Throughout the capitalist countries, the anti-immigrant ultra-right wing parties are making electoral advances and gaining new recruits to their brand of xenophobic hatred. We have ignored the rise of these parties at our own peril.
Frazier Glenn Miller, a neo-fascist organiser and member of several white supremacist organisations, gunned down three people outside a Jewish Community Centre in Kansas. He was shouting racist comments and anti-Semitic sentiments right up to the point he was arrested by the police. His opinions about race, history and the ‘racial war’ were long known to activist groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Centre. The details of his long career of racial hatred can be found here. A former US special forces soldier, he organised various white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan groups, and advocated his views in interviews he gave. The law enforcement authorities, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also knew of his activities as a violent white supremacist.
It is not necessary to go into all the details of his activities, but it was no secret that this person, with his track record, would one day turn his hatred and his guns on ethnic minorities in an anti-Semitic rage. What is interesting to note in this case is the reaction of the police chief responsible for the arrest of Miller. Police chief in Overland Park, John Douglass, gave Miller the benefit of the doubt – it was too early, Douglass said, to know for sure whether Miller was motivated by anti-Semitism. While the killing for which Miller was arrested was vicious, opined Douglass, it was doubtful whether the killing could be directly attributed to the anti-Semitic views that Miller held.
That is a telling reaction to a killing that was certainly motivated by an irrational xenophobic ethnic hatred. This is not necessarily completely wrong, because the motivations of criminal culprits must be thoroughly examined. However, this stands in stark contrast to the reaction against culprits from the Islamic faith.
April this year marked the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings – a terrorist atrocity that was an outrageous attack on humanity. The survivors are proving resilient and resourceful, there is no question of that. But while the commemorations are held, and the emotions run high, we should not forget the reaction of the authorities. The Boston marathon bombing served as a convenient pretext to further militarise American society, with thousands of police and troops deployed to lock down Boston city and provide a climate akin to martial law. Searching for the suspects is one thing; locking down the entire city and treating the population as hostile and ordering them to remain indoors because there are suspects on the streets is quite another. The irony of the situation is that the suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was found after the lockdown was lifted. His brother, Tamerlan, was killed by federal law enforcement agents in a shootout, the circumstances of which still remain murky.
In the immediate aftermath of the Boston marathon bombing, there was absolute unanimity on what motivated the culprits – their Muslim faith. It was their irrational, religiously-motivated hatred of everything Western and ‘democratic’ that drove them to kill and maim – so the mainstream media reported. The tidal wave of Islamophobia was unleashed – the corporate commentariat was united in its conclusion that Arabs and Muslims needed to be targeted and excluded. For example, Aziza Berg reported for an article in the Socialist Worker magazine that;
Tarek Mehanna, a Muslim American pharmacist from Sudbury, Mass., was approached by the FBI and asked to spy on his mosque . He refused. He later found himself and the antiwar views he expressed online at the center of an FBI investigation.
Spying on and svurveillance of Muslim and Arab communities has continued apace, and students from Muslim backgrounds have found themselves the targets of electronic surveillance.
So there is no question that a Muslim perpetrator is uniquely motivated by an irrational faith to commit savage acts of violence. The distorting lens of Islamophobia, predated the Boston marathon bombings but also inflamed by them, is employed with fervour to denounce this act as a particular vicious example of Muslim barbarity. Perhaps, just maybe, this act was more in common with all the other unfortunate but sadly frequent mass shootings in the United States, where the perpetrators are white. The tragic yet common mass killings in the US all have multiple causes, among them social alienation, mental illness perhaps, internal familial instabilities – all possible causes left unexplored in the case of the Boston marathon attack.
Since that bombing, Boston’s Muslim community has been under siege, the victim of racist attacks. The Islamic Society of Boston has been targeted as an incubator of extremism and hatred. It is no secret that anti-Islamic campaigns directed at the Arab and Muslim communities have proceeded for a long time, and the Boston marathon attack only added more fuel to the fire. While the survivors of that attack are rebuilding their lives, the tragedy is that the Boston Islamic community are the unspoken victims of an organised backlash, facing a wave of repression and hostility promoted by a mainstream media eager to cultivate an aura of panic.
Khury Petersen-Smith, who was at the marathon the day of the bombing, documented the hateful outpourings that the media and authorities have helped to incite in a thoughtful article ‘Unspoken casualties of the Marathon bombing’. He wrote:
Two days after the Marathon, Heba Abolaban and her friend were physically assaulted by a white man as they walked with their children on the street in nearby Malden. Heba, who is Palestinian, told the Malden Patch that the man screamed, “Fuck you Muslims! You are terrorists!” as he punched her. Both Heba and her friend were wearing headscarves.
The criminal actions of Miller could only occur in a society where ultra-right extremism and anti-immigrant xenophobia is normalised. The United States has witnessed numerous protests by extreme right-wing groups – anti-immigration, against Obama because the latter is ‘socialist’ and ‘Muslim’ (?), against increasing taxes on the wealthier class, and against government-funded health care because, apparently, government-funding is reminiscent of ‘communism’. What is becoming normal is the expression of anti-Arab, and by extension anti-Islamic, venom. It is not just the fringe-dwellers, the outcasts, that are joining the anti-immigrant parties. In Galway, New York state;
Glendon Scott Crawford, a General Electric employee, was a prominent member of the community. He was married to the local high school’s librarian and taught Sunday school in a local church. But Crawford was also a member of a radically right-wing tea party/militia group called “Americans Demanding Liberty and Freedom” as well as a self-proclaimed (but unconfirmed) member of the KKK.
On June 20, 2013, Crawford was arrested on charges connected with domestic terrorism. He had been attempting to build a truck-mounted radiation gun that he believed could be used to poison people from a distance. His targets included Muslims and leftists. According to members of the community Crawford was outspoken against Islam, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, the presidency of Barack Obama and New York’s SAFE Act, a state gun control law passed in January.
As the economic crisis of capitalism continues, and more people find themselves unemployed, struggling to make ends meet, and generally sinking into poverty, they will become alienated. These are the potential recruits for the ultra-right parties and groups. We have seen the rise of far-right parties across Europe in the wake of the economic meltdown. That is the subject of the next article.