. There any many like them deliberately
undermining the violence; terror, coming from non
Islamic groups.

There are also some genuine efforts in the form of
meetings at state, and social level to have a inter
religious dialogue and many discussions amongst social
workers and academics are on to understand the current
phenomenon of violence, its relation to religion in
general and Islam in particular. Such efforts though
not having a total impact do have a very marginal
effect in changing the perceptions of broad layers of
society. It is not only that one Sikh was killed in US
in the after math of 9/11, mistaken as a Muslim, but
the phenomenon is operating at different levels in
diverse forms. Many a surveys in UK and other places
are showing that a large section of population now has
some fear of a bearded Arab/Muslim looking man. A
typical Muslim man is presented as a bearded Maulana
and a woman with burqa.

While the overt manifestation of this mind set has
surfaced strongly after 9/11 2002, the real global
beginning of these propagations started with the
overthrow of Raza Shah Pehlavi, a US stooge, from
Iran. It is at that time that Ayatollah Khomeini
assumed the power. Around this time Socialist systems
started weakening and collapsed shortly there after.
Islam was presented as the new threat to freedom and
Liberty. The West has been presenting itself as the
champion of these values. The US emerged as the sole
superpower in this era. During cold war the slogan
which the US and allies used against the anti colonial
struggles under the banner of communism, was freedom
and democracy. Since many anti colonial nationalist
struggles were fought under the banner of communism,
communism was projected as the main threat to freedom
and democracy. The opposition to communist ideology
was backed up on one hand through the coups by those
wearing military boots and on the other by bombings,
the worst of which was seen in Vietnam. McCarthyism is
most horrific amongst these, during which the
communists were hunted with gay abandon.

As the major goal of empire became control of oil
resources, the political stage shifted to the West
Asia, and Islam and Muslims came under the ideological
attack. The alliance with most reactionary Islamic
states like Saudi Arabia, and promotion of political
Islam by indirect means was stepped up by the US.
Promotion of Al Qaeda and support to the madarsas for
training of Al Qaeda terrorists was done by CIA
through the conduit of ISI. This laid the foundation
of the future invasions in this region, the one in
Iraq, 1991, the one in Afghanistan in ht aftermath of
9/11 and the one in Iraq after that. Currently the
sword is hanging over Iran and Syria as for as
physical attack is concerned. War is the most glaring
phenomenon, but the war is given legitimacy in the
minds of the people by preparing the ground in the
psyche of the people. What Noam Chomsky calls as the
manufacturing consent, is launched through sections of
media, and other conduits, which win over peoples
minds, which shape society's perceptions, that a
particular country or group of people deserve to be
attacked to 'protect' us, to protect 'our' values.
This legitimization of invasions is much more
necessary in current times where some elements of
democracy are struggling to come up despite the odds
and obstacles being put forward by the global and
local bullies.

The ideological back up of the Islamophobia comes from
the theory of 'Clash of civilizations'. As per this
ideology the advanced western civilization is facing
the threat to its values from the backward Islam.
These theories also go in to generalize the whole
communities in the single image, and the inherent
diversity of communities is glossed over. All Muslims
than fall in a single stereotype of gun totting, bombs
throwing fanatics, trying to kill 'us' at the drop of
the hat. When these ideologues compare the religions,
interesting exercise is undertaken. In this the 'noble
values' of 'our' religion are compared with the
dastardly practices of a section of follower of
'other' religion. The fair game of comparing values to
values, practices to practices is given up and the
liberal and progressive sections of others' religious
community are pushed to the background of the canvass
to project only the criminal elements of 'other'
religion. Also the mechanism of the genesis of the
phenomenon is glossed over, the story always begins
somewhere in the middle ignoring the roots of these

While for propagators of Islamophobia, story may begin
with tyrannical Saddam rule, the fact that he was
armed to teeth by the same powers who are now
rampaging Iraq, is put under the carpet. While the
designs of Al Qaeda, suicide bombers are the starting
point of description of the phenomenon, the fact that
the roots of this ideology were consciously cultivated
by the imperialist powers is deliberately suppressed.
The result is that political goals are presented as
the religious goals and the politics itself is hidden
in the cloak of religion.

The interesting point is the merger of global
Islamophobia with the rise of Hate Muslims in India.
This demonization of Islam, intensifies around the
same period. Here in India, of course there was a full
background of freedom movement during which the
communalists, the minuscule streams presented
themselves as the representative of that religious
community and despite their failure at electoral level
were given the legitimacy and recognition as the
representatives of that religious community. The case
of Muslims in India is very glaring. At no point of
time it could get substantial chunk of minority votes,
but in the eyes of colonial powers they represented
their religion. Also earlier colonialists and now the
Empire promote the identity based politics, promote
the ethnic and religious identities and base the
politics on that ground. In India the Muslim League on
one side and Hindu Mahasabha, RSS on the other were
not subject of British repression. Today in Iraq, the
identities of Shia, Sunni are the major ones, which
have not been the case in earlier decades. Today's
Islamophobia in India has been preceded by the long
battle between the two competing communalisms here,
the Muslim and Hindu one. These communalists coming
from the sections of landlords and other feudal
segments later joined in by some middle class
intellectuals, intensified their hate other campaigns
after their massive loss in the 1937 Assembly
elections. After partition tragedy many a Muslim
communalists left for Pakistan, and Hindu communalism
got deflated for some time, especially due to the
murder of Mahatma Gandhi by the follower of RSS
ideology. It kept itself up by various hate other
campaigns and in the decades of 80, matching with the
rise of global Islamophobia, rose up in a parallel
fashion. What this teaches us is that the ideas
demonizing other do get translated into violence in
due course, at many places. One must put a caution
here that the Hate other, psychology can prevail for a
long time, without violence taking place as in many
states of India, like Kerala, West Bengal, Haryana

The violence in turn gives rise to fear psychosis,
ghettoisation and strengthening of conservative
orthodox sections in the community, some thing
witnessed to a great extent amongst the Muslim
minority in India. This strong coincidence of coming
up of global phenomenon with its intensification in
India is particularly striking. One is not sure
whether this demonization necessarily will go through
all these stages. Will the liberal ethos of Western
countries protect the Muslims of those countries from
what Muslims have undergone in India?

How does one overcome the present impasse? The burden
on the shoulders of Islam, the Muslims and humanists
is very heavy. One difference from the earlier
campaigns against the communists to the present
campaign against Muslims is that the latter since it
is associated with a religious community, so it seeps
down easily at more broad and deep layers in the
society. Here one will definitely need more intense
ideological propagations, and awareness programs about
the humane interpretation of religions. While some
efforts are there, the problem demands much more than


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