By Mani Khawaja
Revelations that the American military has been teaching its future leaders about the necessity for a total war on Islam have shocked the world.
The hypothetical war was not to be waged against the fanatical elements of the Muslim society, but a campaign against a “barbaric ideology” that should “no longer be tolerated.”
Students were taught that Geneva conventions were to be thrown out the window because they were no longer relevant and that lessons of Hiroshima were to be used, wiping out whole cities and targeting “civilian population wherever necessary. “ This included potentially nuking the Holy cities of Makkah and Madina.
In all essence, the course was calling for a total war against the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims.
To put this in perspective, you would be hard pressed to find even the most hardened of al Qaeda terrorists calling for the destruction of whole cities and all civilians.
What is most disturbing is that this was not just some nut case spouting off insane rhetoric, but a course that ran for a whole year at an established military school, Joint Forces Staff College.
The person running the course was Army Lt Col Mathew A Dooley, under the commandment of Maj Gen Joseph Ward. These are not low level players.
Dooley has since been suspended from teaching, but still maintains his position pending an investigation.
As distasteful as it may seem, these revelations do not lend credibility to claims that the United States is launching a war on Islam.
After all, it was only after a soldier filed a complaint that these courses came to light. After the uproar, it comes as no surprise that General Dempsey has ordered a full investigation as to how such courses have come to be taught at the army. Staff have been ordered to scour through all training materials to ensure that such incendiary and reprehensible documents are never used again.
As he put it, these courses were “counter to our values of appreciation for religious freedom and cultural awareness” and “just objectionable, academically irresponsible”.
What it does highlight is the emergence of a group of seemingly unhinged and bigoted so called counter terrorism experts that are gaining credibility amongst some of the uninformed and uninitiated ranks of the armed forces and society.
The reason why I use those terms is because a large number of them have never had any interactions with Muslims. All their exposure to Islam has come from second hand sources and the media, which is not always fair and balanced or very complimentary. This segment of the population is far more likely to be influenced by such hateful rhetoric from fanatics.
I believe it is the same case here in Pakistan as well.
The large number of population has never been outside the country or ever had any meaningful interaction with foreigners, be it westerners or Indians.
In the same way, the (distorted) perception a lot of them have has been largely due to stories and indoctrination by previous generations and negative media portrayal.
It is far easier to make someone believe that all Americans or Indians are evil, with the sole purpose of bringing down Islam, when they have never even met one of them.
And it is the same in the West. Any time there is a story of Islam online in a western newspaper, you will have a bevy of comments, both positive and negative.
It is often that I find someone defending Muslims and trying to debunk the myth that they are all terrorists because their best friend or someone they know is Muslim, or as once on occasion I read someone defending Muslims because the management at his local 7/11 were Muslim and “such lovely people.”
From the hard core ultra conservative Jews in Israel to the Westboro Baptist Church in the States, it has been evidenced that fanatics are not confined to any race or religion, and to pin the blame solely on Islam is in the least very irresponsible.
As such, it is apparent that America is no stranger to fanatic movements as well. It is not only confined to religion. Some would argue the case of Orly Taitz, the so called queen of the “birther movement” who has left no stone unturned to convince the general public that Obama is not a natural born citizen of America.
Whatever the case may be, there is no shortage of fanatics on both sides of the border. Not only are they dangerous, but if left unchecked, they also tend to poison the mind of the uninformed masses.
The only solution can be positive interaction, increase in relevant education and also raising awareness on all sides.
After all, as Nelson Mandela so eloquently wrote:
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.