The West's anti-Muslim Campaign
By Dr. Shireen M. Mazari

Since the Danish cartoon issue, a pattern seems to be emerging from the US and Europe where there appears to be a concerted two-pronged effort to harass and discriminate against Europe's Muslim population and undermine assertive/strong Muslim states.
One cannot simply label it a coincidence that even as British politicians began abusing the veiled Muslim women, a Danish outfit chose to show a film on the blasphemous cartoons and so-called analysts in the US and the UK began to launch a new campaign against the state of Pakistan, while the French lower house of Parliament seemed to embark on a new path of rewriting the history of Muslim states, beginning with Turkey. Perhaps one is being too much of a conspiracy theorist, but if we examine the manner in which the US built up a campaign based on either outright lies before the international community at the UN, or misstatement of facts and rather flimsy evidence to finally launch its invasion of Iraq, we in the Muslim World would do well to see patterns of intent appearing well in time.

In this two-part article, first the attack against Muslims within their own European countries is examined. Let us take the issue of the veil, which I personally have no affinity with, but should that give me the right to impose my perspective on other women and how they should dress? After all, European Muslim women have been wearing it for decades, so why should Jack Straw bring up the issue now? Could it be that the European states have now decided to assert a white, Christian ethos of Europe and deny its multiculturalism where the social traditions and culture of the Muslims is an integral part of the new European identity? It would seem to be the case because the Dutch Parliament has voted to ban the wearing of the burqa and three Flemish cities in Belgium have already instituted such a ban. Of course they ran into some problems because they did not want to make it a crime to wear carnival masks.

But then continental Europe has become overtly anti-Islam since 9/11 and there are cities like Rotterdam where designs to build mosques have been rejected because they are "too Islamic". Has anyone in Muslim Pakistan objected to the building of a church because its design was "too Christian"? Imagine the abuse we would have had to take from the West if we had been stupid enough to do such a thing, but it seems the Europeans can do what they like in terms of abusing Islam -- it is all acceptable under the guise either of "freedom of expression" or assimilation into the European culture.

Even more absurd, the Europeans are now deciding on an acceptable dress code for their Muslim citizens and the logic of this can eventually lead to a forced exodus of European Muslims to their ancestral lands -- so that the white, Christian identity of Europe is restored. Of course that is the hope but it may be more difficult to achieve and what might happen instead is the increasing polarization within European societies, which would create more violence and radicalism especially amongst the marginalized members of this society.

Britain, of course, has gone even further in beginning a campaign against Muslim women wearing the veil. It was not too long ago when Jack Straw was seeking re-election and came to Pakistan to visit the homeland of a bulk of his constituents in order to win their vote. He even broke bread with them in their tradition –- all because of their vote. Throughout his visit one never heard him say anything about the discomfiture he felt when faced with veiled women.

Worse still, the British media has gleefully jumped on the bandwagon, least concerned about their distortion of facts in the process. Take the case of the British Muslim teaching assistant who is being penalized because she refuses to take off her veil in front of her male colleagues. It is being given out that she has been penalized for wearing the veil while trying to teach young children which debilitates the learning process. Yet this is a blatant lie because the girl, Aishah Azmi, stated on BBC radio that she had agreed to remove the veil in class and only sought to wear it in front of her male colleagues. But who will listen to her in the present climate of intolerance in Britain?
With Blair joining in the tirade against the veil, it is hardly surprising that attacks against mosques and imams have become rampant, with the latest incident taking place in Glasgow where a Bangladeshi imam was attacked following an attack against a mosque a week earlier. All a coincidence or can we see a pattern emerging, which targets Muslims and seeks to compel them to "Christianise them" socially and culturally?
Otherwise, why can't Straw and Blair seek to force the white Brits into becoming more modest in their dress so as not to offend the British Muslims whose culture is now part of what makes up the British identity? If the veil is to be banned, perhaps the mini-skirt or bikinis should also suffer the same fate since they give offence to British Muslims.
Nor is one making too much of the veil controversy because we need to see it in the wider context of the British government's efforts to get Muslim parents to spy on their school-going children and now the UK education department is proposing to have lecturers in universities spy on Muslim students. This reminds one of the Nazis making Germans spy on Jews.
As for the resurgence of the Danish cartoons amidst all these other developments, what can one say about this new reflection of fascism except that the Jews have been replaced by the Muslims and that eventually the Muslims of Europe need to organize and fight back before they land up in the twenty-first century equivalent of concentration camps and a new holocaust begins. Within this new oppressive European environment, the demonisation of strong Muslim states is a natural outcome. Coincidentally, two of the targeted states, Pakistan and Turkey, also happen to be the countries of origin of a large amount of the ancestors of the present European Muslims.
Both Turkey and Pakistan are also strong nationalist states, sensitive to the defense of their sovereignty. Of course, they are being attacked in different ways, but a deliberate targeting is now becoming only too apparent. What used to be more covert -- especially in the case of Turkey -- is now becoming more overt and the move by the French lower house of parliament to declare it a crime to deny the genocide of the Armenians by the Ottomans is a reflection of this. France has been the most vehement opponent of Turkey's entry into the EU because that would bring in a sizeable Muslim population into Europe -- something Europe still cannot live with. But this move is just one in a series of negative EU moves against Turkey. After all, the admission of Greek Cyprus into the EU when the conflict there had not been resolved was a major political move against Turkey. Ironically, Turkey's vociferous commitment to secularism has done nothing to dilute its perception in Europe as a Muslim state. The West wants to redraw Muslim states' borders, rewrite Muslim history and tell its Muslim citizens how to dress.

Next week: The campaign against Pakistan

(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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