In the aftermath of the white supremacist terrorist murders in Christchurch, there has been much discussion of violent far-right ideology, however as Cerie Bullivant writes, there’s been little critique of the mainstream Islamophobia in our politics, mainstream media and academia
From the outset of the War on Terror Tony Blair made sure to emphasise this was a global war. Nowhere would be untouched, there would be no safe harbour. “..we like them will not rest until this evil is driven from our world” he said in 2001.
This war has been about more than dropping bombs and exploiting resources. It was certainly more than the delivering democracy by dropping the mother of all bombs.
It can only be seen as a war to dehumanise Muslims around the world, to create an ‘other’, so that when we see pictures of dead children washing up on the shores of Europe we would not question our own Government’s complicity in their misery and tragic deaths. We would not see that they are fleeing wars we helped create, in lands that we directly destabilised. Neither would our society cry out to demand safe passage for those desperate refugees.
In order to create the climate for the killing fields abroad a poisonous anti Muslim storm was created by an alliance of players. Neo-conservative think tanks like the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) constantly spew out alarmist reports about the security threat from Muslim populations and incessantly lobby politicians to adopt even harsher policies towards Muslims. The vast bank of reports and press comments bears out this strategy. Many will be shocked at the support given to such an institution by politicians who sat on its various committees and gave it respectability.
Huge financial incentives, injected by millionaires, awaited those who advanced this cause and engineered an environment that accepted a new reality for Muslims – “hot wars abroad and cold wars at home”.
“The propaganda of hate has been planted on all parts of the world particularly Europe, where the fault lines of fascism lurk under the shadows of a brutal history of violence and intolerance”
This terrifying cocktail has led liberals, intellectuals and human rights groups to maintain silence when Muslims are vilified, for self-preservation and in order to maintain respectability, while we all witnessed the Rule of Law shredded and done away with. There are few brave souls who are willing to speak truth to the juggernaut of propaganda for fear of being labelled “terrorist sympathisers” simply for seeking the protection of basic freedoms. The protection of human rights comes with a price that ‘respectable’ activists are not prepared to pay. It easy to point out the abuses of dictators and failed states overseas, but it is far harder to challenge injustice closer to home.
At the forefront of this was the media constantly printing a litany of false and misleading headlines. Chief among them was the empire of Rupert Murdoch, who said in 2015: “Maybe most Moslems [are] peaceful, but until they recognise and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.”
This stretches far beyond Murdoch’s News Corp. Mainstream broadcasters have also been equally complicit in fomenting this atmosphere of hate towards Muslims. Ayan Hirsi Ali, the darling of white supremacists across the globe, appeared on BBC platforms including the flagship Newsnight programme. She is on record to have said: “I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars.” She has called for Islam to be crushed militarily, yet she has been a fellow of both Harvard and Stanford and speaks regularly as an expert on Islam.
The US is the birthplace of the Alt-right and neo-conservatism so it’s no surprise that the most vile and vehement attacks on Muslims emanate from there. However with millions to spend, the propaganda of hate has been planted on all parts of the world particularly Europe, where the fault lines of fascism lurk under the shadows of a brutal history of violence and intolerance. We see this in the electoral success of the far right in Hungary, Poland and Italy for example.
Mourners honour the victims of white supremacist terrorism in Christchurch, New Zealand
In the UK it is not just the street thugs of EDL or Britain First who propagate the hate of Muslims . Individuals such as William Shawcross, who is at the heart of the British establishment as the Queen’s official biographer and former Chairman of the Charity Commission said: “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.”
These points echo those made by the killer in Christchurch to justify his actions. The corner stone of his ‘white genocide’ manifesto, was in relation to birthrates and the replacement of white people by ‘invaders’.
Despite saying this, Shawcross was made head of the Charity Commission by the Conservative government. It cannot be a coincidence that during his tenure, he oversaw an unprecedented rise in investigations into Muslim charities.
Another figure, Douglas Murray was a director at the HJS and spent so much time on the BBC that it would be no surprise if he had a reserved parking space at the studios. He was presented as an authoritative voice on extremism and Islam by a complaint press. It was no surprise that given access to millions of viewers he did not hold back in his forthright blame on Islamic beliefs and attacked its adherents drawing on well-worn tropes peddled by conspiracy theorists of the far-right.
“The victims of Christchurch were victims of a War on Terror that has extended far beyond just bombs on battlefields. Just as the wedding party in Pakistan is struck by the hard power of a drone on what should be the happiest day of their lives, these martyred souls were taken by a constant institutional diet of hate and Islamophobia”
Murray famously told members of the Dutch Parliament in 2006 that: “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board.” One can only imagine the indignation this would have drawn had he spoken about any other religious minority in this way.
These names are not the fringes of society, they are not football hooligans turned self-styled journalists. Nor are they failed reality stars that courted controversy for fame. These are media tycoons, academics and those at the heart of the British establishment. The consequences of their comments are as bad or worse than those made by others that are shunned from polite society and banned from social media. Yet they continue to be embraced into the warm bosom of the establishment, lucrative donors and the media landscape.
These are but a few of the faces that have dehumanised Muslims, to push the War on Terror into the living rooms of ordinary people, to support draconian laws at home and vicious wars abroad.
The victims of Christchurch, 50 innocent men, women and children from across the globe were victims of a War on Terror that has extended far beyond just bombs on battlefields. Just as the wedding party in Pakistan is struck by the hard power of a drone on what should be the happiest day of their lives, these martyred souls were taken by a constant institutional diet of hate and Islamophobia.
We have been dehumanised for so long now I wonder what it will take for our humanity to be seen again, I fear that my children may be in the swamp that we are implored to drain and that no one will be there to seek justice for them.
Cerie Bullivant has experienced the hard end of Counter Terrorism policies first hand, he is the 2011 winner of the Liberty Human Rights Young Person of the year award and currently works as a media spokesperson for CAGE.Follow @CerieOfficial