The myth of the murderous Muslim

aljazeera.com /indepth/opinion/2013/01/2013127211920494.html

Haroon Moghul
Haroon Moghul is a Fellow at New America Foundation and the Institute for
Social Policy and Understanding. He is an author and a graduate student at
Columbia University.

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Islamophobia promotes a "racialised view of Islam" - the actions of the few represent the "intentions"
of the whole.
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2013 10:02
Muslims are subversive jihadists. The Middle East is perpetually unstable. "Islam has bloody
borders." If you've already made up your mind, you'll find a way to twist the facts to support your
conclusion. And if the facts don't do the job, you can always hire new ones.
In the last year, American anti-Muslim hate groups have increased threefold. As playwright Wajahat
Ali and others have found, the farther we move away from the September 11 terrorist attacks, the
worse discrimination, prejudice and violence against Muslims become.
There's a simple enough reason for this: Islamophobia has become an industry. In the absence of
alternative narratives, which can make sense of Muslim extremism, place it into context and guide
American domestic and foreign policy, we are stuck with the voices we have - too often, these have
been unqualified and uninformed.
It will take us a long time to get past the damage done by years of well-funded Islamophobes, who
have dominated the media landscape (finally answering, incidentally, why it is that "Muslims don't do
more to condemn terrorism" - nobody was listening). But the resistance to bigotry has already begun
and has already scored a number of successes.
There is only so long, after all, you can lie to people.
The boy who cried Islamist
Islamophobia promotes a racialised view of Islam, viewing Arabs and Middle Easterners and Muslims
generally as one interchangeable, subversive, homogenous mass; the actions of the few represent
the intentions and aspirations of the whole. Thus we were led to believe there could be a plausible
connection between bin Laden and Saddam. The resulting cost in American lives, treasure and
credibility, is hard to quantify. This is Islamophobia's fruit: poisonous policies.
For reasons of strategic shortsightedness alone, Islamophobia would be discredited soon enough.
But there's another reason: Islamophobia doesn't correspond to reality. The more likely an American
is to know a Muslim, the more likely she is to have a positive view of Islam. Exposure undermines
prejudice. That is, meeting real Muslims pushes aside the media narrative that is so pernicious and
harmful. Why? Because much of what Islamophobia peddles is hyperbolic, fanciful, or meaningless.
Let's see how Islamophobia does its damage. The value extends beyond anti-Muslim bigotry, by the
way. The same type of "reasoning" is employed by all bigotries - radical Muslim voices, who require a

it'd make sense to choose a time period. It is often frequently repeated . that "Muslims" killed somewhere between two or three hundred million. out of nowhere. It is certainly an amazingly precise claim. When Islam emerged in western Arabia. I imagine she means the period from roughly 600 to 1600 AD. often down to the disturbing details. that " 270 million" are victims of a homogenous jihadi juggernaut. who I have no interest in naming (I don't want to give her any more attention than she already has). in which a prominent anti-Muslim voice makes the following remark: Why isn't it a shrine dedicated to the victims of 9/11 or the 270 million victims of over a millennium of jihadi wars.) But for the sake of argument.conflict between a homogenous West and an ideally homogenous Islam. let's take this claim seriously. the total population of the world was likely between 300 and 400 million. elsewhere the same person described millions of years of jihad. 1. Fast forward to right past our period. land appropriations. although to be fair. But then it shouldn't be any surprise that extremisms are broadly similar. of course. I've been challenged to explain the "300 million" killed by "jihad". (Even if it wasn't. Namely. . but has lost even that perch.000 years of jihad. We're told there were 1. Even if we stick with the lower number. Her extremism was too extreme. as I will show. A lie told often enough feels true Consider this interview from The New York Times. make the same types of arguments. but this is a thought exercise. and no. Their disturbing rhetoric will soon unsettle the overwhelming majority of people. one of the best ways to fight Islamophobia is to give the bigots a microphone and let them keep talking. I can tell you that this number was probably pulled out of thin air. it doesn't matter.000 years of jihad First. since then. Most recently. who recoil from such extremism. or that they need to see opposites in the world.) But let's spend a moment to reflect on this allegation. no. I've encountered many anti-Muslim voices repeat or inflate this number.Islamophobia resembles nothing if not an echo chamber of incorrectness. I think. used to be a regular on Fox News. namely. Can that be possible? Where does this number come from? Does it reveal a uniquely and dangerously recurrent Islamic aptitude for mass violence? In short. which covers the time when Muslim states were generally not (as was subsequently true) on the receiving end of colonial conquest. The United Nations Census Report suggests that the world's total population in the year 1800 was 1 billion. In the months since. for their own identities to take root and thrive. cultural annihilations and enslavements? The woman behind these words. around 610 AD. (Indeed.

was under Muslim rule from 1200 to 1800. who built the Taj Mahal. by what moronic logic would they arm their enemies. But it also suggests they were remarkably tolerant for their time. teach them to fight and incorporate them into their armies? What would we make of the fact that the greatest threat to late 17th century Mughal rule was the remarkable rebellion of a Hindu king named Shivaji. If Islam was perpetual jihadism. under Muslim rule.000 years plus. in what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh.compare Istanbul's monuments to the Taj Mahal and you'll see what I mean. There is however one thing both empires had in common: both ruled over majority non-Muslim populations. Probably no other city in Europe was so diverse.he. North Africa and Arabia were comparatively empty. more or less. in Muslim Spain. which would be located in South Asia. At that point. was over 50 percent non-Muslim. How did Muslims kill so many people? India. This is like saying the Roman Empire imposed Christianity and Christian populations were found farthest from the centre of imperial power. Muslim dynasties never touched the Americas. Australia or East Asia. then called Constantinople. This is not to suggest the Ottomans were liberal democrats. a proportion that had risen to 50 percent in the reign of his son Aurangzeb (1658-1707). by the way. whose name was Jai Singh . right and centre? How were they able to cause so much damage. as Arab rule brought with it an agricultural revolution and an urbanising boom. the population of the Indian subcontinent was under 350 million. When the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed at the end of World War I. Muslims aren't everywhere Many of the territories conquered. . but conversion proceeded most widely on the fringes of these empires. such as Central Asia. Further. ruled over far more people and were far wealthier . Under the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. but still Muslim dynasties remain in power. By nobility. some 30 percent of this Muslim dynasty's nobility were not Muslim. or properly most of northern India. by the year 1600. (In 1947. India became increasingly wealthy. without being overthrown? Muslims never enjoyed the kind of decisive advantage in military technology the West enjoyed after 1800. who was finally captured and defeated by the Mughals' senior most general. Dutch photographer was held by "Jihadis" on Turkey-Syria border The capital of the world We often look to the Ottomans as the world's most powerful pre-modern Muslim dynasty. was almost entirely under British rule.it has shot up to some seven billion. Somewhere jihadis are killing everyone they come across. I mean those individuals given land and status based on their ability to muster troops to defend and expand the realm. And the organisation of Muslim India gives the lie to the entire edifice of eternal jihadism. Keep in mind that India is one of the most densely populated parts of the planet and has long been a centre of world culture and civilisation. why would so many non-Muslims join in . (The same happened. millions of these Indians should have been slaughtered.and be allowed to join in? If Muslims were savages bent on perpetual terror.the capitals of Muslim India rotated between cities like Delhi and Agra . which suggests they had quite a bit of free time. the last of these undoubtedly held a significant percentage of the world's population throughout the last 1. By the Islamophobe's logic. But by whom? Muslims were never more than a minority and Islam was never imposed by force. more people than lived in South Asia in the year 1600. its capital. But the Mughals. And we're not even talking about most of the planet. too. the world's largest Muslim population.) We are being asked to believe that jihadis killed. The proof for this is in the geography .) How was India becoming increasingly wealthy while its Muslim rulers were slaughtering Indians left. for so long. rulers of much of South Asia. was not a Muslim. ruled or dominated by Muslims. the urbanisation of their population increases and they leave behind magnificent public and private structures. their wealth increases.

We could construct a narrative of Western perfidy in response. they were finished off by a charge of Polish Muslim cavalry. A most post-modern warfare And thus we are left with an implausible and absurd suggestion that jihad killed 270 million people. considering most of Islamophobia's made up? How were Muslims who so often fought each other also able to fight everyone else? Unless of course it's not about Islam versus non-Islam. whereas the reverse happened early in the Muslim period. who ruled over vast desert spaces and many sparsely populated areas of the world. nearly 100 million perished during the European "Age of Discovery"." Second. let's say for the sake of argument Muslims killed 300 million people over a 1. we could note how Western ideologies like Communism and Nazism led conservatively to the deaths of another 120 million people. allied with their enemies. as minorities. I mean. still three more points need to be stressed. Indeed. who ruled over majority non-Muslim populations.his army is estimated to number around 10. only America has used nuclear . making that the most violent contact between peoples in human history. because in recognising their significance. still killed something of the equivalent of one-quarter of the world's population in 1800. pools and fountains? What technological advantage did they have that made them so superior to their enemies that they could sustain such a bloody and vicious record .000 years? The Mongols exploded out into the world and caused horrific damage. could have contributed to the killing of huge percentages of the world's population while staying in power for centuries? How would they. but she ties events together without attempting to explain why.for 1. That doesn't mean anything. when the Ottomans were defeated at Vienna in 1683. I might add . and. When the first Mughal emperor Babur conquered north India .000. but they managed that for only a few centuries and left nothing of the kind of legacy the great Muslim empires did. hoping that the sheer flood of information covers up the lack of an explanatory framework. First. (Chemical weapons in World War I. then why would so many people become Muslim? What motivated their violence? What sustained it? And how come most Muslims live peaceable lives? Bigots make up history because actual history undermines them. Is it conceivable that Muslim empires. Third. establish towns. "Five Hundred Years of Western Civilisation Kills Hundreds of Millions!" We could toss in the fact that the West has invented weapons of mass destruction and used them in ways no other parts of the world have. ignorantly and entirely unself-consciously. we recognise the ultimate absurdity of the Islamophobic worldview. more Muslims died fighting each other than died in battles against non-Muslim dynasties. which explores the pre-Columbian Americas. With the typical sloppiness of the Islamophobe. "Islamophobes link events that take place across the planet and hundreds of centuries apart and want us to take it seriously. But even with all this. in which millions more perished and then breathlessly announce. rebuild cities. such as the Umayyads. One could just as easily construct a counter-narrative that works like Islamophobia does: arbitrarily. If jihad is really the most murderous ideology ever and it is equal to Islam. It's dumping "facts" on the unawares.So Muslims.000 year span. this isn't real history. mosques. places and peoples. Ottomans and Mughals. we could note the brutal colonial exploitation of Africa and Asia. we'd link disparate events based on the religious (or cultural) identity of the culprit. fund wells. According to Charles Mann's 1491. have been capable of sustained carnage for decades at a time? When did they get the time to build huge public works projects. which drives bigots off the wall. Not only does the Islamophobe play loose and fast with very different eras. of course. Nothing in Islamic history remotely compares. Where do these casualties fit in? Should we arbitrarily decide that "intra-Muslim jihad" killed 50 percent of the total number? Why not.from another Muslim dynasty. aerial bombing was invented by the Italians against Libyan civilians. his opponent's army is estimated at several times than that. hospitals. Armies were often mixed too. the Mongols ended up adopting the religion of the peoples they conquered.

Osama bin Laden portrayed the history of Islam and the West as one long narrative of confrontation. because it assumes that people in different times and places are the same. the Mongols (good heavens). and what history is marshalled is not to engage in discussion but to preclude it. responsible for each other's actions and should only be judged by the dark chapters of their history. look in the mirror. proportionally speaking. He is an author and a graduate student at Columbia University. both times against civilian targets. their mind has been made up. which is about as accurate as you can expect this kind of nonsense to be. And so you get numbers like "270 million" or "300 million". the Chinese. in other words. as if they constitute overwhelming proof. Follow him on Twitter: @hsmoghul 2858 The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy. during our 600-1600 AD window. the Eastern Roman Empire. and they want us to take this seriously. and more people were probably killed than ever lived. infants and the young? Where do we put the Crusades.weapons. The jihad on accuracy There is this last little problem. of which there are so many I'm hard-pressed to know where even to begin. linking events that take place across the planet and hundreds of centuries apart. He downplayed and dismissed the achievements of Western culture and civilisation. peoples and their leaders. Penicillin? Goethe? The modern museum? Islamophobes play a similar game. the Aztecs and the Incans.disease and its most vulnerable victims. And these are brought up talismanically. Slavs and Byzantines.or. What about the people killed by other peoples . The Muslim proportion of the world's population has accelerated dramatically in the past centuries and continues to do so today. Which means we have to figure out what everyone else was up to. Korean and Japanese? Add them all together. the biggest killer of all back then . They cannot. as do many intemperate and extremist voices. He chose to ignore all the countervailing evidence and ignored the differences between times and places. The Islamophobe is completely and congenitally incapable of reflexivity.) But this would be stupid. and twice. there were far fewer Muslims in the world. Haroon Moghul is a Fellow at New America Foundation and the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Source: Al Jazeera .