When, in the last years, Marine Corps Intelligence put together a report on the practice of “cultural Islam” in Afghanistan, it noted that “Afghans are a traditionally superstitious culture,” specifically referencing the weight given to dreams and symbols as well as “practices…such as the evil eye superstition.” The “official use only” document noted that the Taliban sometimes plays to “Afghan mystical traditions” in its propaganda, but also uses Afghans’ “fear of God to… turn locals against United States forces.” Through their heavily footnoted 12-page analysis, Marine Intel hoped to provide U.S. troops with a useful primer on Afghanistan’s history, religious beliefs, cultural practices, and social mores to help troops to counteract insurgent “information operations.”
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if you can’t stop your forces from repeatedly blowing up wedding parties, conducting airstrikes on unarmed children, massacring villagers, urinating on dead locals, and burning their holy book, all efforts at employing sophisticated cultural knowledge to win hearts and minds and “counterac[t] enemy propaganda that portrays Coalition forces as oppressive foreign invaders that do not respect Islamic life in Afghanistan” are likely to fail in spectacular fashion. Instead, Americans might be better served by conducting analyses of cultures closer home as TomDispatch regular and co-director of the Foreign Policy in Focus website John Feffer does today in his illuminating (and chilling) look at election year Islamophobia in America.
And if you really want to understand Second Wave Islamophobia in all its intricacies and the many peculiarities twenty-first century America — a “superstitious culture” if ever there was one — you need to read Feffer’s new book, Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War on Islam. It covers the bizarre American campaign against Muslims, foreign and domestic, real and imagined, from the moment President George W. Bush first brought the word “crusade” back from the dead to this very moment in the Obama age. Someday, this episode in our history will undoubtedly be seen as a kind of American derangement and Feffer’s book will be the Ur-text. Nick Turse
Creating the Muslim Manchurian Candidate
The Right Wing’s Election-Year Islamophobia
By John Feffer
Those who fervently believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim generally practice their furtive religion in obscure recesses of the Internet. Once in a while, they’ll surface in public to remind the news media that no amount of evidence can undermine their convictions.
In October 2008, at a town hall meeting in Minnesota for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, a woman called Obama “an Arab.” McCain responded, incongruously enough, that Obama was, in fact, “a decent family man” and not an Arab at all. In an echo of this, a woman recently stood up at a town hall in Florida and began a question for Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum by asserting that the president “is an avowed Muslim.” The audience cheered, and Santorum didn’t bother to correct her. Read the rest of this entry →