In the 1950s, a fear campaign stalked the land. It was the infamous witch hunt of McCarthyism. The enemy then was communists — the Red Menace. Now again, demagogues are trying to whip up panic — this time, Islamophobia. Muslims (or those who “look like” them) are painted as terrorists. Right-wing politicians and preachers regularly condemn and insult the entire religion. Naturally, racism is essential to it, as mostly Arabs are targeted.
Despite this year’s film Trumbo about the Hollywood blacklist, many people know little about the devastating effects of the McCarthy period. People lost their livelihoods and sometimes went to jail, not because of their actions, but because they — or someone they knew — held unacceptable or radical ideas. Mere accusations were considered proof. Guilt by association, and even by family ties, was enshrined.
Led by presidents Truman (Democrat) and Eisenhower (Republican), the stampede was carried out by Congress, state and local governments, universities, libraries, corporations, professional associations, and unions, as well as Hollywood and the media. Let it not be forgotten that among the suspect were not only political radicals but African-American civil rights activists, Chicano and Mexican immigrant union organizers, homosexuals and Jews.
In defiance of the obvious, courts found that blacklisting people from employment was not a violation of their First Amendment rights. Defense lawyers were sent to jail, and people were deprived of their earned Social Security benefits. Freedom Socialist Party co-founder Clara Fraser tells in her book,Revolution She Wrote, of being removed from the Boeing property after the busting of the 1948 strike she helped lead, then hounded from job to job by the FBI.
Today, the USA has moved from persecution of thought crimes to tyrannizing a whole religion and racial/language group. The actual recent history is that the U.S. and Europe have made war on multiple Arab and Muslim states. Yet the absurd claim is made that Islam “preaches” war on the West! Never mind that most victims of jihadists are not Westerners. Never mind that more bloody assaults in this country come from fascists and Christian fundamentalists than Muslim fanatics. Never mind that many Islamaphobic attacks are actually on non-Muslim Arabs, Africans, and South Asians, especially Sikhs and Hindus.
In this election season, Republicans get all the blame for bigotry. Trump calls for a blanket ban on Muslims entering the U.S., for a database to track Muslim Americans, and for mandatory identification cards. He even calls for the war crime of killing the families of accused terrorists. Most prominent Republicans spew similar bunk.
But more importantly, the scapegoating of Muslims is government policy. It’s bipartisan. George W. Bush started by waging two unjust wars with flimsy to no connection to the 9/11 attacks he tied them to. He rounded up and tortured suspected “terrorists,” holding them indefinitely without trial.
Domestically, he prosecuted leaders of the Holy Land Foundation, then the largest Islamic charity in the United States, for “material support to terrorism.” Actually, it sent aid to Palestinian charity committees that operated under the elected Hamas government of Gaza. After two trials — using anonymous witnesses and irrelevant testimony that was later determined inadmissible — the defendants were sent to prison for up to 65 years.
Barack Obama has sent his G-men on many a political fishing expedition. One netted Rasmea Odeh, a Chicago community organizer. She was charged with “unlawful procurement of naturalization” for failing to disclose on her citizenship application her conviction in an Israeli military kangaroo court. She had been forced into a false confession under extended torture and rape by her captors.
Obama created the presidential “kill list,” declaring the right to assassinate suspected terrorists globally, even American citizens, without trial or any imminent threat. One was the 16-year-old son of an Arab American Muslim cleric.
Islamophobia, like McCarthyism before it, is manufactured by the powers that be. These charlatans use knee-jerk fear as a weapon against the whole working class, to push the political scene to the right, to undermine civil liberties, and especially to attack labor and radical organizers.
We who see through this systemic indoctrination must call it out for what it is, loudly, clearly, repeatedly and publicly.
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