The questions about Islam, which have been formulated after the spreading of the images produced by the Strauss ideology of the “Clash of Civilizations” and which add up to older ones cropped up from the colonial folklore or past wars officially waged in the name of faith, are a recurrent subject in the “Western” press since 9/11, 2001.
First of all, the Atlantist press presents Islam as another self. Describing this alter ego is also, and firstly, calling one’s own self. The word “Islam” designates a religion to which each and everyone is free to adhere. But it also designates a culture, necessarily exotic, which, in case of converting to this religion, is equal to betraying one’s own culture or neglecting civilization. The alter ego of Islam defines, by opposition, the universe of the author: the “West”. The word is in itself enough to revive the ghosts of the Cold War. There was a time when the West opposed the East in the form of the Soviet world. Today, it opposes the East as the Muslim world. This West, which is not Muslim, declares itself “Judeo-Christian”. Also, we are here before an over-elaborate expression which used to brand, only a few decades ago, the early Christians prior to their break with the Synagogue, and which later – favoured by the Cold War – took up a sense of alliance between Jews and Christians vs. atheistic communism. And now, all forgotten about the Mediterranean turbulent history, a prejudice emerges where both Jews and Christians form a whole of which Muslims are excluded.
On the other hand, the Atlantist press visualizes Islam through the knowledge it has of the Maghreb. By making a big effort, it puts all Arab and Persian populations together, but ignores that most Muslims in the modern world are neither Arabs nor Persians. The only way the Atlantist press accepts Turkey within NATO is for the conviction that the country is still controlled by the Kemalist military allied to Israel, thus turning a blind eye to the existence of the Balkans or Bosnia-Herzegovina. Islam is therefore a religion of “immigrants” whose vocation is “becoming integrated”, that is, getting mixed up with another mass till disappearing.

Basically, for the Atlantist press, the normalization of Islam requires an internal division and the victory of the moderates over the extremists. This approach allows blaming others for violence: Terror is not the result of the colonial aggression by a Coalition that bombs civilians, but of the Muslim extremists who put up resistance. However, reality is quite the opposite, as filmmaker and reporter Tariq Ali would write in our columns: “If there were no oil in the Islamic lands, there would be no clash of civilizations”.

In general, this media representation of Islam has been dissolved into articles, forums or interviews that deal with other topics rightly or wrongly related to this religion. For the last few weeks we have been impressed by the increasing number of writings which directly approach the Islam situation and its connection with its extremists without any apparent bonds to the immediate present. We could assume that this sudden media revival is an obvious sign of internal debates within NATO circles. In order to legalize the war option to scavenge for oil zones, which have not yet reached peak production volumes, it was necessary to dehumanize its victims by making their religion satanic. However, Bernard Lewis’ students in Washington today think that the only way to control the Arab-Muslim world is through the support of authoritarian groups, that is, fundamentalist brotherhoods, according to the old British hegemonic model in the region. Consequently, Orientalists have given themselves over to various intellectual stunts to restore, now in the mass media, what they condemned yesterday.

A forum by Syria’s Islamist representative (not a Muslim brother) Mohammad Habash has been widely spread for his exposure of the marginal nature of “radical” Muslims in the Islamic world. The forum’s text, first disseminated by the agency Project Syndicate, was published by the Korea Herald (South Korea), Taipei Times (Taiwan), Daily Times (Pakistan), El Nuevo Diario (Nicaragua), Daily Star (Lebanon) and La Libre Belgique (Belgium), and undoubtedly also in other dailies unnoticed to us. Habash tries to prove, basing himself on a probe performed by the Centre for Islamic Studies in Damascus, under his direction, that if it’s true that Islam is conservative in the Middle East, it should not be linked to terror for that reason. According to his research work, Habash estimates that 80% of Muslims in the region can be regarded as conservative while violent radicals are only 1%. He says that such radicalism is the fruit of despair – an opinion shared by the Atlantist writers who resorted to it in order to justify shifting regimes by alleging that dictatorships in Muslim countries resulted in terrorism as a reaction. However, Habash moves away from this approach by placing Saddam Hussein’s regime on a level with the occupation regime, and because he does not talk about the alleged “international terror”, but about specific combats.

This point of view has been widely spread, so much so when the mainstream press echoes en masse the calls in favour of gathering moderate Muslims and “westerners” against radical Islamists – a rhetoric that, history aside, explicitly states that “westerners” are moderate by nature, and which relates belief (moderate Muslims) to military alliance (“westerners”)
In the Wall Street Journal – a neo-conservative financial daily – former Indonesian President and main adviser to the LibForAll Foundation association, Abdurrahman Wahid, advocates the world mobilization of “good” Muslims and non-Muslims to fight the propagation of Wahhabism or Salafism – two reactionary tendencies that he accuses of carrying the nuclear terrorist threat with them. Mr. Wahid makes no effort at all to establish the differences between these two religious tendencies, and he goes further by presenting as an unquestionably accepted fact their link with terror, with the funding of it, and with even stronger reasons: a nuclear terrorist threat. This security argument greatly pleases the Wall Street Journal, which has become such a herald of the war on terror that some people in New York call it the War Street Journal.
Former Democrat Undersecretary of State Thomas R. Pickering also supports an association between the “East” and the “West” to fight fundamentalism and terrorism. Pickering becomes an apostle of the inter-religious dialogue and denounces the attitude of the US Christian rightwing, which has come to systematically condemn Islam thus sowing confessional hatred. In his opinion, to fight “terror”, one must stop linking it systematically to Islam and develop dialogue.
This forum was published in the Daily Star – an Anglophone daily belonging to the New York Times and disseminated to the whole Middle East from Beirut. A week after the publication of Mr. Pickering’s article, the daily devoted a large number of articles to the relations of the Arab populations with Islam, its place in the “democratization” of the Middle East, and the “Western” point of view about Islam.
This way, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz’s reporter Zvi Bar’el thinks that along with Islamization there has emerged in the Arab world an evident public opinion in Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine and Saudi Arabia. Bar’el suggests that Western states should not take it for granted and he is glad such movements weaken the current Arab leaders. However, he regrets that it will implicitly lead to the development of Hamas, the Muslim Brothers or the Religious Shiite movements in Iraq.
The former president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and current president of the American Task Force on Palestine, Ziad Asali, reached a similar conclusion though more optimistic. At the same time that he analyzes the loss of impetus of the Pan-Arabism and predicts the next failure of political Islam– two political theories held up to ridicule by Asali for his opposition to the “West” – he advocates the emergence of a liberal Arab movement. He wishes that trend to come up in the next Palestinian elections on the ruins of Al Fatah and further develop in the whole Arab world.
Danish political commentator and spokesman for Muslimer i Dialog, Zubair Butt Hussain, on his side, regrets that Islam should be condemned in his country. He says that Muslims in Denmark have always been denigrated by politicians, not only by those of the extreme right. Muslims have always been called “immigrants” when not “originally Danish” and they are even compared to “Nazis” in case they have converted to Islam. Hussain predicts their mass exodus.

Simultaneously, and despite the nuances partly introduced in the Atlantist press, Islamophobic radical ideologists keep denouncing all that which may seem “Islamist”.
In the New York Sun and in FrontPage Magazine, Daniel Pipes praises the creativity of two conservative ministers of the Interior from the German states of Baden-Wurttemberg and Lower Saxony: Heribert Rech and Uwe Schünemann respectively. The former subjects those who request their naturalization to questionnaires concerning the adaptation to “Western values” (which include an opinion on the 9/11, 2001 attacks), while the latter plans to put an electronic bracelet on all those Islamists who had encouraged terrorism. This last proposal has greatly encouraged the imagination of Daniel Pipes, who adds a 1984-style Orwellian finishing touch to his accustomed Islamophobia. This is how he dreams of a world where all “Islamists” would carry a bracelet which would also record their conversations and all their actions and motions. To conclude, Pipes hails both conservative ministers and invites their European colleagues to imitate them and even better them.