Originally posted to Islamaphobia Today, May 14, 2011
When LSU graduate student Benjamin Haas planned to burn the U.S. flag to protest the clamping down of civil liberties and the right of due process for “students and suspected terrorists alike”, an angry mob of over 1,000 people came out to stop him. Haas “sustained physical and verbal taunting”and in fact received numerous death threats. Had the police not been there to protect him, Haas might have been seriously hurt. (Haas backed down from burning the flag.)
Here’s a video of the despicable mob (hint: any time you see Americans wrapped in the flag chanting “USA! USA! USA!” more often than not they are war-mongers):
But how on earth could those Primitive Muslim Barbarians get so angry when the Quran is burned or the image of the Prophet Muhammad is depicted in an offensive way?
This angry mob of American “partriots” lost its mind over a 5 by 8 foot piece of cloth. That certainly sounds stupider than being upset at someone from a “rival” religion for burning one’s holy book.
Being the uber-liberal that I am, I naturally support the right to burn a flag, a holy book, or a blunt. (However, my belief in tolerance and good manners would prevent me from supporting a person who burned a flag or holy book. There is a difference between supporting a person’s right to do something offensive on the one hand, and supporting the offensive act itself on the other.)
This video should explain to incredulous Americans why Muslims in the Islamic world get so riled up when they hear about Americans burning the Quran or disparaging the image of their prophet. The U.S. flag is not just worth its material value (a piece of cloth) but rather has far greater symbolic value: burning it is a symbolic assault on one’s American identity. It’s a purposeful provocation. Likewise, the images of Muhammad were not “just cartoons”; they were a symbolic affront to their Islamic identity, a purposeful provocation and incitement. It seems to confirm what the Muslims already suspect: they are being attacked, occupied, and killed for their religion.
The burning of the U.S. flag occurred in a certain context: it happened around the emotional time of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination. Had this flag burning taken place twenty years ago, it would likely not have evoked much reaction. But in the context of the War on Terror, the flag burning serves to affect Americans on a deeper level. (Considering that I think the U.S. is waging a War of Terror, I don’t get my panties in a bunch by flag burning. That is, after all, the same flag that is so proudly planted on the ground of those whose lands we illegally occupy–so, while I certainly don’t condone it, I could understand why people would want to burn it.)
Likewise, the violence in the East sparked by symbolic offenses against Islam in the West come in a certain context: they occur in a time in which the United States is waging multiple illegal wars against several Muslim countries, occupying their lands, and killing hundreds of thousands of Muslims. If Bin Laden, who has killed three thousand Americans (and that too over ten years ago), could evoke such a visceral reaction from Americans at LSU, just imagine the reaction if Muslims had committed a yearly or monthly 9/11 since 2001? How do you think Americans would react to flag burning if Muslim terrorists had killed not 3,000 but 300,000 U.S. citizens? This is the level of death and destruction that our military afflicts in the lands of the Saracen barbarians.
No doubt the Islamophobes will react by arguing that one simply can’t compare the LSU mob with what happens in the Islamic world (actual violence and death, not just water balloons and chest thumping). But to this, I say: the angry mob would most likely have hurt Haas had the police not been there–and he did receive numerous death threats. But beyond that, our country is not being militarily occupied by an enemy, nor are hundreds of thousands of Americans being slaughtered. If Americans had blood lust in their eyes after 9/11 (the nation reacted by waging multiple illegal wars that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents), one can only imagine the hypertrophied reaction that angry mob would have had if we had been at the losing end of a war against us.
Lastly, I’d like to comment on what the belligerent U.S. soldier said to Benjamin Haas: “My brother died for you!” , a phrase he repeated multiple times. This of course is a common refrain used by U.S. “patriots”: whenever uber-liberals like myself are protesting America’s wars and the military complex, they will say, “you should thank us for defending your right to do so.” That’s a load of hog-wash, of pure propaganda. By invading and occupying Muslim lands, the military has done absolutely nothing to protect my own freedom and liberty. Had the U.S. not invaded or attacked Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, etc., does anyone here think I wouldn’t be free any more?
If anything, our wars abroad have served only to curtail our civil liberties (refer to Glenn Greenwald’s excellent column on Salon.com). Furthermore, these wars of ours take away from the Muslim populations their right to self-determination, of liberty and the right to be free from military occupation. How is my right to freedom being supported by taking away the freedom of Muslims abroad?
The sad truth is that America’s young men are dying not “for you”, or for me, or for Benjamin Haas–but for nothing. For worse than nothing. That’s one of the reasons our chicken-hawk leaders who order these wars (but don’t fight them) should be stopped from doing so and held accountable.
As the great Muhammad Ali put it: “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Vietcong.”