Updated new national security threat:White Supremacy vs Perkasa/ Pekida and Safron Supremacy
All purported acts of violence only took place after teargas was fired. Until then, we had full control of the situation before it all went awry,” she said.
A mere handful of professions are honoured with an honorific that survives beyond the office. Priests, judges, armed services officers, professors and doctors, of both the medical and academic disciplines: that’s about it. Journalists, even editors, and politicians, even cabinet ministers, would invite ridicule if they handed out visiting cards marked ‘Editor X’ or ‘Cabinet Minister Y’. Indians are, at best, ambivalent about media and politics. They respect our guardians of law, knowledge and security. There is a new tendency among former envoys to add ‘Ambassador’ before their name, a practice borrowed from America, but this is a title snatched from vanity rather than bestowed by popular acclaim.
Ego sometimes persuades a pompous politician to flaunt a bogus ‘Dr’ on his nameplate. This is not a reward for academic brilliance but an upgrade to a peacock feather, the ‘honorary doctorate’, a worthless piece of paper handed out by an institution desperate for attention. However, this does not matter too much, since we do not expect a high level of honesty from our politicians. Only two letters separate use from abuse, so there will always be a quack preening himself in the garb of a doctor. But when a person held in high esteem dilutes the trust reposed in him, it affects the collective reputation of the brotherhood.
Justice M S Liberhan did not need 17 years and a thousand pages to tell us what has been public knowledge since December 6, 1992. The Babri mosque was not torn down in the dark of night. It was brought down slowly, stone by stone, in Sunday sunlight, before hundreds of journalists, to the cheers of countless thousands of kar sewaks in and around Ayodhya. The mosque was not dynamited in a minute; it was demolished by crowbar and shovel.
Of course, senior leaders of the BJP and RSS were present, for they were kar sewaks as well. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not there, but he was in nearby Lucknow, albeit a reluctant guest, but unable to refuse the invitation to the party. Newspapers the next day, and magazines the next weekend, published their pictures, some of which became iconic. We did not need a wait of 17 years to learn that Vinay Katiyar was responsible: he has been claiming responsibility for over 6,000 days.
Sharad Pawar, then defence minister, showed a filmed record of December 6 to an invited group at the home of a party MP a few days later. The Liberhan Commission could have completed half its report by taking a look at that film. The media was equally comprehensive in its coverage of the brutal riots that followed: The Sri Krishna report has done far greater justice to the truth in its findings on the Maharashtra riots, so much so that there is all-party collusion on its non-implementation. There was only one question trapped in doubt: What was prime minister P V Narasimha Rao doing while Babri was destroyed on the longest day of the last two decades? Why was home minister S B Chavan, father of the present Maharashtra chief minister, immobile, inscrutable and stolid?
Shock raced through Delhi when word filtered through that an assault had begun in Ayodhya. Phone calls began to pour into the prime minister’s residence in the hope that he would use the authority of the state to uphold the rule of law and fulfil a political and moral obligation. There was a monstrous response from the prime minister’s personal secretary. The PM was either unavailable or, worse, asleep. It was a lie. Rao’s inaction and Chavan’s collaboration were deliberate.
Liberhan protects Rao with an equally conscious fudge, shuffling the blame on to unspecified intelligence agencies. Everyone knew what was going on, IB officers better than most. Rao called a Cabinet meeting only in the evening, when there was nothing left to be saved — not even reputation. By this time, fires of hatred were lighting up the dusk of Mumbai and dozens of cities across the nation. An elaborate programme of blame, reward and punishment was put into place. Those (including bureaucrats and journalists) who acquiesced in Rao’s charade were rewarded; Congress Muslims got a bonus for silence. Rao remained in power till 1996, but he neither ruled nor lived in peace.
The words of this column will make no difference. A government can reduce the past to rubble as easily as an Opposition party can erase a centuries-old mosque. My apologies for a rare detour into the personal, but this is a rare moment. I was a minor part of the Rao government and resigned on the night of December 6 since the stone wall constructed around the prime minister’s house had become impervious to anything except sycophancy. Words demand a different kind of loyalty, and one was relieved to return to the world of words.
of all victims are Muslims.
On August 6, a mosque in Joplin, Missouri was burned down in the second fire to hit it in little over a month [AP]
|The colour of violence often dictates what and who qualifies as a threat to national security. In the United States, the list of dangers to national security and the American way of life is topped by an Islamic menace, but excludes the proliferation of white supremacist groups. This movement not only openly espouses racist and xenophobic goals, but has also effectively executed the most savage attacks on innocent Americans during this past year.In the American imagination there is a one-dimensional portrait of terrorism – one that adorns turbans, beards, and brown skin. However, white terrorism, driven by racial supremacy and xenophobia, should rank as the greatest threat to national security in America today.The recent attack in Oak Creek, and the mosque burnings across the country are evidence that white supremacy is far more than merely a veiled threat, but a realised one.Homeland terrorismThere is little that is more American than viewing a blockbuster release on its opening night. Scores of teenagers waited anxiously for their seats in Aurora, Colorado’s Century 16 Movie-Plex on Friday, July 20, and filed into the full theatre. Among the crowd of moviegoers was James Holmes, a 24-year old graduate student armed with a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol. Holmes, who the FBI stated had “no ties to any terrorist groups”, was prepared and poised to kill innocents. And he did so, only miles away from the Columbine tragedy of 1999, executing twelve and injuring 58.
The national news sweep that followed the Aurora massacre was saturated with headlines calling it an “American tragedy”, yet silent on branding it precisely what it was – an act of terrorism. Americans of colour, particularly Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian and African-Americans, collectively questioned what the tenor of the news coverage would sound like if Holmes was Muslim or Black, and also, if the media storm would have reached national proportions if the majority of the victims were not white.
The questions of these viewers were answered, in large part, nearly two weeks later after a white supremacist killed eight Americans inside a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.
Weeks later, Wade Michael Page entered the Gurdwara Temple in Oak Creek on August 5 with a premeditated agenda to kill Americans. The congregation of worshippers, like the moviegoers in Aurora, could never imagine or anticipate that their lives would be in jeopardy as they were steeped in prayer. Page, a forty-year old tattoo-clad Army veteran who played with white supremacist heavy metal bands with the names “Definite Hate” and “End Empathy”, trespassed into the Temple with a gun and a heart full of hate.
Wade saw turban and beard-clad Americans. They fit neatly, but fallaciously, into the constructed caricature of theMuslim threat. His victims were Sikh. For Page and the white supremacist and xenophobic ideals he represented, the religion or ethnicity of the victims was negligible compared to the markers of difference they believe justifies violence. They were not white, and according to his worldview, not American, regardless of the taxes they paid, the votes they cast, and the contributions to the country they made. The ultimate aim was of course to terrorise, to spread fear, in furtherance of a political vision of a white America.
The media reporting that followed the Gurdwara attack eerily echoed the nativist sentiment of Page. Unlike the massacre in Aurora, the massacre of the six Sikh Americans did not qualify as an “American tragedy”, and the scope of the coverage did not reach national proportions.
What they had in common was that for the mainstream American media, the label of terrorism was again unapplied.
When terrorism isn’t terrorism
A premeditated onslaught on innocent Americans in spaces deemed untouchable havens from violence, particularly a place of worship like the Gurdwara Temple, are events that would typically generate widespread social alarm, political attention, and surely, news attention. However, the media coverage was largely local and scant, and Page’s racist and xenophobic crimes were not labelled as terrorist acts.
The colour of the victims in Wisconsin rendered the Gurdwara attack an aberration, while the whiteness of the murdered and injured in Aurora propelled it into a national tragedy. While the race of the culprits and victims are highly predictive of how terrorist acts are labelled, politicised, and most critically, covered in the news, what is more telling is how the media illustrates white supremacist violence versus the aggression of identifiable Muslim groups.
White supremacist groups and actors, like Page, are styled as marginal – or mavericks – who carry out murderous acts outside and apart from a broader political agenda. While this is clearly not the case, given the universal nativist aims of white supremacist groups and their kindred animus toward Muslims, Jews, Blacks and any and every American who does not hail from a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) background – little has been done to vilify their activity as a unique existential threat in the way that foreign political violence is treated as. While such hate groups have not taken on a single act of violence as prominent at the 9/11 attacks, historically, their acts of violence have been far more destructive and politically impactful. Thousands of lynching and hate crime victims, assassinated leaders and intimidated minorities are proof of their terrorism.
On the other hand, mosques and Muslim-Americans groups of every stripe are branded as prospective terrorist cells or networks. Therefore, systematic, well-resourced, and focused law enforcement attention – evidenced best by the NYPD’s fruitless hovering over metropolitan New York Muslim community – is dedicated to policing a segment of America that has not carried out anything that resembles the attack in Aurora or Oak Creek.
While Muslim-Americans are policed to the teeth, white supremacist groups have operated with relative freedom and impunity. The lack of policing, and indeed, media attention, created a fertile landscape for their proliferation, and as evidenced in Oak Creek on August 5 and the burning of a mosque in Joplin, Missouri a day later, a realisation of their racist and xenophobic agenda.
Definitions of threat are marked along racial and religious lines. After the 9/11 attacks, Muslim-American communities were victimised by domestic and international policies that chased down an Islamic threat that jeopardised national security inside and outside American boundaries. Governmental policing of Muslim-Americans, and those perceived to be Muslim, emboldened racist and xenophobic elements of the US – particularly white supremacist groups – to wreak their own brand of terror on a doubly-victimised segment of the American population.
During the war on terror, white supremacists were given less scrutiny by both local and federal police, while their victims – Muslims and non-Muslims – endured state-sponsored profiling and vilification. Sadly, the cost of myopic, flawed focus is an uptick white supremacist terror.
The political conventions of the past week both warned of “future attacks” and “threats to national security”, referring to Islam, immigrants, and the same band of familiar culprits to stir up their bases. However, no mention was made of the white and white supremacist terror that claimed the lives of innocent Americans in Oak Creek, and burned down and vandalised mosque after mosque.
Neglecting to police, let alone monitor, this new threat to national security will indeed bear more massacres, swell up unrestrained racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and regardless of the media headlines, bring about more “American tragedies”.