New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry
NYARBB's position against both Islamic supremacism and anti-Muslim bigotry
NYARBB will need to tread a very delicate balance between (1) opposing Islamic supremacism (the political doctrine that governments should be subject to Islamic law) and (2) opposing bigotry against Muslims.
Islamic supremacism is an exceedingly repressive and retrograde ideology. Its most extreme form can be found in Saudi Arabia, where there is zero freedom to practice any religion other than the most puritannical form of Sunni Islam. We need to take a strong stand against Islamic supremacist persecution of "apostates," persecution of gays, restrictions against women, etc., just as we also oppose the Christian religious right wing. We are stauch supporters of modern secular society, with separation of church (mosque) and state.
On the other hand, Muslims here in the U.S.A., including modernizing reformers, have themselves been targets of quite a bit of bigotry and harassment here in the U.S.A., especially after 9/11/2001. We need to oppose that, too. We also oppose the egregious human rights violations, e.g. torture, that have been justified in the name of opposing Islamic supremacist terrorism. We will be active in political movements against torture and in favor of indicting Bush and Cheney for war crimes and for starting a war based on lies.
Bigotry against Muslims harms other people besides just Muslims. For example, Sikhism is a religion distinct from Islam; it is the world's fifth largest religion, born in India. Because male Sikhs traditionally wear turbans, they are often harassed, here in the U.S.A., by ignorant folks who assume that anyone wearing a turban is not only a Muslim, but another Osama bin Laden. On similarly silly grounds, anti-Muslim bigotry also spills over into racist attitudes against Arabs (not all of whom are Muslim) and against other Middle Easterners, and against all South Asians.
We do not consider criticism of the more intolerant traditions of Muslim societies to be anti-Muslim bigotry. However: (1) Not all Muslims are Islamic supremacists. There are plenty of Muslims who appreciate a modern secular state. (2) Here in the West, even Islamic supramacists are entitled to the same rights as everyone else, including the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. They should not be assumed a priori to be terrorists and stripped of rights accordingly.
We need to be careful about how we voice our concerns about Islamic supremacism. Unfortunately, there are groups and websites that claim to take a position similar to ours, but which, in fact, use concerns about Islamic supremacism as an excuse to advocate bigoted claims about Muslims in general, or to advocate violations of the civil rights of Muslims.
Bigotry against Muslims in general is often justified on the alleged grounds that secularist and progressive Muslims don't really exist, that all Muslims are really terrorism-supporting, apostate-killing extremists, some of whom just don't admit it. In fact, plenty of secularist, progressive, and anti-terrorist Muslims do exist. (Note that by "secularist," we mean a person who advocates separation of church/mosque and state; we do not mean a person who isn't devoutly religious.)
Various right wing bloggers, e.g. Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and Daniel Pipes, have alleged that there is a significant danger of an Islamic supremacist takeover here in the U.S.A. In fact, here in the U.S.A., there is much greater danger from Christian supremacists than from Muslim supremacists. Muslims are a tiny minority here, and, among U.S. Muslims, only a small minority are fanatical enough to desire a Muslim supremacist regime.
However, Islamic supramacism is a significant threat in other parts of the world. And, alas, in today's world, both Islamic supremacism and the more sexist, puritanical, and religiously bigoted forms of Islam have been artificially strengthened both by Saudi oil money and by U.S. government support for Islamic supremacist regimes and Islamic supremacist terrorist groups overseas. Examples of U.S. support for Islamic supremacists include:
- In the 1980's, the U.S. supported Islamic supremacist terrorists fighting against a Soviet-allied government in Afghanistan. Not only did the U.S. give them military aid, but the CIA, with help from USAID and the University of Nebraska, spent millions of dollars on violently militant textbooks for Afghan schoolchildren. That war became the Soviet Union’s “Vietnam” and spurred the collapse of the Soviet Union. Zbigniew Brzezinski later admitted that the U.S. helped “the worst crazies ... we can find,” and that these extreme Islamic supremacists also killed off many of the more moderate Muslim leaders.
- In the early 1980's, there was the Iran/Contra affair, in which the U.S. government secretly sent arms to the radical Shi’ite government in Iran. Incredibly, this occurred soon after the embassy hostage crisis, which ended with the U.S. government sending billions of dollars in ransom money to Iran.
- In Yugoslavia in the 1990's, the U.S. and NATO helped Islamic supremacist Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic, at the expense of the more moderate and more popular Bosnian Muslim leader Fikret Abdic. Islamic supremacist terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda, were active in the Balkan wars, with support from Western countries, helping to provoke the anti-Muslim panics and massacres that were the stated justification for U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia.
Even after 9/11/2001, U.S. foreign policy has still tended to favor Islamic supremacist regimes over more secular Muslim regimes. And the so-called “war on terror” has had the net effect of strengthening - not weakening - both Islamic supremacist terrorism and lawful Islamic supremacism overseas. For example:
- In Afghanistan, the new, U.S.-installed government was another Islamic supremacist government, though not quite as extreme as the Taliban. Osama bin Laden and much of Al Qaeda escaped into Pakistan and were not even pursued there (until recently), let alone caught.
- And then the U.S. invaded Iraq. Saddam Hussein, though a tyrant, was not an Islamic supremacist; he was a moderate Muslim who ran a relatively secular government. But now, thanks to the war, Iraq has become a stronghold of both Islamic supremacism and Islamic supremacist terrorism. There was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before the war, but there is now. And the new, U.S.-installed government in Iraq has an Islamic supremacist constitution.
- Most of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, as does much of Al Qaeda’s funding. Also, both the Saudi government and individual Saudi billionaires still spend vast sums on teaching the most intolerant form of Islam (Salafi/Wahabi) worldwide. But Saudi Arabia is considered an ally, not an enemy, in the “war on terror.”
We are concerned about the possibility that, despite the alleged “war on terror,” the U.S. foreign policy establishment may still see Islamic supremacist terrorism as a useful weapon against Russia and China. There has been lots of terrorism in Russia, e.g. in Chechnya and Dagestan. And the U.S. foreign policy establishment seems to have both the goal of encircling Russia and a tendency to downplay that goal in public (e.g. the U.S. missiles in Poland, allegedly aimed at Iran).
To whatever extent a pro-Islamic-supremacist policy still exists, it is very harmful to all non-Muslims, and to women, and to gays. It is also very harmful to moderate Muslims, both by killing them directly and by sparking bigotry, on the part of non-Muslims, against all Muslims including moderates.
The threat of Islamic supremacist terrorism has been used as an excuse for war against Muslim countries (including relatively secular Muslim countries such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq). We, on the other hand, aim to oppose both Islamic supremacism and the wars by pointing to the history of U.S. support for Islamic supremacism. For more about this history, see the following collections of news stories on the History Commons site:
- US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy
- US Dominance
- Saudi Arabia
- Al-Qaeda in the Balkans
- Inquiry into the Decision to Invade Iraq
(The first three of the above pages are part of a much larger collection of news stories on Geopolitics and Islamic Militancy, which in turn is part of the Complete 9/11 Timeline on the History Commons site.)
Thus, the "war on terror" has been conducted in a very hypocritical manner, in addition to being, itself, a reign of terror against Muslims. We believe that both Islamic supremacism and terrorism should be opposed by means other than war, where possible.
[Last edited November 9, 2008.]