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Monday 13 September 2010

Hate Springs Eternal

Right now is not a good time to be a follower of Islam across the USA: the almost hysterical reaction to the proposed Cordoba Centre in Lower Manhattan has spilled over into citizens opposing mosques and Islamic centres anywhere and everywhere within the Republic. It might be thought that a call for calm and reflection would be the order of the day.

Unfortunately, in one part of the broadcast media at least, the opposite appears to be happening: no prizes for guessing that the anti-Muslim rhetoric is being stoked by our old friends at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). And, as a number of their hosts are weighing in with the same kind of message, the thought enters that this approach has been organised in advance.

During the summer, Imam Rauf, the softly spoken man behind the Cordoba Centre (or Park 51, if you prefer) has been characterised as a “radical” by Fox hosts including professional loudmouth Sean Hannity, despite Rauf’s moderate and conciliatory background. When Rauf voiced his concerns that being forced to move the proposed Islamic centre could provoke anti-American feeling among Muslims across the world, he was accused on the following morning’s Fox and Friends of issuing threats.

As that edition of Fox and Friends was on September 10, the timing was significant. But the disconnect was becoming noticeable: Rauf’s concern was also for the wellbeing of US forces in countries such as Afghanistan, a point also made recently by Gen. David Petraeus. Fox News Channel, like Rupe’s UK troops at the Sun and Screws, claims to be an unwavering supporter of the military.

And on that point, there has been silence. So do Roger Ailes and his coterie of obedient hosts want to put US service personnel rather more in harm’s way? It’s a strange paradox that those who shout their support for the military the loudest are also the ones who want them to be thrown into every conceivable theatre of war.

Yet stranger is the idea that the use of hate speech will do anything other than tarnish the image of the USA around the world – whatever the faith of those watching.

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