The new enemy within

Anti-Muslim graffiti found written on a Muslim prayer
calendar belonging to a Jordanian American

In November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered a stirring and back-raising speech to a crowd outside the walls at Clermont, a city in the south of France, in which he said that the Christians of the East were suffering unendurable atrocities at the hands of the Muslims, who had captured and despoiled Jerusalem. The Pope said that Catholic Europe should take up arms and ‘liberate’ the Holy City. The reconquest, he said, should be a vengeful one. Thus the holy war of the first crusade was declared. In the ensuing months, some 100 000 people responded to the Pope’s call it was an 11th century ‘coalition of the willing’.

For its horror, bloodthirstiness and religious xenophobia, it is worth quoting from Pope Urban’s speech:

A race absolutely alien to God has invaded the land of the Christians, has reduced the people with sword, rapine and flame And they [the Muslims]cut open the navels of those whom they choose to torment with loathsome death, tear out their most vital organs and tie them to a stake, drag them around and flog them, before killing them as they lie prone on the ground with all their entrails out … On whom, therefore, does the task lie of avenging this, of redeeming this situation, if not on you, upon whom above all God has bestowed outstanding glory in arms, magnitude of heart, litheness of body and strength to humble anyone who resists you. (Ref. Thomas Asbridge: The First Crusade, 2004.) (Such a speech, I think, might well have been given by an American or British commander, before leading his troops into the invasion of Iraq.)

On their long journey southeast to Constantinople and Palestine, the soldiers of Christ had other work to do the destruction of the European Jews. For the medieval Christian, there were two enemies: the enemy without the infidel Muslim; and within the infidel Jew. Was it not through the wickedness of the Jews that the Holy Sepulchre had been captured by the Muslims? (Ref. Barbara W Tuchman: A Distant Mirror)

The crusaders engaged on a series of pogroms, in what has come to be called the ‘First Holocaust’. By characterising the Muslims as a subhuman species the enemies of Christendom the Pope had tapped into a well-spring of religious and racial bigotry, which spread like the plague across central and eastern Europe.

In 1215, Pope Innocent III issued a decree, requiring all Jews to wear a badge on their clothing. This emphasised their apartness; the same was required of Muslims and of prostitutes. (The latter requirement says something significent about the status of women.)

The torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of European Jews in the 11th century was not merely the work of the ignorant masses; it was the work of the noble classes ordained by God who prayed while they wielded the sword and lit the faggots of the fires.

The Jews then were known as ‘the poisoners of the wells’ and ‘the enemy within’. Today there is a new poisoner of the wells, a new enemy within the Muslim.

Anti-Muslim websites abound. For example, . Daniel Pipes who has called for the unrestricted racial profiling of Muslims in the military and the American public service was appointed by George W Bush to the board of the US Institute of Peace (link here).

Anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe especially in France is now rabid. This has become widespread since the 9/11 attacks, and the so-called ‘invasion’ from North Africa. (After the invasion of Africa by the white European in the 18th and 19th centuries, it could be argued it is now the black person’s turn.)

A study by the Helsinki Federation for Human Rights in February 2005, covering eleven European countries, revealed widespread anti-Muslim bias. In France, the banning of the wearing of the headscarf by Muslim women in government schools has provoked active discrimination; and in the UK, the media have created the impression that it is only Muslims who are ‘terrorists’.

In America, the situation is no better. In October 2003, three-star general, William Boykin an evangelical Christian described the war on terrorism as a ‘Christian war against Satan’. Boykin, who then served as deputy undersecretary of defense, was neither fired, nor even upbraided, by Donald Rumsfeld (link here). The same view is held by Franklin Graham, son of evangelist, Billy Graham, who has described Islam as a ‘very evil and wicked religion’. American evangelists, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, have said that Islam is a ‘terrorist religion’ and Muslims are a ‘fifth column’.

In July 2004, a survey revealed that one-in-four Americans held anti-Muslim views. The poll revealed that ‘Muslims valued life less than other people’, that ‘Muslims taught their children to hate’, that Muslims were ‘the enemy within’ and that ‘most Muslims were in favour of terrorist attacks’. (link here)

In Australia, ‘multiculturalism’, as far as Muslims are concerned, has proven to be so much wallpaper in society. There are the detention camps, the raids by the strongmen of DIMIA and general prejudice. (See Pamela Curr: ‘Perfecting the art of dobbing’ in New Matilda, 9 March 2005 here).

In November 2002, the Rev. Fred Nile attacked Muslim women’s traditional dress, saying the black chador body covering could be used to conceal weapons and explosives. Would the NSW government prohibit the wearing of the chador in public places? (link here)

Then in October 2003, a VCAT tribunal was told that a Christian seminar had incited hatred of Muslims by saying they were ‘terrorists and liars who planned to make Australia an Islamic country’. The Christian seminar concerned was Catch the Fire and the speaker was one Daniel Scot. (link here)

Then Archbishop Pell of NSW asserted that Islam could well be the 21st century version of Communism. (link here )

Despite the public assurances by George W Bush and John Howard that Muslims should be respected, they (the leaders) are at least partly responsible for creating a social and political climate in which anti-Muslim prejudice will grow. For example, the presence of the Treasurer, Peter Costello, at the meeting of the Hillsong Church and the rapid growth of the Pentecostal Church in Australia are heavy straws in the wind of prejudice and fear.

Was it not George W Bush who talked about ‘launching the crusade of the 21st century’?

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.