Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Hatem Bazian and the So-Called "Islamophobia Industry"

Hatem Bazian

UC Berkeley professor Hatem Bazian is in the middle of organizing his 7th annual Islamophobia conference to be held at UCB next April. A similar event was held in Paris of all places last December. (What could be more ironic?). Every year, Bazian assembles a group of like-minded academics who try to figure out why there is so much anti-Islamic feeling in the world. In fact, Bazian has created his own entity at UCB-something called the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Center. It sounds impressive, but it only occupies a broom closet cum teacher's office in room 638 in Barrows Hall.

Since Bazian has already issued his Call For Papers, it seems he has submitted his own treatise, if you will, for the conference. It is entitled, "The Islamophobia Industry and the Demonization of Palestine-Implications for American Studies". In reading it, I can only conclude that the thesis is a thinly-disguised assignment of blame on Jews for the rise in Islamophobia. (No, the terrorism, persecution of religious minorities, beheadings, ISIS, etc have nothing to do with Islamophobia.)

First of all, if Islamophobia (a term recently invented by Islamists in trying to equate any criticism of Islam with anti-black racism and other forms of irrational hate) is an industry, then Bazian is the leading industrialist of our time, for it is he who has created the industry.

More importantly, however, let us examine how he assigns blame for the fact that a lot of people in the world are afraid of Muslims, Islam, and the ideology it represents.

“I do maintain that pro-Israel groups in the United States are the primary funders, producers, organizers, and distributors of Islamophobic content, which is dominating political and public discourses in Western societies.”
"While work on Islamophobia in the media, US Empire, and restrictions imposed on Muslims is already under way, one critical blind spot in research is the explicit link between pro-Israeli groups and organizations and the effort at demonization and otherization of Islam and Muslims in the United States and Europe with a focus on maintaining and consolidating support for Israel."
US Empire? Do we have colonies? But I digress. The point here is that while Bazian avoids the words Jew or Jewish (He does reference a speech Daniel Pipes made to the American Jewish Congress), he does resort to the code language we all understand. He is apparently blaming Jews for spreading anti-Muslim feeling and trying to suppress anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian voices in academia. Never mind the fact that it is the pro-Palestinian groups that dominate the discourse on almost all campuses across the country as they attack Israel non-stop. Never mind the fact that groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (which Bazian co-founded) routinely use Brown Shirt tactics of bullying, disruption, and intimidation to shut down pro-Israel speech on campus. Never mind the fact that this agitation has led to a rise in anti-Semitic tension on numerous college campuses-most notably at the University of California, which is engaged in trying to come up with a statement of principles on intolerance that specifically addresses the problem of Jew hatred.
And Europe? Bazian dares to accuse "pro-Israel groups" in Europe of contributing to a hostile environment for Muslims on the Continent? Never mind the fact that Muslim immigrants in Europe have created such a hostile atmosphere for Jews in places like France, Holland, Sweden, Norway and other countries that Jews are emigrating by the thousands. Never mind the deadly attacks against Jews in Brussels, Toulouse and Paris. Never mind the fact that there have been no such attacks by Jews against Muslims in Europe. Bazian is turning truth on its head.
We continue. In the below segment, Bazian is attacking Pam Geller and her organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI).
"Another Islamophobic and more inflammatory set of AFDI ads showed The Islamophobia Industry and the Demonization of Palestine | 1059 Haj Amin al-Husseini, the pre-1948 Palestinian leader, sitting next to Adolf Hitler. According to AFDI, this new Islamophobic ad was in response to a campaign by American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) that called for cutting US aid to Israel.7 The AFDI ads are part of a larger campaign aimed at vilifying Islam and Muslims that is promoted by pro-Israel and pro-Zionist producers of Islamophobia. The ads make explicit and immediate connections between Islamophobic rhetoric directed at Islam and Muslims and the centrality of Israel as an essential element in the open-ended “War on Terror,” thus constructing Palestinians ontologically as archetypal terrorists in order to maintain uncritical US support for the Zionist state." 
As far as Geller is concerned, while she is Jewish and strongly supports Israel, her main focus is fighting the spread of Islamism in the US and the West. As for Haj Amin al-Husseini, there is much more to this man than just sitting next to Hitler, which even Charles Lindburgh was guilty of. Husseini, who was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem,  lived in Berlin during World War 2 as Hitler's guest and ally. From there, he sent radio broadcasts to the Middle East urging his followers to drive the Jews out of Arab lands. (This was prior to the creation of Israel, mind you.) Husseini even helped form a Bosnian Muslim SS unit to fight alongside the Germans. He was a Jew-hating war criminal who was eventually allowed by the French to return to the Middle East (no doubt to avoid charges of Islamophobia or whatever they called it back then.) No doubt present-day Islamists are shy about discussing this evil figure.
As for the AFDI ads, all I can say is that if the shoe fits, wear it. Ever since the late 1960s, Palestinians have distinguished themselves with their international campaign of terrorism. What bothers people like Bazian is the knowledge that in spite of their best efforts, the overwhelming majority of Americans support Israel and recognize that Israel's enemies are our enemies as well.

Then there is this jewel:
"Historically, US academics for the most part have kept a distance from anything pertaining to Israel out of fear that they will be targeted and face erroneous charges of anti-Semitism. Those who venture to deal with the Palestine–Israel conflict outside the pro-Israel accepted parameters are an exception rather than the norm, and most academics stay clear of the subject altogether. Cases like that of Joseph Massad at Columbia University, Steven Salaita at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and Rabab Abdulhadi at San Francisco State University illustrate the consequences of writing and speaking about Palestine in the US academy."
Simply stated, this is an example of the bully crying foul when someone calls him a bully. As I have stated, it is the pro-Palestinian forces that dominate the discourse in academia. Israel has few supporters on the university campus. As for Massad, is he not still employed at Columbia, where he is lionized by the left? Salaita lost out on a job offer at the University of Illinois when he expressed a desire "that all the settlers go missing." This was in the wake of the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank whose bodies were later found after they were murdered. Abdulhadi is still at San Francisco State University, but drew criticism after some of the students she was mentoring displayed images that supported the murder of Israeli soldiers. Last seen, Abdulhadi skipped out on a presentation at UC Irvine in May (most likely when she learned that this writer was going to be present with his video camera and intended to ask her a question or two.)

"The 2001 attacks introduced a shift in US foreign policy and introduced a more muscular and military interventionist approach toward the Arab and Muslim world with the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq as well as a robust US military presence in over thirty new countries.14 The coinciding of the 9/11 attacks with the start of the second Palestinian Intifada presented a golden opportunity for a strong cadre of neoconservatives connected to the American Enterprise Institute to push for a more decisively pro-Israeli stand in the Bush administration.15 The top tier of the Bush administration adopted a neoconservative line of thinking.16 The neoconservatives in the administration were committed to Israel’s defense and opposed to territorial compromise with the Palestinians; several had participated in drafting the “Clean Break” strategy in 1998."

Neo-Conservatives. Code language for conservative Jewish hawks like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and others. If you would like a taste of what the term "Neo-Conservative" is used for, I take you to a Jew-hating website called, "Huge Questions".  (* I am not suggesting any link between the above site and Bazian.)

"This communication strategy made it possible for Israel to become more connected to US policy formations in fighting the War on Terror. More precisely, Israel’s know-how on fighting Palestinian “terrorism” was peddled and packaged as the best and most successful approach to dealing with a fomented Islamic threat. Overnight, Israel became the model for such a strategy with the emergence of numerous Israel-linked corporate outfits offering training services and counterterrorism strategies that helped consolidate the stereotypical image of the Arab, Muslim, and most definitely Palestinian terrorist across the United States, as joint terrorism task forces and intelligence agencies adopted wholesale the Israeli security framework and thus Israeli communication strategy, with many taking up training courses or visiting Israel with a distinctive and hostile view of Arabs and Muslims upon their return."

And how have the Israelis become such experts in terrorism and security matters? Because ever since the creation of Israel, they have had to defend themselves against terrorist attacks against innocent civilians by Palestinians. Of course, they have become the experts that others could learn from. Practice makes perfect.

"In addition, several key Islamophobic figures became regular guests at universities, including a select group of Muslims connected and funded by the same Islamophobic industry.21 The result is that Islam and Muslims are studied in the academy as an inferior and terrorist “other” in need of interventions and remedies. Furthermore, the ever-present link to the questions or concerns of Israel-affiliated scholars dominate the framing of Islam and Muslims in the US academy, with a constant litmus test applied to individual scholars on Israel and Palestine, as the latest case of Salaita firing illustrates this point clearly."

Again, that's a bunch of bolshoi. Pro-Israel speakers come to give presentations on campus at the risk of being shouted down by the pro-Palestinian bullies. In addition, pro-Israel speakers on campus are far outnumbered by the anti-Israel speakers and their non-stop seminars, panels, teach-ins and what-have-you.

"Israel’s communications strategy also includes high-quality documentaries aimed at constructing threats posed by US-based Muslim groups. These documentaries included a sophisticated and systematic attempt at establishing a “link” between international terrorist groups and American Muslim organizations in a strategy intended to remove any distinctions between these groups to justify Israel’s actions against the Palestinians. This strategy is intended to tarnish Muslim organizations and put them on the defensive and exclude them from policy discussions, as seen in the attacks on CAIR, American Muslim Alliance, Muslim American Society, and American Muslims for Palestine. These documentaries made constant references to Palestinian violence." 

Really? Are these Israeli documentaries responsible for the 2007 Holy Land Foundation trial in Dallas, in which Islamic charities were exposed as having sent money to organizations like Hamas? CAIR was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in that trial, which resulted in convictions and long prison terms. In addition, a document, "Explanatory Memorandum", was uncovered during an FBI raid and introduced in the above trial that spelled out the responsibilities of North American Muslims to work to destroy the rotten house of America.* CAIR itself is a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood as revealed by an FBI wiretap at a hotel meeting in Philadelphia during the 1990s-one year before CAIR was formally created.

None of that came from any Israeli documentary.

"In a recent article analyzing a host of survey results since 2001, Charles Kurzman concludes that the data illustrate how “American attitudes toward Muslim Americans have grown more negative” and that “a growing segment of the . . . population is willing to express negative views about Muslim Americans in recent years.”28 More alarmingly, the data show that the percentage of Americans responding unfavorably to Muslims in general has steadily increased since 2006. The survey results raise important questions about the causes for such a shift, the forces behind it, and how best to reverse it in the future. Indeed, the alarming data reflect the success of the Islamophobia industry and its massive investment in demonizing Muslims as a launching pad for pro-Israel groups from which to maintain US unconditional support for Israel." 

So the rise in Islamophobia is connected to pro-Israel groups in order to maintain US support for Israel. What about terrorism, ISIS, persecution of religious minorities in Muslim-majority lands? Nothing.

"Academe should take the lead in exploring the entanglement of the pro-Israel groups and organizations in Islamophobia content production. Scholars in American studies should centralize research and teaching about Islamophobia because of the impact it has in normalizing racist discourses in society. I urge American studies scholars to be at the forefront and earnestly embrace Islamophobia studies with intersectionality and connectedness to all struggles for social justice while also affirming the centrality of Palestine’s narrative in the field. In this regard, the forum on Palestine in American studies can play a vital role in collaboratively addressing the Islamophobia crisis with regular panels at the annual conference and regional academic workshops on how to teach and counter it on campus and community levels through partnerships with the American Cultures Community Engaged Scholarship. Lastly, American studies scholars should build robust academic relations with Palestinian universities, foster exchange programs, and proactively seek to centralize Palestinian narratives in the conversation and expose Israel’s role in promoting a racist and hostile campus and civil society environments that seek to limit academic freedom and speech while hiding behind distortions about BDS, Palestine, Islam, Muslims and the “War on Terror.”32 Notes 1. The term American and America are used in this essay to denote." 

Talk about building an empire. The founder of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Center is trying to build this into something that would be considered a major field of academic study-Islamophobia. 

Hatem Bazian is a man with two agendas: One is to complain about Islamophobia and make it a serious field of study.  Second is to demonize Israel. How convenient that he tries to link the two. In other words, Israel and its supporters are responsible for the rise in anti-Muslim feeling. Using clever code words like "Neo-Conservative" and "Pro-Israel groups", Bazian essentially lays the blame at the feet of Jews. Forget about terror, beheadings, persecution of other religions, ISIS, Al Qaeda and talk of Islam dominating the world. Why would anyone become Islamophobic over that?

Of course, this is the same man who once (on videotape) called for an intifada in the US. He has also been accused of telling a college audience to count the Jewish names on the campus buildings. In addition, he is also accused of having quoted that cuddly little hadith that tells of the Day of Judgement when the Jew will hide behind the trees and bushes, which in turn will call out to the Muslim, "Oh Muslim. There is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him." In May 2010, I tried to pin Bazian down on those statements when he spoke at UC Irvine. He dodged all over the place and never did give me a straight answer. 

Bazian's latest missive is hardly surprising. Of course, it flies in the face of the FBI hate crime statistics going all the way back to 9-11, which show that when it comes to religious-based hate crimes, Muslims make up a small percentage of victims. By far, it is Jews who comprise the largest victim group.  Indeed, it is anti-Semitism which is the most serious case of bias and hate on college campuses, largely a result of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the resultant agitation against Israel on campus, which translates into a hostile environment for Jewish students-sometimes even in the classroom.

This is the real phobia that Bazian is feeding into. This piece makes it clear that he blames Jews for the rise in anti-Islamic sentiment while brushing over the true reasons that more and more non-Muslims are asking serious questions about Islam and the role its ideology plays in the horrors going on daily around the world-horrors that are committed in its very name.

When Hatem Bazian begins to address those issues, maybe I will begin to take him seriously as an academic.

* When first written, I stated incorrectly that CAIR was a recipient of that letter. CAIR was established a few years after the letter was sent.

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