How Islamophobic Politics Undermine Western Democracy
Politicians not only use anti-Islam rhetoric to manipulate votes, but also to distract the public from serious challenges.
How Islamophobic Politics Undermine Western Democracy. Photo: Reuters
By Samir Bennis - Samir Bennis is a political analyst.
Nov 12, 2020
Washington D.C – French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent hostile anti-Islam statements have exposed the crisis of values and identity that France, like many Western democracies, has experienced for many years. These countries no longer have any sound long-term strategies to maintain their population’s standard of living and ensure equality for all.
French president’s statement that Islam is in crisis came to desperately defend the right of the press to insult Prophet Muhammad in the name of freedom of expression. Meanwhile, his government has criminalized criticism of Jews and anti-Zionism. The discrepancy blatantly demonstrates double standards and clear prejudice against Islam and Muslims.
Western democracy is exacerbating inequalities
For decades the West has promoted the merits of its democratic system and its role in granting citizens decent living conditions and opportunities for social, economic, and intellectual advancement. However, the savage capitalism that sustains this democratic system has exacerbated social disparities between the rich and both the middle class and the underprivileged.
The middle class has witnessed major rifts, with a large number of formerly middle-income people joining the ranks of the low-income classes. They recognize that the political class’ electoral promises do not better circumstances in reality, but rather worsen them.
Instead of contributing to improving living conditions for the poor and middle classes and adopting policies that ensure a fair distribution of wealth, the political elite has pursued policies that have exacerbated inequalities.
Democracy is no longer a system through which the people govern themselves. Rather, it is a system the ruling class of politicians, economists, and media exploit to take advantage of the naivety and ignorance of the populace and to play on their emotions, fears, and concerns in order to remain in power.
Politicians are not presenting electoral programs based on realistic strategies to improve the living standards of the population and enable them to face the contingencies of the present and the future. Instead, the ruling elite takes twisted approaches to divert the focus of public opinion away from their failure to make good on their electoral promises.
Controlling minds by dramatizing Islam as a danger
The aim of this ongoing campaign against Islam is not to give the French citizen any leeway to hold the political and economic class accountable for a decline in the per capita income of millions of French people, high unemployment, rampant precocity, poverty, and worsening public services, in addition to the absence of prospects for youth.
French citizens believe that they live in a democratic system that guarantees their rights and that they play a role in electing public officials. As a matter of fact, the ruling class no longer regards them as citizens. Rather, they see them as consumers who occasionally participate in presidential or legislative elections, believing they have a say their country’s destiny.
What many fail to realize is that the systematic brainwashing and manipulation of the French, like other Western societies, makes them unable to differentiate truth from falsehood and to build their positions or opinions on the basis of objective and impartial information. The French public opinion has become a puppet in the hands of the ruling elite that controls the citizen’s political orientations, emotions, and perceptions through controlling the media.
France defends a skewed freedom of the press
Freedom of the press and freedom of expression are theoretically the bedrock of the French democratic system. However, the fact that 10 wealthy French individuals control 90% of the French media raises many questions about the independence of the press and pluralism, one of the pillars of any democratic system.
With absolute control of the economic, political, and the media spheres in the hands of the wealthy, the freedom of the press, the respect for different opinions, and pluralism have become nothing but slogans. Controlling people’s minds and the way they think and consume has become the main goal of the ruling class.
They do not seek to build a pluralistic society founded on respect for each other’s political and religious persuasions. They seek rather to build a society that does not accept differences and thinks and consumes in the same way. Any individual or group that deviates from this pattern, defined by the ruling class, is frowned upon and regarded as a fifth column and a threat to the social cohesion and future of the country.
This is one of the reasons why the vicious and systematic campaign against Islam and the Muslim minority in France is gaining such traction.
Drawing from the historical view that prevails in Western societies towards other cultures, particularly towards Islam, and the existence of a fertile cultural ground ready to espouse anti-Islamic rhetoric, this narrative has become the common denominator of the vast majority of political parties in Western societies, including France.
What has facilitated these parties’ task is the increasing number of Muslims living in Western countries. Because of the complicity of the press, France deals with any crime committed by someone associated with Islam in a way that contributes to the dissemination of fear among the public. This approach also promotes their negative stereotypes of Islam, which they have inherited through mainstream discourse and textbooks.
Any big or small event that occurs in the Muslim minority in France becomes a matter of intense national debate in which anyone can express their opinions, whether or not they have a deep knowledge of causes and implications. France’s politicians and media have become so obsessed with Islam that the issue of the veil (hijab) and the status of women has for years become ubiquitous in the national debate.
Islam and the Muslim minority in France, like other Western societies, have become the bogeyman the ruling class uses to scare public opinion, and draw the people’s attention to the alleged danger that Islam poses to their way of life and to the secular system.