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American foreign policy bears an infamous reputation amongst world leaders for it’s imperialistic approach to world issues through heavy use of brute military power to enforce Western ideals of democracy. Such intervention has historically proven to generate more harm than good, usually inciting chaos, violence and disorder within the region in question. This chaos is generally justified by U.S leaders through claims our intervention is for the sake of American security, creating a fear campaign against an “enemy” which poses virtually no threat American safety. This concept is clearly exemplified through the “War on Terror”, a supposed preventative counter against terrorism, which has served as a fuel for a nationwide fear of Islam. The United States’ War on Terror is responsible for the rampant, aggressive Islamophobia persisting in the fabric of American society.
The Bush administration’s justification for the War on Terror, marked by the 2003 invasion of Iraq, initially focused on short-term security issues. This included removing a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, harbored and supported terrorists, and supported the violation of basic human rights. This plan was to be conducted through the use of hard military power in order to not only liberate Iraq, but to also abolish the roots of terrorism. This exemplifies Wilsonianism, or the “Good Neighbor” policy, explained by Noam Chomsky in Hegemony or Survival. Chomsky describes this concept as “the circles who provide stability and righteousness are good, even noble. Hence our interventions are necessarily righteous in intent” (31). This idea served as the United States’ justification for invading a virtually defenseless- and primarily Islamic- country and creating an enemy to form a fear campaign against, ultimately causing a nationwide panic surrounding Islam.
The War on Terror gave way to an influx of anti-Islamic propaganda, deepening the nation’s hatred and distrust of Muslims and anything related to Islamic beliefs. Chomsky explains this concept as a “pre-emptive tactic” against terrorism, a tactic used to “depict Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat to the United States and to insinuate that he was responsible for the 9-11 atrocities and was planning others” (5). The tactic was highly successful in shifting the American attitude towards Islam, and soon drove American public opinion off the global spectrum and helped the administration establish Iraq as our enemy that needed to be eradicated with heavy military force. Saddam Hussein and his associates soon became synonymous with Islam as a whole, portraying it as a violent, extremist religion responsible for terrorist attacks on American soil. This created a widespread distrust and fear of those who practiced Islam, giving way to violent, deep rooted Islamophobia and Muslim hate crimes within the United States.
Soon after the events of 9-11 and the launch of the Bush administration’s War on Terror, Muslim hate crimes quickly skyrocketed as anti-Islamic propaganda began to make its way into Western media. According to FBI statistics, 481 anti-Islamic hate crimes were reported in 2001, a striking majority occurring shortly after the September 11th attacks, averaging at a monthly rate of 40.1. These same statistics reported roughly 150.8 anti-Islamic related hate crimes occurring nearly every year since 2003, with a monthly average of 12.6 (FBI.gov). An alarming number of such hate crimes were committed against men of the Sikh religion, an entirely separate religion from Islam which also practices the wearing of turbans for religious purposes. This discrimination is a direct result of anti Islamic propaganda ignited by the War on Terror, portraying potential terrorists as darker skinned men who wear turbans.
The discrimination against those who practiced Islam as a result of the War on Terror also manifested itself in microaggressions and less obvious forms of harassment. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a report in 2014 surrounding not only Muslim hate crimes, but also levels of microaggressions and the general public opinion on Islam. The report notes since the events of September 11th, there has been a striking increase in the numbers of airport discrimination, growing to a distressing 340 percent within the last decade. (Islamophobia: CAIR.com). A CNN report also notes American mosques and Islamic centers have consistently been the victims of vandalism, harassment and anti-Muslim bigotry at least 63 times last year, and 26 percent of Americans strongly justify such acts, claiming mosques and Islamic centers should be closely monitored by U.S law enforcement agencies for terrorist activity. (Burke, CNN.com). This blatant, irrational hatred and Islamophobia is a direct consequence of the propaganda spread from the Bush administration’s War on Terror.
The War on Terror, though advertised to be a mission to protect American security and provide freedom to Iraq, has ultimately become the driving force behind the violent epidemic of Islamophobia in the United States. This has been empirically identified through the staggering increase of anti-Islamic hate crimes throughout the past decade, and is a direct result of the propaganda established and spread throughout Western media. The efforts of the Bush administration to eradicate terrorism and extremist ideals has effectively failed in its endeavor, and has instead ignited a nationwide panic and hatred of Muslims. The War on Terror clearly demonstrates the imperialistic worldview of American foreign policy, and exemplifies the United States’ desire of global hegemony by fabricating an enemy and a fear campaign against it.
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