Friday, June 17, 2016

Business Recorder editorial June 15, 2016

Orlando fallout The Orlando, Florida massacre of 49 people with another 53 wounded by a US-born man of Afghan origin has evoked an atmosphere of hate and fear mongering inside the US and in Europe. It has directly impacted the ongoing presidential race, with Donald Trump stoking the fires of prejudice and Islamophobia. Initially during his run for the Republican nomination, Trump wanted all Muslim immigration to the US banned. By now, perhaps because he was condemned roundly for going against the basic founding tenets of the US, he has ‘retreated’ to only wanting immigration from areas with a proven track record of terrorism banned. Topping his list of countries from which immigration should be banned are Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. He then went on to argue that Islamic State (IS) was recruiting American Muslims to fight in the US, and ‘taking over’ American children to convince them how wonderful IS and Islam are. Political correctness, he declared, cripples the ability to talk, think and act clearly (aimed no doubt at President Barack Obama). Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, his Democratic rival in the presidential race, warned against demonising American Muslims. Such inflammatory rhetoric, she cautioned, makes the US less safe, while talk of banning Muslim immigration was offensive and counterproductive. The US’s open, diverse society, she argued, was an asset in the struggle against terrorism, not a liability. Islam is not our adversary, Muslims are peaceful and tolerant and have nothing to do with terrorism, she emphasised. The exchange of statements between the two front runners in the US presidential race and the commentary going on in the US media indicates that the Orlando tragedy has placed Muslims centre-stage once again in the presidential race. It has been there before, especially after the San Bernardino, California incident of December 2, 2015, when a couple of Pakistani origin killed 14 people at a party. However, the high casualty count in Orlando, and its proximity to the presidential election on November 8, 2016, has ensured it will remain a major issue throughout the campaign. Across the Atlantic, European far right parties and forces are portraying the wave of refugees and immigrants inundating its shores as a serious threat. Terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, etc, have fed into this scare mongering. In Britain, on the eve of its Brexit referendum, the ‘out’ campaigners are warning against an Orlando-type terrorist incident arriving in Britain if it remains within the European Union. It does not seem that incidents like these, including the knifing to death of a police commander and his partner in France by a French-born, Moroccan-origin man, are necessarily IS-controlled. The ‘lone wolf’, IS-inspired phenomenon has arrived with a vengeance. Unlike al-Qaeda, which prefers organized, planned attacks, IS’s message is radicalizing the progeny of immigrant parents to carry out these bloody attacks that are indiscriminate in nature. The Orlando incident may or may not have had a homophobic aspect to it, but the blood of the innocent spilt there drowns out such nuances. The reaction from the Right, hate, fear mongering and Islamophobia, are providing the terrorists an effective propaganda tool. This may have global repercussions since it plays into the hands of groups like IS, whose thesis is built upon the foundation that the west hates Muslims per se. Relations between the Muslim world and the west, particularly the US (thanks to Trump) may deteriorate amongst a welter of accusations and counter-accusations, deepening and widening the gulf that has already appeared because of terrorist attacks by a few fanatics on western soil. Pakistan is already feeling the wind of US alienation because of the Afghan conundrum. Other Muslim countries, even those well disposed towards the west, may soon find the space for friendship shrinking. That promises a world riven by even more conflict, terrorism and war. To pull humanity back from this brink requires sensible parties and forces in the west to combat this castigation of an entire religion and its believers and equally, such forces in the Muslim world are required to create an effective narrative against the distorted version of Islam put out by the terrorists, as well as continuing actions to put them out of business.

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