The Machinations of Prejudice

Posted: January 29, 2012 in Freedom, Politics, Religion, Violence
Tags: , , ,

The Straw Man of Islam and the NYPD

The New York Times revealed that a video, called The Third Jihad, was shown by the NYPD within an anti-terrorism training facility to nearly 1,500 officers. The video cites Islam as the focal point for American born terrorist attacks. This claim extrapolates into a long running debate amongst politicians, theologians, and philosophers about whether or not Islam itself is an ignition source for violence, or whether terrorism is enacted for reasons outside of the religion. I’d like to sidestep this debate for the time being to expose the intentionality that fuels it to the point of eruption, spilling out into our communities and homes. It is one thing to discuss religious practices and the assimilation of cultures, but when we implement measures to discriminate within the halls of authority, we’ve overstepped the boundaries of a free and secular nation.

For the American public (hopefully not for you), it is easy to sell the idea that the bearded men in strange clothes are the harbingers of all our fears. I don’t think it needs to be spelled out why the targeting of an amorphous, villainous enemy to the blue collar workforce of New York’s Finest is a bad idea. This isn’t the first time we’ve envisioned our own Boogeymen. In the 1940’s it wasn’t bearded Middle Eastern men, it was the Japanese. We rounded them up and put them into camps much like Guantanamo Bay – a prison where any sense of rights and freedom are null and void. Internment camps were a security measure for our nation, of which we have offered little recompense to the victims. This is a danger I feel we may be stumbling back into. The straw man of Islam has become our picture of the entire 1.3 billion or so practicing Muslims. Those who have spoken out against the violence perpetrated by militant Muslims have called upon the moderates to speak out against the radicals. This is what our narrator claims to do.

The video itself has an interesting origin story. The Third Jihad was produced by the Clarion Fund, an organization that is directly linked with Israel. The dominos fall pretty in line beginning with the conservative directive of Israeli sovereignty over contested areas and military support. In 2008 the Clarion Fund directly supported the McCain campaign by distributing free copies of their other film Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West to voters in key swing states. This film draws visual correlations between Islam and Nazi fascism in order to sway sympathies in favor for the Jewish state and conservative voters during a volatile election season. Corruption abound, the Clarion Fund is labeled as a non-profit organization. They do not pay taxes and are forbidden to participate in the process of electoral politics. Their endorsement of McCain lead to a temporary shut down of their site during 2008. The Third Jihad was also financially backed by a major pro-Israel, casino and hotel mogul Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, is the 16th richest person in the world, and has poured millions of dollars into Newt Gingrich’s super PAC. It may not be just conjecture to suppose that promoting anti-Islamic sentiments are connected with the success of conservative ideals.

Some blurry lines are to be had in raising concern about The Third Jihad. There is a disputed 30 second clip featuring NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly in the documentary. He has since tried to distance himself from this level of endorsement claiming some level of vagary in its usage. However, any participation on his part with the Clarion Fund and their exploits shows where the money might flow within the police department. It also leads a large amount of credibility to the officers who witnessed his brief interview in the film, and then proceeded to conduct training for anti-terrorism. Also, the film’s makers have claimed to narrow their focus to solely the radical Muslims of which they speak, but then continue to paint the whole of the faith base as very radical. The original New York Times article quotes the video, ‘“Americans are being told that many of the mainstream Muslim groups are also moderate,” [the narrator] states. “When in fact if you look a little closer, you’ll see a very different reality. One of their primary tactics is deception.”’ Let’s also be very clear about something else. The threat of terrorism has been shown in a variety of surveys and statistics to be extremely low. The amount of money we pour into the cup of Homeland Security, even if used in the case of preventative measures has made it runeth over. An extremely small fraction of violence perpetrated in the United States is committed by “terrorists,” and an even smaller portion is committed by Muslims.

Even if you could argue that the claims the documentary makes are true, which are dubious to say the least, there is still a difference between arguing a point and providing what can only be labeled as propaganda to an order-taking police force. In the post 9/11 era, we’ve allowed a little space for Middle Eastern racism in our culture, particularly in New York, though to be fair it is much easier to imagine it being worse. Chris Rock had it right when he said this about “accepted racism” in patriotic America: I’m American Man. It’s rare to be able to trace a line of money and influence from one source to a population but I feel like the line goes directly from Israel, to millionaires, to filmmakers, to a NYPD Police Commissioner, to 1500 officers and then…

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