The Muslim presence in the racist mind

“In one of her last essays published in the United Kingdom, the late Susan Sontag compared the pictures of tortured Iraqi inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq with the photographs ‘of black victims of lynching taken between the 1880s and 1930s, which show smalltown Americans, no doubt most of them church-going, respectable citizens, grinning, beneath the naked mutilated body of a black man or woman hanging behind them from a tree’. Sontag was amongst the few voices who opposed the collective transmutation of the transitory mood of anger after 11 September into hatred channeled primarily towards the Islamic worlds. She sensed the dangers of mobilising collective passions for political ends and the dichotomisation of the world into good and evil.

“It was that period, one remembers, that produced Anne Coulter’s demand that ‘[w]e should invade [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity’ and suggestion that, since ‘[t]here’s nothing like horrendous physical pain to quell angry fanatics’, ‘a couple of well-aimed nuclear weapons’ can transform ‘Islamic fanatics’ into ‘gentle little lambs’. Coulter was not the only one infusing public discourse with tightly packaged hate messages: Fred Ikle, for instance, alluded to a nuclear war that ‘might end up displacing Mecca and Medina with two large radioactive craters’; John Cooksey suggested that any airline passenger wearing a ‘diaper on his head’ should be ‘pulled over’; and Jerry Falwell asserted on 60 Minutes that ‘Muhammad was a terrorist’ and that he was ‘a violent man, a man of war’, a statement for which he later apologised.  It was that period, in short, which made the Muslim Vogelfrei culturally and, to a certain extent, legally as well.”

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam in MRZine, 15 June 2006