The Sikh Temple Carnage, White Supremacy and Islamophobia
Friday, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin six Sikh Americans, five men and one woman, victims of a terrorist attack were laid to rest “surrounded by men and women singing traditional Punjabi hymns.” They were killed in their house of worship, the Gurdwara, where they had gathered for prayer and celebration. The six fallen are as follows: Sita Singh, 41; Ranjit Singh, 49; Prakash Singh, 39; Paramjit Kaur, 41; Suveg Singh, 84; and the temple’s president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, 65.
When news of the terrorist attack on the Sikh Temple was breaking I unreservedly reported it on Loonwatch, it had all the hallmarks of an attack rooted in hate and Islamophobia. Considering the underreported increase in hate crimes and bias attacks against Sikhs, many of which are motivated by attackers’ “misplaced Islamophobia,” I highlighted that,
At the moment we do not know who the shooter was, or his motivation, but in light of the rise in bias attacks and incidents against Sikhs, who are often mistaken for Muslims, this story may be related to violent anti-Muslim Islamophobia and general xenophobia.
Immediately, Islamophobic critics, most of whom are keen on downplaying the effects of racism and bigotry took offense, claiming we were trying to score “points.” This is nothing more than their own projection, as any crime, real or perceived, possibly committed by a Muslim would forthrightly be blamed by them on “Islam.” As Wajahat Ali points out, questions about whether Wade Michael Page actually mistook Sikhs for Muslims are “irrelevant.”
We have yet to determine if Page mistook Sikhs for Muslims, but such questions are irrelevant. In today’s Islamophobic atmosphere, there has been increased marginalization of all AMEMSA (Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, South Asian) communities. In particular, Sikh Americans have faced the brunt of post 9/11 hate crimes and backlash, with Sikh men often being mistaken for Muslims. The first, post 9/11 hate crime murder was of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner in Arizona, whom the murderer chose because he was“dark-skinned, bearded and wore a turban.”
What has largely been missing from this discussion however is the relationship between White Supremacists and Islamophobia; there is a nexus that links the two. White supremacy is not new to the Islamophobia Movement. White Supremacist groups and ideologues on both sides of the Atlantic have latched onto the rhetoric of Islamophobic anti-Muslim hate, which they find to be an altogether more easier, accommodating and acceptable vehicle of bigotry to express their agendas and policies. This approach was summed up by Nick Griffin of the BNP (heirs of the White Supremacist National Front), his quite public attempt to break with the BNP’s anti-Semitic past was revealed for the fraud that every one suspected it was. At a conference in the USA, Griffin spoke about the BNP’s strategy and true attitude towards Jews,
“The proper enemy to any political movement isn’t necessarily the most evil and the worst. The proper enemy is the one we can most easily defeat.”
The enemy he talks about most “easily” defeating are Muslims.
Like the BNP, the Islamophobes in the EDL are following a similar course, showing faux respect and solidarity with other groups while bashing Muslims and Islam. Frequently, one will see Israeli flags at EDL protests, a cover that ironically masks a number of Neo-Nazis and sieg heil saluters at the core of the EDL grassroots. In Germany, a story layered with Islamophobia from the lowest to the highest levels exposed a severe security blunder on the part of authorities; for over ten years a cell of Neo-Nazis targeted and murdered German Muslims of Turkish and North African descent. Throughout Europe, Muslim places of worship, community centers and graves have been desecrated with swastikas. Geert Wilders (PVV), Marine Le Pen (FN), Vlaams Belang, Italy’s Northern League, Greece’s Golden Dawn are just some of the supremacists whose rhetoric echoes closely their more open and unabashed White Supremacist and fascist predecessors.
“Western societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene…All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.”
Pipes’ Jewishness in this regard did not impede him from hurling such racist sentiments akin to what we expect to hear from the Grand Wizard of the KKK. The revelation here is that while some White Supremacists are eager to mask their old prejudices for more convenient “new” ones, there are some individuals from minority backgrounds who are all too eager to reciprocate. This is likely why you saw a Jewish Defense League division of the EDL, and Rabbi Nachum Shifren taking up the rhetoric of White Supremacism,
… I AM an Islamophobe, and everything we need to know about Islam, we learned on 9-11! I believe in peace and justice for everybody – but that’s not why they’re here…. We’re getting sucker-punched because we as white – yes I said it! – as white, Christian Americans are being taught that somehow WE are to blame for all the problems.
White Supremacism’s nexus with Islamophobia is even more vividly on display when we encounter the curious case of White Supremacist, David Yerushalmi. Yerushalmi, one will note, is the chief architect behind the anti-Sharia legislation drive that has swept dozens of US states over the past several years. Yerushalmi’s oxymoronic identities of Orthodox Jew and White Supremacist reminds one of the case of young Israeli-Russian Jews who turned Neo-Nazi, and afterword went on an anti-Semitic binge in Tel Aviv.
Yerushalmi is a co-founder of the Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE); an organization that seeks to criminalize the practice of Islam. Islamophobe David Gaubatz‘s Mapping Shariah Project was conducted under the aegis of SANE, it’s main claim that over 80% of mosques in the USA are hotbeds of radicalism and terror is a viral talking-point with the Islamophobia Movement. This fake claim about US mosques has been reproduced by such prominent bigots as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes, Frank Gaffney and has even found its way into the mouths of numerous politicians, including Rep. Peter King, the McCarthyist chair of the current witch-hunt hearings on American Muslims. The number of “80%” has also been used to delegitimize and impede the construction of mosques. It was a frequent trope that was pulled out by anti-Mosque activists during the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy.
We know that bigots have, since 9/11, wedded the rhetoric of Islamophobia and White Supremacism. The Twin Towers, a building that was targeted by terrorists, has been transformed by the cynical in the Islamophobia-White Supremacist nexus into a symbol to be manipulated and exploited for their own agendas. Was it a coincidence that the terrorist Wade Michael Page had a 9/11 tattoo?
9/11 and The Twin Towers have unfortunately become part of the iconography of hate amongst the Islamophobia Movement. The Twin Towers are all over the Islamophobes’ websites and blogs and even in their emblems, for instance, take Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller’s SIOA image:
Long before the SPLC labeled SIOA a hate group, Loonwatch did. Loonwatch exposed not only how Islamophobic the SIOA is but how its membership is filled with racists, many who espouse White Supremacist views, with frequent talk of “ragheads” and “sandniggers” on their official Facebook membership page.
In a clear example of the union of Islamophobic and White Supremacist iconography take Douglas Story, a White Supremacist who adorned his pickup truck with the Confederate flag; the Neo-Nazi code numbers of 14 and 88 on his license plate; as well as an image of the collapsing Twin Tower’s with the words, “Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Islam, I Learned on 9/11.”
Douglas Story was later arrested by the FBI for purchasing an AK-47 from an undercover agent. Robert Spencer defended Douglas Story and has never issued a retraction or an apology for his defense of Story.
I have only scratched the surface when it comes to the nexus between White Supremacism and Islamophobia in this article. There is much more to discuss. While Islamophobia is a multi-varied phenomenon, White Supremacism is a virulent and pungent trend within the ranks of the Islamophobia Movement. A further, more detailed article discussing all of the various Islamophobic-White Supremacist hate organizations, web sites, blogs, and political parties is necessary for a full treatment of this dangerous racism.