Agents argued that they had evidence that would easily support the more serious charges. A RICO case would give the task force the ability to tie many seemingly unconnected conspiracies together, and prosecute the alleged bosses overseeing them, like Safieddine, participants say. It would also allow authorities to seize potentially billions in assets, they say, and to use the threat of far longer prison terms to wring more cooperation out of Harb and others already charged or convicted.
Privately, Asher began to tell task force colleagues, the best way to take down the entire criminal enterprise — especially such a politically sensitive one as Hezbollah — was to go after its money, and the financial institutions assisting it. Much of the freshly laundered cash, the records show, was then wired to about U. Task force agents also documented how Safieddine was a financial liaison providing Hezbollah — and, of potentially huge significance, Iran — with VIP services at the bank, including precious access to the international financial system in violation of U.
The Manhattan prosecutors agreed to file criminal charges against the bank and two senior officials that they hoped to turn into cooperating witnesses against Hezbollah and Safieddine, several participants said. The Obama White House said privately that it feared a broader assault on Lebanese financial institutions would destabilize the country. But without the threat of prison time, complicit bank officials clammed up. And without pressure on the many other financial institutions in Lebanon and the region, Hezbollah simply moved its banking business elsewhere.
Justice Department officials involved, including then-U. Attorney Preet Bharara and other prosecutors, declined requests to discuss the bank case or others involving Hezbollah. Joumaa aka "Junior" allegedly coordinated the transport, distribution and sales of multi-ton shipments of cocaine. He's also accused of laundering money in the U. Task force agents hoped those cases would win them the political support needed to attack the Hezbollah criminal network and its patrons in Tehran. Instead, the opposite appeared to be happening.
In Philadelphia, the FBI-led task force had spent two years bolstering its case claiming that Safieddine had overseen an effort to purchase 1, military-grade assault rifles bound for Lebanon, with the help of Kelly and the special narcoterrorism prosecutors in New York. Now, they had two key eyewitnesses. Convinced they had a strong case, the New York prosecutors sent a formal prosecution request to senior Justice Department lawyers in Washington, as required in such high-profile cases.
Justice Department officials declined to comment on the case. Kelly had been searching for an appropriate DEA code name to give to collaborating agencies so they could access and contribute to task force investigative files. The appointment of John Kerry as secretary of state was widely viewed as a sign of a redoubled effort to engage with Iran. Another factor was the victory of reformist candidate Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran that summer, which pushed the talks over a possible nuclear deal into high gear. Some Obama officials warned that further crackdowns against Hezbollah would destabilize Lebanon.
Others warned that such actions would alienate Iran at a critical early stage of the serious Iran deal talks. He said he criticized it at the time as being misguided and hypocritical. The White House was driven by a broader set of concerns than the fate of the nuclear talks, the former White House official said, including the fear of reprisals by Hezbollah against the United States and Israel, and the need to maintain peace and stability in the Middle East.
His former associates, however, said that he remained committed to preventing Hezbollah from committing terrorist acts, and that his decisions were based on an overall concern for U. For their part, task force agents said they tried to work around the obstacles presented by the Justice and State Departments and the White House. Often, they chose to build relatively simple drug and weapons cases against suspects rather than the ambitious narcoterrorism prosecutions that required the approval of senior Justice Department lawyers, interviews and records show.
Much of this evidence grew out of the Lebanese Canadian Bank investigation, including details of how an army of couriers for years had been transporting billions of dollars in dirty U. And the task force was on the tail of every one of them, he said, thanks to an enterprising DEA agent who had found a way to get all of their cellphone numbers.
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Such on-the-ground spadework, combined with its worldwide network of court-approved communications intercepts, gave Project Cassandra agents virtual omniscience over some aspects of the Hezbollah criminal network. And from their perch in Chantilly, they watched with growing alarm as Hezbollah accelerated its global expansion that the drug money helped finance. Both Hezbollah and Iran continued to build up their military arsenals and move thousands of soldiers and weapons into Syria.
Aided by the U. Iran and Hezbollah began making similar moves into Yemen and other Sunni-controlled countries. And their networks in Africa trafficked not just in drugs, weapons and used cars but diamonds, commercial merchandise and even human slaves, according to interviews with former Project Cassandra members and Treasury Department documents. Hezbollah and the Quds force also were moving into China and other new markets. The strategy worked in Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela, which evicted the DEA, shuttering strategic bases and partnerships that had been a bulwark in the U.
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez was personally working with then-Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hezbollah on drug trafficking and other activities aimed at undermining U. Within a few years, Venezuelan cocaine exports skyrocketed from 50 tons a year to , much of it bound for American cities, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime statistics show.
From there, the operatives spread throughout the subcontinent and set up shop in the many recently opened Iranian consulates, businesses and mosques, former Project Cassandra agents said. But when the Obama administration had opportunities to secure the extradition of two of the biggest players in that conspiracy, it failed to press hard enough to get them extradited to the United States, where they would face charges, task force officials told POLITICO.
While in custody, Makled claimed to have 40 Venezuelan generals on his payroll and evidence implicating dozens of top Venezuelan officials in drug trafficking and other crimes. He pleaded to be sent to New York as a protected, cooperating witness, but Colombia — a staunch U. The other, retired Venezuelan general and former chief of intelligence Hugo Carvajal, was arrested in Aruba on U.
Instead, Venezuela was now the primary pipeline for U. Project Cassandra agents came to regard the Ghost as perhaps the most important on-the-ground operator in the conspiracy because of his suspected role in moving drugs, money and munitions, including multi-ton loads of cocaine, into the United States, and WMD components to the Middle East, according to two former senior U. Now, they had information that Fayad, a joint Lebanese and Ukrainian citizen, and the Ghost were involved in moving conventional and chemical weapons into Syria for Hezbollah, Iran and Russia to help President Assad crush the insurgency against his regime.
Adding to the mystery: Fayad served as a Ukrainian defense ministry adviser, worked for the state-owned arms exporter Ukrspecexport and appeared to have taken Bout Viktor Anatolyevich Bout Vladimir Putin's arms dealer, known as the "Lord of War. The Fayad sting — and his unprecedented value as a potential cooperating witness — was just one of many reasons Project Cassandra members had good cause, finally, for optimism.
As negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal intensify, the administration pushes back against Project Cassandra. Hezbollah's network moved "metric ton quantities of cocaine [to] launder drug proceeds on a global scale, and procure weapons and Some top U. So task force leaders welcomed the opportunity to attend a May summit meeting of Obama national security officials at Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida.
The summit, and several weeks of interagency prep that preceded it, however, prompted even more pushback from some top national security officials. In addition, the briefings for top White House and Justice Department officials that had been requested by Holder never materialized, task force agents said. Holder did not respond to requests for comment. And Kelly, Asher and other agents said they stopped getting invitations to interagency meetings, including those of a top Obama transnational crime working group.
We walked away with nothing. After the Tampa meeting, Project Cassandra leaders pushed — unsuccessfully, they said — for greater support from the Obama administration in extraditing Fayad from the Czech Republic to New York for prosecution, and in locating and arresting the many high-value targets who went underground after hearing news of his arrest. And task force officials pushed the Obama team, also unsuccessfully, to use U.
Frustrated, he wrote another of his emails to DEA leaders in July , asking for help. The email stated that the used-car money-laundering scheme was flourishing in the United States and Africa. Around this time, people outside Project Cassandra began noting that senior administration officials were increasingly suspicious of it.
Douglas Farah, a transnational crime analyst, said he tried to raise the Project Cassandra investigations with Obama officials in order to corroborate his own on-the-ground research, without success. One Obama national security official even said so explicitly in the same State Department meeting in which he boasted about how the administration was bringing together a broad coalition in the Middle East, including Hezbollah, to fight the Islamic State terrorist group, Asher recalled.
Kerry, who was overseeing the negotiations, rejected suggestions that the nuclear deal was linked to other issues affecting the U. S-Iranian relationship. And no discussion has ever taken place about linking one thing to another. DEA operations in the Middle East were shut down repeatedly due to political sensitivities, especially in Lebanon, according to one former CIA officer working in the region. That allegation was contested vehemently by the former senior Obama national security official who played a role in the Iran nuclear negotiations.
That was the only way, he testified, for U. The nuclear deal was signed in July , and formally implemented on Jan. A week later, almost two years after his arrest, Czech officials finally released Fayad to Lebanon in exchange for five Czech citizens that Hezbollah operatives had kidnapped as bargaining chips. Afterward, the U. But to be fair, there was a lot of shit we did during the Iran deal negotiations that pissed the Iranians off. Customs and Border Patrol, arrested an undisclosed number of Hezbollah-related suspects in France and neighboring countries on charges of using drug trafficking money to procure weapons for use in Syria.
This DEA press release is the first mention of Project Cassandra, and pinpoints seven countries involved in disrupting the flow of drug money to promote terrorist operations. But Kelly and some other agents had already come to believe that the arrests would be a last hurrah for the task force, as it was crumbling under pressure from U. They wanted it in the public record, in case they had no further opportunity to expose the massive conspiracy they believed he had been overseeing. The news release caused a stir. And the French government called off a joint news conference planned to announce the arrests.
Two weeks later, after firing off another angry email or two, Kelly said he was told by his superiors that he was being transferred against his wishes to a gang unit at DEA headquarters. He retired months later on the first day he was eligible. Several other key agents and analysts also transferred out on their own accord, in some cases in order to receive promotions, or after being told by DEA leaders that they had been at the Special Operations Division for too long, according to Kelly, Asher, Maltz and others. The notion of an immense and awful JFK-assassination conspiracy became conventional wisdom in America.
As a result, more Americans than ever became reflexive conspiracy theorists. Of course, real life made such stories plausible. The infiltration by the FBI and intelligence agencies of left-wing groups was then being revealed, and the Watergate break-in and its cover-up were an actual criminal conspiracy. Within a few decades, the belief that a web of villainous elites was covertly seeking to impose a malevolent global regime made its way from the lunatic right to the mainstream.
Each camp, conspiracists on the right and on the left, was ostensibly the enemy of the other, but they began operating as de facto allies. Conspiracy theories were more of a modern right-wing habit before people on the left signed on. A mericans felt newly entitled to believe absolutely anything.
We wanted to believe in extraterrestrials, so we did. What made the UFO mania historically significant rather than just amusing, however, was the web of elaborate stories that were now being spun: not just of sightings but of landings and abductions—and of government cover-ups and secret alliances with interplanetary beings. Those earnest beliefs planted more seeds for the extravagant American conspiracy thinking that by the turn of the century would be rampant and seriously toxic. The first big nonfiction abduction tale appeared around the same time, in a best-selling book about a married couple in New Hampshire who believed that while driving their Chevy sedan late one night, they saw a bright object in the sky that the wife, a UFO buff already, figured might be a spacecraft.
She began having nightmares about being abducted by aliens, and both of them underwent hypnosis. The details of the abducting aliens and their spacecraft that each described were different, and changed over time. Thereafter, hypnosis became the standard way for people who believed that they had been abducted or that they had past lives, or that they were the victims of satanic abuse to recall the supposed experience.
The husband and wife were undoubtedly sincere believers. That book and its many sequels sold tens of millions of copies, and the documentary based on it had a huge box-office take in By the s, things appeared to have returned more or less to normal. Civil rights seemed like a done deal, the war in Vietnam was over, young people were no longer telling grown-ups they were worthless because they were grown-ups. Revolution did not loom. Sex and drugs and rock and roll were regular parts of life.
The sense of cultural and political upheaval and chaos dissipated—which lulled us into ignoring all the ways that everything had changed, that Fantasyland was now scaling and spreading and becoming the new normal. What had seemed strange and amazing in or became normal and ubiquitous. Relativism became entrenched in academia—tenured, you could say. This kind of thinking was by no means limited to the ivory tower. The distinction between opinion and fact was crumbling on many fronts. Belief in gigantic secret conspiracies thrived, ranging from the highly improbable to the impossible, and moved from the crackpot periphery to the mainstream.
Parts of the establishment—psychology and psychiatry, academia, religion, law enforcement—encouraged people to believe that all sorts of imaginary traumas were real. We had defined every sort of deviancy down. And as the cultural critic Neil Postman put it in his jeremiad about how TV was replacing meaningful public discourse with entertainment, we were in the process of amusing ourselves to death. The Reagan presidency was famously a triumph of truthiness and entertainment, and in the s, as problematically batty beliefs kept going mainstream, presidential politics continued merging with the fantasy-industrial complex.
In , as soon as we learned that President Bill Clinton had been fellated by an intern in the West Wing, his popularity spiked. Which was baffling only to those who still thought of politics as an autonomous realm, existing apart from entertainment. American politics happened on television; it was a TV series, a reality show just before TV became glutted with reality shows. A titillating new story line that goosed the ratings of an existing series was an established scripted-TV gimmick.
The audience had started getting bored with The Clinton Administration , but the Monica Lewinsky subplot got people interested again. Just before the Clintons arrived in Washington, the right had managed to do away with the federal Fairness Doctrine, which had been enacted to keep radio and TV shows from being ideologically one-sided.
Until then, big-time conservative opinion media had consisted of two magazines, William F. Buckley Jr. For most of the 20th century, national news media had felt obliged to pursue and present some rough approximation of the truth rather than to promote a truth, let alone fictions. With the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine, a new American laissez-faire had been officially declared. If lots more incorrect and preposterous assertions circulated in our mass media, that was a price of freedom.
If splenetic commentators could now, as never before, keep believers perpetually riled up and feeling the excitement of being in a mob, so be it. Instead of relying on an occasional magazine or newsletter to confirm your gnarly view of the world, now you had talk radio drilling it into your head for hours every day.
Fox News brought the Limbaughvian talk-radio version of the world to national TV, offering viewers an unending and immersive propaganda experience of a kind that had never existed before. For Americans, this was a new condition. Over the course of the century, electronic mass media had come to serve an important democratic function: presenting Americans with a single shared set of facts. And there was also the internet, which eventually would have mooted the Fairness Doctrine anyhow.
In , the first modern spam message was sent, visible to everyone on Usenet: global alert for all: jesus is coming soon. Over the next year or two, the masses learned of the World Wide Web. Before the web, cockamamy ideas and outright falsehoods could not spread nearly as fast or as widely, so it was much easier for reason and reasonableness to prevail.
Before the web, institutionalizing any one alternate reality required the long, hard work of hundreds of full-time militants. In the digital age, however, every tribe and fiefdom and principality and region of Fantasyland—every screwball with a computer and an internet connection—suddenly had an unprecedented way to instruct and rile up and mobilize believers, and to recruit more.
False beliefs were rendered both more real-seeming and more contagious, creating a kind of fantasy cascade in which millions of bedoozled Americans surfed and swam. Because until then, that had not been necessary to say. Reason remains free to combat unreason, but the internet entitles and equips all the proponents of unreason and error to a previously unimaginable degree. Particularly for a people with our history and propensities, the downside of the internet seems at least as profound as the upside. On the internet, the prominence granted to any factual assertion or belief or theory depends on the preferences of billions of individual searchers.
Each click on a link is effectively a vote pushing that version of the truth toward the top of the pile of results. Exciting falsehoods tend to do well in the perpetual referenda, and become self-validating. When I Googled chemtrails proof , the first seven results offered so-called evidence of the nonexistent conspiracy. Academic research shows that religious and supernatural thinking leads people to believe that almost no big life events are accidental or random. Eric Oliver and Thomas J. Wood, confirmed this special American connection.
As a year-old, I watched William F. Today I disagree about political issues with friends and relatives to my right, but we agree on the essential contours of reality. People on the left are by no means all scrupulously reasonable. Many give themselves over to the appealingly dubious and the untrue. But fantastical politics have become highly asymmetrical. There is no real left-wing equivalent of Sean Hannity, let alone Alex Jones.
Moreover, the far right now has unprecedented political power; it controls much of the U. Why did the grown-ups and designated drivers on the political left manage to remain basically in charge of their followers, while the reality-based right lost out to fantasy-prone true believers? One reason, I think, is religion. The GOP is now quite explicitly Christian. The party is the American coalition of white Christians, papering over doctrinal and class differences—and now led, weirdly, by one of the least religious presidents ever.
I doubt the GOP elite deliberately engineered the synergies between the economic and religious sides of their contemporary coalition. But as the incomes of middle- and working-class people flatlined, Republicans pooh-poohed rising economic inequality and insecurity. Economic insecurity correlates with greater religiosity, and among white Americans, greater religiosity correlates with voting Republican.
Religion aside, America simply has many more fervid conspiracists on the right, as research about belief in particular conspiracies confirms again and again. Only the American right has had a large and organized faction based on paranoid conspiracism for the past six decades. As the pioneer vehicle, the John Birch Society zoomed along and then sputtered out, but its fantastical paradigm and belligerent temperament has endured in other forms and under other brand names.
Yes, say 34 percent of Republican voters, according to Public Policy Polling. But then the right wanted its turn to win. It pretty much accepted racial and gender equality and had to live with social welfare and regulation and bigger government, but it insisted on slowing things down. We still seemed to be in the midst of the normal cyclical seesawing of American politics. After Reagan, his hopped-up true-believer faction began insisting on total victory. But in a democracy, of course, total victory by any faction is a dangerous fantasy. Another way the GOP got loopy was by overdoing libertarianism.
Libertarianism, remember, is an ideology whose most widely read and influential texts are explicitly fiction. For a while, Republican leaders effectively encouraged and exploited the predispositions of their variously fantastical and extreme partisans. Keeping those people angry and frightened won them elections.
But over the past few decades, a lot of the rabble they roused came to believe all the untruths. But conservatism to them also meant conserving the natural environment and allowing people to make their own choices, including about abortion. Clarence Thomas, who considered Richard Nixon suspiciously leftish.
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My parents never belonged to a church. Until about , the Christian right was not a phrase in American politics. In , my widowed mom, having voted for 14 Republican presidential nominees in a row, quit a party that had become too Christian for her. The Christian takeover happened gradually, but then quickly in the end, like a phase change from liquid to gas. In addition, there was an alarming development in the s.
The migrants, whose problems were seen as a consequence of their socio-economic status during the preceding decades, started to be perceived as culturally different. The apparent failure to integrate has been viewed in cultural terms, that is, as failure to adapt to European culture and to adopt European norms, values and styles. In other words, Muslims do not integrate because they are Muslims, and Islam is perceived as incompatible with Western culture and values.
Thus, it is no surprise that Islam has been constructed as a problem. This shift in perception is synchronic with the advent, since , of the so-called Islamic revival. However, there is no one Muslim community in Europe; this is a fantasy. Muslims come from different countries, live in different countries and speak different languages.
They are immensely divided in their faith, in their ethnicity and also in their relation to religious practice and to the role religion plays in their lives. It is therefore erroneous to remove the migrant from his own condition. A migrant born to Algerian migrant parents with French nationality is first of all French. So why should we encage him in a Muslim community supposedly closed and fixed forever? Speaking constantly of Muslim community means that Islam eclipses the individual Muslim as the presumed actor of social and political change.
Such a postulate is both erroneous and dangerous, not only because Islam assumes the role of an internal enemy in a societal cold war between European societies and their Muslims, but also because the integration issue is disconnected from the socio-economic context and becomes the sole responsibility of Muslims. Happily enough, many Muslims are fighting their way into European societies and gradually integrating their norms. Many success stories of Muslims in all sectors, from economy to culture, provide ample proof that there is no Muslim fatality. Muslims with higher education and higher wages—like the Unfortunately, the bulk of Muslims in Europe are labour migrants or sons of labour migrants who are badly equipped to better integrate into European societies, not because of Islam, but because of their socio-economic condition.
Should we, therefore, incriminate official policies for the lack of integration? I believe so, to a certain extent. There have been shortcomings and even failures in France and elsewhere.
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Urban policies have been inadequate. Employment incentives have been limited and job discrimination insufficiently addressed. All of these shortcomings are now under review, and measures are being taken, unfortunately, up until now, with scarce results. But thorny questions have to be raised: How does a native European Muslim become radicalised? The assertion that Islam is the religion of the sword, and that other religions, such as Christianity, Judaism or even Buddism, are religions of peace is grossly misleading.
Why, then, does a tiny minority of Muslim European youth engage in violence? Answers tend to differ significantly. One school of thought adopts a culturalist view, which links terrorism, jihadism and extremism to the Islamic religion itself. For its proponents, violence is consubstantial to Islam since most of the modern conflicts are taking place in Muslim countries and since the majority of terrorist groups are Muslims, such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, Somali Al-Shabab, etc.
A second school of thought, considered to be realist, asserts that the failure of European governments to fully integrate Muslim communities leaves some European Muslims more vulnerable to jihadist ideologies. Some young people feel so left behind and alienated that they turn to Islam as a badge of cultural identity. Clearly, these arguments are not convincing. For centuries, religious wars split European countries apart.
Nowadays, Buddhist monks organise mass killings and deportations of Muslims in Myanmar, and Jewish extremists colonise Palestine and abuse secular Jews in the name of God. But neither is the other argument totally credible. First, there are millions of immigrants who suffer from segregation, discrimination and lack of opportunities but who do not engage in terrorist activities. Secondly, some terrorist attacks, like those carried out in the US in , were perpetrated by well-educated and economically comfortable individuals. In my humble opinion, four factors might help fully grasp the gradual process of radicalisation.
The first is identity-based radicalisation. For many young Muslims of migrant origin, whether left behind or fully integrated, there is a widespread feeling that they are not fully accepted as fellow citizens. After three generations, a French citizen of Algerian descent is still perceived as an Algerian and a Muslim. He may never have visited Algeria, and he may be a non-believer, but he is still perceived as an alien. It is no small wonder that some youth curse the country in which they are born and raised. The second factor is socio-economic based radicalisation.
This form of radicalisation is related to the socio-economic grievances harboured by second and third-generation Muslims. Undoubtedly, the lack of opportunities is linked to objective failures like poor education and training. Others are linked to job discrimination. For example, a friend of mine, a young Algerian Muslim and an excellent engineer, sent an application for a job vacancy and signed the letter with his true name. He received an answer that the job was no longer vacant. He sent the same letter with some slight modifications, including his westernised name, and he was summoned for an interview.
This happens frequently and feeds the sentiment that university studies are not necessarily a ladder of social mobility in the case of many Muslims. In the long run, this may sow the seeds of hatred. The third factor is the search for a mission. This self-radicalisation is partly due to persistent, socio-economic challenges, but also to the exposure to social media and to satellite television, some of which is generously financed. It is no secret that some petrodollar-financed satellite channels propagate a literalist reading of the Koranic texts, indirectly contributing to the forging of a radical mindset that is prone to see the world with binary logic: Islam versus the Other, Good versus Evil.
Such logic leads to fanaticism and the rejection of negotiation, dialogue or compromise. The fourth factor is geopolitical based radicalisation. This relates to the constant exposure that young European Muslims have of the sufferings inflicted by the West and its regional allies on fellow Muslims in many parts of the Arab and Muslim worlds. The three Israeli offensives in Gaza , and produced dramatic resentment among Muslims against Israel and its western allies, mainly the Americans, who were accused of having double-standards for standing by Israel, in spite of its continuous breaches of international law and violations of human rights.
But the belief that those terrorists who orchestrated the horrific attacks in Madrid, London and elsewhere were avenging the suffering of the Palestinians is wrong and misleading. Palestine has been more of a justification than a source of radicalisation for some young European, radical Muslims. All of these forms of radicalisation may converge or not. We have seen cases of native European converts engaging in terrorist activities.
The September 11 th terrorists were highly skilled and affluent. Many terrorists are not religious but suddenly become fanatically religious in a sort of informal religious radicalisation. We have also seen cases of radicalisation in countries, such as Holland, which have done much to accommodate Muslim immigrants affirmative action hiring policy, free language courses, etc. As a matter of fact, Mohamed Bouyeri, who murdered the filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, was born in Holland and was collecting unemployment benefits.
These facts do not totally invalidate the relationship between failed integration and radicalisation. In such an essentialised image, Islam has been perceived as a homogeneous mass, static and unresponsive to change. Edward Said, in his book Covering Islam , has shown the intellectual fallacy of such a postulate, as it falls in the trap of regarding Islam monolithically and does not grasp the complex heterogeneity of a historical phenomenon. What is really intriguing and somehow disturbing is that Islamophobia is not fading in the 21st century.
On the contrary, it is gaining salience. There is no consensus among intellectuals about the factors that trigger this modern Islamophobia. Many intellectuals, both Muslims and non-Muslims, are convinced that Islamophobia is the natural outcome of extreme violence in Muslim countries, anti-Western terrorist attacks, reprehensible behaviour of certain groups of migrants and the radicalisation of some young native European Muslims.
Others go even further by arguing that there is a well-structured and well-financed Islamophobia industry that has managed to capture public opinion without serious contestation. In this regard, some media, including electronic media, are pinpointed as major contributors to the surge of Islamophobia. All of these claims are debatable as they oversimplify a complex issue. First, there is plenty of cruelty in the world, and religiously-motivated violence has erupted in many places, not only in Islamic countries.
The argument that Western vilification of Islam is inherent to Western culture is also a gross exaggeration, as it considers the West as a monolith incapable of empathy and trapped in its closed views of Islam and Muslims. While speaking about an Islamophobic industry may suppose that there is a sort of intellectual and political conspiracy against Islam and Muslims, this is something I am not fond of.
What is sure is that Islamophobia is related to identity politics since it allows its adherents to construct their identity in opposition to a negative image of Muslims, their culture and religion. In a context in which European states are facing an identity crisis, an economic slump and high rates of unemployment, all of these events could only rekindle anti-Islamic sentiment. At the popular level, anti-Islam sentiment is also dramatically increasing, as revealed by a special study on Islam by Bertelsmann Foundation These percentages are quite telling.
Muslim countries would be ill-advised to ignore them because they are also responsible for the degradation of the image of Islam and Muslims.
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This argument is politically correct, but it is self-serving and not credible. After all, radical Islam is the religious form through which a particular kind of violent political rage expresses itself. Thus, instead of blaming the West for its hatred of Muslims, Muslim countries should ask themselves this difficult question: What went wrong in terms of political participation, economic efficiency and religious education? Why does such a destructive, nihilistic rage come from within the Muslim community? Why do some rich Arab countries finance and export fundamentalist movements while keeping a tight grip on protest and dissent at home?
Unless these questions are correctly addressed, it will be arduous to uproot radical ideologies, to stifle religious violence in the name of God and, consequently, to dampen the appeal of the Islamophobic discourse. Since the first terrorist attacks in Europe, strategies have been devised, specialised study centres have been set-up and policies have been adopted to counter violent extremism. The array of policies includes, among other things, the promotion of Muslim integration in European countries by establishing structures for dialogue between representatives of Islam and the governments.
For decades, Germany perceived its migrants as temporary guest workers and showed no hurry in facilitating their integration. Naturalisation was restricted until the s. But a law passed in allowed second-generation foreigners to apply for citizenship. A Immigration law provided funding for mandatory integration courses. In , the German government inaugurated the National Conference on Islam, and in , the Federal Government adopted the First National Integration Plan, focusing on the promotion of German values of equality and civil engagement.
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