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Podcast: After Paris Attacks, Islamophobia About as Awful as After 9/11

In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, numerous American Muslims or U.S. citizens, who have brown skin, live in fear of what might happen if they go out in public. There have been several reported hate crimes. One mosque was vandalized by a ripped up Quran covered in feces. Right-wing protesters armed with shotguns and rifles stalked a mosque in Irving, Texas, on November 21.

Passengers are informing gate agents, who work for airlines like Spirit or Southwest, that they are afraid to fly with brown people. Airlines and airport security are enabling this racist hysteria by removing them from flights. In one case, even though the individuals were completely harmless to other passengers, they were booked on another flight. The Islamohpobia of passengers won out.

Roqayah Chamseddine, a writer and someone who currently works at “The Empire Files” with Abby Martin, joins the “Unauthorized Disclsoure” podcast as a guest co-host. For 45 minutes, Chamseddine and the show’s hosts discuss responses to the Paris attacks and the latest wave of intensifying Islamophobia in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

While condemning the fanatical death cult that is the Islamic State, the discussion delves into how the Islamic State desires a West that reacts with a backlash against Muslims. The hosts also talk about passengers kicked off flights for having brown skin and how the media, including CNN, is fueling fear of refugees and pushes to escalate war in countries in the Middle East.

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Below is a partial transcript of the conversation with Roqayah Chamseddine


KHALEK: The aftermath of the Paris attacks has been really devastating and scary.

It honestly has been, and the reactions that we’ve seen have been just bizarre and mind-boggling and terrifying at the same time.

KHALEK: Let’s start by talking about this poll that I see was released today [November 20]. It’s some Washington Post/ABC News poll. Basically, what it finds is Americans at the moment are scared of more terrorist attacks, want more war, and don’t want more refugees. It’s actually—the numbers are pretty insane—it’s 52 percent of Americans fear the U.S. can’t keep terrorists out. Seventy-eight percent of Americans don’t think religion should considered in determining whether to accept refugees. That’s actually one of the positive things I’ve seen.

Eighty-one percent of Americans think it is likely there will be a terrorist attack on the U.S. Fifty-four percent of Americans oppose taking in refugees from Syria or other Middle Eastern countries, even after screening them for security. So, that’s a majority of Americans. And then 72 percent of Americans say it is more important for Americans to investigate terrorist threats even if it intrudes on personal privacy rather than refraining on intruding on personal privacy. And it just gets worse and worse .

Sixty percent of Americans want to see an increased use of ground forces against ISIS. Seventy-three percent of Americans want to see increased airstrikes. Americans say 59 to 37 percent that America is at war with “radical Islam.” So, I think this accurately reflects on what we’ve been hearing from leaders—leaders in this country, particularly Republican leaders but even Democrat leaders as well. And, also, what we’ve been hearing from them for over the past decade since 9/11, sort of culminating into this, and then also the news media, I think, plays a huge role in shaping what Americans think about terrorism.

The fact that they’re more fearful of terrorism than things that actually are more threatening than terrorism says a lot. The hysteria over refugees has trickled down, even though it’s coming from lunatics like Donald Trump and Chris Christie.

We were talking before the show. I was a teenager when 9/11 happened so I don’t remember it that well because I little more self-involved than I like to admit. But just from what I do remember, it does feel like the climate, in terms of rhetoric right now, feels like it’s worse. It’s more hostile.

CHAMSEDDINE: I’ve been hearing the same thing. I’ve been hearing people say it’s the same or that it’s worse. I was little whenever 9/11 happened. I don’t know how old I was. I’m 26 now. I’m not very good at math. [laughing]

I don’t remember exactly how pervasive this kind of rhetoric was at the time, but I do remember the backlash and when I started to feel sort of the existence of the otherization of Muslims and Arabs. I began to recognize it as a little kid, and that’s what I am seeing again. Like you said, I think it is a lot worse, and I think that the problem is people are brushing this off as, oh, just crazy people are saying it. Donald Trump is saying it. It’s not a big deal. But we’re seeing this kind of rhetoric all across the board.

We’re seeing liberals say it. We’re seeing, even some leftists say we need to wake up and talk about Muslims now and just other ridiculous things like that now. And now we have people talking about setting up camps for Muslims and Donald Trump wants to have Muslims wear IDs. I don’t even know how the hell that would work, but the fact that they’re talking like this is actually pretty terrifying.

KHALEK: I just want to note the fact that since 9/11 you’ve had the Islamophobia industry, individually wealthy people spending millions and millions of dollars, people who are fanatically Zionist spending millions and millions of dollars to push this narrative about Muslims and Islam that is this inherent evil—It’s laid the groundwork for now that something like this has happened, now that ISIS exists. It’s like now these ideas have been fed to people on bus ads and newspaper ads and newspaper headlines from what we’ve heard from right-wing politicians for so long that even people who don’t mean to I think it’s really seeped into their heads. It’s been inculcated in Americans so deeply, and now you have something like ISIS which exists.

Here’s the thing: I know what you’re talking about with leftists. I look at my Facebook feed, and I keep seeing people I am friends with on Facebook, who I thought were leftists, sharing pieces like Graeme Wood’s piece from The Atlantic. I think in February it was published. Anyone who didn’t read it, it was this super long essay that quoted really dubious sources basically saying ISIS is some form of Islam; there is something very inherently Muslim about it.

You can just imagine somebody taking something like Zionism and Israel and its atrocities it commits against Palestinians and making this same argument about Judaism and that would never be acceptable. And it shouldn’t be, but that narrative when it comes to Muslims and Islam is, because it’s okay to dehumanize Muslims. And it’s okay to paint this broad brush against a religion that has 1.6 million people. It’s okay to paint them all as villains.

CHAMSEDDINE: Like you were saying before, it’s an extremely profitable industry. I can’t remember the books right now, but there are a few books about the Islamophobia industry and how profitable is and—Look it isn’t just non-Muslims that are part of this industry. There are actually Muslims, who want to push the narrative of the moderate Muslim. So, you have the Good Muslim who is moderate—like, hey, I wear a little flag pin and I have a Ford and I have a little flag and I say the Pledge and I have all this other nationalistic bullshit. Then you have the Bad Muslims, who is like “Death to America!” and anyone who does not fall into either camp is pushed into the Bad Muslim camp. You have to pick a side, you know what I mean.

The Islamophobia industry has many Muslims in it, maybe even more who are out to prove how good they are as there is the people like [Robert] Spencer, Pam Geller, Ann Coulter, Bill Maher, and all the other horrifically incompetent people who are part of the group.

[*Note: We recommend the following books: Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire by Deepa Kumar (who has appeared as a guest on “Unauthorized Disclosure” before), The Muslims Are Coming! by Arun Kundnani, The Islamophobia Industry by Nathan Lean, and Muslims in the Western Imagination by Sophia Rose Arjna.

KHALEK: So now that groundwork has been laid, and we’ve got the native informants, like how you’ve got actual Muslims that are participating in it—There’s this whole entire apparatus that exists that whenever there is an attack you have this echo chamber that’s really there to push these ideas about Muslims. The Paris attack was really uniquely horrific, and it was purposefully horrific because we know that ISIS wants to provoke a backlash against Muslims in the West and it’s doing a really good job of it.

ISIS is the group of marauding fascists. It’s this fanatical death cult. No one is saying it is not. I think it is really important to point out. Who hates ISIS the most is other Arabs and Muslims. ISIS is extremely unpopular. You and I, Roqayah, we’re both Lebanese. You more than me because you’re family is Shia. You have family that is directly impacted by ISIS and what they do. There was a double suicide attack the day before in Beirut. I get so frustrated with the way it gets framed because our relatives are the ones that are being attacked like on a regular daily basis.

CHAMSEDDINE: I love this people who come to my mentions or your mentions or anyone’s else’s mentions [on Twitter] and say, how come Muslims aren’t speaking up? How come they aren’t doing anything? The article I wrote the other day, “Why Your Hot Takes on Paris Suck,” it was about the people who are playing into these narratives. That every time a bigot goes, why aren’t you doing anything?

Well, if you bothered to look up anything, you can see that Muslims have been protesting, thousands of them going out recently in Afghanistan protesting religious extremism. It’s happening everywhere from the U.S. beyond. And the leading victims of groups like ISIS are Muslims. The people that are fighting them are Muslims. At the end of the day, these people don’t care that Muslims are the ones dying at the hands of ISIS the most. They don’t care that Muslims are the ones fighting ISIS the most. It doesn’t matter because they’re looking to castigate more than they are to get the answer because the answer is never good enough.

GOSZTOLA: Which is why the best response when faced with people on CNN, who are forcing you to take responsibility as part of the Muslim community in Paris, the best response is to just look them in the face and call them on their bullshit. That’s the only thing you can do. If you apologize and you try to explain that you had nothing to do with it, that is only going to play into their hands.

For the rest of the conversation, listen to the full episode here.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."