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Bigotry Needs to be Defeated
by Dr. Habib Siddiqui
2010-10-26 06:29:19
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During the presidential days of Jimmy Carter, many of the southern states of the USA were Democratic states. In the following 24 years, the Republicans were able to gain their foothold in those states. In the last presidential election many of those seats, once held by the Republicans switched back to the Democratic Party, giving the party the control over both the Houses in the Capitol Hill – the Senate and the House of Representatives.

America goes to the poll in its mid-term election on November 2. Many political analysts think that with a weak economy the ruling Democrats may lose a significant number of seats. I have my doubts though. I think that the Democrats may still hold onto a slim majority in both the Houses.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, a couple of months ago, Pat Toomey, the Republican candidate, vying to replace the Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, whom Joe Sestak beat in the May primary election, had a double digit lead over the latter candidate in some sample polls of likely voters. According to the latest polls, however, the race is dead even now. I have an important business meeting to participate in New Jersey on the election date. Because of the seriousness of this year’s election, I plan to cast my vote first and then drive up to New Jersey. Obviously, I am not going to cast my vote for Toomey, a dim-witted opportunist politician who has been trying to sell bigotry to get elected. On the election night, we shall find out how many Pennsylvanians had swallowed such poison pills.

As I noted many times, bigotry sells. It is not a question of either democracy – liberal or illiberal – or autocracy that either marginalizes or promotes this evil. Thus, I am not surprised to note that some of the worst crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated by Europeans against the various minorities, whether that be the case with the Jews in Germany in the Nazi era, Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims in former Yugoslavia/Serbia in the 1990s and French Muslims and Roma people in France in recent years. India claims to be a secular state where parliamentary form of democracy is practiced. However, that brand of all-inclusive Gandhian secularism has been dead long time ago. Nowhere is this sad reality more evident than the state of Gujarat, Gandhi’s birthplace, where Hindutvadi politicians like Narendra Modi with Hindu fundamentalist and ultra-religious identities and programs have been able to run the state affairs.

These Hindu fanatics and fundamentalist are actually no better than the Talibans to the west. On a comparative study, one can even argue that the latter are better than these Hindu bigots. After all, no foreign power or religious minority had invaded or attacked India before the demolition of the historical Babri Mosque in Ayodhya or massacre of Muslims in Godhra to suggest a causal relationship for such horrendous crimes. The recent verdict on the so-called disputed mosque site has once again unmasked the sheer hollowness of the Indian judicial system which has bowed down to Hindutvadi pressure.

Look at the Indian Occupied Kashmir where peaceful protesters, epitomizing Gandhian brand of non-violence, are mercilessly killed by the Indian troops! India talks about democracy. Where is that democracy in Kashmir where its people are denied their basic rights to decide their fate? Isn’t sixty three years too long a time to deny such rights? I don’t see any Gandhian activist crying foul about such monumental crimes of the Indian government. I can guess their answer: Gandhian non-violence won’t work in India (as it never did in the Occupied Palestine either). Haven’t we seen enough that violent means are the last resorts to many protesters when they have exhausted peaceful means of resolving their legitimate demand for fairness and equality, the basic right to decide their fate?

In a highly orchestrated pogrom, in the last few years alone, tens of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims have been killed, scores of their houses of worship destroyed, and thousands of their women raped, in that territory so that no Kashmiri would dare to utter the word ‘freedom’.

In the Indian states like West Bengal where the so-called secular Marxists have ruled for decades, one can notice some of the worst forms of discrimination against its sizable Muslim minorities. They are the forgotten 25% that are denied access to government jobs, institutions, education, everything. In most such government jobs, Muslim representation is less than one percent. What a joke to secular and democratic India! The neighboring Bangladesh has much better scores than India on those counts for its minorities.

In the USA, nowhere are the signs of bigotry more visible than in the south, the so-called Bible-belt. As I noted elsewhere neoconservative and fundamentalist Christian views are more openly heard there than at any other place. It is the Fox News and the radio talk shows hosted by bigots that are the only sources of information for many southerners. It is these programs that basically mold their mindsets and worldviews, in which, sadly the American inclusiveness (a fresh departure from the European Christian bigotry), as often heard in the NPR (National Public Radio), is getting buried day in and day out.  Like brain-dead zombies many of these southern listeners are willing to imagine the worst of the ‘other’ people, and preempt strikes in a trigger-happy manner.

There is definitely a battle brewing out in the USA today. It is about bigotry in general, and Islamophobia, or rather hatred of Islam and Muslims, in particular. Its evil promoters are the Bill O’Reillys of the TV programs, Rush Limbaughs of the radio talk shows, and Ann Coulters and Robert Spencers of the print media, Newt Gingriches and Sarah Palins of the political spectrum, and Franklin Grahams and Pat Robertsons of the evangelical Christian establishment. With preachers, politicians, pen-pushing pundits, publishers and psychoanalysts it is a full circle to promote bigotry where nothing is left out.

While Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia have been witnessing the ugly faces of that bigotry, fortunately, nothing serious outside some sporadic attacks on Muslim lives and properties have taken place inside the American soil.

In their zealous support for Israel, many Likudnik American Jews with a strong desire to see all the Palestinians – Muslims and Christians alike – expelled from the Occupied Palestine are behind-the-scene promoters of this anti-Muslim bigotry. If history is any lesson they ought to know better than anyone else that when bigotry unleashes its evil, it does not and will not discriminate between a Muslim and a Jew -- supportive or otherwise. And the same goes for all vulnerable minority Hindus and Buddhists.

It is high time for conscientious Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, denominations and faiths to wake up to the gradual erosion of the very values that once endeared America to the rest of the world. This battle of the heart must be won by defeating the promoters and preachers of bigotry. The First Amendment should not be abused as a launching pad to justify hatred, xenophobia and bigotry. As I wrote some years ago on xenophobia, these promoters of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam bigotry today are no less criminals than Julius Stryker of the Nazi era of Germany. They must be identified and disowned by denying them the right to market bigotry.

It is there that I fully understand and endorse why the NPR had fired Juan Williams. For long time, Juan’s views were a constant irritant to many listeners who wanted a balanced and more neutral analysis of events and not demagoguery or prejudice, packaged under honest journalism. Instead what they got was bigotry and xenophobia. In the hate-ridden Bill O’Reilly program in the Fox News, Williams said that he felt unease about seeing Muslims on airplanes. (As everyone knows by now those alleged plane hijackers on 9/11 were all western-dressed individuals, and could not be discerned as Muslims.) How is Juan’s moronic view different than that of a KKK clan member from the 1950s or 1960s who felt the same thing about seeing a black person in the bus or train that he rode?

Coming as it did from an Afro-American whose race not too long had endured some of the worst abuses ever practiced against the ‘other’ people, Williams sounded like a house nigger, and not the field nigger that people could respect. His remarks made at the Fox News epitomized racial profiling and showed what a mischievous character he has become at the altar of xenophobia and bigotry. No wonder that he is now celebrated as a fallen hero by the Fox News and the promoters of bigotry. Former House speaker Gingrich demanded that the Congress should consider cutting off NPR’s public funding for firing Williams. Fox News just signed Williams up for a multi-million dollar contract.

None of these promotions of bigotry should be taken lightly, and must be defeated before America falls into the same trap that Europe continues to dig for herself. My vote for Sestak would be one such small step to defeat the demons of bigotry.

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Emanuel Paparella2010-10-26 08:40:29
True to form, Dr. Siddiqui presents his usual one side of the coin and pretends it is the whole truth. Well, it is not. To present only a partial truth means ultimately to discredit truth in general and make it all the harder to accept even the partial truths presented. Indeed, there is bigotry and there is bigotry revealing itself as a Junghian shadow.
On the issue of Kashmir, here is the other side of the coin which Dr. Siddiqui has somehow managed to leave out thus discrediting what may be true in his piece on bigotry:

Pakistan, as an Islamic Republic, imposes multiple restrictions on peoples religious freedom in areas of Kashmir under its control. Shias and Ismailis are subject to discrimination and have been targets of sectarian violence. The majority of population of the Northern Areas is Shia unlike rest of Pakistan which is majority Sunni. The constitution of Azad Kashmir specifically prohibits activities that may be prejudicial to the states accession to Pakistan and as such regularly suppresses demonstrations against the government. A number of Islamist militant groups operate in this area including Al-Qaeda with tacit permission from Pakistan's intelligence. As in Indian administered Kashmir there have been allegations of Human rights abuse in Pakistan administered Kashmir. The Balawaristan National Front has stated its goal of seeking independence from Pakistan. Abdul Hamid Khan Chairman of Balawaristan National Front states that 'The Pakistani administration has also been involved in efforts to alter the demographic profile of Pakistan-occupied Gilgit Baltistan, reducing the indigenous people to a minority.' The Gilgit-Baltistan area is administered directly by Islamabad. The population here, primarily Shia Muslims, was brought under one federally administered territory administered by Pakistan on 16 November 1947, in the name of Islam.' Other groups like Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement are demanding full autonomy for the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan. On 8 January 2005 11 people were killed following an armed attack on a Shia leader. A 2-day conference on Gilgit Baltistan was held on April 8–9, 2008 at the European Parliament in Brussels under the auspices of International Kashmir Alliance. Here several members of the European Parliament (MEPs) expressed concern over the human rights violation in Gilgit Baltistan and urged the government of Pakistan to establish democratic institutions and rule of law in this area of northern Kashmir. Abdul Hamid Khan, Chairman Balawaristan National Front speaking at the same conference said "no democratically elected representative (from Gilgit Baltistan) was included when Karachi Agreement was signed between Pakistan and Muslim Conference leaders in 1949." According to Shaukat Ali chairman of International Kashmir alliance "On one hand Pakistan claims to be the champion of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people, but she has denied the same rights under its controlled parts of Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan" Gilgit Baltistan region has been described a 'simmering cauldron of discontent. Continued deprivation of human rights has driven people to desperation. Many people think that they are under the colonial rule of Pakistani government and have boycotted independence day celebrations. Since independence Pakistan government has made no attempts to provide basic human rights in this region and no democratic setup exists.

Satya2010-10-30 18:18:39
Little learning is dangerous. This one is again proved in Emanuel's writeup below. It shows a pathetic understanding of the politics of the region. Every claim made by Emanuel is wrong. Shias don't live in the northern areas of Pakistan, nor are the Shias and Ismailis subject to discrimination. The founder of the nation Jinnah himself was of that denomination. Azad Kashmir, unlike the ridiculous claim of Emanuel, is the piece that is away from Indian control, where the Afghans are not suppressed. It is the IOK territory on the Indian side that is under constant curfew for nearly two decades. I can go on pointing ludicrous nature of Emanuel's of history lesson.

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