In an exclusive interview with Shia Followers, Jack Perry, a writer and political commentator, said, “While appearing objective on the surface, the image of Muslims in the news is overwhelming one of war, terrorism, and violence.”
“By focusing anger on Muslims, Western governments distract the people from the fact they’re all getting collectively poorer as the rich get richer beyond compare,” he said.
He also said, “Americans freak out over the hijab and in every church with a depiction of the Virgin Mary, she is basically wearing one.”
Below, the full transcript of the interview has been presented.
What forces are responsible for the rise of Islamophobia in Western countries, especially the U.S.?
Jack Perry: You’ve basically got a resurgence of the same far-right forces that birthed Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, and Adolf Hitler. Now, the difference this time is that the resurgence has also occurred in the United States, as can be seen from news. Generally, far right movements come from economic malaise and the movement of wealth into the top tiers of society. This is the result of capitalism, of course, but capitalism protects itself by finding a scapegoat upon whom the anger can be vented. This is what happened to the Jews in Germany in the 1930s.
This time, rather than it being said that the scapegoats are responsible for economic conditions, what’s said is they are threatening the safety of the society. And, what’s more, they want to assimilate the society into its belief system and impose it upon society. This is how Muslims came to be the scapegoat. By focusing anger on Muslims, Western governments distract the people from the fact they’re all getting collectively poorer as the rich get richer beyond compare. Not only that, but it also justifies the senseless wars of the West which are never won because they’re not meant to be won. They’re waged to control oil, subvert Muslim national autonomy, and attempt to place the entire region under economic control where it can be looted and have its own national resources sold back to it at an obscene profit. Therefore, Muslims are portrayed as a threat and nobody learns that we’ve seen this dynamic before throughout history.
What’s your take on the mainstream media’s role in this problem?
Jack Perry: The American media especially has lost any credibility it had whatsoever. It’s basically reporting what the U.S. government wants said. Now, during the Iraq War, American reporters were “embedded” with American military units operating within Iraq. This meant in order to report from the actual combat zone, they had to be under control of the military and the military approved of what could be said or shown on television. We know this as “news censorship”, but the new phrase for that was “embedded reporter”. This meant that everything coming from the American media was what the U.S. government wanted said and what it wanted people to believe about the war. Why was this done?
During the Vietnam War, American news reporter Walter Cronkite famously declared the Vietnam War “unwinnable” right on national television, reporting from the combat zone itself. America trusted Cronkite implicitly to tell the truth. And he did. But this was a truth the government certainly did not want told. The government was deeply humiliated by Cronkite revealing the war was a disaster. They decided not to allow that to happen again. Therefore, the Vietnam War was where truth in American news died. After the Vietnam War, the government decided reporters in combat zones would be embedded. The way they sold this to the American people was that they didn’t want American war casualties shown on television to protect the dignity of the dead and their families. Of course it was a lie, but it was one brilliantly told. And it worked.
The government took this one step further. Every American reporter is embedded but within the agenda of the government. Therefore, even while appearing objective on the surface, the image of Muslims in the news is overwhelming one of war, terrorism, and violence. The news is pro-military to the point of jingoism. If anything critical of the military is presented, it is seen as “not supporting the troops” and whoever says it is ostracized. The military could perpetrate another My Lai Massacre and Americans would probably never even hear of it. Or it would be said they were all suspected terrorists and the massacre was justified.
Since Donald Trump became president of the United States, there has been an increase in the numbers of anti-Muslim attacks in the U.S. What could you say about this?
Jack Perry: These attacks were going on before he became president and this is important to recognize. I’ll tell you why. We cannot, here in America, make this one man our scapegoat and lay the blame entirely on him. That absolves us and, honestly, these attacks don’t just manifest from him alone. There were armed anti-Muslim demonstrators in front of mosques while Obama was president. These people should have been disarmed and arrested by federal troops if we truly wished to say we value the genuine meaning of the First Amendment. Let me explain in detail.
First, the anti-Muslim demonstrators said the law allowed them to be armed in public. In Arizona, this is true. But this law pertains to self-defense, not to protests or demonstrations. The law actually does not allow weapons to be used to intimidate others, nor does the law say it justifies doing so. Obviously, the guns were being carried to intimidate Muslims. But also, a protest or demonstration where protestors are armed is actually an insurrection, which is illegal. Therefore, the federal government should have acted in accordance with the federal law and not the misinterpretation of Arizona law by the demonstrators.
Second, the First Amendment does not just exist to allow those people to protest in front of a mosque. It also protects the right of the people to worship freely without fear and without persecution. When armed demonstrators are in front of a mosque, the First Amendment rights of those Muslims are being violated. The government failed to protect the civil rights of Muslims in favor of the very misconstrued civil rights of the protestors. We need to fully understand this dynamic because the government has used federal troops to protect civil rights in the past and failed to do so in this case. And this was with Obama as president.
So what we need to understand is that the anti-Muslim sentiment already existed in America before Trump became president. One thing he did was channel that into votes for him. And once elected, he legitimized anti-Muslim attacks because he himself was persecuting them through his travel ban. The message of the travel ban was this: You’re not wanted here. And that message was not lost on the anti-Muslim crowd who viewed that as tacit approval to take that law into their own hands. We already had a federal government unwilling to uphold the law and defend the civil rights of Muslims where it certainly mattered. But under Trump, we’ve got one hostile to Muslims and more than willing to turn a blind eye to attacks against them.
Extremist groups, such as ISIS, have tarnished the image of Islam and Muslims across the world. What are the roots of such groups and how do they grow in the Middle East?
Jack Perry: Let’s be honest here. Groups such as ISIS don’t just manifest out of thin air without Western intelligence agencies knowing about it. They acted as if this was somehow like mushrooms in the yard after a heavy rain. No one funds, arms, and resupplies a group like ISIS without some major government behind them. Come now, where was ISIS getting ammunition to fight a war all these years? Not Russia. Russia was fighting against them. Not Iran. Iran was fighting against them. So who? Who has the ability to get in and out of the region under plausible reasons to be there in the first place? Who has the ability to move massive amounts of Eastern European weapons and ammunition from Eastern Europe to Syria virtually undetected and with the transport capabilities to do it in the first place? I would have to say only Western governments could have accomplished that. Why? To get rid of Assad as was the stated goal all along.
Generally, the United States backs these extremist groups to topple the governments of nations it does not like. Or, it backs them to oppose a type of government it does not like, which is how this all started in the first place. Most of the semi-secular governments in the Middle East during the Cold War fell into the Soviet sphere of influence. So the U.S. backed Israel, who hated them, but also extremist groups who didn’t like the more secular aspects of those governments. This was the entire rationale behind American backing of groups during the Afghan-Soviet War who, afterwards, became al Qaida.
But there is one more aspect far beyond that I’d like to mention. Not all groups are the puppets of the West or backed by them. Many have legitimate grievances against the West and the United States in particular. The United States especially has been provoking people in the Middle East for decades now and should not be at all surprised when finally some come seeking retaliation. If you launch an airstrike that kills the families of several people and those people come seeking revenge, the United States should not be shocked. After all, this current anger of the United States against Iran dates back to 1979 and the Iran Hostage Crisis. The hostages were freed and not killed, but the United States government has been seeking revenge for that humiliation ever since.
Look, the West fought the Crusades for 500 years trying to wrest control of what it perceived as its “Holy Land” from Muslims. How, then, is the West unable to understand the desire of some Muslims to defend their own Holy Land for the few decades this has gone on? Come now, the West was over there off and on for 500 years waging its own holy war. It doesn’t get to now say it isn’t fair if someone else defends their own Holy Land. That was one of the entire premises behind al Qaida in the first place. I’m not saying terrorism is justified. But I’m saying it is naïve and childish to think some people woke up one day and said, “Gosh, we hate freedom and America! So let’s initiate attacks that will bring the collective weight of three aircraft carrier battle groups down upon our heads!” America thinks this, but it’s far from the truth. If America was forced to face the truth, it would have to leave the Middle East and stop keeping the cycle of violence going through its own violence. The violence isn’t one-sided. The United States is just as violent and kills just as many people, if not more.
In some Western countries, words such as Islam, Muslim, jihad, Sharia law, hijab, etc. have negative connotations. Could you tell us what these words really mean as compared to how they are perceived?
Jack Perry: Americans freak out over the hijab and in every church with a depiction of the Virgin Mary, she is basically wearing one. If someone wanted to depict the Virgin Mary with her hair uncovered, many American Christians would find that religiously objectionable. So Americans can’t sit there and act as if the hijab is some concept that they don’t understand. The truth is they just use it as a reason to hate Muslims. Look, traditional Catholic women wear their hair covered during Mass. Some even wear a cover over their hair in public. This isn’t something new.
Americans claim to be afraid of Sharia law but demand the U.S. government enforce a Christian version of it. They demand the government give employers the right to refuse to cover contraception in health care benefits because of religious beliefs. They have successfully, in some states, given businesses the right to refuse service to people over religious beliefs. The entire debate over legalized abortion in the United States is over religion! Religion has not been willing to let go of that issue since the 1970s! They are still demanding the government ban it over their own religious beliefs. Therefore, I ask you, what is this but Christian religious law? No Muslims have come up here and lobbied the United States government to enforce Islamic law. But Christians lobby the government to enforce Christian law every day here. And the truth is, a majority of Christians don’t support those fanatics lobbying the government in the first place.
Americans think they know all about Islam. But ask them if they’ve read the Quran. They won’t have. I mean, look, no one said you have to read it, but don’t go around saying you know about a thing if you’ve never read the foundational book of it. But the reason this is so is because some Christians in the United States haven’t read their Bible, either. If Americans are disturbed by people wearing religious clothing and reading a book of Scriptures, they should look to their own faith where the exact same things are done. Christianity and Judaism both have people wearing distinctive clothing to profess their faith. Why should Islam be any different? You don’t get to make rights for Christians and Jews and then say Muslims don’t enjoy the same rights. The First Amendment was written to forbid that very thing.
Americans claim ISIS to be the reason they fear Muslims, but one rifle in the United States has killed more Americans than ISIS. That being the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. In most cases, you can obtain this rifle, unlimited magazines, and several thousand rounds of ammunition in less than half an hour. Getting an asthma inhaler is far more difficult here than getting this weapon. You have seen in the news that this weapon has killed 17 more people at a school. This is just a few months after a bloodbath in Las Vegas where this weapon was used. Now this weapon has been used in mass murders here for years now. But what got banned? People from several Muslim nations! Can you see the paradox here? Here’s a weapon, the AR-15, responsible for scores of dead and injured. It’s the weapon of choice for mass murderers. But it remains legal right now having just killed 17 kids at a school. To even talk of banning it is met with outrage and anger about “rights” and so on. But the travel ban on Muslims is what is seen as the most important thing to keep Americans “safe”! Astonishing!
Finally, the United States has become exactly what it accuses others of being: a dictatorship. Albeit one without absolute power of the dictator but many dictators in history actually didn’t have absolute power, either. But they had enough where it mattered, as is the case with Trump. They could influence and cause to happen attacks upon minority religions and ethnic groups. They could cause to happen laws to eject or deport those groups. And we see this today. But if America doesn’t stop playing politics with this and admit to itself what it has become, the future will be far more sinister that it is now.
Jack Perry is a writer who lives with his wife in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. When talking about the ambitions and goals of the United States government, Jack warns: “Always Assume It’s A Scam.” Jack writes, bakes bread, and is a Path pilgrim and wayfarer of this world.