America's Breivik MomentMUBIN SHAIKH
The recent shooting at the Gurdwara in Wisconsin has brought racial hate-motivated violent extremism to the fore -- that is, provided we are ready to have such a discussion.
In fact, I knew right away it was a hate-motivated attack and very likely with the attacker thinking the Sikhs were Muslims. After all, brown skinned and wearing turbans, isn't that what the Racist Right has been depicting Muslims for all these years? Will it take an attack on the "right" target to finally realize what's happening? It's called "radicalization" and it happens to "us" and to "them" and the end results tend to be the very same.
Violence against Sikhs being mistaken for Muslims is not new.
The best estimates have close to a 1,000 reported incidents of assault/intimidation/threats with a handful of fatalities. The level of hate required to ambush police (which is a common trait among white supremacist offenders) and to storm a place of worship, then systematically start firing at worshipers, is far above what most racists tend to express.
This type of fanaticism is best known through incidents such as the one by the violent Jewish extremist, Baruch Goldstein against Muslims praying, and in places like Nigeria where violent Islamist extremists target Christian Churches.
But this is America. Things are supposed to be different, right?
America is not unlike any other place where the brown-skinned turban wearers are viewed with deep suspicions. Sikh women also cover their hair, and with the presence and prevalence of anti-hijab narratives, hateful, ignorant people tend not to know the difference. This is not to say "let's get the right target," because the point is that NO community should be wholesale targeted for the actions of its extremists and the same holds true for "white America."
This brings us back to the Breivik moment facing America: where hateful rhetoric against a particular community (Muslims, in my argument here) is left to continue to a level of depraved indifference to the facts and in turn, brings retaliation against a community that simply "looks" Muslim (Sikhs, in our example here) -- as if that is enough to justify such violence. It is constantly perpetuated by the likes of Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and others -- people who were quoted by Anders Breivik of Norway.
Just like Breivik, Wade Michael Page was a frustrated white supremacist who subscribed to extreme views of racial superiority and a twisted sense of patriotism and nationalism in which America is being "saved" from Muslim hordes with the magical power to suddenly overtake the Army, National Guard and the various "patriot" Militia movements. Apparently, we are so good at it; we've taken over the White House, the Secretary of State and following Panetta's trip to Egypt in which he praised Mr. Morsi of Egypt -- even the Secretary of Defense.
Whereas Breivik practiced with video games, Page was a trained Army operator, specializing in "Psychological Operations" and all the while, growing increasingly hateful in his views towards non-whites. He was discharged from the Army as a problem soldier, tried his hand at music by sharing the white supremacist narrative and was overall, a dysfunctional, hateful human being. It was the tattoos regarding 9/11 that led the Police to call in the FBI and investigate this as a "domestic terrorism" incident.
It is extremely well known to the FBI that there are various types of extremists in the military, and contrary to the flights of fantasy by the "Muslim Brotherhood is infiltrating all levels of government" circus, there are far more white supremacists in the military than Islamists, and I know this from discussions with those intimately connected to the Ft. Hood shooting investigation and in the Army's search for "insider threats."
The point I am trying to make here is that hate-motivated violent extremism directed against Muslims or look-alikes, in this case here, is a growing reality in white America and is the direct result of narratives that perpetuate the, us vs. them mentality. Shortly after the Sikh Temple shooting, a Mosque in Missouri was burned down to the ground after an initial attempt in 2008. It happened in Joplin, not far from Rush Limbaugh's area of influence.
Think these are all coincidences and that hate speech has no responsibility in hateful actions? I don't.
Lastly, I want to make it a point that the primary victims here are not Muslims but Sikhs -- just like with Breivik who, although he hated Muslims, targeted white Norwegian children in Norway instead, and this is no way lessens or increases my condemnation of these crimes: Evil is evil. It is necessary for Americans and others to come out in solidarity with the Sikh community to repudiate the hateful rhetoric that drives racists to want to kill people in their very places of worship.
God bless the victims and God bless the police officer who took multiple shots but succeeded in taking out the shooter and preventing many, many more deaths.
America, this is your moment: take it.
The author is a former counter terrorism operative.
[Courtesy: The Huffington Post]
August 7, 2012