The paranoid style in Islamophobic politics
The paranoid style in Islamophobic politics
J. Dana Stuster, NSN Policy Analyst
December 14, 2015 | THE HILL
When Donald Trump issued a statement recently calling on the U.S. government to bar Muslims, including U.S. citizens, from entering the United States, the condemnation came swift, as though there was still some line of good taste or ethics Trump had only just crossed. The critics are right, of course: Trump is a narcissist, a fascist, a demagogue with a third-grade vocabulary and a three-year-old’s understanding of the constitution. Which makes him an easy scapegoat for the Islamophobia that’s migrated from the far-right fringe of the political discourse to the mainstream. But Trump is a symptom, not a cause. It’s not enough to condemn Trump when his hateful rhetoric is supported by institutionalized network of professional conspiracy theorists and discredited hacks that have been legitimized by mainstream conservatives.
There’s a direct line that can be traced from the fever dreams of the far right to Trump’s invective.
The Center for Security Policy, which Trump cites in his statement, is a font of Islamophobic paranoia. The center’s founder and president, Frank Gaffney, Jr., sees Muslim plots everywhere, from the Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist (both of whom Gaffney has accused of being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood) to the logo of the Missile Defense Agency. Along with the most vitriolic anti-Muslim advocates, the Center for Security Policy claims that Muslims are engaged in “civilization jihad,” a coordinated plot to undermine the United States through the gradual infiltration of the U.S. government and institutions and the implementation of Sharia law. The only evidence of this vast conspiracy is a single document, a memo written by a Muslim Brotherhood activist in 1991.
“The civilization jihadists do a better job of blending in and are subverting our culture from within,” a recent Center for Security Policy report states. “They are part of the same enemy [as the Islamic State and other terrorist groups] and even more insidious as they do not proclaim their goals openly.” The report calls on the United States to issue “a Declaration of War” against what it terms the “Global Jihad Movement,” and suggests that the government target Muslims – implicitly including U.S. citizens – with “intelligence operations,” “diplomatic initiatives,” “economic policy,” and “lawfare.” Other proponents of this far-right fringe have proposed stripping Muslim-Americans of their constitutional rights. As documented in the Center for American Progress’ reports on the Islamophobia network in America, a number of these propagandists have asserted that Islam is not a religion, but a “political ideology” and “therefore not protected by the First Amendment.”
The Gatestone Institute – “an international policy council and think tank” with Ambassador John Bolton as its chairman – has been direct in its fear-mongering about “civilization jihad.” Gatestone has repeatedly warned of the influx of refugees in Europe, calling it a “Muslim invasion” of “illegal migrants” that will increase crime, bankrupt governments by exhausting social welfare programs, and undermine European culture. “A project to overwhelm Europe by a huge wave of migration was already described by the Islamic State,” Gatestone’s Guy Millière wrote in October. “It is hard to rule out that the Islamic State plays a role in what is happening.” Another Gatestone report claims that the recent “surge in Germany’s Muslim population represents a demographic shift of epic proportions, one that will change the face of Germany forever.”
This claim, that Muslims are migrating to Europe to reshape Western culture, has been picked up by even the most mainstream conservative publications. When Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) claimed in a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month that resettling Syrian refugees was “slow-motion cultural suicide in America; slow-motion, a generation behind Europe,” he was building on articles published in National Review and Fox News. The Washington Times called the desperate refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war an “Islamic Trojan Horse” conducting a “‘jihad’ by another name.” The supposed intellectuals at the Weekly Standard have also taken the far-right fringe’s bait.
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