Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thanks to NPR for firing Juan Williams for bigotry

During the presidential days of Jimmy Carter, many of the southern states of the USA were Democratic states. In the following 24 years, the Republicans were able to gain their foothold in those states. In the last presidential election many of those seats, once held by the Republicans switched back to the Democratic Party, giving the party the control over both the Houses in the Capitol Hill – the Senate and the House of Representatives.

America goes to the poll in its mid-term election on November 2. Many political analysts think that with a weak economy the ruling Democrats may lose a significant number of seats. I have my doubts though. I think that the Democrats may still hold onto a slim majority in both the Houses.

In my home state of Pennsylvania, a couple of months ago, Pat Toomey, the Republican candidate, vying to replace the Democratic Senator Arlen Specter, whom Joe Sestak beat in the May primary election, had a double digit lead over the latter candidate in some sample polls of likely voters. According to the latest polls, however, the race is dead even now. I have an important business meeting to participate in New Jersey on the election date. Because of the seriousness of this year’s election, I plan to cast my vote first and then drive up to New Jersey. Obviously, I am not going to cast my vote for Toomey, a dim-witted opportunist politician who has been trying to sell bigotry to get elected. On the election night, we shall find out how many Pennsylvanians had swallowed such poison pills.

As I noted many times, bigotry sells. It is not a question of either democracy – liberal or illiberal – or autocracy that either marginalizes or promotes this evil. Thus, I am not surprised to note that some of the worst crimes against humanity continue to be perpetrated by Europeans against the various minorities, whether that be the case with the Jews in Germany in the Nazi era, Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims in former Yugoslavia/Serbia in the 1990s and French Muslims and Roma people in France in recent years. India claims to be a secular state where parliamentary form of democracy is practiced. However, that brand of all-inclusive Gandhian secularism has been dead long time ago. Nowhere is this sad reality more evident than the state of Gujarat, Gandhi’s birthplace, where Hindutvadi politicians like Narendra Modi with Hindu fundamentalist and ultra-religious identities and programs have been able to run the state affairs.

These Hindu fanatics and fundamentalist are actually no better than the Talibans to the west. On a comparative study, one can even argue that the latter are better than these Hindu bigots. After all, no foreign power or religious minority had invaded or attacked India before the demolition of the historical Babri Mosque in Ayodhya or massacre of Muslims in Godhra to suggest a causal relationship for such horrendous crimes. The recent verdict on the so-called disputed mosque site has once again unmasked the sheer hollowness of the Indian judicial system which has bowed down to Hindutvadi pressure.

Look at the Indian Occupied Kashmir where peaceful protesters, epitomizing Gandhian brand of non-violence, are mercilessly killed by the Indian troops! India talks about democracy. Where is that democracy in Kashmir where its people are denied their basic rights to decide their fate? Isn’t sixty three years too long a time to deny such rights? I don’t see any Gandhian activist crying foul about such monumental crimes of the Indian government. I can guess their answer: Gandhian non-violence won’t work in India (as it never did in the Occupied Palestine either). Haven’t we seen enough that violent means are the last resorts to many protesters when they have exhausted peaceful means of resolving their legitimate demand for fairness and equality, the basic right to decide their fate?

In a highly orchestrated pogrom, in the last few years alone, tens of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims have been killed, scores of their houses of worship destroyed, and thousands of their women raped, in that territory so that no Kashmiri would dare to utter the word ‘freedom’.

In the Indian states like West Bengal where the so-called secular Marxists have ruled for decades, one can notice some of the worst forms of discrimination against its sizable Muslim minorities. They are the forgotten 25% that are denied access to government jobs, institutions, education, everything. In most such government jobs, Muslim representation is less than one percent. What a joke to secular and democratic India! The neighboring Bangladesh has much better scores than India on those counts for its minorities.

In the USA, nowhere are the signs of bigotry more visible than in the south, the so-called Bible-belt. As I noted elsewhere neoconservative and fundamentalist Christian views are more openly heard there than at any other place. It is the Fox News and the radio talk shows hosted by bigots that are the only sources of information for many southerners. It is these programs that basically mold their mindsets and worldviews, in which, sadly the American inclusiveness (a fresh departure from the European Christian bigotry), as often heard in the NPR (National Public Radio), is getting buried day in and day out. Like brain-dead zombies many of these southern listeners are willing to imagine the worst of the ‘other’ people, and preempt strikes in a trigger-happy manner.

There is definitely a battle brewing out in the USA today. It is about bigotry in general, and Islamophobia, or rather hatred of Islam and Muslims, in particular. Its evil promoters are the Bill O’Reillys of the TV programs, Rush Limbaughs of the radio talk shows, and Ann Coulters and Robert Spencers of the print media, Newt Gingriches and Sarah Palins of the political spectrum, and Franklin Grahams and Pat Robertsons of the evangelical Christian establishment. With preachers, politicians, pen-pushing pundits, publishers and psychoanalysts it is a full circle to promote bigotry where nothing is left out.

While Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia have been witnessing the ugly faces of that bigotry, fortunately, nothing serious outside some sporadic attacks on Muslim lives and properties have taken place inside the American soil.

In their zealous support for Israel, many Likudnik American Jews with a strong desire to see all the Palestinians – Muslims and Christians alike – expelled from the Occupied Palestine are behind-the-scene promoters of this anti-Muslim bigotry. If history is any lesson they ought to know better than anyone else that when bigotry unleashes its evil, it does not and will not discriminate between a Muslim and a Jew -- supportive or otherwise. And the same goes for all vulnerable minority Hindus and Buddhists.

It is high time for conscientious Americans of all ethnic backgrounds, denominations and faiths to wake up to the gradual erosion of the very values that once endeared America to the rest of the world. This battle of the heart must be won by defeating the promoters and preachers of bigotry. The First Amendment should not be abused as a launching pad to justify hatred, xenophobia and bigotry. As I wrote some years ago on xenophobia, these promoters of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam bigotry today are no less criminals than Julius Stryker of the Nazi era of Germany. They must be identified and disowned by denying them the right to market bigotry.

It is there that I fully understand and endorse why the NPR had fired Juan Williams. For long time, Juan’s views were a constant irritant to many listeners who wanted a balanced and more neutral analysis of events and not demagoguery or prejudice, packaged under honest journalism. Instead what they got was bigotry and xenophobia. In the hate-ridden Bill O’Reilly program in the Fox News, Williams said that he felt unease about seeing Muslims on airplanes. (As everyone knows by now those alleged plane hijackers on 9/11 were all western-dressed individuals, and could not be discerned as Muslims.) How is Juan’s moronic view different than that of a KKK clan member from the 1950s or 1960s who felt the same thing about seeing a black person in the bus or train that he rode?

Coming as it did from an Afro-American whose race not too long had endured some of the worst abuses ever practiced against the ‘other’ people, Williams sounded like a house nigger, and not the field nigger that people could respect. His remarks made at the Fox News epitomized racial profiling and showed what a mischievous character he has become at the altar of xenophobia and bigotry. No wonder that he is now celebrated as a fallen hero by the Fox News and the promoters of bigotry. Former House speaker Gingrich demanded that the Congress should consider cutting off NPR’s public funding for firing Williams. Fox News just signed Williams up for a multi-million dollar contract.

None of these promotions of bigotry should be taken lightly, and must be defeated before America falls into the same trap that Europe continues to dig for herself. My vote for Sestak would be one such small step to defeat the demons of bigotry.

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