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From Darren Wilson to Islamophobia


Part 4 of 6. See part 1, 2 and 3.

By Umar Lee

The terrorist attacks that brought down the Twin Towers in New York City,  hit the Pentagon in Virginia, and left a plane and its passengers scattered across a Pennsylvania field, occurred more than fourteen years ago.  Yet, despite 9-11 being so far in the rear view mirror, American-Muslims being a staple of modern America, and only a handful of minor incidents since, Islamophobia is now at an all time high.

Much of this is a result of the Islamophobia industry which has been well-documented on this site. I certainly don’t wanna downplay the negative impact of the Islamophobia industry and the agents of hate. However, these forces of hate have been at it for years, so why the uptick in Islamophobia?  Is Donald Trump to blame?  Yes, he partially is, but why did he find such an eager audience?

I’ll trace the resurgence in Islamophobia back to August 9 of 2014. In the small municipality of Ferguson in northern region of St. Louis County, Missouri, a young man by the name of Mike Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson.  Mike Brown laid on the ground for hours in the Canfield Green apartment complex dead in his own blood as a crowd of mourners gathered. Tensions flared that night and the next night the streets of North St. Louis County exploded in anger and grief.  A movement was born.  A movement which at that moment was united and later became divided.

Darren Wilson took a life and never served an hour in jail. With my two arrests in Ferguson (I grew-up in the area) I served more jail time than Wilson.  I grew-up in the racial-tension of North County and it defined our lives and it was now on an international stage. Mike Brown was African-American like most Ferguson residents and Darren Wilson white like most Ferguson cops.

While a movement emerged seeking justice for Mike Brown and other victims of police violence and repression another movement emerged in defense of Darren Wilson and police.  This pro-police movement produced an army of trolls on social media sending out threats and engaging in outright racist language.  As the weeks went on the hate speech increased and it got nastier.

While a segment of protesters and supporters began using the language of intersectional struggle (this segment of protesters associated with Black Lives Matter) the other side began engaging in their own version of intersectional thought.

Researching many of the most vocal pro-police trolls I discovered in addition to their anti-black racism many were also active in efforts against Muslims,  Latino immigrants, and others. When these trolls noticed the prominence of Muslim protesters such as myself, Bassem Masri, Talal Ahmad, Anthony Shahid, Mustafa Abdullah, and others it sent them into a particular frenzy of hate. I received dozens of graphic death threats, had the address of my grandparents published online, and was fired from my job because of the harassment of these trolls.

Today these trolls are still attacking protesters;  but they’ve found new energy in their attacks on Syrian refugees and new champions in Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

It was Ferguson that gave the army of hate it’s new level of vigor. The sight of people in the street demanding justice frightened them. Energized, this same army is now equally focused on Muslims.

In America you’re a part of White Supremacy or you’re a threat to it. Muslims, in whatever form of Islam we choose to practice from Salafeeyah to watered down Me Tooism, are a threat to White Supremacy. The message of Islam destroys White Supremacy.  The life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is an indictment against White Supremacy and the voices of Muslims must be silenced in their minds.

Just as the enemies of Islam have made common cause with those who oppose Latino immigration, African-Americans, and advocates for police reform, so to Muslims must form alliances with those with whom we share a common enemy.

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  • Ilisha

    If you’re over at HP, you might want to take notice of Sarah Brown. Sarah and I disagree on many things, but I do think she’s fair minded and we’ve had some good discussions.

    It is a prickly issue. When do you deprive someone of a venue? I really like the idea (popular in America, it seems) that the answer to objectionable free speech is more free speech. Discuss it in the light of day. With very few exceptions, that’s what I endorse.

  • janna

    I really appreciate your response. I found Harry’s Place, some stuff there seem ok though I didn’t dig, just looked at the no platforming of people.
    What a baffling thing. Being among chameleons, like. I am totally against deplatforming. It seems like a good idea in some egregious case, then the slippery slope kicks in. Seems like the students nowadays have opted for an anti-free speech stance, so it doesn’t surprise that purges follow. In the end nobody is pure enough…

  • Ilisha

    I’m not really plugged into UK politics to the degree where I can say for sure. Some people (even here on LW) seem to think he is a genuine champion of human rights, fighting Islamophia, anti-semitism, and so forth. Maybe he is.

    I think, however, he is a subtle manipulator who steers things in a certain direction. A diversion. Proving this is difficult because it depends on nuance, intuition, and evidence that is largely based on “guilt by association.” There is no smoking gun.

    As to precisely why THIS group rejected him? I don’ t know. I’ve also been busy and a little distracted, and possibly confused—as there was some talk of Peter Tatchell being “deplatformed” or something. What Lowles and Tatchell have in common is some interesting ties to the nortorious anti-Muslim propandga site, Harry’s Place, and the broader neocon network.

    So I guess what I’m saying is your guess is as good as mine. If it were up to me, I’d be inclined to let people speak, regardless. I’m not usually in favor of shutting down the dialogue, even if I suspect someone’s agenda is dubious. I figure people eventually out themselves, wittingly or unwittingly, and not much is gained by preemptively denying them a venue.

  • janna

    Ilisha, that is why I was hoping someone else who is unconfused would jump in! So please, don’t take it personally. It wasn’t meant that way. I meant silence on the thread.

  • Ilisha

    Break what “silence”? The folks who fight Islamophobia are confused about it? I don’t feel the least bit confused. And as I said, I’m busy right now. Because I actually am.

  • janna

    No sarc at all. Just a mild provocation to break the silence. It seems from the article that the very folks who make it their official business fighting islamophobia are confused about it. Which makes it even more confusing for the rest of us. So, yes, please, let us have a fruitful discussion. (please delete previous, can’t keep my identities straight)

  • Ilisha

    Do I detect a bit of sarcasm? Just when I thought we might actually have a fruitful discussion.

    As for Nick Lowles, he’s not what he seems. Hope Not Hate is an offshoot of a Zionist publication, and supported by the likes of Harry’s Place. Some people can see through a smokescreen.

  • Reynardine

    You feature if these guys had been anything but white males of a privileged class:

  • Ilisha

    You’ve touched on several important, intersecting issues. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to write an extensive reply right now. Perhaps later… Or maybe someone else will pick up the thread.

  • janna

    Yeah, islamophobia is an awkward word. I like your distinction.

    Back to our bit of disagreement: if one can count anti-Muslim bigotry, so it should be possible to count Muslim bigotry. I wonder if anyone does? But I don’t mean to harp on this. It’s a bunny trail.

    The survey itself is framed in such a way that it’s difficult to know what is being asked, and therefore what the answers signify. If I were asked whether I thought the values of Islam were at odds with American values and way of life, I would be wondering, do they mean sharia? If yes, my answer would be yes. Do they mean those Muslims who are sympathizers of the Islamic State? Or do they mean Muslims who came here because they appreciate American values, reject religious-based persecution, and look for ways to coexist, and their children who do likewise? Well then my answer would be no.

    With the greater exposure of everyday folks to the brutalities of the Islamic State in full view on youtube, and what filters down about sharia, no wonder folks are uneasy. But that is not islamophobia, is it?

  • Ilisha

    I’ve never been a big fan of the term “Islamophobia.” I prefer anti-Muslim bigotry, because of what I see as the important difference between concerns about Islam (a religion) and civil rights (Muslims).

    Judging from many of the recent polls and articles, and the rise in attacks on my Muslim friends (not just in the news–in real life), I would say it’s likely Islamophobia or anti-Muslim bigotry is on the rise. Some additional evidence (and there is plenty more):

    Islamophobia On The Rise In The United States, New Survey Reveals

    There is also a network of well-funded hate sites that has been deliberately spreading fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims for the last 15 years. I believe that’s one factor that’s had an impact, and one of the main reasons this site was started was to counter their propaganda.

    That said, I think spreading this kind of fear and hatred in America is an uphill battle for bigots. They’ve flooded bookshelves and the Internet with so much of their material, it’s hard to get past it if you’re genuinely trying to learn about Islam. Yet Americans have resisted to a large degree, despite these campaigns. I think the US is generally a tolerant country.

    That doesn’t mean we should stay on the sidelines and do nothing to set the record straight.

  • janna

    Ilisha, I am curious, in the light of what you say here, whether you support the claim that “It is no secret Islamophobia is on the rise” — as claimed in a series recently published on the site.

  • Ilisha

    I think it’s clear what you were saying. But if I’ve misunderstood, please feel free to clarify.

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