Normalising the American Islamophobic Fringe: Niall Ferguson and his Neocon Attack on Islam

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Neocons relish a good tragedy. In a screed published prior to the 9/11 attacks, a cabal of neocons argued that the US Armed Forces could only be made resurgent through “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – a new Pearl Harbor”. Soon after the 9/11 attack the neocon David Brooks noted how the attack was positive for cultivating “an unconsummated desire for sacrifice and service”. Unsurprisingly, soon after the Westminster attack, the Times took the opportunity to milk the event and direct all narratives towards Islam and Muslims.

Niall Ferguson, a neocon, penned a particularly vitriolic piecerelying on three reports. The opinion piece has also been published in the Boston Globe.

Ferguson has been keenly Tweeting at his audience that if anyone wants to opine on his column that he or she should read his sources. I have done so and it looks ugly.

All three of his sources are heavily linked to the virulent transatlantic Islamophobia industry.  They include the neocon hate-financed Henry Jackson Society and the neocon think-tank Policy Exchange, notorious for fabricating evidence for its anti-Muslim report. The third report is authored by his wife, the anti-Muslim neocon Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali and her report will be the subject of analysis further below.

This is unsurprising. Ferguson is a proponent of Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia conspiracy theory and believes that a “youthful Muslim society… is poised to colonise… a senescent Europe.”  Bat Ye’or sits on the board of the Denmark-based, Neo-Nazi-linked International Free Press Society (IFPS), alongside Robert Spencer and Pam Geller, who were banned from entering the UK in 2013.

Ignoble Lies

Given his white supremacy-leaning sources, his textbook neocon nonsense takes “noble lies” to whole new level in making any connection – even geographical – to Islam. Take the following paragraph:

“Wait. First, the guy was a violent criminal, who was jailed twice for knife attacks. Second, his path from crime to jihad was a familiar one: the conversion to Islam, probably in jail, the spell in Saudi Arabia, the relocation to Luton, home town of several jailed extremists. Third, another familiar story: known to the authorities for “violent extremism”, but no longer under surveillance.

As already, highlighted there is no evidence that the motive was linked to Islam.  Ferguson highlights merely traveling to Saudi Arabia as something ominous, rendering thousands of Muslims who travel from Britain to Saudi to engage in the Hajj pilgrimage suspicious. Furthermore, contrary to Ferguson’s assertion, the attacker was not known to authorities for “violent extremism”.  For Ferguson to allow his article to be published some days later in the Boston Globe with the same statements, despite report after report affirming the disconnection between the attacker and a motive oriented around “extremism”, reveals his deceptive agenda. Insidiously, Ferguson equates the Islamic concept of Jihad to running innocent people over and stabbing civilians, launching his first attack on a tenet of Islam in the process.

Alarmist Statistics

Ferguson uses HJS’s report on “Islamist terrorism” to show how “the frequency of terrorism offences has roughly doubled since 2010”. The bombastic claims have been comprehensively debunked by CAGE, which fittingly restored sanity and perspective to the statistics:

The 253 terror convictions [84% are not “serious attack related”], not necessarily involving violence, represent an insignificant 0.009% of Muslims living in the UK.

“Convert” Muslim Exaggerations

Ferguson proceeds to associate the Westminster attack with “converts” and prisoner radicalisation:

“the perpetrators of terrorist offences are mostly male and “homegrown”. Converts are disproportionately involved (they make up 16% of offenders but fewer than 4% of British Muslims as a whole)”.

The HJS report (see summary here), which focusses on terrorism offences between 1998 and 2015, uses a static figure of 90-100,000 Muslims derived from a Faith Matters report from 2010.  Aside from the fact that HJS seems to have cut five years of statistical data concerning the growth of the “convert” Muslim population, the methodology of the report cited by HJS also raises troublesome questions (see report here, p.3).  The report uses 2001 census data coupled with a survey of two hundred and fifty-nine mosques in London. Of these, startlingly, data was only drawn from 10% of mosques. Not only has HJS used terrorism offences figures which exceed the data of the report it cites on Muslim converts by five years, the report cited itself uses data nine-years old alongside data pooled from 10% of mosques from one city.  In other words, the total “convert Muslim” population used by HJS is drastically inaccurate and underestimated. This is significant because a bigger population figure would reduce the percentage of “convert Muslim” offenders which make up the total population of Muslims.

Such details are of no concern for Ferguson, or indeed, Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations Mark Rowley and former “independent” terrorism legislation-reviewer David Anderson both of whom have disturbingly endorsed the HJS report.  What really shows Ferguson’s cheap opportunism, however, is the fact that the Metropolitan Police has confirmed that they have not found any evidence that the Westminster attacker was radicalised in prison in 2003.

There is an additional point to add here.  Much of the discourse ignores compounded discriminatory treatment experienced by “converts”. Not only do they have to brave the structural political Islamophobia, they also have to face rejection from their families for accepting Islam. Of course, it is easier to blame Islam than analyse genuine grievances which includes growing Western intolerance of Islam.

The Attack on Islam

Ferguson then claims Da’wah, (inviting non-Muslims to accept Islam/encouraging Muslims to become closer to God in belief and practice), is in reality the “process of non-violent but toxic radicalisation that transforms the petty criminal into a zealot”.  The gist of his argument is that this leads to terrorism. This preposterous claim is predicated on his wife Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s recent report titled The Challenge Of Dawa: Political Islam As Ideology And Movement And How To Counter It. Ayaan’s report similarly reproduces the themes of lies, anti-Islam hatred and, as we shall see, abject McCarthyism. The report would look at home on the bookshelf of any budding Breivik.

Before looking at its content, it is worth reminding ourselves who Hirsi Ali is.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It should be recalled that she has been exposed for fabricating her persona as an abused “apostate” who fled the clutches of Islam and civil war. Having been embraced by neocons, she has gone on to defend white supremacist terrorist Anders Breivik. Breivik has cited Hirsi Ali’s work in his 1500 page manifesto explaining his plans to commit terrorist attacks across Norway. She has also declared her admiration for the racist and authoritarian Benjamin Netanyahu.

With regards to Islam, she believes that,

  • Islamic schools should all be closed in the West.
  • Islam is inherently violent.
  • Islam – not radical Islam – needs to be defeated.
  • Islam is a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death” that requires “crushing”.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Centre has consequently labelled her an “anti-Muslim extremist”.

Sources of Hate

Her views are reflected in the sources of her report, which is littered with references to fanatical pro-Israeli neocon hate-zealots. A look at the references reveals a who’s who of the far-right/neoconservative counter-Jihad movement: notorious hate-financed anti-Muslim neocon Daniel Pipes who has been listed as one of America’s leading “misinformation experts” on Islam by the Washington-based Center for American Progress report, ‘Fear Inc.’; conspiracy theorist loon Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy – the source for Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim policies; disinformation expert Steven Emerson who infamously declared Birmingham a no-go zone; hate preacher Douglas Murray, the Geert Wilders-platforming Hudson Institute (Hirsi Ali, Footnote 105-108), where warmongering neocon Norman Podhoretz is a senior fellow and a friend of the “sugar mama of anti-Muslim hate” Islamophobia financier Nina Rosenwald; and Rosenwald’s hate-spreading anti-Muslim Gatestone Institute. Also financed by Rosenwald is another citation by Hirsi Ali: MEMRI, an anti-Islam propaganda outfit founded by an Israeli colonel and extensively referenced by Breivik.

Speaking of propaganda, influence also comes directly from Israel through Shaul Shay, a colonel in the Israeli Defence Forces and a senior research fellow at the International Policy Institute for counter Terrorism (ICT) located within the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. The private college has been the base of operations for propaganda operations in support of Israeli attacks on Palestinians.

Other notable references include Katherine Gorka and Patrick Sookhdeo.

Gorka is the wife of Trump’s deputy assistant Sebastien Gorka. Sebastian, who has been described as an “Islamophobic Huckster”, believes that militancy in the Middle East has nothing to do with grievances such as blowing apart families, but rather because the Qur’an has “hard-wired aggression into Islam”.  Sebastian is also the former national security editor of Steven Bannon’s white supremacist online platform Breitbart.  Pertinently, Katharine has authored numerous articles for the website too. In one article, she enthuses over the “quiet Christian insurgency” taking place in the Middle East and suggests that the hearts and minds campaign against the “Islamic world… [which is] in deep crisis” is better understood by Christians. She then chastises the US government for denying that the “crisis” has “anything to do with Islam”.

Another interesting choice is the sexually aggressive Anglican neocon Reverend Patrick Sookhdeo.  Like the above, he believes that Islam itself is the problem and the idea that there is a “moderate Islam” is a “myth”. In 2002, he wrote that “Islam unreformed is barbaric” and that it’s “only future is in having a Martin Luther”.  In a 2005 article for the Spectator, fully exploiting the hype and fear of the 7/7 attacks, he suggested that the only solution for Muslims was to deform Islam and secularise themselves, subject British Islamic charities to discriminatory scrutiny, promote spies amongst the Muslim community and offer allegiance to the Crown in order override their allegiance to co-religionists. Only then, according to Sookdheo, could Islam “co-exist peacefully with the rest of society in the 21st century”.  With the benefit of hindsight, the neocon Sookhdeo was in reality laying down the demands and foundations for what we know today as PREVENT.

I can keep going but the point is clear; Ferguson references are knee-deep in the violent, anti-Islam hate industrial complex.

Hatemongering Conspiracy Theorists

A deconstruction of Hirsi Ali’s entire report is beyond the remit of this piece, however, the crux of Hirsi Ali’s claims is that Da’wah is part of a “civilizational Jihad” which seeks to ultimately destroy the West. Based on this premise she comments:

“It is indeed accurate to state that the goal of dawa is to Islamize; but it is more complex, more sinister, and more far-reaching than the idea of missionary work suggests.

To prove this, she cites a proposed memorandum of understanding from 1991 authored by Mohammad Akram. Hirsi Ali highlights that in it, Akram calls for a “kind of grand Jihad” to destroy Western civilisation from “within”.  From this she concludes that this is the goal of “Islamists”.

These claims are widely considered to be conspiracy theories propagated by the anti-Muslim neocon fringe including conspiracy theorist Gaffney and the Home Office-banned anti-Islam hatemonger Robert Spencer, whose vitriolic writings have directly inspired the terrorist Breivik. In a comprehensive analysis of the conspiracy theory, a team of academic researchers at the Bridge Initiative based in Georgetown University concluded,

“For Gaffney and his group, this document lends legitimacy to their preexisting conspiracy theory about a stealth jihad to take over America. It’s a red herring that has — until now — allowed them to deflect accusations that their theories are simply wild conjectures.

In other words, Hirsi-Ali has used discredited conspiracy theories born in the heart of Islamophobia industry to prove her thesis.

Muslims a “Problem” and “Threat

Reconstituting the colonialist labels “moderate” and “extreme”, Hirsi Ali formulates the terms “Medina” and “Makkah Muslims” respectively.  For Hirsi both these categories are problematic because “Makkah Muslims” do not want to deform their faith and Medina Muslims whom are the “most problematic” are characterised by their desire to live by the “strict letter of our creed” and the Shari’ah. Indeed, Muslims whom effectively follow orthodox, unreformed Islam are people who “pose a threat to us all” (p.31).

The only acceptable Muslims for Hirsi Ali are pro-Israel funded neoconservative deformists, or, as she likes to call them, “modifying Muslims” (some of whom are “apostates”).  Conveniently, she provides an example list of acceptable Muslims  that are concordant to her quisling world:

HirsiAlisMuslims

After noting that many people in prison become Muslims, she states that terrorism is symptomatic of Islam:

“According to his research, 80 percent of prisoners who “find faith” while behind bars convert to Islam That effectiveness of Islamization in American jails is a perfect illustration of the futility of focusing narrowly on ‘violent extremism.’ For acts of terrorism are merely a symptom of a much more profound ideological epidemic. (P.32)

Zakat Implicated

Based off her conspiracy theories, she renders any Islamic concept associated with Da’wah into a tool for a sinister plot to destroy the West. Thus, the concept of “tarbiyya” or spiritual/religious/moral development most Muslim children go through is part of her fantasy plot. Furthermore, the desire for Muslims to “commit themselves just as the first companions of Muhammad did” is part and parcel of “Islamist dawa”.  (p.38).

She also attacks the pillaric Islamic obligation of Zakat, or alms giving:

“The Islamist infrastructure worldwide relies heavily on zakat…One way of financing the agenda of Islamization is hiding these efforts under the cover of humanitarian aid. (P.38)

Hirsi Ali constructs an image of sneaky Muslims with secret agendas coaxing unwitting, sinful Muslims into giving money to purchase paradise through Zakat.  In doing so, she implicates charities into her conspiracy theories.  Providing an example of how Da’wah and charity occur “near conflict zones”, she gives the example of Bosnia among other countries. Whilst it is true that Muslims certainly give money to alleviate human suffering, the implied link to nefarious takeover plots and terrorism is nothing more than another device to initiate deformation by force.

Bosnia is a pretty bad example too.  Money was certainly funnelled into Bosnia, but it was courtesy of her pro-Israeli, co-ideologists. A few years after Desert Storm, a “Bosnia Defense Fund” was set up.  Millions of dollars came from various countries to buy weapons and military training from US private security firms like Military Professional Resources Inc for Bosnians. According to investigative journalist Wayne Madsen, the fund was established by extremist pro-Israel neocon Douglas Feith and his Israeli-American partner Marc Zell through their law firm Feith and Zell, with the assistance of neocon Richard Perle.

The message from Hirsi Ali is clear: being an orthodox Muslim who engages in Da’wah and facilitates charitable funds is a threat.

Endorsement of Trump’s anti-Muslim Discrimination

As is evident from the above, her distinction between Islam and “Political Islam” is utterly obsolete. In the following quote, she also removes the distinction between Islam and “violent extremism”:

“Two successive administrations have approached the problem of political Islam with a completely flawed strategy: the illusion that a line could somehow be drawn between Islam, “a religion of peace,” adhered to by a moderate majority, and “violent extremism, engaged in by a tiny minority.

This means that aside from the usual neocon-favourites like Muslim Brotherhood, Jam’ati Islam, traditionalist movements like the Deobandi traditional and the peaceful intra-Muslim missionary group Tablighi Jam’at (p.28) are to be the subject of her McCarthyism.

Being a neocon, it is now expected that after the flimsy architecture of the Islamic enemy, proposals which erode civil liberties are to be suggested. Hirsi Ali’s proposals, though, are shocking.

The first sign of her fascist tendancies can be found in the beginning of her report.  Donald Trump’s security policy has been widely condemned for its discriminatory focus on Muslims. She begins the report welcoming this discrimination as “refreshing and heartening” p.10.  As other writers have adequately demonstrated, such ideas have come from distinctly violent neocons such, as Michael Ledeen and Gaffney.

McCarthyism for Muslims

Hirsi concludes that Da’wah must be combatted:

“In the new paradigm, we must continue to seek the destruction of groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, but we must also develop a suitable strategy to combat dawa.

She declares Da’wah to be a form of nonviolent extremism and explains that the US cannot combat it adequately due to constitutional rights. She states,

“The United States is in a much weaker position than most European states to combat the various forms of nonviolent extremism known as dawa.”(p.56)

Though she claims she is not arguing for McCarthyism, she believes the “reversion” to “libertarian insistence on First Amendment rights” p.58 from McCarthyism and the “The Subversive Activities Control Board” has made the United States “exceptionally handi-capped”. This of course forces the conclusion that McCarthyist measures are required. Buttressing this point is her argument that the balance in favour of liberty is in need of “reconsideration” by the legislature in order to “correct” the balance. (p.59)

She further states that those engaged in Da’wah should not have their religious rights protected:

“It is the job of Congress to find the right balance in the face of this specific threat between our rights and freedoms and a policy package that is effective in combating the threat. Protection of the religious rights of the members of the Muslim minority who are not engaged in Islamist dawa should be an integral part of that package.

Those Muslims that are engaged in Da’wah must prepare for their civil liberties to be curtailed.

She makes the following recommendations for a renewed security policy targeting Muslims:

  • Subjection of refugees and immigrants to “Ideological Scrutiny” as happened “during the Cold War”
  • Individuals seeking temporary entry, permanent residency, and citizenship into the US must be interrogated of their beliefs including “support for Sharia”. Da’wah activities would be a cause for revocation. (p.67)
  • Designate the Egyptian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organisation. (p.68)
  • Implementation of “Ideological Screening” for Government Chaplains.
  • Greater intelligence powers to investigate Islamist groups where they haven’t committed a crime. (p.69)
  • Wage a cyber war on organizations engaged in Da’wah

The level of fascist measures targeting specifically the Muslim minority is astonishing.  The question remains, are Muslims waging war on Western notion of freedom, or neocons like Hirsi Ali?

Ferguson’s Supporting Narrative for Casey Review

The conspiracy theories pedalled to pursue a fascist closed society agenda contextualises Ferguson’s piece.  Continuing the theme of prejudice, Ferguson perpetuates the view that Muslims are to be viewed suspiciously simply because of their differing views:

“… there are many less visible organisations — Islamic centres with shadowy imams — busily spreading the mind poison.

To prove this “poison” of Da’wah, Ferguson refers to certain ideas and beliefs held by Muslims, citing a report by Policy Exchange titled “Unsettled Belonging”. The report regurgitates aspects of Islamic beliefs that already been demonised in Trevor Philips’ anti-Muslim documentary, and the racist, discriminatory Casey Review. These beliefs and aspirations are those which belong to the orthodox Muslim community, such as not integrating with non-Muslims in “all aspects of life” (indeed, this is practically impossible as prohibitions on liquor for instance would prevent “integration” with Britain’s pub culture), and believing in Shari’ah (which is in effect the Qur’an and Hadith).

Are Jews who follow Halacha law also mentally poisoned? Are Jewish plans for an “eruv” zone which sees an area in London encircled by six miles of fishing wire to avoid restrictions on Sabbath, a sign of “unsettled belonging”?  Are other minorities, in other words, also a security threat because they simply differ in their worldviews? Religious-Zionist Jewish settlers are publishing blueprints for a Torah-based kingdom in which non-Jews cannot hold public office and free people can be enslaved at will. One Rabbi commenting on this plan has stated that,

“It is not a theoretical book but one calling for action, with practical conclusions at its end… The halakhic discussions in the book seem to be geared to serving one purpose – to find as many rulings as possible permitting the killing of as many non-Jews as possible.

I suspect these issues are of no concern for the neocons.

Concluding Remarks

Neocons have refined the art of political exploitation of emotional tragic events to create inter-communal tension.  The reality this time is that their agenda to foster their little closed society empire has been badly exposed.

From using an incident which repeatedly distances itself from an “Islamic” motivation, to relying on Islamophobic works that are as intellectually honest and unbiased as Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, whatever miniscule credibility Ferguson – and the neocon mafia – may have had in some far-flung corner of a parallel universe, has been destroyed. The proposals are more worrying; peeling away Ferguson’s shoddy article reveals a disconcerting justification for McCarythism specifically targeting Muslim minorities.

The problem is not adhering to and propagating a faith which intrinsically links perfection faith to protection of people from harm, but the neocon disdain for people who refuse to be subjugated for their own parasitic purposes. The sooner the people begin to take action against this retroviral thinking, the better it is for all concerned.

 

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