Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Intern Muslims ... save America!

American history is littered with constructions and reconstructions of the racialized villain(s) that stand against the ubiquitous "good guys".

I have recently been thinking how the paranoid ramblings about Islamic terrorists after the Fort Hood massacre is starting to read and feel like the same racist paranoia that led to the mass internment of Japanese Americans after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.

In the days after the Pearl Harbor attack racist speculation cast Japanese Americans as 'ideological instruments' and racial allies of Japan

The media joined an assortment of racist civic organizations to depict Japanese Americans as traitors who were plotting the downfall of the US.

The US government went the next step to label Japanese Americans, citizens and residents alike, as "enemy aliens".

The US then ordered that Japanese Americans living on the West Coast be rounded up and placed into "War Relocation Camps".

These camps were nothing more than concentration camps and by 1942 about 120 000 Japanese Americans had been forcefully relocated.

No formal charges were brought. The 'fact' of suspicion fueled by racist hate and lies in the US media and among its elected leaders and citizen groups was enough.

I have co-written an academic article that covers some of the tragedy I am describing here.

My co-author and I describe the fallout that led to the internment in this way:
The combination of racism fuelled by anger produced a highly volatile
situation. The consequences for Japanese Americans extended outside of the interpersonal realm into the arena of business and their professional lives.
Banks in California refused to do business with Japanese Americans. Their accounts were frozen and they were not allowed to draw any money. Japanese Americans were turned away from grocery stores, convenience stores, and other basic service providers. The state of California rescinded the certification of doctors to practice medicine and of lawyers to practice law. Japanese Americans who owned businesses lost their customers and clients. The stigma of assumed betrayal was used to deprive Japanese Americans of the right to make a living and to live without fear of reprisals from angry mobs. Hardship and uncertainty grew as Japanese Americans struggled to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families.

Political leaders throughout the country joined pressure groups that were
venting anger and calling for reprisals against Japanese Americans. Senator Tom
Stewart joined congressmen John Rankin of Mississippi and Martin Dies of Texas in
a campaign of racist rhetoric that was intended to advance their beliefs in white
supremacy. Congressman Rankin, who was notoriously known for being anti-black
and anti-semitic described World War II as a “race war” that inevitable pitted the
“white man’s civilization (against) Japanese barbarism” in a duel in which “one of
them must be destroyed.” He added that the Japanese “are pagan in their
philosophy, atheistic in their beliefs, alien in their allegiance, and antagonistic to everything for which we stand.” His comments were intended to caste suspicion
onto Japanese Americans when he said: “Once a Jap always a Jap. You cannot
change him. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Rankin’s comments
received ardent support from congressional leaders in Arkansas, Virginia, and West
Just this morning the disturbing themes contained in these two paragraphs replayed inside my head as I read an article in the Los Angeles Times by conservative commentator, Jennifer Rubin.

Much of Rubin's article is that there is too much "political correctness" in the argument that Islam is a peaceful religion. She presses the argument made by Cliff May of the National Review Online, that most Muslims may be peaceful but it is Islam that nonetheless fuels the violence of jihadists (whatever that term may mean).

What absolute nonsense!

Please show me anywhere in the Qur'an where Muslims are led to become jihadists.

The fact that Islam prescribes peace over war and violence as an absolute last resort is conveniently written out of the consciousness of folks like Rubin and May.

And there are so many others that are too eager to follow the course of American history and demonize away.

Take a look at the disturbing comments that accompany Rubin's article and you will get a greater appreciation of what I mean.

The falsified and racist thesis that would portray Muslims as "enemy aliens" is captured in the following comments:


In the words of Pogo Possum: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." At the very least, he is within our own ranks. Sacrificing the hunt for fifth columnists on the altar of political correctness does not ensure anyone's liberty or due process. It's time we root out those who intend to do us harm, and call them for what they are: enemies. Those who do not wish to be counted among their ranks need to stand up and be counted among those who are not.


We have seen numerous incidents of mohammedans killing their fellow soldiers in the US Army. We have seen the majority of mohammedans keep silent rather than oppose the radicals who promote this insanity in the name of religion. Perhaps it's time for the US to rethink the notion of freedom of religion.
This last comment scratches deep to dredge up the derogatory term "mohammedans" as opposed to Muslims.

What is most striking is the constant refrain that other 'Muslims must stand up' and testify against jihadists and so they will be known.

Because, as it stands now, any law-abiding Muslim who is quiet is an enemy that wants to overthrow the "good guys".

The first comment above is most emphatic that Islam/Muslims are not compatible with the constitution (read the US).

In other words, you cannot be a Muslim and an American at the same time.

And, if you accept Rubin and May's thinking, it would be wise to remain vigilant against Islam wherever it is found, inside and outside the US.

The internment of Japanese Americans started with the seizure of assets and the freezing of bank accounts.

Last week the US started seizing assets belonging to Muslims who are allegedly tied to the government of Iran.

America it seems is yet to learn the racist folly of its ways.

I don't expect that Muslim internment camps will crop up on the mainland.

But who can reasonably argue that Guantanamo is not the 'new' internment camp, and even worse?

And what about the so called "black sites" that are spread anonymously across the globe for the purposes of containing the "enemy alien" inside and outside the imperial beast?

These are not times for complacency.

The internment of Muslims is well on its way.


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