islam, dark view, trump
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Dr. Moeed Pirzada |

On Feb 1, 2017, three leading investigative reporters of New York Times, each distinguished in his own right – Scott Shane, Mathew Rosenberg and Eric Lipton penned down an exhaustive piece, ” Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of US Policy Making”.

This marvelous analysis – read so far by hundreds and thousand of people across both sides of the Atlantic, has generated almost two thousand comments by the time I write these lines – is an amazing reflection on how religion and politics have increasingly merged to define the world view of Donald Trump and his team of close advisers. 

Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of U.S. Policy-Making, New York Times

America under siege by a radical Islam? 

New York Times writers remind us that it was “a campaign rally in August, in Youngstown, Ohio, that President Trump most fully unveiled the dark vision of an America under siege by ‘radical Islam’ that is now drastically reshaping the policies of the United States” 

Months before Trump, as President, vowed to shut down immigration from dangerous Muslim countries, he was telling his supporters that “Islam” presents United States with a “hateful ideology” a threat that is comparable with the greatest of the evils of 20th century.

Months before Trump, as President, vowed to shut down immigration from dangerous Muslim countries, he was telling his supporters that “Islam” presents United States with a “hateful ideology” a threat that is comparable with the greatest of the evils of 20th century. He was talking of the killings down by Islamic state in middle east and how Muslims are killing innocents in nightclubs, churches and offices across west and so extreme steps were needed to fight back. 

Read more: Trump cabinet appointments will ‘undo decades of progress’, rights activists say

Scott, Mathew and Eric then went on to argue that Trump has embraced and brought into centre of US Policy making a dark suspicious view of Islam and that it has been nourished into his mind by a group of people, advisers, friends and intellectual mentors – many of whom will now be playing role in policy making. 

Principal Villains: Gen. Flynn & Stephen Bannan

New York Times identifies principal villains as Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, now his national security adviser, and Stephen K Bannon, Brietbart’s ultra-conservative Radio host and now Trump’s top strategist. New York Times writers also mention secondary characters like James Jay Carafano, a security expert at the Heritage Foundation who advised the Trump transition at the Department of Homeland Security, Sebastian Gorka, who taught at the National Defense University and is a deputy national security adviser and Mr. Gorka’s wife, Katharine, who headed think tanks that focused on the dangers of Islam, and who now works at the Department of Homeland Security.

In addition there are secondary characters like: Tera Dahl, who was an aide to former Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, and is now a National Security Council official. Walid Phares, a Lebanese American Christian who has advised politicians on counterterrorism, has advised Mr. Trump’s campaign but does not currently have a government post. All four have written for Breitbart News, the right-wing website previously run by Mr. Bannon. And finally there is Frank Gaffney Jr. of the Center for Security Policy. He says Muslims are engaged in “this stealthy, subversive kind of jihad.”

Is this Neo-Con Era once again? 

Trump’s group of advisers all reflect the hard-line opinions of what some have described as the Islamophobia industry, a network of researchers who have warned for many years of the dangers of Islam and are now thrilled by Mr. Trump’s election. This is now almost like the famous 25 Neo-Cons who worked or lived inside Washington at the eve of taking over of the Bush administration in 2001 and who allegedly – perhaps much exaggerated by media – together made the case for the war on Iraq.

Oh man, where do we go from here? As someone who on the tragic day of 9/11, lived in New York, right at the junction of West 122nd street & Amsterdam, as a student of Columbia University, and who saw and felt the pain of Manhattan and America and then the reaction, the wars of revenge against Afghanistan, societal destruction of Pakistan and the carnage that visited upon Iraq with all those ideas of shaping a new middle east.

I was someone who had landed in Columbia university, after leaving his previous life behind in Pakistan with the aim to join either Mckinsey & Mckisney or WTO and who soon lost all his sense of direction into a whirlwind of political commotion creating a new identity – an identity of a Muslim, an identity I had no option but to defend and an identity that finally landed me into media.

I am someone, like millions of others worldwide, whose life was shaped, transformed by all the debate, wars, hatreds that followed. I was someone who had landed in Columbia university, after leaving his rather juicy and comfy life behind in Pakistan with the aim to join either Mckinsey & Mckisney or WTO and who soon lost all his sense of direction into a whirlwind of political commotion creating a new identity – an identity of a Muslim, an identity I had no option but to defend and an identity that finally landed me into media. 

Now reading the analysis of Scott, Mathew and Eric reminds me of the old Indian song, “yeh tu wohi jaga hay, guzray thehy hum jehan say” – Is not this the same place, the same point, where we had passed before?

Islamophobia or Geo-political Realignment? 

But fortunately not, world has moved full circle, it has become wizened and mature and America and west have changed a lot as a result of what they suffered, how they reacted, how they inflicted pain upon the Muslim world and then realized the futility of its over-reaction. I have this feeling that Trump and his band wagon have been left behind. They are like “Orphans of Time” like the Luddites in late 18th century England. They are trying to turn the clock back and failure is their only destiny. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was a genuine anger, anguish, inability to understand, inability to rationalize things; now America understands all this much better. Trump and his advisers will soon be contained by the American legal and constitutional system, intelligentsia, media and rival political forces. 

If this is true then Trump team has a certain and definitive kind of geopolitical design towards Middle East. Its first actions have been mostly been targeted towards Iran and its allies – Syria, Iraq and Yemen – and it has exhibited all signs of courting the traditional allies like Saudi Arabia and UAE.

New York Times believes, that the Executive Order issued by Trump to restrict the immigration and visas from seven Muslim countries is the first major victory of this “geopolitical school”. And it may soon be followed by designating “Muslim Brotherhood” the largely peaceful Islamist movement as a terrorist organization.

 


If this is true then Trump team has a certain and definitive kind of geopolitical design towards Middle East. Its first actions have been mostly been targeted towards Iran and its allies – Syria, Iraq and Yemen – and it has exhibited all signs of courting the traditional allies like Saudi Arabia and UAE. Muslim Brotherhood has already been crushed under the tanks of Gen. Sissi while Arab neighbors and west watched without emotion or human sympathy. 

We read that the Trump advisers see Islam as an inherently dangerous ideology, an ideology that in the form of ‘Sharia’ – much misunderstood word all across west – can penetrate into communities, even the US government and an ideology that due to its intolerant nature is a threat to the fabric of modern society. Followers of Islam have an inherited hatred of Christianity and Judaism: Trump team believes. 

But if this is what they believe then their apparent softness towards Saudi Arabia and its allies and their furious expressions of hostility towards Iran, Iraq and Syria would not make sense.

But if this is what they believe then their apparent softness towards Saudi Arabia and its allies and their furious expressions of hostility towards Iran, Iraq and Syria would not make sense. Some of the key middle eastern countries – antagonistic to Iran – have also supported the visa bans and travel restrictions issuing certificates of “No Islamophobia” to Trump administration. US Arab allies and even Gen. Sissi of Egypt all enjoy good relations with Israel and recent statements of Bibi Netanyahu, in fact his recent interviews on tv, make it obvious that Iran is now common enemy to both Israel and its Arab neighbors. And there is perhaps much cooperation against the common enemy.

Read more: Donald Trump confirms earlier stand on Muslim ban to USA

Islam represents a Global War against West?

All this makes me believe that there is something vital missing in the analysis of Scott, Mathew and Eric. Trump for all practical purposes is trying to reverse Obama’s – and his European supporters – opening towards Iran; he seems to be eager to revert back to the old alignments of the region; something which was desired both by Israel and Pentagon. Could his Islamophobia be as real as he projects? 

Stephen Bannon, Trump’s top strategist thinks that about Islam and Muslims: “There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global,”. Bannon, the strategist, thinks that Americans are wasting time and are refusing to look at the viciousness of that war being waged by Muslims agains the west.

Having said this, the ideas of Trump’s team as described by New York Times are definitely primitive. For instance Stephen Bannon, Trump’s top strategist thinks that: “There is a major war brewing, a war that’s already global,”. Bannon, the strategist, thinks that Americans are wasting time and are refusing to look at the viciousness of that war being waged by Muslims against the west.

Stephen Bannan: Top Strategist or a Christian Mullah? 

What kind of strategist Bannon will be? What kind of university he  went to? One wonders. Because his ideas sound essentially like the ordinary mosque mullahs, we are so used to hearing and ignoring as idiots. How come such a man is advising the President of United States. White House and Oval Office deserve better.

I wonder if Muslims will also defend western ideas with equal ferocity? Will Muslims in Pakistan say that Jews are not a threat?

New York Times piece has sparked a very interesting debate on paper’s website. As of my writing this piece for Global Village Space (GVS) almost two thousand people had commented and most of them were blasting Trump and his team’s primitive ideas. Some do, but most don’t see Islam and the Muslims as a threat.

Also, we are reacting when an American president is denying – so far only threatening – right of entry and settlement into United States. Because we take it for granted; United States has to be democracy, it has to uphold law and human rights and if it does not then we are disappointed

I wonder if Muslims will also defend western ideas with equal ferocity? Will Muslims in Pakistan say that Jews are not a threat? Or that Christianity has given more to art and sciences and philosophy than what Islam has? Or that western liberal democracy is superior to anything Muslim world has produced? Do all the rights of immigration, jobs and free travel into the US not related to the western liberal democracy? While most Muslims have joined Trump’s western critics against his Visa and immigration bans, few have condemned the Arab monarchies who came out to support Trump. We must ask why?

Do Islamophobes have a point? 

Also, we are reacting when an American president is denying – so far only threatening – right of entry and settlement into United States. And we cheer when American courts are intervening to block him, because we take it for granted; United States has to be democracy, it has to uphold constitutionalism, law and human rights and if it does not then we are disappointed, we are prepared to trash it. We even expect us to be treated decently at the American airports; we cannot be denied our life, liberty and rights without due process of law. But what about us?

When I criticize Saudi Arabia and Turkey for their brutal shenanigans against Syria, my friends are immediately convinced that I might be a Shia.

Few amongst us have stood for the right of minorities in or minority point of view in our own countries. Every time I tell someone in Pakistan that “we have mistreated Ahmedis” and that by declaring Ahmedis non-Muslim through an act of parliament we have turned our parliament into an “ecclesiastical court”, we have destroyed the very foundation of secular constitutionalism, he gets emotional and convinced that I must be an Ahmedia. 

every time I tell my colleagues that the recent abduction of few cyber warriors or blogger by Pakistani state agencies on the pretext of blasphemy is plain tyranny apart from being stupid; they get convinced that I am less of a Muslim than they are.

When I criticize Saudi Arabia and Turkey for their brutal shenanigans against Syria, my friends are immediately convinced that I might be a Shia. I failed to raise my voice when some others – like Imtiaz Gul of CRSS – were protesting on the forceful expulsion of all Afghan refugees from Pakistan. But everytime I tell my colleagues that the recent abduction of few cyber warriors or blogger by Pakistani state agencies on the pretext of blasphemy is plain tyranny apart from being stupid; they get convinced that I am less of a Muslim than they are.

 


With this ‘primitiveness’ of ordinary good Muslims, their hatred and contempt for minority point of view, their inability to tolerate dissent, and the failure of Muslim elites to provide for democratic institutions and rule of law some of the “primitive ideas” of Trump advisers start to make sense. In an interview, Mr. Gaffney, one of Trump advisers explained his view of Islam, which focuses less on the violent jihad of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State than on the quieter one he sees everywhere. He described that the potential enemies are hidden in plain sight on streets, on mosques. “They essentially, like termites, hollow out the structure of the civil society and other institutions,” Mr. Gaffney said.

Trump Pushes Dark View of Islam to Center of U.S. Policy-Making, New York Times

Muslims everywhere need to take this debate seriously. As long as  people in Muslim countries can be picked up, made to disappear, by state agencies on charges of “blasphemy “or “national interest” without any real public outcry, and elected Muslim leaders will continue to behave as Kings, and courts will continue to act as their underdogs – so far the ideas of primitive few – like those in Trump team – in west will keep sounding legitimate. Lets defeat them by addressing our hypocrisy and double standards.

Moeed Pirzada is TV Anchor & Editor Strategic Affairs with Dunya News. He is a known columnist and blogger. He tweets at: MoeedNj & his website is: www.moeedpirzada.pk. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Moeed Hasan Pirzada is a Pakistani political commentator, geostrategic analyst, and a television news journalist. He is an anchor at Dunya News and hosts TV programs. He has interviewed many politicians around the world. Moeed Hassan Pirzada has also been a Director World Affairs and Content Head of PTV News and hosted the famous talk show Sochta Pakistan, a program that discussed national, regional, strategic, social and educational issues with politicians, analysts and policy makers. He has worked with Dunya News-TV channel as a Director World Affairs and hosted the current affairs talk show Dunya Today. He has written for Dubai-based regional paper Khaleej Times. His columns have appeared in major Pakistani papers such as Dawn, The News International, Daily Times, Friday Times and blogs. He has attended national and international conferences, seminars and policy workshops and had been a member of the Prime Minister's Education Task Force that collaborated with the British Council to produce the Next Generation Report. He has contributed policy papers to Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) and also written several policy pieces for Pique Magazine. He is an Executive Director of Governance & Policy Advisors (GAPA) that provides consultancy services to the government institutions, development organizations and corporate bodies on issues related to media, governance, health policy, and regional peace.

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