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Islamophobia Goes Global

World War II ended the reign of fascism and racial supremacy and the victors of the war took pride in their cultural diversity, ethnic pluralism, and universal humanitarianism. They defined their modernity through the scope of civil rights and liberties not just for their own ethnic minorities, but for deprived and disenfranchised minorities globally. International organizations such as the United Nations addressed the same concerns beyond cultural identity and cultural relativism through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other such agencies. Nations adhered to, or at least respected, the principles of democracy. Even authoritarian states pretended to be democratic, at least in name: the Democratic Republic of Korea, the German Democratic Republic, the people’s democratic republic of… Other nations proudly claimed to be ‘the beacon of democracy,’ ‘the world’s largest democracy,’ or ‘the Middle East’s only democracy.’ In the short interval before the East-West military realignment, it seemed that humanity had reached a critical turning point in its history and that any return to the tyrannies of the past genocides, pogroms, massacres, and holocausts were just that—the past.

At the end of the Cold War impasse, however, as the Berlin Wall came crumbling down, the ideological divide of the East-West was replaced by the Middle East-West racial, religious, and cultural divide that culminated in the election of Donald Trump and the rise of neo-fascism parading as super-nationalism. With the imposition of the Muslim Ban, Bush’s "you're either with us, or against us" anti-terrorism campaign shifted into high gear and every effort of Obama’s attempted outreach to the Muslim world was thrown out the window.

Religious extremism was no longer lurking on the fringes of the society as a rebellious opposition or a disenfranchised minority, rather it was firmly established in the seat of power from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, and from India and Myanmar to the Philippines, and under the guise of ideology even in Russia and China. Most of these governments and the media readily portrayed the terrorists as Muslims, but were reluctant to identify the victims of these terrorist and counter-terrorist campaigns as Muslim civilians.

The United States dealt its neutrality as an impartial arbitrator in the Middle East conflict fatal blows with concrete anti-Muslim positions such as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, subsidizing unhindered settlements on occupied lands, rescinding the designation ‘occupied’ from Palestinian territories, and giving the green light to Israel to drill in and practically annex the Golan Heights. 

Even India’s Hindu nationalist government joined what appears to be an unholy alliance of sorts against Muslims by becoming the largest customer in the world for Israeli weapons and by turning Kashmir to one of the most militarized places on earth through a massive infusion of Indian forces. The Indian suppression of Muslims in Kashmir now resembles the Israeli suppression of the Palestinians. The Indian annexation of Kashmir mirrors Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and the rumored annexation of the West Bank. Both countries wreaking havoc on victims of the 1947 and 1948 partitions of India and Palestine respectively. As the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) claims: “The Israeli weapons that India uses to oppress Kashmiris have been ‘field-tested’ on Palestinian bodies.” The parallels play out further as the Hindu nationalists who consider India ‘the Holy Land of the Hindus’ recently denied the autonomy of the Muslim state of Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of India’s Constitution and enacted the Muslim exclusion in the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) raising concerns about the bill's constitutionality amidst growing anti-Muslim rhetoric in India. The Hindu nationalists seem to be bent on replicating the 1947 partition of the soil of India with the partition of the soul of India seven decades later.

Not to be left behind, China has sped up the cultural colonization of the Muslims in Eastern Turkistan (Xinjiang) where they have put some two million minority Uyghur Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps. Hundreds of thousands of children of millions of Uyghurs who are in concentration camps are taken to detention centers for forced assimilation and ‘cultural cleansing.’ Thousands of Uyghur intellectuals are imprisoned, some of whom have been investigated by Radio Free Asia.

A BBC report reveals widespread destruction of mosques and a Wall Street Journal investigation reveals the extensive use of cutting-edge technology by the Chinese government in the domestic surveillance of Muslims. CNN’s Matt Rivers referred to China’s policy of cultural repression as “the biggest human rights story on earth."

If you thought genocides like the Russian tyranny in Grozny or the Muslim massacre in Srebrenica by the Serbs was a thing of the past, think again. As Islamophobia goes global, Muslims became every oppressive regime’s favorite minority to suppress—from the Rohingya in Myanmar to the Mindanao Muslims in the Philippines to the Muslim refugees fleeing their devastated homelands. Even the repressive regimes of the so-called Islamic states like Saudi Arabia in Yemen, Turkey in Kurdish lands, Syria against its own citizens are persecuting their ethnic, linguistic, or sectarian Muslim minorities. What it leaves behind are devastations of cities, destruction of lives, and displacement of refugees in the millions.

The sad irony is that this globalized islamophobia is carried out not only by authoritarian regimes that have no concern for the world opinion but by political parties who themselves represent minority constituencies. The Republican Party, the Grand Old Party in the U.S., is anything but grand with only 32,854,496 members. The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claims 180 million members, a mere 37% of the constituency in a country of more than a billion people. The Communist Party of China, even if we assume it adheres to democratic principles and procedures, has a membership of 90,594,000 that is even smaller than India’s BJP for a population of roughly the same size. The Likud Party’s small representation is evidenced in its inability to form a majority government—proof positive that the tyranny of the minority has morphed.

The twists of ironies are many and they originate in pretty much the same period of time: the partition of Kashmir in 1947, the partition of Palestine in 1948, and the annexation of Eastern Turkestan in 1949. When foreign powers with their foreign solutions came to these unfortunate neighborhoods, they drew lines of otherness between people making them foreign to each other. A critical turning point in human history? Not so fast.

Whether there is light at the end of the tunnel depends on how long the tunnel is. It’s a déjà vu all over again. The political suppression in Muslim majority states in the 1960s and 1970s resulted in the marginalization and radicalization of political Islam that produced the likes of bin Laden in the 1980s and 1990s. What the outcome of the upbringing of the millions of Muslim youngsters in these refugee camps and of this wave of vilification through Islamophobia will be in a decade or two, only time will tell.

This rampant militarism cloaked in vapid nationalist sloganeering may be serving the excesses of unbridled corporate greed, but it definitely destroys a social order whose unforeseeable consequences will be detrimental to civil order and world peace. If names like Sanna Marin (Prime Minister of Finland), Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Prime Minister of Iceland), Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (U.S. Congressperson), and Greta Thunberg (Swedish activist) are the signs of the future, then it is likely that the wounded soul of the world will be healed through a harmonic convergence of the feminine energy, wisdom, and foresight.