By Contributor on September 14, 2012

By Deepa Kumar

Let’s be careful not to let the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya reinforce negative stereotypes about Muslims and lead to deadly retaliation.

Whether the attack was a response to the film “Innocence of Muslims,” or whether the protest over that film provided the attackers with cover, it cannot become a justification for retribution and attacks on ordinary Muslims here or in Libya.

It must be noted first that the film is a piece of blatant anti-Muslim propaganda. It portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, a pedophile, a bumbling idiot, and a bloodthirsty fanatic and anti-Semite.

Second, the film is not an anomaly. Rather, it joins a slew of similar films produced by a well-funded Islamophobic network. Another such film is the “Third Jihad,” shown for months to NYPD recruits as part of their training, which argues that Muslims in the United States plan to infiltrate and take over the country.

Third, the Islamophobic network has attacked mosques around the country and incited fear and hatred. A mosque in Joplin, Mo., was burned to the ground in August, and there has been a 50 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes since 2010, according to the Southern Poverty law Center.

Fourth, the Islamic fundamentalists in Libya have reinforced the stereotype that “Innocence of Muslims” peddles: that Muslims are violent fanatics. They have played into the hands of the far right here.

When we focus on the far right in Libya or Egypt, we erase the almost 2 billion Muslims in the world, the vast majority of whom are nonviolent, and who voice their positions peacefully.

Let’s also remember the controversy over the Danish cartoons, when the newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran caricatures of Islam and the Prophet. A range of editorials, essays and peaceful demonstrations poured forth, but the Western media skipped over these in favor of violent demonstrations by Islamists.

When the Western media make such choices, they obscure the diversity of political thought and action in Muslim-majority countries, and they let an unrepresentative fraction of the population stand for the whole. The equivalent would be to depict Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who called for the burning of Qurans on Sept. 11, 2010, and who has promoted the anti-Muslim film, as representative of all Americans.

“Innocence of Muslims” is a film produced and promoted by the far right in the United States. The violent reaction to it came from the far right in Libya.

At the end of the day, the far right in one country has more in common with the far right in other countries than with any other segment of the world’s population. The vast majority of ordinary people are sensible and nonviolent.

In this election season, let us not allow the far right to set the agenda.

Deepa Kumar is the author of the new book “Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.” She is associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University and can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

 

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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