Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rohith Vemula’s death By Tanweer Alam - The Times of India

My comments on Times of India webpage over Tanweer Alam's article: Rohit Vemula's death:

Inline image 1Ghulam MuhammedMumbai4 mins ago

Though the article is couched in language that some might object to, as politically incorrect, the fact remains, that the death of Vemula, has starkly focused on Supremacist Brahmin's casteist policies whether on community level or individual level, and has become common ground for both Muslims and Dalit to come on ONE PLATFORM to stand against such intolerance. (Intolerance, where human life is threatened, is decidedly a much understated charge.) While Muslims had remained for the Supremacist Brahmins, as THE OTHER, with Muslims and Dalit sharing common discrimination and coming together, it is the Supremacist that may become THE OTHER for the new emerging coalition.

Rohith Vemula’s death was an opportunity for Indian Muslims to express solidarity with other underprivileged groups

January 28, 2016, 1:41 AM IST  in TOI Edit Page | Edit PageIndia | TOI

India’s Muslim leadership (political, social, religious) seems caught in a bind – even a time warp – making it akin to a species bound towards extinction. Fascinated by selfcreated narratives of victimhood and marginalisation, the community leadership is rarely able to empathise with other similarly marginalised groups – dalits, tribals, women, the poor of all castes and faith communities that make up a distinct category in themselves.
One remembers the great Urdu poet Ghalib’s couplet: Rakhio Ghalib mujhe is talkh nawai me ma’af/ aaj kuchh dard mere dil mein sawa hota hai (Pardon me for this unpleasant talk, Ghalib/ today I have severe pain in my heart).
The “severe pain in my heart” is caused by the cold indifference of the faith community’s leaders over the death of Rohith Vemula, a bright dalit scholar at the University of Hyderabad. His avoidable death was planned in a Machiavellian fashion by some ghoulish minds. Only technically was it a suicide.
By talking about the lukewarm response of the Muslim leadership one is not denying that a very small segment of it has shown solidarity with people protesting Rohith’s death. But the general perception among common Muslims is that they are the most discriminated against, marginalised and oppressed group in the country. Sociologist Imtiaz Ahmed recently said – during a talk in Jamia Nagar, Delhi – that this was not the whole truth and several other groups share these difficulties with Muslims.
The silence of Muslim leaders from mainstream political parties on this issue is understandable as they generally are bound to follow the party line. But what is stopping Muslim organisations, community/ religious leaders, activists, intellectuals from taking a position on issues of national importance? Why don’t they get involved in the struggle for larger causes?
Former foreign minister Salman Khurshid writes, in his book At Home in India: The Muslim Saga, “I have always strongly believed that political leaders from the minority communities need to speak on issues that concern the majority community or on those at least that can be described to be of relevance beyond their own communities. It is important for our democracy that in theory and in practical terms Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or others be seen as leaders of the country and not of their communities alone.”
This is not to deny that the Muslim community suffers from illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, systemic discrimination and institutionalised prejudice. But there are other groups also which face similar, if not the same problems.
Muslims expect and get support from other social groups, including upper class, privileged Hindus. Other groups too expect, rightly, that the Muslim community speak on matters affecting them.
Despite periodic pogroms against Muslims, they still remain one of the biggest beneficiaries of democracy in India. Nowhere in the world has such a large population of Muslims enjoyed 68 years of uninterrupted democracy. It reflects the vision of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who was asked, after Partition, how he saw the future of Muslims in a divided India. Azad said they would thrive if democracy thrived.
However, Muslims do not seem to be participating in the process of strengthening democracy. They need to internalise the processes and norms of democracy. They must participate in major discourses in the country and stand up for the marginalised, whether they are LGBT, dalits, Sikhs, Christians, tribals, women or working classes.
Outrage over intolerance has been a major political development in the country. But seldom has a prominent Muslim organisation or community leader participated in programmes organised against it.
Muslims of India should keep in mind that the country is enveloped by a single political and moral ecology. We cannot survive outside this complex web of social concerns, struggles and relationships. Our national life is, and has got to be, run according to the lofty standards set by the Constitution.
We must take care to protect democracy and human rights. It’s only then that the Indian political ecology will be protected. That we have failed Rohith should always remind us not to fail other Indians.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

Stephen Gets A Straight Answer Out Of Donald Rumsfeld

Monday, January 25, 2016

A tale of two Republics - By Sreeram Sundar Chaulia - Edit Page article @ The Times of India, Mumbai

My comments posted on Times of India webpage article: A Tale of Two Republics written by Shreeram Chualia, on this India's 76th Republic Day:

Mumbai1 min ago

Whatever may be the antecedents of India-France interactions of the past, the immediate need for the two Republics cannot be explained without referring to the Paris attacks, by alleged Muslim terrorists. Incidentally, both France and India, despite their roots in democracy and socialism, are now faced by the reality of a resurgent Muslim minority in their midst that is led by the fringe elements calling themselves Muslims. Besides, there are strong indications, that some of the terror attacks are engineered by security agencies with some convoluted justification to keep the mass of Muslims under pressure. The sad fact is that all adopted policies of both governments are creating more unrest, more reaction, even instigating and provoking the silent majority of Muslims to at least sympathizing with the fringe elements posing as Muslims. Unless this is all planned and is the next step in the ongoing longer-term global strategies of Neo-cons to fashion a New World Order, there is no reason to be panicky and overreaction. For India, to join the West, in its New World Order strategies, at this juncture, when it needs to avoid violence at all costs, to see the nation of 1 Billion people stand on its tottering baby-feet and move towards development and progress, will be suicidal. "

A tale of two Republics

January 26, 2016, 1:24 AM IST 

Sreeram Sundar ChauliaSreeram Sundar Chaulia
Sreeram Sundar Chaulia is dean, Jindal School of International Affairs.
Hollande’s visit is an occasion to reflect on what India and France have to teach each other
French President François Hollande’s presence as chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade today is an occasion not just to advance cooperation in economic and strategic fields, but also to reflect on republics as systems of government and how they continuously learn from each other.
France is a leading example of a republic among modern nation-states, boasting a philosophical tradition of limits on absolute state power, people’s participation in governance and promotion of enlightened citizenship. French républicanisme, enshrined in revolutionary mottos like “liberty, equality and fraternity”, was a major inspiration for the founding fathers of the Indian republic.
The fundamental rights in our Constitution carry forward the legacy of the legendary 1789 document, ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’, enacted by France’s National Constituent Assembly. If post-independence India assumed the mantle of a democracy which vested power in the will of the people rather than in the hands of a monarch or an organised religious entity, the conceptual origins of this model derived from the ideals of multiple French republics.
By sustaining a constitutionally governed liberal republic far better than fellow developing countries, India is living up to the eternal truths enunciated by French intellectuals. The doctrine of separation of powers among legislature, executive and judiciary, which has enabled India to avert excessive concentration of power in any one person or group, owes to the French thinker Montesquieu who advocated designing government such that “no man need be afraid of another”.
The checks and balances which helped India avoid destructive dictatorships and civil wars have a distinct French feel, although they were adapted to suit a uniquely Indian context. On our Republic Day we must take a bow to another pioneering mind of the French republic, Rousseau, whose concept of the “social contract” shaped republics worldwide by establishing responsibility of rulers to the ruled as a fundamental principle of politics.
Rousseau’s call for people to obey only “legitimate powers” through direct democratic means and to oppose coercive rule was an emancipatory doctrine. The father of our Constitution, B R Ambedkar, often quoted Rousseau to amplify his vision of social justice in India and maintained that “everyone from the labouring classes should be acquainted with Rousseau’s The Social Contract”.
Rousseau’s early alarm bells about “a handful of people gorging themselves on superfluities, while the starving multitudes lack the basic necessities of life” set a benchmark of socioeconomic equality for republics to emulate. Radical French republicanism is the ancestor of President Hollande’s ruling Socialist Party. It is equally an influence on Indian political ideologies of various hues that claim to be devoted to the “poorest of the poor”.
Yet, despite the richness of ideas transferred from France to India, the land of Montesquieu and Rousseau faces arduous challenges for the future. The core pillar of France’s republican values – laïcité or constitutional secularism – has become so rigid that it is impeding integration of Muslim immigrants who comprise 10% of the French population.
Islamophobia is on the rise in France, as evidenced by the growing popularity of extreme rightist political parties such as the National Front, which mask their xenophobia and racism by harking to French republicanism. The defence of the “French republic” is nowadays a thinly disguised code to force Muslims in France to abandon expression of their cultural symbols and willingly conform to majoritarian ways of life.
France is struggling under the combined weight of prolonged economic crisis and widening social cleavages, which are being exploited by terrorist outfits such as Islamic State. The Paris attacks and their aftermath have shaken up the spirit of a French republic that is unable to readjust itself to a multicultural 21st century environment.
Here, there is something India can teach France in return. Our openness to refugees and our more mature acceptance of multiple faiths and ethnicities holds lessons for France, which is being torn apart by identity-based fragmentation. Since inception, the Indian republic has defined its secularism not as a denialist technique to suppress freedom of faith and belief but to celebrate the equal expression of a bewildering array of identities.
While illiberal tendencies do crop up as problems in Indian politics and society, the fabric of coexistence and tolerance is robust in our country. The Indian republic is more secure than that of France thanks to our ethos of “unity in diversity”, which is an improvisation upon the American republic’s motto of “e pluribus unum” (out of many, one).
Divisions based on religion, caste, race, language and region exist in India, but we have built a relatively harmonious national identity which gives space to parochial loyalties instead of trying to smother them, as is the case in France.
The flexibility of Indians to be simultaneously “this” (immediate and local) and “that” (national and global) is one of the secrets of the longevity and vitality of our republic. As France undergoes agonising internal debates in the face of threats from Islamist terror, and grapples with reinterpretation of its fraught laïcité policies, there is merit in recalibrating its republic by adopting best practices that have worked in India.
Our two nations are cooperating in practical fields of defence, intelligence sharing, energy security and geopolitics. But we must also exchange wisdom at a deeper level – as proud republics.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

16 y/o German girl talks about muslim immigration, destruction of her ow...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

‘Closing the university’ - By Seema Chisti - The Indian Express | Minority’ status for AMU, Jamia Millia Islamia - By Seema Chisti - The Indian Express

The Indian Express

It is not incidental that Rohith Vemula 

and his dissent were crushed

The great debates in northern India after 1989 over reservation showed how political education was in India — by denying that it was political

Written by Seema Chishti 
Updated: Jan 20, 2016, 9:57

Inline image 1

Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula.

The truly evocative Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto, South Africa centres around stones. Stones were thrown at fully armed Apartheid police at a protest where the police ended up killing Pieterson, a 12-year-old school student. In 1976, black students were marching against the forcible teaching of Afrikaans and the different school curriculum for them. The storm of protests that kicked off then took a long time to end Apartheid, but historians see this particular protest — on the attempt to control and subvert education — as a vital turning point.

The haunting image of Rohith Vemula and his fellow students, after being thrown out of their hostel with their things, a steel box, a portrait of Ambedkar, rolled-up sheets and mattresses, is not as far from Soweto as one might think. Everywhere that inequality is an article of faith, philosophy, science, economics, literature, etc, have been the preserve of the privileged, and the underclasses have to study things suitable for “lower” jobs as janitors, pump-fitters, plumbers, etc — “skills” vital for a society that has to use “cheap” labour, unburdened by thoughts, ideas, too much science, delusions of equality. The system the British put in place in India was to educate the natives so that they could be small cogs in the bureaucracy. There was a need to groom brown sahibs, but it was vital that everyone did not see education as a right. When Tagore returned from the Soviet Union and wrote of the immense strides made there in educating everyone, in Russia Theke Chitthi (Letters from Russia), it was promptly banned in India by the British.

Education did prove to be a dangerous idea. Whether it was Raja Ram Mohan Roy or other members of the Bengali intelligentsia, it was writings, newspapers, analyses and ideas that not only influenced them but were later used by them to propagate and reinforce the belief that Indians were capable of leading and pushing the Empire back. For important revolutionaries like Surya Sen (Masterda), who was impacted by the Irish revolutionaries, and Bhagat Singh, who was influenced by how Lenin fought back the Tsarist machine, it was education and knowledge that played an important role.

In recent times, a pattern is emerging in how the Centre has been reacting to student “unrest” or assertion. Panchajanya’s denouncement of JNU as an “anti-national den” last year was not an isolated comment. The bullying by the HRD ministry of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle at IIT Chennai and, now, the repeated hectoring of the University of Hyderabad to “take action” against “casteist, extreme and anti-national” elements, to quote a letter by a Central minister, is not innocuous. It is at the heart of the government’s strategy to suppress those who protest, speak, argue and dissent. It is also an acknowledgement of their power as nodes of action that could influence thought. The FTII has been an issue that continues to simmer because it is important for the government to assert itself in creative areas, which are disruptive by definition, and perhaps in this government’s wordlview, need special handling and a strong shot of mediocrity to snuff life out.

There are those who question why a student’s suicide or protest is “politicised”, and not left as a housekeeping matter for the “administration”. Universities, we are now told, should be private, sanitised spaces where you pay huge fees; the purpose of education must be to just “skill” you to get a highly paid job. But historically, access to knowledge has been an area of deep contestation and always deeply political. Whether it is the idea of merit or the concept of rote, both have their roots in how it was ordained that texts and mantras should be memorised and kept a secret — only whispered into the ears, literally, of the privileged. This is not a problem of Hindu mantra jaap alone. Quranic hifz, or rote, defined how learned you were. Questioning was impertinence; it got you scaled in school and rusticated from college.

The great debates in northern India after 1989 over reservation showed how political education was in India — by denying that it was political. Centuries of discrimination was forgotten, as a case was made for “merit”.

V.P. Singh, once the darling of the meritorious middle classes, fell out dramatically with them after he espoused the cause of those condemned to be “skilled” in only one sense and denied the privilege of studying or doing jobs done by the “meritorious”. He once told a gaggle of press persons that he would buy the “merit” line only when it would be argued that land, going by “merit” on the ground, must belong only to the tiller.

To argue that knowledge, getting a university education, and what you do at university, is not political is in itself a cleverly disguised political argument that bats for letting things remain the way they are. The NDA push to snuff out opposition by curbing student activity is not the first attempt at remaking the campus into something in between the market and a robot factory. Several chief ministers, many of whom are themselves products of student movements, have ensured that student leaderships are not allowed to blossom and elections in universities have been curtailed and banned. If a “good” or “adarsh” education is continued to be seen as one that involves mindless rote, a rush for “coaching” and trashing of student activism, questioned as “anti-national”, then we need to worry whether the “nationalism” that is sought to be pumped up is our version of Pakistan’s atrocious anti-blasphemy law.

Private universities often now boast of some fine scholars and students. But in a country like India, can private universities be the model? The role that state universities play in providing quality and a level field for all to come and be influenced by the power of ideas cannot be overestimated. Public universities offer an opportunity to persons like Rohith to break out of the rigid rules that those at the bottom are expected to play by. So when an effort is made to squeeze oxygen out of those spaces, the results are devastating for the most deprived.

Education, even literacy, is held to be a privilege in India but our reputation for inefficiency obfuscates that fact when questions are asked about why the majority will not be schooled and needs to wage long struggles, across ponds and huge distances, to meet a teacher. Rohith Vemula became stardust so tragically but not before stating his case to a nation in pursuit of coaching classes and higher fees for skills, which had forgotten the role education plays in the making of a truly democratic and equal nation, an idea that scares so many. He truly made a star-class argument, but paid too high a price.

(This article appeared in the print edition under the headline ‘Closing the university’)

The Indian Express

Simply put: ‘Minority’ status for AMU,

Jamia Millia Islamia

In the case of AMU [Aligargh Muslim University], the Attorney 

General has argued that this is because it was set up by an act of 

Parliament, not by Muslims.

Written by Seema Chishti
New Delhi Published:Jan 20, 2016, 2:13 

Inline image 2

Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi.

The government has said that Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia are not minority educational institutions. In the case of AMU, the Attorney General has argued that this is because it was set up by an act of Parliament, not by Muslims. But critics say this is a narrow reading of the history and background of AMU and JMI.

What is the ‘minority character’ of an educational institution?

Article 30(1) of the Constitution gives all religious and linguistic minorities the right to set up and run educational institutions, including schools, colleges and universities. This was presumably done to assure minorities of being able to maintain and propagate their unique and special educational aspects. The law guarantees that governments will not discriminate in giving aid on the basis of their being ‘minority’ institutions, thus sealing in a commitment by the Government of India to allow minorities to flourish.

What is the background of the setting up of the universities?

There are very interesting linkages, similarities and divergences between AMU and JMI. AMU was founded as the Madrasatul Uloom in 1875 in Aligarh, and evolved into the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College. It had very progressive roots — its founder, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, spoke for women’s education and personally passed the hat for funds. It is said that someone with more regressive ideas about educating Muslim women and pushing English threw a shoe at him in anger, but Sir Syed auctioned the shoe and added that to the collection.

The seeds of JMI were sown in Aligarh by a group of nationalist students and members who formed a camp there as Jamia Millia Islamia, which later moved to Delhi. Leaders like M A Ansari, Zakir Husain and Mahatma Gandhi encouraged the university to push nationalist values and ideas.
There was friction between JMI and AMU along political lines, as a significant section at AMU was said to be “League-y”, or tilting towards the Muslim League, while the ‘nationalist’ JMI was wholeheartedly supported by the Congress.

The universities have had their own journeys in independent India. AMU has no reservation for Muslims, but has preferences and reservations for local candidates, irrespective of faith. JMI gives reservation/preference to Muslims after the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) granted it minority status in 2011.

Inline image 3

Aligarh Muslim University

What were the arguments for and against minority status for JMI?

Jamia became a deemed university in 1962 and a central university in 1988, both by Acts of Parliament. NCMEI held that “Jamia was founded by the Muslims for the benefit of Muslims and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution”, and was, therefore, “covered under Article 30(1)… read with Section 2(g) of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act”.

Those opposed to the move say the Act of 1988 states that “it shall not be lawful for the university to adopt or impose on any person any test whatsoever of religious belief or profession in order to entitle him to be admitted therein as a teacher or student or to hold any office therein or to graduate thereat”. They also argue that the application to be declared a minority institution was made in 2006, when reservation for OBCs was introduced in higher educational institutions. Making it a minority institution acted against poor and disadvantaged Muslims.

And what about AMU?

In 1920, the Indian Legislative Council set up the university, and all assets of Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College were transferred to it. Those arguing for minority character say that this was done by an Act as that was the only way a university could be set up at the time. Muslims collected Rs 30 lakh, and handed it over.

In the famous Azeez Basha versus Union of India case, to which AMU was not a party, the Supreme Court ruled that AMU was not a minority institution as it was set up by the British legislature, and not by Muslims. In 1981, Parliament passed an AMU Amendment Act, which accepted that AMU was set up by Muslims.
As aspects of admission policy were challenged by some groups, the Allahabad High Court ruled in 2005 that the 1981 Act was ultra vires of the Constitution, and that AMU was not a minority institution. AMU’s appeal against the single-judge order was dismissed, but the Supreme Court stayed the Allahabad HC decision, so effectively, AMU remained a minority institution.

On January 11, 2016, the Centre reversed its earlier position and stated that AMU was not a minority institution as it was set up by Parliament. Those supporting minority status for AMU want a larger, seven-judge bench to hear the case. They also argue that an Act of Parliament must prevail over judicial pronouncements — and therefore, the 1981 AMU Amendment Act must hold.

Is this a matter strictly for the courts, or is there politics involved?

AMU and Jamia have figured in almost all elections, especially state elections in UP, and they remain symbolic ‘issues’ of importance. Aligarh used to be cited as part of the ‘Shah Bano’ slogan in the 1980s; Jamia figured in the Batla House encounter controversy of 2008. Both universities have witnessed hectic activity on minority status, especially after reservation for OBCs was made mandatory in 2006.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Secularism is endemic to Indian culture: Diana L Eck - The Indian Express | Fear, Inc. 2.0 - The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America

The Indian Express

Secularism is endemic to Indian culture: Diana 

L Eck

Diana L Eck, scholar and professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies at Harvard University, acclaimed for her books — India: A Sacred Geography and Banaras: City of Light, talks about what pluralism means in India today and the ecological threats to India’s ‘sacred geography’.

Inline image 1
Diana L Eck Ganesh Shirsekar; her book cover

You’ve written about how pluralism is inherent in Indian culture. Have events here over the last year or two changed your belief in that?

There are occasional eruptions in India, and I think this is one of those periods. But there is a kind of low-key everyday pluralism of India that Ashis Nandy talked about, and I believe that it can’t be touched. Hindu nationalism, the way it is articulated sometimes, can be destructive. Yet over the long course of Indian history, that sort of chauvinism has never won. India’s pluralism is different from the United States. 

Pluralism and secularism go together. By secularism, I don’t mean ‘non-religious’, but rather the equal treatment of and regard for all religions. That’s endemic to Indian culture. It’s also an important leadership issue, for example,when someone like Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledges, like he did in his speech in Vadodara, that once you are elected to office, you are serving all the people and not just a narrow group of them. We have many chauvinistic voices in the US as well and some of them are running for president.

Do you see a rising tide of Hinduism with the progressive opening up here?
That depends on what you think the rising tide of Hinduism means. If it means the political uses of Hinduism and Hindu nationalism , then yes, I can see that. But I doubt that it is very widespread. I’ve also studied pilgrimage and the participation in ritual Hinduism has gone up. Many more people are going to the Kumbh Mela or to Sabarimala. Maybe it’s because transport is better or that people can afford to travel now.

What changes have you observed here especially over the last few years in terms of religious diversity?
India has always had diversity, and it continues to exist. For example, in a place like Varanasi, where I studied all the Hindu shrines, I didn’t know that there is a whole range of Muslim shrines as well. In India, diversity has also come to include secular people who don’t have much to do with their religious traditions. Many of them are deeply involved in what I would call the ‘kar seva’ of the NGOs.

There’s been a lot of talk of reviving the Ganga. What are your observations of the river’s ecosystem?

Recently, we spent 10 days on the river, on a cruise boat. One thing you don’t get in the lower reaches of the Ganga is a sense of the enormous pollution that is going on. In most of the towns and big cities, 80 per cent of the waste product goes into the river, so there is a lot of raw sewage. The fact that the river doesn’t flow fast enough in these places to refresh itself is a serious concern, as well as the fact that it contains many non-biodegradable, chemical pollutants.

What are your thoughts on the ongoing movement to allow women into Sabarimala?
As a westerner, there are a lot of temples that I have not been able to go into. But I am sympathetic to the idea of men and women having equal access to the temples. I read somewhere that if women are allowed into Sabarimala, it would disturb the deity. I don’t believe that at all. But if women themselves want to observe a sense of ritual cleanliness, then it’s a question of their faith. My main concern about Sabarimala is that it has become such an incredibly popular pilgrimage that it literally tramples the forests and streams in that part of Kerala. There are efforts to keep pilgrims from discarding their plastic waste in the forest. This is one place where pilgrimage and the green movement are at loggerheads.

You’ve done work on the multiculturalism in the US, particularly through the Pluralism Project. How has it turned out over the years?

It’s gradually being accepted as one of the richest things about the US. Diversity is part of our strength. But there are still people who don’t know who these ‘other’ people are.Gradually, they are learning. Much of Islamophobia is manufactured. There is a report by the Center for American Progress called ‘Fear, Inc.’, which talks about fear of the other being a business, funded by a small group of people. Only a very small number of people are Islamophobes and I think, politically, it will be roundly defeated.*

Varanasi is a place you visit every time you’re in India. What were your first impressions of the city?

I first saw Varanasi in 1965, when I was a student. I remember it as being much more beautiful. All the ghats were just beautiful sandstone, with only their names written on them. Today, there’s no regulation, and the beauty of the ghats is marred by the many signs painted on them. Now, of course,with the growing population, the issue of pollution has become critical.

Fear, Inc. 2.0

The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America

SOURCE: AP/Matt Rourke
A sign opposing the proposed Park51 community center near ground zero is seen in New York.
By Matthew Duss, Yasmine Taeb, Ken GudeKen Sofer | Wednesday, February 11, 2015
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  • Endnotes and citations are available in the PDF and Scribd versions.
  • Fear, Inc. 2.0
  • Download the report:
  • Download introduction & summary:
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At its core, the United States is a nation built on a few fundamental values. The values of freedom of religion and basic civil liberties are enshrined in the Bill of Rights and have been upheld time and time again by the U.S. Congress and courts. A basic respect for the rights of minority groups throughout the country—whether these minorities are ethnic, religious, political, geographic, or social—are inherent in the founding principles of the United States. All Americans—progressives and conservatives alike—share these core values that have formed the backbone of an inclusive, multidimensional society for nearly 250 years.
But the journey toward a more perfect union has not always been smooth. During World War II, for instance, Japanese Americans were unjustly interned because they were seen as “others.” In 1960, many opposed the election of President John F. Kennedy because they erroneously believed that his Catholic faith meant that his first loyalty would be to the Pope rather than the Constitution—and that if the two ever came in conflict, he would take orders from the Pope.
More recently, American Muslims in the United States have been targeted, profiled, or seen as suspect because of their faith.
In 2011, the Center for American Progress published “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” in order to identify and expose the organizations, scholars, pundits, and activists comprising a tightly linked network that spread misinformation and hateful propaganda about American Muslims and Islam. The report found that seven charitable foundations spent $42.6 million between 2001 and 2009 to support the spread of anti-Muslim rhetoric. The efforts of a small cadre of funders and misinformation experts were amplified by an echo chamber of the religious right, conservative media, grassroots organizations, and politicians who sought to introduce a fringe perspective on American Muslims into the public discourse.
Watch this video to learn about the Fear, Inc. interactive website
In the three years since “Fear, Inc.” shined a light on the Islamophobia network and exposed the network’s key members, a number of them have been marginalized by the mainstream media and politicians. For example, the American Conservative Union publically reprimanded misinformation expert Frank Gaffney and made it clear that he is no longer welcome at their annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Conservative politicians from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to former presidential candidate Mitt Romney have pushed back against the “sinister accusations” of the Islamophobia network. And the anti-Muslim caucus in Congress took a huge hit by losing some of its loudest members, such as Reps. Allen West (R-FL) and Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
Unfortunately, in both the United States and abroad, some have seized on CAP’s 2011 report as evidence to support their own negative perceptions about the United States, claiming that the United States is indeed hostile to Muslims and Islam. To be clear, the Islamophobia network that CAP identified in 2011 is not indicative of mainstream American views. In fact, the views of anti-Muslim actors stand in stark contrast to the values of most Americans. The findings of the 2011 report, as well as this report, should not be misconstrued as a sign of widespread public antipathy toward the Muslim community in the United States, although concerns remain about the rise of anti-Muslim attitudes in the United States during the past few years. Instead, these two reports reveal how a well-funded, well-organized fringe movement can push discriminatory policies against a segment of American society by intentionally spreading lies while taking advantage of moments of public anxiety and fear. We are seeing this dynamic play out yet again in the aftermath of the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, as former elected officials and certain media commentators have used the terror attack as an opportunity to call for increased profiling of the American Muslim community.
Although the first report succeeded in identifying and marginalizing many members of the Islamophobia network, a number of these misinformation experts are still able to disproportionately influence public policy in America. From hate-group leader David Yerushalmi’s impact on anti-Sharia legislation across the country to Islamophobe William Gawthrop’s influence on the FBI’s training manuals, it is clear that the well-funded and well-connected individuals within the Islamophobia network still have the ability to promote bad public policies that ultimately affect all Americans.
Islamophobia in the United States takes many shapes and forms. It takes the form of a general climate of fear and anger toward American Muslims, as seen in the “civilization jihad” narrative, the religious right’s rhetoric, and the biased media coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. It comes out in cynical political efforts to capitalize on this climate of fear, as seen in state-level anti-Sharia bills introduced across the country and in far-right politicians’ grandstanding. And perhaps most dangerously, it manifests itself in institutional policies that view American Muslims as a threat, as seen in the FBI training manuals that profile Islam as a religion of violence.
But while the Islamophobia network has launched a variety of attacks on the American Muslim community during the past several years, the general public has also been more vigilant, and both progressives and conservatives have effectively rejected many of these anti-Muslim efforts. The public pushback—from New York City to Lansing, Michigan, and from Boston to Birmingham, Alabama—has been crucial in keeping the Islamophobia network where it belongs—on the fringes of American society. And while anti-Muslim groups continue their efforts incessantly, there has been a rise in religious and interfaith groups pushing back against Islamophobia.
Although the American public largely dismisses such prejudiced views, the Islamophobia network’s efforts to target American Muslim communities remain significant and continue to erode America’s core values of religious pluralism, civil rights, and social inclusion. The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, offers the Islamophobia network a new opportunity to leverage unrelated geopolitical events in order to create a caricature of Islam, foment public anxiety, and push discriminatory policies against American Muslims. The Islamophobia network’s new effort to equate mainstream American Muslims with the perverted brand of Islam promoted by ISIS is a reminder of the ongoing vigilance needed to push back against the anti-Muslim fringe.
This report examines several key elements of the Islamophobia network, including:
  • The civilization jihad narrative and theories of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration of the U.S. government
  • The Islamophobia network’s influence among the religious right and faith groups combating anti-Muslim sentiment
  • The impact of the Islamophobia network on law-enforcement training
  • The response to the Boston Marathon bombing and the narrative of Islamic extremism
  • Politically motivated Islamophobia and pushback by mainstream conservatives
The first “Fear, Inc.” report sought to expose elements of the Islamophobia network by giving the mainstream public the information it needed to refute the claims and distortions made by the network’s misinformation experts. This report identifies the Islamophobia network’s ongoing efforts to promote policies that violate and contradict core American values and interests. The defense of these core values remains ongoing. As this report demonstrates, it only takes one individual with disproportionate influence to negatively affect the treatment of an entire group of American citizens.
Matthew Duss is the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Yasmine Taeb is an attorney specializing in national security. Ken Gude is a Senior Fellow with the National Security Team at American Progress. Ken Sofer is the Associate Director for National Security and International Policy at American Progress.