Worldwide protests:
Islam bashing part of racist war for empire
By Leslie Feinberg
Published Feb 8, 2006 11:16 PM
 http://www.workers.org/2006/world/islam-0216/

Feb. 8—Islam bashing has ignited a firestorm of Muslim protest. The vicious mockery of Mohammad in a Danish newspaper last September first lit the fuse. The conflagration now circles the planet.

“We are now facing a growing global crisis,” Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a Feb. 7 media conference. Rather than apologize, which Muslims around the world demand, Rasmussen urged “dialogue.” He said President George W. Bush had called him that day and agreed that was the way to go.

Too little, too late. Yet until protests turned up the heat, Rasmussen had refused to talk with Muslim leaders.

Last September, after the center-right publication Jyllands-Posen—a major Danish daily newspaper—published the “cartoons,” Muslims protested to the editor. But they were ignored.

On Oct. 12, the ambassadors of Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Indo nesia, Libya, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, the Palestinian Authority—and even Bosnia and Herzegovina, an imperialist puppet after the destruction of socialist Yugoslavia—wrote Rasmussen, characterizing the depictions as part of a smear campaign against Muslims.

Rasmussen—who Bush has referred to as a “steadfast ally”—refused to meet with ambassadors from 11 countries with large Muslim populations on Oct. 21.

In December, a delegation from 21 Muslim organizations in Denmark traveled to Cairo for support. They prepared a 43-page dossier to back their assertion: “There is currently a climate [in Denmark] that is contributing to an increase in racism.” The group met with Muslim leaders, including Egypt’s foreign minister and the general secretary of the Arab League.

The Danish government and Jyllands-Postens still refused to back down. In January, the Danish High Court rejected the case brought to its bench by 21 Muslim organizations.

And in a Jan. 23 telephone interview, Jyllands-Postens’s cultural editor, Fleming Rose, made clear, “An apology would imply we regret what we’ve done, which we don’t.”

Oppressor vs. oppressed

According to the big-business media, “free speech” is the core issue. In reality, this is a battle between oppressor and oppressed nations.

With the exception of Bosnia, in the Balkans, all the nations where the predominant religion is Muslim are in Africa and Asia and are formerly colonized by oppressor nations. These oppressed countries are all still under the economic domination of imperialist finance capital, or, like Iran, are threatened with war. Iraq and Afghan istan are occupied by U.S.-led forces.

Comparisons with other religions are rife now after the struggle unleashed by the insults to Islam.

For example, drawing an equal sign between Islam-bashing and anti-Judaism leaves out the role of Israel as an imperialist cat’s paw. Former President Bill Clin ton, among many others, tried to make this equation. Clinton told those gathered at the economic conference in Doha, Qatar, on Jan. 30, “In Europe, most of the struggles we’ve had in the past 50 years have been to fight prejudices against Jews, to fight against anti-Semitism. Now what are we going to do? Replace the anti-Semitic prejudice with anti-Islamic prejudice?”

Arab people, of course, are also Semites. But what has fanned the flames of anger at Jews for the last half century? The settler state of Israel—established, bank roll ed and armed to the teeth by the U.S. and British imperialism. The oppressor Zion ist state, acting as a boot heel on historic Palestine, flies the star of David and claims to rule on behalf of all Jewish people.

Michael Muhammad Pfaff, of the German Muslim League, pointed out that anti-Islamic depictions were like anti-Jewish caricatures by imperialist German fascists before and during World War II.

Jyllands-Posen had refused to print cartoons about Jesus three years ago that the publication found “offensive.” But today, Christianity is not an oppressed religion.

The publication France Soir tried to parallel what it termed Muslim “fanaticism” with centuries of iron-fisted rule by the Catholic Church in Europe. But the Catholic Church was the political party of feudalism, which brutally exploited the peasantry. Today it is the capitalists there who are the oppressors. Arab, South Asian and African immigrants are among the oppressed.

The unprecedented scope of this international firestorm is an expression of outrage against attacks on Islam. But what gives it such force and scope are the explosive underlying social, economic and political conditions of life of the hundreds of millions who practice that religion. And those conditions are super-exploitation and national oppression by imperialism.

War for imperial empire

This attack on Islam can only be understood within the context of the current imper ialist war for empire to secure the rich resources of the Middle East and Central Asia.

U.S. imperialism has led invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and is menacing Iran and Syria. Military interrogators at Guantanamo reportedly flushed Korans down the toilet in front of Muslim prisoners. Pentagon captors have used sexual and gender humiliation and torture at Abu Ghraib. In the U.S., Muslim and South Asian people have faced mass roundups and forced deportations.

Salvos of racist, anti-Islamic propaganda have been used to “justify” this blatant drive for global conquest.

Denmark is part of this war on Muslims —at home and abroad. It has some 540 troops deployed in Iraq, mainly stationed under British rule in the southern port city of Basra.

After 9/11, the Danish government declared war on the some 300,000 immigrants in the country, 70 percent of whom are Muslims. In the Netherlands, Dutch-born Muslims make up 1 million in a total population of 16 million.

Right-wing and center-right parties have run viciously anti-Muslim campaigns. Among its acts of scapegoating, Denmark shut down its national borders, slashed immigrant welfare payments by 30 percent or more and barred marriage of Danes to “foreigners” before the age of 24.

Other governments and parties in Western Europe have also targeted the some 15 million Muslims on the continent, who face some of the highest rates of unemployment and face marginalization, racism and national oppression.

France, which has the largest Muslim community—an estimated 5 million people—banned the hajib, head scarves for Islamic women.

The German state of Baden-Wurt tem berg employs a “Muslim test” which grills citizenship applicants about their views on 9/11 and same-sex relationships. Some 3 million Muslims live in Germany.

Belgian councils outlawed Islamic garb for women. Italy shut down mosques.

So it was particularly ominous that on Jan. 10, the Norwegian evangelical newspaper Magazinet reprinted the anti-Islam depictions from Jyllands-Posen. And since then, newspapers have followed suit in Aus tralia, Austria, Belgium, France, Ger many, Holland, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Spain, New Zealand, Norway, Swit z erland and Ukraine. The British BBC and Channel 4 did likewise. And so has the Philadelphia Inquirer, ABC and other news networks. The New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today have so far declined to run the images.

Washington and London have res pond ed with caution to the outpouring of Muslim outrage. At a time when resistance in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan has not been broken by military overkill, Wash ington and London clearly fear the force of mass anger sweeping from Jakarta to Philadelphia. These are arsonists being burned by the fire they set.

In recent days, a State Department spokes person termed the depictions “offensive to the beliefs of Muslims.” And British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Feb. 3 that the cartoons were “insulting ... insensitive ... disrespectful ... and wrong.”

On Feb. 6, White House spokesperson Scott McClellan called on “all governments [to] take steps to lower tensions and prevent violence.” The same day, Bush put pressure on the Saudi royal family to try to cool Muslim anger.

But even leaders of client states behol den to U.S. imperialism have had to pay lip service to the storm of popular anger, or risk the wrath of their own populations.

Fury in the streets

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have taken their rage to the streets in the first week of February as more capitalist newspapers reprinted the anti-Islamic images.

Even the occupation couldn’t stop Iraqis from protesting. And insurgent groups re new ed their vow to target Danish troops, all occupying armies and their collaborators.

In Afghanistan, protests took place in Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and the capital of Kabul—where youths stoned the Danish, British and French embassies and United Nations headquarters. On Feb. 6, as many as five demonstrators were killed as thousands tried to march on the main Pentagon base in Bagram, north of the capital. Puppet Afghan police forces killed another demonstrator and injured more as protesters marched on the local police station in the city of Mihtariam, in the eastern province of Laghman.

At least three Afghans were killed and some 20 wounded on Feb. 7 when demonstrators laid siege to a base used by the NATO-led “International Security Assis tance Force” (ISAF) in Maimana in the north. Protesters reportedly used petrol bombs, set fire to a guard box, and breached the wall protecting the installation. NATO sent reinforcements.

Some 20,000 Palestinians marched in Nablus, including Muslim, Christian and Samaritan religious leaders. Thousands demonstrated in Ramallah. Militant Palestinian demonstrations took place between Feb. 4 and 6. In Jerusalem, thousands chanted inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, “Con dem na tions are not enough, you have to reply with fire.” The French cultural center in Gaza was firebombed; the German consu late office there was attacked. Armed Pale stinians reportedly took over the Euro pean Union office in Gaza. The EU is threatening to withhold millions of dollars to the Palestinians if Hamas forms the next government there.

Furious demonstrators hurled gasoline bombs and stones at the Danish and Aus trian embassies in Tehran on Feb. 6 and broke the windows of the embassy of Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency. Iran recalled its ambassador to Denmark. Iran is currently defending its right to develop nuclear power, despite U.S.-imperialist orchestrated attacks on that sovereign right.

In Damascus, Syria, demonstrators torched the Danish, Norwegian and Swe dish embassies on Feb. 4. The same day, protesters burned down the Danish embassy in Beirut. Syria withdrew its chief diplomat from Denmark.

Libya closed its Danish embassy. Saudi Arabia pulled its ambassador out of Copenhagen.

Between Feb. 6 and 7, protesters took to the streets in Indonesia, Algeria, Kashmir, Yemen, India, Somalia, Thailand and New Zealand. Thousands of students marched through the streets of Cairo. Rebellions continued in Pakistan on Feb. 7. Thou sands marched in the Turkish cities of Diyarbakir, Konya and Istanbul. In Jakarta, hundreds forced their way into the high-rise that houses the Danish embassy. In Delhi, several thousand students battled with police who used water cannons to stop the march to the Danish Embassy.

In Somalia, a 14-year-old was shot to death during a demonstration. Protests also took place in Kano, northern Nigeria and in Bamako—Mali’s capital. The High Court in Johannesburg barred two of the largest newspaper groups from publishing the caricatures.

Hundreds protested in the heart of Lon don, outside the Danish embassy, and a smal ler demonstration targeted the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Boycott!

Aided by the grassroots power of the Internet, a widening boycott of Danish, Scandinavian and other European products has sent sales into a nosedive, sounding the tocsin in boardrooms.

Muslims in Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen had joined the boycott of Danish goods as of Jan. 29. In Bahrain, Danish dairy goods were set on fire Feb. 3.

On Feb. 4, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the commerce ministry to review all economic contracts with European countries, beginning with Denmark. The re-publishing of the images by two newspapers may cost New Zealand its $NZ100 million sheep trade with Iran.

Hundreds of Kuwaitis massed outside the Danish consulate in the capital on Feb. 4 demanding a boycott of Danish goods. Demonstrators in Abu Dhabi called for a boycott of all trade with the EU. Even Iraq’s puppet transport ministry officials were forced to cancel all contractual agreements signed with the Danish government, particularly in maritime transport.

The Libyan Foreign Ministry announ ced Feb. 5 that it will take economic measures against Denmark. The Qatar Cham ber of Commerce cut all trade missions from Denmark and Norway.

Danish exports to the Middle East and Northern Africa are big business for a small country. According to Demark’s Statistik data bank, exports topped $1.25 billion in the first 11 months last year.

The Danish dairy company Aria—the largest in Europe and the second-biggest international corporation in the Middle East—has already been forced to close its dairy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after reporting losses of more than $1.5 million a day in sales. The Saudi market makes up two-thirds of Aria’s sales in the Middle East, totaling $396 million yearly.

Other companies are also reeling, including those perceived to be Danish. The Saudi Dairy and Foodstuff Company and the Swiss food giant Nestlé have had to publicly disclaim rumors that their products are manufactured in Denmark.

On Feb. 4, as a result of this powerful and growing economic pressure and wid ening protests, Rasmussen met in Copen hagen with 76 diplomats representing large Muslim populations—which he had arrogantly refused to do in the autumn. But he would not apologize.

Three days later, Rasmussen begged Arab countries not to boycott Danish goods.

That same day, Jyllands-Postens Editor-in-Chief Carsten Juste issued a statement that fell far short of an apology, but made mention of the protests—and the economic impact of the boycotts—as part of the “costs” of his newspaper’s actions.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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