Readers Write In #244: America and today’s Islamophobia

Posted on August 16, 2020

(by G Waugh)

“It’s not radical Islam that worries the US — it’s independence”

This was Noam Chomsky, America’s most famous and controversial public intellectual and polemicist. In today’s world where Islamophobia is fast becoming the norm in even relatively secular countries, a short flashback of the role America played in nurturing Islamic terrorism in the last fifty years or so will help us contextualize the phenomena.

The creation of Israel in 1948 from a Muslim-dominated Palestine with America’s support could safely be regarded as the starting point of the story. Muslims across the world were outraged at the atrocities committed by the US-backed Israel Government on innocent Muslims as a result of which even countries like India refused to recognize the country for more than two years.

Various disparate organizations and movements began to sprout across the world in the ensuing decades that kept protesting the loss of human rights of Palestinians at the hands of the US-backed Israelis and some of them were ready to turn militant if the atrocities continued.

The World Muslim League was established following a conference in 1962 in Saudi Arabia which brought Muslim clerics and leaders of different nationalities together to devise means and ways to spread Islam across the world. The movement was blessed by the United States to create a counter-narrative to secular Arab socialism propounded by left-wing Egyptian leader Gamel Abdul Nasser that was rapidly spreading across the Third World.

In 1979, the PDPA-led communist government in Afghanistan faced a severe internal crisis which invited the intervention of the Soviet Union to settle it. The inter-party crisis was taken advantage of by Islamic radical groups within Afghanistan which were unhappy with the progressive programmes introduced by the communists that included education of women and land reform. The radical groups within the country did not have sufficient support from outside as a result of which they were quite easy to suppress by even a steadily disintegrating government as the one led by the PDPA in Afghanistan.

This was the time the United States decided to interfere in the Afghanistan crisis and turn the balance against the ruling Soviet-backed communists. The CIA and the Pentagon struck a partnership with the Pakistani ISI to help the radical Islamists in Afghanistan to mount an integrated, armed struggle against the communists. Training camps were set in various regions controlled by mujahideens or guerilla warriors in Afghanistan and financial and military support from the United States was massive. Meanwhile, various charity organizations from Saudi Arabia committed towards the spreading of Islam throughout the world also poured in donations towards the cause. When the Soviet Union brought its troops into the landlocked country, the mujahideen resistance was to its surprise, resolute and extremely robust.

The war ran for over a decade during which the mujahideens with external help from Saudi Arabia and other countries such as Sudan, Lebanon,etc had prepared the ground for armed struggles for the protection and spread of Islam in other countries as well. The professional training imparted by the Americans on the use of advanced weaponry gave the radicals immense confidence which they sought to use in struggles happening elsewhere including the one that went on in Kashmir. The radicals also ensured that the acquired knowledge was also passed on to newer and younger recruits through numerous madrassas and other small-scale institutions funded by the Pakistani intelligence.

The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988 while a new radical regime made up of orthodox students of Islam called Taliban came to dominate and take over the country within a few years. The leader of the regime, Mullah Omar sought to reverse the progressive legislations brought about the erstwhile Soviet-backed government. Female participation in workforce was banned, the use of hijab was made mandatory once again. The Taliban also grew close to an influential Saudi businessman, Osama Bin Laden who had been pouring massive amounts of cash for the mujahideens for their struggle against the Soviets. The US by the beginning of 1990s began to withdraw from Afghanistan and with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, lost all interest in Afghan affairs.


Ever since India’s independence in 1947, the issue of Kashmir continued to fester the relations between India and Pakistan. In all the three wars that happened between the two neighbours, the United States came strongly in support of our Islamic neighbor. The Soviet Union always supported India’s cause in various international forums and also provided necessary financial and military assistance during these wars. The United States turned a blind-eye to ISI-sponsored terrorism by Pakistan in Kashmir for more than four decades. In today’s context where India has gravitated significantly towards the United States to the extent of even turning into as its junior military partner, open-minded right-wingers who subscribe to trenchant ‘anti-Pakistani’ Hindutva narratives could do well to take a few moments to recall the strong nexus that existed between their much-favoured US and their arch-enemy Pakistan that dominated Asian politics ever since our Independence.


When Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda attacked the Twin towers and the Pentagon on September 9,2001 the attitude of the American Government in Afghan affairs turned from nonchalance into unbridled hostility. The American war on terrorism that followed the 9/11 attack destroyed the Taliban regime that was actively supporting terrorism in various countries. But the human cost of the war was nonetheless, substantial. This victory soon morphed into a virtual addiction for the American establishment towards war-making which manifested in their subsequent attack on Iraq in 2003.

The fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq came at the end of one of the world’s greatest artificial catastrophes seen ever since the Vietnam War of 1955-75. Millions of Iraqi homes were destroyed, thousands of Iraqi families were bereaved and to top it all, the new regime installed by a ‘democracy-loving’ United States surpassed the records of medieval bandits and plunderers of yore in ravaging the oil-rich country.

The reconstruction of the country was taken over by American construction firms which were in turn paid for by the Iraqi tax-payer. The various public sector companies in Iraq were privatized by the regime led by an American Paul Bremer and a host of American corporations reveled in the bounty of the loot. New economic policies dictated by American financial and accounting companies were unleashed over the Iraqi commoners who had to pay more taxes while their jobs were being increasingly taken over by various American outsourcing firms.

The ravages of the wars sponsored by the America-backed NATO over Afghanistan and Iraq no doubt destroyed the pillars of terrorist outfits like Al Qaeda but gave rise to new, larger, better-organized outfits such as the new ISIS. The ISIS was built very much on the frustration suffered by millions of homeless and orphaned Afghans and Iraqis at the hands of the American military. Human rights abuses as evidenced by the infamous Abu Ghraib incident, torture faced by civilians at the hands of American military and private contractors contributed significantly to the disenchantment of millions of innocents, a good number of whom swelled the ranks of the ISIS later.

As one is able to see, to gain an understanding into the looming threats of large-scale global terrorism, it is essential to introduce oneself to the realities and consequences of America-dictated geopolitics that dominated the Third World ever since the end of the Second World War. I see a lot of Indians supporting the current ruling establishment taking blind, one-dimensional stands on issues such as Islamic terrorism which on a lot of occasions translate quickly into hate and suspicion of fellow peace-loving Muslims. The role of the avaricious American corporations that own businesses ranging from arms to oil to consumer durables is something that is too crucial to be ignored while studying the causes of international terrorism. Countries like India cannot hope to solve the issue by blindly embracing one-dimensional anti-Islamist narratives or growing close to countries that have aided and abetted terrorism directly or indirectly in the past like the US.The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Steve Coll in his pro-American book The Ghost Wars hints at the possibility of the American Government turning a blind eye to Saudi charities and organizations that supported and financed terrorism during the days of Bin Laden in order not to harm the interests of American oil corporations that were doing business with Saudi oil companies. The rapacity of the American Oil firms and their role in backing the American invasion of Iraq came to the foreground when these firms rushed to plunder the rich oil and mineral reserves that were hitherto owned by the Iraqi State immediately following the war. Without understanding the language of profit which is so inextricably linked with destruction and wars and abuse of human rights, one shall inevitably be handicapped in his pursuit towards cracking the language of universal human freedom.

Based on references from:

Hegemony or Survival by Noam Chomsky

Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky

People’s History of the Third World by Vijay Prashad

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

Essays of Arundhati Roy

The Ghost Wars by Steve Coll