Why review this book? At first glance, a book by a longtime journalist for The Telegraph who is against Marxism might not seem very interesting. But Oborne explains how he had a moment of change when reporting the beginning of the Iraq war. He saw the lies by the establishment about weapons of mass destruction and how the media hyped them up. This led him to make a 20-year study of Islam and how the West sees it. More importantly, he was interested in how Islamophobia could take such a hold.
The book examines three countries’ reactions to Muslims. For him, the most important country is the USA because it leads the pack. This section is really useful in that it deals with a period when the US had no navy. Its civilian trading ships were attacked by “Barbary Pirates,” and many sailors were enslaved. When they got back to the US, slaves who had escaped or been freed said they had been tortured and locked up.
In the US at the time, this had a big impact, i.e., that white men could be enslaved. The campaign against black slavery was underway. The sensationalised stories created hostility toward Islam, especially as the only book that almost all early American colonists had read was the Bible.
He then deals with Christian Zionism, its history, and its influence in the US, from presidents on down. The development of an Islamic component in the population and how some were involved in the Black Power movement are dealt with. The author finally looks at the effects of 9/11, the war on terror, and new notions of homeland security. Finally, there is Trump, who promoted Islamophobia while remaining friendly with Saudi Arabia.
Britain and Islam
The next section outlines the history of Britain and Islam. From Bede, the battles with the Ottomans, and the rise of Muslim communities in the population. Trade with the east, led by the East India Company, was all about the appetite and profitability of valuable spices and other Eastern goods. The import of coffee led to the establishment of coffee houses.
On the back of the trade, there was the imposition of Muslim colonies and the British Raj’s use of “divide and rule” in India. The “Indian Revolt” of the 1850s, which was mainly Muslim, created a great shock, including “the black hole of Calcutta” imagery that was established in the media of the time. Of course, it ignored the butchery by the British forces of the East India Company.
This section of the history of the early 20th century in Britain and its empire, and the two World Wars, is useful in seeing the racist attitudes of the Conservatives, Labour, and the unions toward Muslim seamen. On Churchill, he seems very generous, considering his monstrous record.
The third section is dedicated to France. This I found the most useful, in that Oborne deals with the importance of Algeria, which it established as a colony and settled huge numbers of colonists. At one point, the capital, Algiers, had 87% colonists. The colonists (Colons) took all the best land and were backed by the French army. Tunisia and Morocco were protectorates, and though financially and politically completely controlled by France, they were not of the same importance.
So, the battle for Algerian independence was incredibly violent, and hundreds of thousands died. When finally successful, it is estimated that 3.5 million colons “returned” to France (many of them having never come from there, being Italian, Maltese, and so on). These people were the basis of the French fascist movements after 1962. This is why it has been so strong even up until today. Hostility toward the people of the Maghreb (Arabic North Africa) is led by the families of the Colons.
The remainder of the book focuses on the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the ideological underpinnings of the war on Islam. This starts with the ex-Islamic militants who made a career of attacking Islamic ideology, particularly the two main ones who formed the Quilliam foundation, which was utilised by Blair. The aim was to split good Muslims (supporters of the British state) from bad Muslims. He described how these people were able to create a lucrative career out of their campaigns, at one point pulling in the far right leader, Tommy Robinson.
The main point Oborne makes is about how “Policy Exchange,” a neoconservative think tank based in the UK and funded by the US, was able to figure out how the British political establishment felt about Muslims. They attacked not just extremists but the ideas that would become gateways to extremists. This body was first chaired by Michael Gove. An interesting piece here is how Baroness Warsi, joint chair of the Tory Party, was removed by Gove. This is the period of the “cold war” on Islam as the enemy within, the sharpening up of “Prevent,” and the invention of non-violent extremism. Enter the media: Quilliam and others have been saying that Islam is taking over, introducing Sharia law, and infiltrating schools. Along came the “Trojan Horse Affair.”
Oborne deals with this brilliantly. As a journalist, he is able to interview all sorts of people, and he shows that this arose out of an interview with a Muslim man who was fed up with his sons’ school in Birmingham, which was one of the worst performing in the country with only a 5% pass rate for five GCSEs. He was a governor, and he became the chair. He completely transformed the school, which now has a 75% pass rate, one of the best in the country. It was praised by all official bodies, and he was invited to speak all over Britain. Then came a forged anonymous letter, saying that he was carrying out an Islamic takeover. The result of the media campaign was that he ended up being banned from ever becoming a governor again.
The quality of the school has dropped. An official enquiry found that there was nothing in the stories, basically clearing him, but this result got no real coverage, and most people still believed the original stories.
A similar process has been observed with the grooming gangs. Oborne demolishes the so-called research quoted by politicians, which gives a distorted view of who commits child abuse. He does not excuse the people involved or the sentences. However, he does point out that the media concentrates on Muslims, so the fact that most abuse is inflicted by people known to the victim is ignored.
Similarly, figures on American terrorism show that the majority of actions is carried out by white extremists, while the media would suggest that Muslims are to blame.
One aspect that is often missed when examining the issue of Islamophobia is its effects on so many people’s lives. He interviews the relatives of a man in Guantanamo Bay, whose life has been ruined, as one example, but there are many more.
Oborne uses his access to top politicians to give us quotes and sources that are otherwise unavailable. He also shows he has researched his subject well. His aim is to expose the lie that the threat in the UK and the US is from Islam.
Obviously, I do not necessarily agree with all he says, particularly that Marxism excuses all violence, but well done to him for helping the struggle against racism. It is a big book, and I have only touched on themes, but you could benefit from even just reading sections.
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