Rewriting the history of aiding terrorism

In 1992 I made my first visit to North Carolina, and Chapel Hill clearly stood out as its most charming town. I loved that little American “college town” which wasn’t much different from Europe’s beautiful university cities like Oxford, Leiden, Tubingen and Leuven (Louvain). Violence may be commonplace in many major metropolitan inner city neighborhoods in the United States but quite rare in places like Chapel Hill. Religious and racial bigotry may also exist in many parts of the “Old South” and “Bible Belt” but oases of tolerance and openness are emerging as some old provincial conservative cities, such as Atlanta (in Georgia) and Charlotte (in North Carolina), are fast becoming major national “cosmopolitan” urban centers.

In spite of this, given the current global political climate, I was neither surprised by the murder in Chapel Hill of Syrian university student Deah Barakat, his Palestinian bride Yusor Abu Salha and her sister Razan (all Muslims), nor by the initial lukewarm media coverage of the crime. I would rather not fall victim to Islamophobia conspiracy theories; but it was noticeable that the initial media coverage of these murders was somewhat less enthusiastic than in similar crimes that happened in the U.S. during the last couple of years.

‘Before it is too late’

This reminds me of something a British friend wrote to me recently, shortly after the appalling beheading of the two Japanese hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). My friend, rightly angry and disgusted, called on the Muslim world to take a strong stance against ISIS savagery “before it is too late”; adding that what is being perpetrated in the name of Islam, from the ISIS slaughter of innocents to the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, was increasing anti-Muslim feelings. She said that it was “only a matter of time before we see these feelings expressing themselves as attacks targeting Muslims in the streets of the cities of the West”.

Given the current global political climate, I was neither surprised by the Chapel Hill murders, nor by the initial lukewarm media coverage

Eyad Abu Shakra

My friend may be right there, as I do not expect any ordinary citizen in the UK, France, the U.S. or even Japan not to generalize in his or her condemnation [of Islam]. Not every person in these countries, as well as others, can be expected to be aware of our political grievances, or the misfortunes our countries suffered under foreign colonialism. Ordinary people analyze things as they see them. In the 21st century no sane individual should either tolerate slaughter in cold blood, or justifying such sick outrage.

Some may point to Hollywood’s old prejudices against Arabs and Muslims, and see its portrayal of them, still today, as being rarely accurate. American cinema has, for a long time, badly stereotyped them. Arabs and Muslims are usually portrayed as fanatics, greedy, lewd womanizers, and later, terrorists and murderers. The Academy award nominated American Sniper is the latest Hollywood production that some have felt underlines the negative or at least simplistic stereotypes regarding Arabs and Muslims. The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has criticized its release, saying that “it coincided with increased threats against Arabs and Muslims”.

Street mood aside, what is certainly no less dangerous is when political leaders espouse these stereotypes, and proceed to build these national strategies on them.

Re-writing history

Last week I read that U.S. President Barack Obama is pushing ahead to declassifying a section of the report into the September 11 attacks. President Obama is no doubt acting within his right, especially given that many Americans lost their lives and their loved ones in these attacks. What is certainly not right is for the U.S. president to re-write history as he pleases, retrospectively.

Al-Qaeda, which President Obama accuses certain Arabs and Muslim of aiding and financing, was the fruit of a “common effort” and outcome of the “war to bring down the U.S.SR” in Afghanistan. It is the legitimate heir of the Afghan “mujahideen”, who thanks to Western journalists and writers became “legends” of heroism propagated and promoted all over the world, including America and Europe, in books films and media articles.

It is inconceivable that the U.S., with all its universities, research centers, experts and spies, suddenly “discovered” how dangerous fundamentalist Sunni Islam is. It is also difficult to imagine that Western pragmatism was shocked by “the return to religion” whether in the Middle East or elsewhere, when one recalls that the West’s strategy during the Cold War was based on supporting either the military or the religious right-wing against the left-wing—its avowed enemy during those days.

It was the U.S. that built the strategy of “Containment” against the spread of Soviet Communism. Pakistan, a country founded in 1947 as a “Muslim State” was in the 1950s a founding member of two containment pacts: CENTO (Central Treaty Organization)—formerly known as the “Baghdad Pact”—and SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization). Again, Pakistan was the main incubator and lifeline of the Afghan mujahideen through its Directorate of Military Intelligence as well its religious schools. In fact, until late 2001 Pakistan’s Military Intelligence was the prime supporter of the “Taliban” (meaning “Students”), which Washington was happy to see in charge of Afghanistan, putting an end to the chaos created by animosities among the different mujahideen groups and securing the Unocal pipeline from Central Asia across Afghanistan.

Even as far as Iran, Washington’s old and new ally, is concerned, the U.S. sided for a long time with Sunni-led Iraq against the Shiite mullahs of Khomeinist Iran. Its position only changed after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Later on, the “neocons” dramatically changed Washington’s policy vis-à-vis the tension between “political Sunnism” and “political Shiism” by invading Iraq, bringing down Saddam Hussein and handing the country over to Iran’s followers.

Things then began to move fast, as Iran succeeded—via the Assad regime in Syria—in creating extremist Sunni gangs. This proved to be a very sound investment on two levels:

First, when these were used to attack and harass the American occupation troops in Iraq, thus leading to their speedy withdrawal.

Second, when planted within the Syrian opposition and used to undermine Syria’s popular uprising from within, helping the regime to blackmail the international community through their barbaric crimes in the name of Islam, with Iran now stepping forward to pose as the West’s ally against Sunni extremist terrorism.

Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani was very clear the other day when he publicly boasted that Tehran is leading the war on terrorism. This comes after similar pronouncements made by Iran’s henchmen Abdul Malik Al-Houthi of Yemen, claiming he was now fighting Al-Qaeda, and Hassan Nasrallah—the Secretary-General of Lebanon’s Hezbollah who has been claiming to be fighting against extremist “takfirists” in Syria.

On the other side of the fence, some in Israel seem to welcome this development including a former Army Chief of Staff. Indeed, we now notice that containing the latest bout of “tension” between Israel and Iran on the Golan-Mount Hermon front has given Tehran’s military machine and its followers the green light to move southward, attack Syrian opposition fighters there, and control the Southern Front and Purple (ceasefire) Line.

So after 36 years, the “Great Satan” is finally dead!

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 14, 2014.

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Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.
 

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