The Tactics of Bigotry: Cut, Paste, Smear, Repeat
By Elias Abdullah
All bigotry contains a measure of misrepresenting the “Other” in nefarious ways. For example, the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, depicts an imaginary meeting of Jewish leaders who expound upon Judaism’s teaching to conquer and dominate the world through cunning and intrigue. In a similar fashion, Islamophobes imagine a vast conspiracy of Muslim villains who employ deception and stealth jihad to take over the world. In this way, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are really two sides of the same coin; the tactics are the same, the targets are different. Those tactics, the tactics of bigotry, can be described in a four step process: cut, paste, smear, repeat. These four steps support the validation of the supremacist narrative.
- Cut. If any document or discourse is long enough, it becomes inevitable that certain phrases and sentences become unintelligible if not taken in the context of the whole. The bigot’s job is to mine the text for any and all sentences or phrases that can be used to support the supremacist narrative.
- Paste. Bring all those bits of quotation together and arrange them in an order that makes sense to the supremacist narrative.
- Smear. Use the cut-and-pasted material to level wild allegations against your opponent. No need for the allegations to be true. Once spoken, the damage is already done. The victim now has to take time away from his core message to devote to damage control. A classic example of this in modern politics is the resignation of Shirley Sherrod.
- Repeat. Repeat the allegations as far and wide as possible. Create a network of closed information systems (websites, blogs, magazines, publishing companies) that repeat the lies. The more people repeat the lies, the more they become credible and worthy of attention.
Examples of Cut, Paste, Smear, Repeat in Action
Anti-Semitism (hatred of Jews) strongly mirrors Islamophobia. For Anti-Semites, the target is Talmud. Altogether the allegations against the Talmud are:
- Deviates from or supersedes the Bible
- Is not a divine work
- Contains absurd or sexually immoral content
- Is superstitious
- Endorses child molestation
- Views women as inferior to men
- Prohibits non-Jews from studying the Talmud
- Insults Jesus and his mother Mary
- Treats non-Jews as inferior to Jews
- Punishes non-Jews more severely than Jews for ox-goring incidents
- Treats non-Jews as non-human
- Permits Jews to leave non-Jews to die
- Does not punish Jews for murdering non-Jews
- States that gentiles are habituated to adultery, bestiality, and homosexuality
- States that Jews may not drink wine touched by a gentile
- Permits Jews to lie to non-Jews (e.g. the Kol Nidrei prayer)
- Permits Jews to steal from non-Jews
Anti-Semites, such as David Duke, go to great lengths to project these accusations onto all Jews and thereby promote prejudice and hostility towards every Jewish person. The Anti-Defamation League has shown how many of the so-called “smoking gun” passages in the Talmud that allegedly confirm anti-Semitic suspicions are taken out of context:
ADL’s report, The Talmud in Anti-Semitic Polemics, exposes how certain passages from the Talmud and other traditional Jewish texts are used to foment anti-Semitism through distortions and fabrications. The authors of anti-Talmudic polemics seek to paint Judaism as an immoral religion that preaches hatred for non-Jews and promotes obscenity, criminality, sexual perversion and other immoral acts. Widely available on the Internet, such anti-Talmudic tracts “are clearly designed to provoke hostility toward Jews,” Mr. Foxman said.
Islamophobes operate in a similar manner; the only difference is that the target is not the Torah or the Talmud, but the Quran and the Hadith. A classic example is the myth about the Verse of the Sword. The verse reads:
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war)… (9:5)
Most Islamophobes, like Geert Wilders in his film Fitna, will stop there and conclude that this verse is a carte blanche to kill any non-Muslim. It is more than enough evidence to confirm their preconceived (and politically convenient) notions that Islam and all Muslims are commanded to kill every non-Muslim and are engaged in every conceivable evil: rape, pillage, murder, terrorism, misogyny (hated of women), irrationality, fanaticism, etc. But what does the rest of the verse say?
…but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (9:5)
What about the following verses?
If one amongst the Pagans ask you for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge. How can there be a league, before Allah and His Messenger, with the Pagans, except those with whom you made a treaty near the sacred Mosque? As long as these stand true to you, stand you true to them: for Allah loves the righteous. (9:6-7)
It is understood in classical Sunni Tafsir that the clause “slay them wherever you find them” refers specifically to the Arab tribes that broke their treaties with Muhammad and initiated fighting against him. The verse 9:7 is interpreted in Tafsir Jalalayn as follows:
How can polytheists [that were treacherous and violated their treaties] have a covenant with Allah and His Messenger? Except for those with whom you entered covenants [i.e., the polytheists who did not break them and hence were not treacherous] in the Sacred Mosque. So as long as they are true to you [with their covenants and do not breach them] then be true to them [by also fulfilling your covenants]; verily, Allah loves those who fear Him [i.e., He loves those who fulfill covenants, since whoever fears Allah will fulfill his covenants, and the Prophet kept his word and upheld his side of the treaty until his enemies broke theirs].
Some following verses make it even clearer that the Muslims were told to fight only against the hostile tribes that broke their peace treaties:
But if they break their oath after having made an agreement with you, if they revile your religion, then fight the leaders of disbelief—oaths mean nothing to them—so that they may stop. How could you not fight a people who have broken their oaths, who tried to drive the Messenger out, who attacked you first? Do you fear them? It is God you should fear if you are true believers. (9:12-13)
For this reason, Shaykh Mahmud Shaltut (d. 1963), formerly rector of Al-Azhar University, stated the following points which represent the mainstream Sunni position:
- That there is not a single verse in the Quran which could support the opinion that the aim of fighting in Islam is conversion.
- That there are only three reasons for fighting: to stop aggression, to protect the mission of Islam, and to defend religious freedom.
- That in giving its prescriptions for fighting, the Quran did not allow greed, selfishness, and humiliation of the poor as motives for it, but intended it as an instrument for peace and tranquility and for a life founded on justice and equality.
- That the poll-tax is not a financial compensation for the granting of one’s life or preservation of one’s own religion, but a symbol of submission (to the law) and desistance from harmful acts and a contribution in carrying the burdens of the state.
In every surah (chapter) of the Quran in which verses mention fighting there are surrounding verses that council patience, restraint, and mercy. However, by citing only half of verse 9:5, Islamophobes pretend they are able to provide “smoking gun” evidence that Islam and Muslims are a threat to world peace.
Our website, Defend the Prophet, is designed to be a resource for Muslims and non-Muslims to challenge the supremacist narrative at the heart of Islamphobia. That narrative has been described by Runnymede Trust in their comprehensive definition of Islamophobia:
- Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
- Islam is seen as separate and ‘other’. It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
- Islam is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist.
- Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a ‘clash of civilizations’.
- Islam is seen as a political ideology and is used for political or military advantage.
- Criticisms made of the West by Islam are rejected out of hand.
- Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
- Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural or normal.
Islamophobic bigots like Ali Sina and Robert Spencer spread a supremacist narrative that paints Muslims as merely villainous characters (crude caricatures) in their narrative of the West vs. Islam. Prophet Muhammad, we are told, was a warlord, a terrorist, a rapist, a misogynist, a lecher (perverse), a narcissist, a madman, a pedophile, and every other unthinkable horror. By extension, the Muslims are spreading war, terror, rape, misogyny, perversity, pedophilia, and all around evil in general. Such supremacist narratives are a danger not only to the target community, but to the supremacists themselves. A similar supremacist narrative has contributed to legally recognized genocide in Bosnia. According to Dr. Norman Cigar at the Strategic Studies Institute, the Serbians’ Islamophobic propaganda was necessary to justify the genocide:
In particular, these [Serbian] intellectuals have been instrumental in establishing and cementing an in-group/out-group dichotomy between the Muslims and the Serbs based on stereotypes, a fact which has been central to forming the environment and establishing the legitimacy for much of the violence that occurred.
[Qureshi, E., & Sells, M. A. (2003). The new crusades: Constructing the Muslim enemy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 314]
This is why people of conscience cannot sit by while Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, or any other kind of bigotry threatens peace. There is a wisdom for all people in Prophet’s Muhammad’s parable:
Narrated Nu’man bin Bashir: The Prophet said: The parable of the man who observes the limits prescribed by Allah and that of the man who transgresses them is like the people who get on board a ship after casting lots. Some of them are in its lower deck and some of them in its upper (deck). Those who are in its lower (deck), when they require water, go to the occupants of the upper deck, and say to them: “If we make a hole in the bottom of the ship, we shall not harm you.” If they (the occupants of the upper deck) leave them to carry out their design they all will be drowned. But if they do not let them go ahead (with their plan), all of them will remain safe.
[Riyad us Saliheen #187]
Our health as a society is dependent upon the soundness of each other’s action, just like the people in the ship. The bigots, whether they come in the Islamophobic, Anti-Semitic, racist variety – or an as of yet to be termed bigotry – are a danger to society as a whole. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us, as individuals, and our leaders, to reject the tactics of bigotry – the tactics of cut, paste, and smearing.
We ask Allah for guidance and protection against the bigotry of the human soul.
Original post: The Tactics of Bigotry: Cut, Paste, Smear, Repeat