April 4, 2019

THE rIGHT IS THE rIGHT:

Arab Regimes Are the World's Most Powerful Islamophobes: Middle Eastern governments have forged alliances with right-wing groups in the West dedicated to anti-Islam bigotry. (OLA SALEM, HASSAN HASSAN | MARCH 29, 2019, Foreign Policy)

It's just one example of an often-overlooked trend: the culpability of Arab and Muslim governments in fueling anti-Muslim hate as part of their campaigns to fight dissent at home and abroad. By trying to justify repression and appease Western audiences, some of these regimes and their supporters have forged an informal alliance with conservative and right-wing groups and figures in the West dedicated to advancing anti-Islamic bigotry.

Arab regimes spend millions of dollars on think tanks, academic institutions, and lobbying firms in part to shape the thinking in Western capitals about domestic political activists opposed to their rule, many of whom happen to be religious. The field of counterextremism has been the ideal front for the regional governments' preferred narrative: They elicit sympathy from the West by claiming to also suffer from the perfidies of radical jihadis and offer to work together to stem the ideological roots of the Islamist threat.

Based on dozens of conversations conducted over several years, we found that autocratic regimes in the region carefully cultivate conservative and far-right circles in the West that they believe lean toward their own anti-Islamist agendas. The two sides' political goals don't completely overlap: Western Islamophobia can be far more vehement and sweeping than the variety supported by Arab governments. Nevertheless, both sides find the partnership beneficial. Arab propagandists claim there is an inherent connection between so-called political correctness and a tendency to downplay ideologies that lead to terrorism--claims that are seized on by Western conservatives to legitimize their own arguments. "Our threshold is quite low when we talk about extremism," the Emirati foreign minister told Fox News a month after the 2017 panel discussion in Riyadh. "We cannot accept incitement or funding. For many countries, the definition of terror is that you have to carry a weapon or terrorize people. For us, it's far beyond that."

Such campaigns by Arab governments go beyond an effort to simply explain the precise threats posed by Islamists--which do indeed exist. Instead, they often involve scare tactics to play up the threat and create an atmosphere in which an alternative to these regimes becomes unthinkable from a Western policy standpoint. Such an environment also enables these regimes to clamp down on dissent at home with impunity. Terrorism becomes a catchall term to justify repression. In Saudi Arabia, even atheists are defined as terrorists under existing anti-terrorism laws.

Repression quiets their fears.



Posted by at April 4, 2019 4:05 AM

  

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