Thursday, September 15, 2011

Government-Sponsored Islamophobia

I spend plenty of time on this site going after pundits and politicos who make their bones by stoking the fear of Islam and Muslims among the dullards who don't know any better, and while that does offer its little pleasures, it's always been with the understanding that, for all their bluster, these folks' Islamophobic ambitions are ultimately inhibited by the constitutional freedoms that ensure protect all of us. I've never believed that the government is "out out to get" Muslims, and I still don't.

All that said, my shorthairs do tend to stand on end when I read things like yesterday's story by Spencer Ackerman at Wired, which lays out in exacting detail an FBI program that trains agents to view Muslims -- average, everyday Muslims -- as being essentially hardwired for violence. And while this program, presented through several briefings, is disclaimed by the bureau as optional, the mere fact that a government body that's supposed to protect all of us is propagating this hate is worrisome indeed. From the piece:
An FBI presentation titled “Militancy Considerations” measures the relationship between piety and violence among the texts of the three Abrahamic faiths. As time goes on, the followers of the Torah and the Bible move from “violent” to “non-violent.” Not so for devotees of the Koran, whose “moderating process has not happened.” The line representing violent behavior from devout Muslims flatlines and continues outward, from 610 A.D. to 2010. In other words, religious Muslims have been and always will be agents of aggression.
This is, of course, demonstrably and transparently false. But it's also utterly unsurprising that it's being put out there, considering the source from whence it emanates:
Several of these briefings were the work of a single author: an FBI intelligence analyst named William Gawthrop. In 2006, before he joined the Bureau, he gave an interview to the website WorldNetDaily, and discussed some of the themes that made it into his briefings, years later. The Prophet “Muhammad’s mindset is a source for terrorism,” Gawthrop told the website, which would later distinguish itself as a leader of the “birther” movement, a conspiracy theory that denies President Obama’s American citizenship.  
At the time, Gawthrop’s major suggestion for waging the war on terrorism was to attack what he called “soft spots” in Islamic faith that might “induce a deteriorating cascade effect upon the target.” That is, to discredit Islam itself and cause Muslims to abandon their religion. “Critical vulnerabilities of the Koran, for example, are that it was uttered by a mortal,” he said. Alas, he lamented, he faced the bureaucratic obstacle of official Washington’s “political taboo of linking Islamic violence to the religion of Islam,” according to the website.
So the FBI is taking its cues on anti-terrorism training from from someone who's long since made his biases clear in the most vehement terms possible, and on the most anti-Muslim of anti-Muslim websites to boot (remember this?). Yep, that just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over. They can cover their backsides by calling these briefings "optional" all they want, but this story sure scares the living daylights out of me -- as it should anyone else who'd hope the FBI stands apart from the kind of thing you'd expect find in any given episode of The 700 Club.

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