Anti-Muslim racism isn’t just a loud, bombastic and obnoxious response to so-called “Islamization” in the form of planned mosques and alleged plots to impose Shari’a law. It can also warp one’s ability to perceive and analyze current affairs.
Take Tim Rutten, whose seemingly well-intentioned op-ed – titled “Iraq’s war on Christians” – that appeared in the Los Angeles Times Dec. 15 on the plight of Middle Eastern Christians is a good example of this malicious influence. Rutten wrote about the plight of Iraqi Christians in particular, making use of the horrific Oct. 31 attack on Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad that killed 51 worshippers. At the end of his article, Rutten takes a quote of an Iraqi Christian from the New York Times describing the cleansing of Christians from that country:
“It’s exactly what happened to the Jews.”
Yet another look at the same article reveals this:
“Christians, of course, are not the only victims of the bloodshed that has swept Iraq for more than seven and a half years; Sunni and Shiite Arabs have died on a far greater scale.” The piece added that after the attacks, bombs were detonated in Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad, “killing at least 68 people and wounding hundreds.”
In other words, it’s not just the Christians who suffer. Yet in Rutten’s mind, their suffering is the one that counts. The victims of Shia/Sunni sectarianism don’t count; neither do the victims of the U.S. invasion, which he mentions only briefly. This indifference can only be explained by an internalized anti-Muslim ethos, for if the ethnic cleansing of Christians is described by Rutten as a “genocide,” then what do you call the much larger Muslim death toll?
The only anti-Muslim bigotry Rutten mentions is “The soft bigotry of minimal expectation is in play, an unspoken presumption that Muslim societies simply can’t be held to the same standards of humane, rational and decent conduct that govern the affairs of other nations.” In other words, the worth of Muslim societies is measured on how they relate to non-Muslim minorities.
Yet what about those minorities that refuse to relate to Muslim societies out of their own chauvinist designs and desires?
Take this sentence:
“Today, the Christian population is declining in every majority Muslim country in the region and is under increasingly severe pressure even in Lebanon, where it still constitutes 35% of the population.”
No mention whatsoever of the dominance Christians had in Lebanon, nor of the 1975-90 civil war when fascistic Christian militias massacred Muslims and Palestinians to protect their privileged status. Rutten ties this distortion in with another – the founding of Israel.
“Paradoxically, the one country in the Middle East whose Christian population has grown in recent years is Israel, where more than 150,000 Christians enjoy religious freedom. That lends a particular pathos to the way in which the current persecution of Christians mirrors that which destroyed most of the region’s ancient Jewish communities following Israel’s establishment in 1948.”
And how was Israel established, exactly? Just like the old Zionist propaganda that the Holy land was “a land without people for a people without a land” assumed there was no people there prior to Jewish colonization, Rutten emphasizes the mass cleansing of Jews in the Middle East/North Africa that occurred after the mass ethnic cleansing called the “Nakba,” a crime as horrendous as what befell the Jewish populations of the Middle East at that time.
Nowhere does Rutten decry Muslim immigration nor advocate a far right, fundamentalist Christian agenda like the usual suspects who scapegoat Muslims. And that’s what’s truly scary; Rutten is proof that members of powerful institutions – like the media – have internalized the ideas of those ideologues.