05 February 2007

Nazis Or Jews?

I've been reading Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, which I found it hard to put down long enough to write this post. And I'm only halfway through, so any of you commenters, please don't make mention of how it comes out.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the book, it's a first-person novel, seen through the eyes of a young Jewish boy (himeslf, actually) growing up in an alternative reality America, one in which the Nazi-sympathising Charles Lindbergh has been elected President in 1940. Instead of being embroiled in World War II, America is forging non-aggression pacts with Germany and Japan, and an ugly tide of anti-Semitism is beginning to make itself felt at home.

The growing fear with which Roth's family see this unfold caused me to wonder if Muslim families sometimes feel much the same way as it becomes increasingly common for politicians and the media to tout "Islamists" or "Islamofascists" as the root of all evil in the world today. I've done a fair bit of it myself, and though I (and most of the responsible media) make a conscious effort to distinguish between Islamists and people who simply happen to be of the Islamic faith, it might not always be easy for those who feel they are under attack to notice such gradations in language.

The budding fascists and anti-Semites in Roth's novel don't - at least not at first - attack all Jews just for the fact of being Jewish. No, they're only after the "international bankers" or the "Jews who control the media." But the individual families of relative nobodies who are lucky if they can control this week's grocery budget don't hear the distinction, either. All they know is that "Jews" are being attacked, that they are Jews, and there's no reason to believe that they won't be next on the list.

So is that what it is like for Muslims today? I wouldn't be at all surprised if it were, and it leads me to want to be more careful still when it comes to attacking the militant and dangerous aspects of Islam. Not just to spare the feelings of innocent Muslims, though that's certainly a consideration, but also because it serves no one's interest - not Muslims, not society's at large - to alienate or polarise a whole group of people.

The problem I run into, though, is that there does seem to be one qualitative difference: despite the rhetoric from Hitler and his followers (or even from the real-life Lindbergh, who accused "the Jews" of pushing America toward war), there was never evidence of any significant movement among Jews to undermine or control the countries in which they lived, whereas there's no denying that a small but significant minority of Muslims are actively seeking an Islamic Caliphate, to be imposed on the world by any means necessary.

Of course one could argue, as Hitler did, that many Jews were communist or anarchist sympathisers, and that they thus posed a real threat to European stability. This is not as far-fetched a claim as it might appear; in the years leading up to Hitler's accession to power, it may have been only the left's perennial inability to agree with itself that prevented it not only from stopping the Nazis, but from seizing power itself.

But while it's true that Jews did have a greater propensity for joining leftist and anarchist movements, it's also true that there was nothing inherently Jewish about those movements. You could get tin-hat conspiratorial and point out that Marx himself was a Jew, but he was a Jew who hated all religions, his own perhaps more than most. Whereas extreme Islamists hold up their religion as part and parcel of their ideology, and in many cases buttress it with an anti-Semitism as virulent as Hitler's.

So there we have it: we can see the seemingly inexorable rise of militant Islam as a modern-day case of "the lights going out all over Europe" (Paul Sheehan is one of many who make that case; Paul Berman is perhaps the most articulate and well-reasoned of the lot), or we can see individual Muslims and their families as potential victims of a rising tide of Islamophobia. Perhaps there is some - or even a lot - of truth to both views.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

''''So is that what it is like for Muslims today?''''

Yes, absolutely, no second thoughts about it whatsoever. The line between legitimate condemnation of radicals and irresponsible, prejudicial statements is a very fine one, and that line is breached so often, including by the most allegedly politically correct of mainstream media sources, as to render the attempt at distinction virtually pointless.

Moreover, regardless of how well qualified even the most tempered and well-intentioned "anti-Islamist" sloganeering is, in practice, the actions taken during the War on Terror can very credibly be categorized as really a imperialistic War on Muslims masquerading as a war against radicalism.

Unfortunately for Muslims, they're up against a mountain of interests lined up against them. The War on Terror is not something that was made up on the spot in the aftermath of 9/11. It was a complex, detailed, multi-disciplinary war waged on the entire Muslim world, and America's Constitution, engineered by a coalition of un-American right-wing elements in the United States, and pro-Israel ideologues. 9/11 was the pretext on which the plan was set into motion.

In order to justify waging war on Muslims for generations, and to justify re-defining and curtailing domestic Constituional rights forever, these forces have resorted to illegal, ruthless, immoral tactics to promote and frame the "Islamic threat" as *the* battle of our time.

I allege flatly that they have permitted false flag operations against our own citizens, using rogue elements within our own intelligence organizations and assistance from foreign intelligence organizations, in contravention of U.S. law. They also readily utilize black propaganda and psychological operations, having assets in the highest levels of our mainstream media, to discredit opposition and to frame popular opinion.