Intifada: from the Dictionary of Modern Arabic; a "tremor, shudder, or a shiver." Derived from the Arabic root nafada, which means to shake, shake out, dust off, to shake off one's laziness, to have reached the end of, to be finished, to rid oneself of something, to refuse to have anything to do with something, to break with someone."
There's a whole lot of shaking going on these days. Judging from the mass protests erupting in the first post-inaugural week, millions of people are refusing to have anything to do with the new president. They want to break up with Donald Trump, and with good reason.
Of course, if Barack Obama had instituted a temporary ban on immigration from five out of the seven countries that he's bombed over the past eight years, there probably would have been very few grumblings from liberals. I doubt that protesters in the thousands would have stormed the airports on Saturday, bearing handwritten signs condemning the presidential decree and putting out their own welcome mat for Muslims. I can almost guarantee that this never would have happened, given the liberal apathy over his eight years of both open and secret war on countries with predominately Muslim populations.
For one thing, influential Islamophobic liberal comedian Bill Maher would not have tolerated it. He would have praised Obama for his pragmatism. Elected Democrats would have soothed that it's unfortunately sometimes necessary for scapegoated Others to give up some of their human rights in order that we Americans may feel safe and secure. For another thing, the calculating and nuanced Obama brain trust would have ensured that any protests would be immediately squelched by Homeland Security and local police forces operating out of the same Fusion Centers which tore down the Occupy camps and kept all manner of protests against NATO, corporate party conventions, police brutality and oil pipelines kettled or otherwise contained.
That thousands of people did storm the airports on Saturday in reaction to Donald Trump's now partially stayed draconian travel ban for Muslim refugees, students, workers and immigrants is testament to his own congenital inability to hide his bigotry. As I wrote a couple of months ago, Trump might be just the catalyst we need to start all kinds of protests against wars and presidential drone kill lists. His subtlety, planning skills and propaganda leave a lot to be desired. He doesn't do his atrocious thing behind closed doors, as previous administrations have done with their Friday night news dumps, their secret legal opinions and their secret FISA Court rubber stamps. He doesn't deliver glib, silver-tongued platitudinous speeches. Trump can do nothing but brag and bray about his perfidy, even inviting the media that he purports to loathe into his inner sanctum for atrocity photo-ops. How idiotically proud he looked holding up his executive order banning human beings from entering the US based solely upon their religious beliefs. His signature is as super-sized as his ego.
Trump is not original or smart enough to have to have issued his unconstitutional order right out of the clear blue sky. His action is only the most extreme outcome of decades of cruel American foreign policy toward countries with majority Muslim populations.
Ironically, though, Trump does seem intelligent enough to give credence to the theory of "blowback." By banning travelers from seven countries which the United States has both physically and economically terrorized in recent years, he tacitly admits that their citizens might be feeling a bit irate, especially if one of Obama's predator drones or bombs had vaporized one of their family members - simply because they were acceptable collateral damage, or belonged to Obama's invisible "Disposition Matrix."
As a matter of fact, Trump was drawing directly upon the Obama Administration's own selection of the countries to be subject to travel restrictions. In 2015, the former president signed into law the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act, which required more stringent vetting of travelers from the same seven countries now being singled out by Trump: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Libya.
Denigrating the Muslim faith has been an American media tradition for many, many decades. As Edward Said noted in Covering Islam, when Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh, a lapsed Catholic, blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, Muslim terrorism was immediately seized upon by TV networks and newspapers as the likely culprit.
McVeigh himself had perfected his pathological violence four years earlier, when he'd helped massacre a group of trapped Iraqi soldiers, and taken photographs of their corpses for his own personal collecting pleasure.
After September 11, of course, Muslims became even fairer game. Few people objected when George W. Bush invaded Iraq based not only on the false reports of weapons of mass destruction, but on the widespread false belief that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks on our soil. But neither had people objected when, pre-9/11, Bill Clinton bombed a baby formula factory in Somalia and Madeline Albright crowed that 500,000 Iraqi children dying as result of American sanctions was "worth it."
Islamophobia has been drilled into Donald Trump's skull by the media he now pretends to despise every bit as effectively as it has been drilled into the heads of much of the Western news-consuming public. We have been taught to believe that Islam is one all-encompassing culture which regulates every nation in which it is the predominate faith. But just as there is no such thing as a Christian country, there is no such thing a "Muslim country."
Edward Said wrote of media coverage:
Looming over their work is the slippery concept, to which they constantly allude, of "fundamentalism," a word that has come to be associated almost automatically with Islam, although it has a flourishing, usually elided, relationship with Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. The deliberately created associations between Islam and fundamentalism ensure that the average reader comes to see Islam and fundamentalism as essentially the same thing.Rarely is "radical Islam" ever even defined in media accounts. If few people realize that Wahhabism is the most right-wing form of Islam, can it be any surprise that a voracious news consumer like Donald Trump would also be so unaware? Can it be any surprise that oil-rich American trading partner and arms purchaser Saudi Arabia, which harbors the largest concentration of Wahhabists, was not on Trump's banned list? After all, Obama brokered the sale of $115 billion worth of arms and training to the Saudis, who are now using them to slaughter those newly-banned and impoverished Yemeni immigrants and refugees. Obama completed 42 separate deals with murderous Saudi autocrats. And suddenly, newly-enraged liberals are out there protesting our new autocratic deal-maker of a president. It's a miracle.
As far as Trump and many millions of Americans are concerned, Islam is a perfectly acceptable and natural enemy when it resides in Middle East locales which are either lacking in oil resources or are not willing to deal with or kowtow to American power. Islam became the go-to scapegoat and new casus belli for the money-hungry military-industrial complex once the Soviet Union collapsed -- ironically enough, because of its occupation of Afghanistan and the ensuing campaign by CIA-backed jihadists in what non-church-going Ronald Reagan himself called a "holy war."
As chronicled by Karen Armstrong in Fields of Blood, Reagan told a conference of evangelical Christians in 1983 that the Soviet Union was the evil empire, and that Osama bin Laden's mujahadin fighters were the good guys.
Fast forward a decade, post-Soviet collapse, and as Edward Said wrote,"Small surprise that the Sunday New York Times 'Week in Review" headlined January 21, 1996 issue with 'The Red Menace is Gone. Here's Islam.'"
Fast forward two more decades, and the Obama administration began its open secret of an assassination-by-drone crusade against Muslims. It was all done secretly, surgically and politically correctly, because Obama nobly refused to stoop to Trump's level and utter the words "Islamic extremism."
Meanwhile, relentless and unconstitutional police surveillance of Muslims in Trump's Real Estate Empire (the New York metropolitan area) was being staunchly defended by the some of the same liberals who now decry Trump's racist executive order. Long before Trump goose-stepped into the White House, the FBI was entrapping innocent people of Middle Eastern descent and accusing them, without evidence or with planted evidence, of Islamic terroristic plots.
Obama didn't need to sign an executive order banning a religion. He merely selectively obliterated some of that religion's adherents, with a lot of collaterally-damaged dead women and children on the side. And after he so graciously bequeathed his killing powers to Trump, the damned orange-haired psychopath had to go and ruin it all with a stupid decree making the longstanding war on Muslims an official act of utter hatred and depravity.
And as Purdue University anthropologist Suad Abdal Khabeer insightfully writes in an Al-Jazeera op-ed, Trump rolled out his anti-Muslim ban to keep his supporters on board while he screws them economically, as well as to scapegoat his predecessors, and to hypocritically deflect attention from his own serial misogyny and the fact that one out of every 20 American women is a victim of domestic partner abuse. Right-wing fundamentalist politicians like Vice President Mike Pence have long opposed the Violence Against Women Act. So Trump dutifully doubled down on the myth of the Arab male as sexual predator:
Violence against women, honour killings in particular, is cited two times in the draft as something from which the US government is obliged to protect Americans. This specific practice of violence against women has been sutured to Arabs and Muslims in popular conversation. It builds on a broader narrative that Muslim women are oppressed by the men in their lives, their families and the religion they follow, and they need saving - by the US.So much hypocrisy in Exceptional America. It runs the entire gamut from Democrat to Republican, all the Dorothy Parker-ish way from A to B.
Now that American citizens have gotten shaken up and developed a taste for protesting Trump's illegal banning of refugees among other horrors, and are so incensed at Trump's sexism, maybe they can join the resistance movement at the hideously-named Family Detention Centers. The Obama administration, which deported far more people than in all previous administrations combined, also began locking migrants up in privatized prisons. More than a score of mother and child refugees from Central America remain illegally detained at one substandard private facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania, despite their court-ordered release. Immigration officials recently threatened hunger-striking mothers with removal of their children if they persisted in their own protest.
They need our help, but most of all they need our solidarity.
Civil dissent must go far beyond the person of Donald Trump and far beyond one political party, if our democracy has even a chance of survival.