I received an email from a friend that included a link to a video. He wanted my opinion of the video’s content. The topic of the video, “Sharia Law”, is discussed by a passionate speaker who goes on to draw connections between Sharia Law (also spelled Shariah) in the United States, domestic terrorism and the American University system.
As I watched the video I felt deeply disappointed and somewhat saddened for three reasons.
- First, the talk was short on explanations of Sharia law. Brigitte Gabriel, the speaker, goes on a rant about the evils of this ideology without even giving a short definition of this moral code which could easily have been extracted from Wikipedia (I included a link to the Wikipedia definition if you’d like to see it).
- Second, Brigitte Gabriel, who is also the founder of Act! for America connects Sharia Law to homegrown terrorism without bothering to give the slightest justification for making this connection.
- Third, the email had been sent to so many in the Black community with a subject line that said, “Important, Get Informed!”. It wouldn’t surprise me if I learned that it had gone viral within the Black faith community – a community that rarely explores other faiths.
Following is the letter I wrote to my friend. I’ve embedded the video for you to take a look.
I was surprised when I received this video, particularly because it was from you. To me, it is clearly propaganda. But I don’t want to just lay a word like “propaganda” out there without an explanation. Frankly, I’d much rather talk to you about this face-to-face but writing will help me to clarify my position.
If I’ve learned anything from the lessons of history, it’s that red flags should go up when accusations are hurled at an entire group of people for the wrong doings of a few. When a speaker accuses an entire ethnic or religious group of wanting to “attack us” or talks of people wanting to infiltrate our universities — my antenna go up.
Appealing to emotion as opposed to cognition – a tactic frequently used when one is short on data – raises another red flag. It is also something that is done in lieu of providing analysis of well-researched data.
She states that 75 arrests have been made in two years. While it is incumbent upon our nation to take these threats seriously, there are many who thrive financially and otherwise when the flames of fear are fanned. Just consider that more than 30,000 people die in this country from gun violence in a single year and then think about the 75 arrests. The 75 arrests don’t necessarily translate into convictions nor are they any indication of the number of terrorists acts that have been successfully executed in the past two years. But let’s take a look at the video so that we can stay on track.
Here is the video:
Early in the talk the speaker says, “We know they want to advance Sharia and we know what Sharia is all about”. She states this as if these are established facts. We know? Who is we? And what exactly is it that we know? She then moves on to what would be the next logical conclusion — which is that we must stop them. The problem is that she hasn’t demonstrated that her first two assertions are established facts:
- We know they want to advance Sharia; and
- We know what Sharia is all about.
Who is “they” and who is “we”?
This video is likely to be dismissed by anyone who is well read or well traveled. So it’s probably fair to assume that an informed audience is not the target the sender of this video was trying to reach. This kind of message appeals to people who have not studied history, who aren’t steeped in the social sciences or who have little or no connections to the Muslim community. Without a foundation of knowledge to fall back on, people are more apt to be swayed by emotional appeals and fear. They are also less likely to challenge or question what’s being asserted as truth.
Since 9/11, organizations like ACT! for America speak at conferences, write on websites, and appear on radio shows, to rail against Islam and cast suspicion on Muslims both in America and abroad — treating the entire Muslim community as de factor terrorists.
While this is disturbing, it isn’t new. It isn’t the first time and unless we work to stop it, it won’t be the last time. Obviously, for moral reasons, we should all stand up against these types of broad sweeping statements that malign entire groups but aside from the moral argument, an even more compelling reason to fight this is that waste energy and harm people doing something that serves no one while at the same time, serious issues go ignored and unaddressed.
We (our nation) tend to cast a very wide net when the “alleged culprits” are anything but white Christians. We spend untold millions keeping the nation safe from “them”. Think back to the American internment camps during WWII.
A significant portion of the American population had lineage that hailed from Germany and Italy. Were they interned or even looked upon suspiciously? No. But the Americans whose lineage traced back to Japan were summarily scooped up and locked away in camps. They were the Americans who were interned. They were the ones who lost property and everything else. The politics of fear led to the post-Pearl Harbor internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans, yet not a single one of the interned was ever found to have any connection to the Pearl Harbor bombing. We cast a wide net and scooped them all up regardless of anything they had done; regardless of their citizenship. Sixty percent of the interned were Americans!! The only probable cause was the ethnic group these Americans were born into to. But what happened to those Americans whose ancestry traced back to Germany or Italy? Nothing.
The few actual Germans and Italians who were forcibly interned in the United States during WWII were German and Italian citizens, many of which were traveling in the United States when we entered the war. According to Wikipedia, the population of German citizens in the United States – not to mention American citizens of German birth – was far too large for a general policy of internment comparable to that used in the case of the Japanese in America. Instead, only German citizens were detained and evicted from coastal areas on an individual basis. The War Department considered mass expulsions from coastal areas for reasons of military security, but never executed those plans. So, although we were at war with Germany, Italy and Japan — only the Americans of Japanese heritage were detained and interned en masse. Not unlike the treatment brown immigrants from south of the border receive as compared to the white Canadians who cross the border and overstay their VISAs.
Continuing on this theme — take a look at how we treat potential terrorists who are white Christians. Contrary to what one might think after listening to the speaker in the video whose diatribe would lead one to believe that American domestic terrorism is primarily committed by Muslims, Department of Justice data suggests that domestic terrorist groups and anti-government extremists are overwhelmingly male able bodied White American heterosexual Christians!
How often does ACT! for America or any similar organization rail against the group who has been identified as the most likely to be involved in domestic terrorism – White American Christians? Never!. The Department of Justice has documented hundreds of arrests that are linked to or classified as domestic terrorism — all committed by white American domestic terrorists. Think Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kazinsky, and Terry Nichols. How likely is it that all male able bodied White American heterosexual Christians will be rounded up and summarily detained or stopped at airports or followed by the FBI? Not very.
When one of these terrorist groups takes action or commits some kind of atrocity, the average white American man doesn’t have to fear for their own personal liberty. They aren’t worried that they’ll all be rounded up. Unlike Muslims, African-American men, or Latinos. After a major highly publicized crime has been committed, white people don’t share the collective hope, “Oh please don’t let the perpetrator be white because we could all suffer the backlash”. Those are the hopes and fears of non-white groups – the ones that lack white priviledge.
Whenever members of the dominant group violate the law, law enforcement is very specific and very intentional about how it conducts investigations and gathers evidence. No broadly cast nets — nope, they gather intelligence and use surveillance based on more than ethnic, racial, nation of origin, or religious affiliation — no battering rams, not in their neighborhoods — no ICE raids — no chokeholds for selling cigarettes. This is the way it should be, by the way — for all of us. We should never cast dispersions against an entire group strictly because of ethnic, racial, nation of origin, or religious affiliation.
Unfortunately, we seem to recognize how important this is only when the group being targeted isn’t the one we belong to.
But here is the other kicker. Much of the propaganda put out by this and other organizations similar to it, lays a foundation that sets the stage for fundraising appeals by grassroots and religious right groups. The money they raise then enters the political process and helps fund ads supporting politicians who echo alarmist warnings and sponsor anti-Muslim sentiment. These are often the same politicians who echo alarmist warnings about Latino immigrants and blacks (but with blacks the language they use is cloaked). Hence, the racially skewed outcomes on the war on terror, the war on drugs, and the war on immigrants.
This is what fuels, what many call “the politics of fear”. The politics of fear helps to build and feed the military-industial complex, the prison-industrial -complex and what appears to be a growing security-industrial complex. We’ve militarized our borders and are investing in drone technology at the local municipal level across the nation. Yep, somebody is making a shitload of money.
Aside from the financial largess to Department of Defense contractors and ancillary industries, there is also huge growth in security based industries.
Gun ownership is through the roof — further bolstered by “stand your ground” laws. And, of course, Walmart is the number 1 gun retailer in the world. The home security industry is growing in leaps and bounds too. Privately contracted security personnel? Even the City of Los Angeles has a contract for this.
Fareed Zakaria wrote in his CNN column:
Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has created or reconfigured at least 263 organizations to tackle some aspect of the war on terror. Thirty-three new building complexes have been built for the intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet – the equivalent of 22 U.S. Capitols or three Pentagons. The largest bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs is now the Department of Homeland Security, which has a workforce of 230,000 people.
The rise of this national security state has entailed a vast expansion in the government’s powers that now touch every aspect of American life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism. Some 30,000 people, for example, are now employed exclusively to listen in on phone conversations and other communications within the United States. . . .
Friend — I didn’t mean to write so much on this but it really bothers me when our people are hoodwinked. And that’s exactly what this video does. The woman who is speaking on the video may sincerely believe that she is doing the right thing but scratch the surface and you’ll find that there is another agenda and it ain’t to protect Americans.
UPDATE: In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and the apprehension and arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev there has been a renewed focus on the Muslim community by some in the media. This brings me back to the fact that the average domestic terrorist is an American white Christian male but these same media outlets don’t bring that up.
Noted anti-racist and lecturer, Tim Wise, wrote a piece on this topic and included a list naming many of these terrorists (see below). Wise contends that white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed by the Department of Justice, he says, “indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names — let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes”.
Following is the list comprised by Wise which was included in his article entitled, “Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness“.
Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols • Ted Kaczynski • Eric Rudolph • Joe Stack • George Metesky • Byron De La Beckwith • Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss • James von Brunn • Lawrence Michael Lombardi and Robert Mathews • David Lane and Chevie Kehoe • Michael F. Griffin • Paul Hill • John Salvi • Justin Carl Moose • Bruce and Joshua Turnidge • James Kopp • Luke Helder • James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder • Shelley Shannon • Dennis Mahon • Wade Michael Page • Jeffery Harbin • Byron Williams • Charles Ray Polk and Willie Ray Lampley and Cecilia Lampley and John Dare Baird and Joseph Martin Bailie and Ray Hamblin and Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr. and John Pitner and Charles Barbee and Robert Berry and Jay Merrell and Brendon Blasz and Carl Jay Waskom Jr. and Shawn and Catherine Adams and Edward Taylor Jr. and Todd Vanbiber and William Robert Goehler and James Cleaver and Jack Dowell and Bradley Playford Glover • Ken Carter and Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf • Chris Scott Gilliam and Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder and Buford Furrow and Benjamin Smith and Donald Rudolph and Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles and Donald Beauregard and Troy Diver • Mark Wayne McCool • Leo Felton and Erica Chase and Clayton Lee Wagner and Michael Edward Smith and David Burgert and Robert Barefoot Jr. • Sean Gillespie and Ivan Duane Braden and Kevin Harpham • William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus • Raymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy • Michael Gorbey • Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman • Frederick Thomas • Paul Ross Evans • Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins • Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe • David McMenemy • Bobby Joe Rogers • Francis Grady • Cody Seth Crawford • Ralph Lang • Demetrius Van Crocker • Floyd Raymond Looker • Derek Mathew Shrout • Randolph Linn.
Here are additional links for more information on this topic:
Publisher, LA Progressive
Posted: Tuesday, 8 May 2012