“You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear” The Islamophobia machine by John L. Esposito

The Islamophobia first espoused by conservative bloggers, right-wing talk show hosts, rampant trump-exec-orderracists on Twitter and evangelical religious leaders has found a home in the White House. The decision of thousands of people to stand up to racism and protest this week is encouraging, but as intolerance becomes government policy uncovering the scare tactics, revealing the motives and exposing the ideologies that drive this Islamophobia machine becomes increasingly important. 

This essay, written by John L. Esposito, is taken from Nathan Lean’s ‘The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims’, which seeks to challenge the narrative of fear that has for too long dominated discussions about Muslims and Islam, Esposito offers a historical perspective on this ever-rising tide. The second edition, scheduled for publication in September 2017, will include new material on the Trump victory, exploring the new government that is currently coming to shape in the US, emphasising that this book is now more relevant than other.

Islamophobia did not suddenly come into being after the events of 9/11. Like anti-Semitism and xenophobia, it has long and deep historical roots. Its contemporary resurgence has been triggered by the significant influx of Muslims to the West in the late twentieth century, the Iranian revolution, hijackings, hostage taking, and other acts of terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s, attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and subsequent terrorist attacks in Europe.


Most Americans’ first encounter with an unknown Islam occurred with the Iranian Revolution of 1978 and the taking of hostages in the American embassy, which resulted in an explosion of interest and coverage of the religion of Islam as well as of the Middle East and the Muslim world that has increased exponentially over the years. Today, Islam and the Middle East often dominate the negative headlines. Despite the fact that Islam is the second largest religion in the world and the third largest religion in the United States—as well as the fact that American Muslims are an integral part of the American mosaic in the twenty-first century—the acts of terrorists over the last three decades have fed the growth of Islamophobia in this country.


The catastrophic events of 9/11 and continued attacks in Muslim countries, as well as in Germany, France and London, have obscured many positive developments and have exacerbated the growth of Islamophobia almost exponentially. Islam and Muslims have become guilty until proven innocent, a reversal of the classic American legal maxim. Islam is often viewed as the cause rather than the context for radicalism, extremism, and terrorism. Islam as the culprit is a simple answer, easier than considering the core political issues and grievances that resonate in much of the Muslim world (that is, the failures of many Muslim governments and societies, American foreign policy of intervention and dominance, Western support for authoritarian regimes, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, or support for Israel’s wars in Gaza and Lebanon). It is not difficult to find material that emphasizes selective analyses of Islam and events in the Muslim world, material which is crisis-oriented and headline-driven, fuelling stereotypes, fears, and discrimination. Islam’s portrayal as a triple threat (political, civilizational, and demographic) has been magnified by a number of journalists and scholars who trivialize the complexity of political, social, and religious dynamics in the Muslim world.

The result has been to downplay the negative consequences of Western support for authoritarian regimes, and the blowback from American and European foreign policies in the Middle East, from the Palestinian–Israeli conflict to the invasion of Iraq. Anti-Americanism or anti-westernization (which has increased significantly among the mainstream in the Muslim world and globally as a result of these policies) is often equated simply with Muslim hatred of our western way of life.islamophobia

Today, Islamophobia distorts the prism through which Muslims are viewed domestically. Anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate crimes proliferate. Legitimate concerns in the United States and Europe for domestic security have been offset by the abuse of anti-terrorism legislation, indiscriminate arrests, and imprisonments that compromise Muslims’ civil liberties. Mainstream Islamic institutions (civil rights groups, political action committees, charities) are indiscriminately accused of raising money for extremism by individuals and sometimes governments without the hard evidence that would lead to successful prosecution.

Significant minorities of non-Muslim Americans show a great tolerance for policies that would profile Muslims, require special identity cards, and question the loyalty of all Muslim citizens. A 2006 USA Today-Gallup Poll found that substantial minorities of Americans admit to having negative feelings or prejudices against people of the Muslim faith, and favour using heightened security measures with Muslims as a way to help prevent terrorism. Fewer than half the respondents believed that US Muslims are loyal to the United States. Nearly one-quarter of Americans—22 percent—said they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbour; 31 percent said they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim man on their flight, and 18 percent said they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim woman on their flight. About 4 in 10 Americans favour more rigorous security measures for Muslims than those used for other US citizens: requiring Muslims who are US citizens to carry a special ID and undergo special, more intensive, security checks before boarding airplanes in the United States. When US respondents were asked, in the Gallup World Poll, what they admire about the Muslim world, the most common response was “nothing” (33 percent); the second most common was “I don’t know” (22 percent). Despite major polling by Gallup and PEW that show that American Muslims are well integrated economically and politically, a January 2010 Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies report found that more than 4 in 10 Americans (43 percent) admit to feeling at least “a little” prejudice toward Muslims—more than twice the number who say the same about Christians (18 percent), Jews (15 percent) and Buddhists (14 percent). Nine percent of Americans admitted feeling “a great deal” of prejudice towards Muslims, while 20 percent admitted feeling “some” prejudice. Surprisingly, Gallup data revealed a link between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, that contempt for Jews makes a person “about 32 times as likely to report the same level of prejudice toward Muslims.”

The extent to which the religion of Islam and the mainstream Muslim majority have been conflated with the beliefs and actions of an extremist minority can be seen not only in major polls but also in opposition to mosque construction, in locations from Manhattan and Staten Island to Tennessee and California, which has become not just a local but a national political issue. In the 2008 US presidential elections and the 2010 Congressional elections, anti-mosque and anti-Sharia hysteria have shown that Islamophobia has gone mainstream. islamophobic-tweet

Across the US, a major debate erupted over the building of an Islamic community centre a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Centre. A June 22, 2010 New York Post editorial said, “There’s no denying the elephant in the room. Neither is there any rejoicing over the mosques … because where there are mosques, there are Muslims, and where there are Muslims, there are problems… .” The author warns of New York becoming “New Yorkistan,” just as London has become “Londonstan,” “degenerated” by a Muslim community “into a launching pad for terrorists.”

Islamophobia, like anti-Semitism, will not be eradicated easily or soon. Islamophobia is not a problem for Muslims alone; it is our problem. Governments, policymakers, the media, educational institutions, and religious and corporate leaders have a critical role to play in transforming our societies and influencing our citizens and policies to contain the voices of hate and the exclusivist theologies (of militant religious and secular fundamentalists alike) if we are to promote global understanding and peace. As we know from the history of anti-Semitism and of racism in America, bigots and racists aren’t born. As the lyrics from the musical South Pacific remind us: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, you’ve got to be carefully taught.”


The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims by Nathan Lean is available from Pluto Press here.

Why we won’t celebrate the anniversary of the Irish Free State.

It has been 95 years since the formation of the Irish Free State, but the event has an uneasy presence in Irish history, particularly for the radical Left. Kieran Allen, author of ‘1916: Ireland’s Revolutionary Tradition’ and ‘The Politics of James Connolly’, considers why the event that began the process of unraveling the British empire will not be met with fanfare.  

Following the massive centenary anniversary of the 1916 rebellion – comprised of exhibitions, parades and revisions to the school syllabus – it is prudent to ask: will there be a similar celebration of the formation of the Irish Free State? The answer: unlikely.

Almost 95 years ago, on January 16th 1922, the British garrison at Dublin Castle handed michael-collins-dublin-castleover its keys to the IRA guerrilla leader, Michael Collins. The castle had long been a symbol of British rule in Ireland and the transfer of its administration was warmly welcomed by the Irish people. The story goes that the colonial officer in charge of the handover to Collins complained that he was seven minutes late, to which Collins retorted ‘we have been waiting over 700 years’. This display of boldness and its place in the Irish historical imaginary is typical of Ireland’s sanctifying of Collins. A mood of romance and dynamism follows Collins, oft-contrasted with Eamon De Valera; the ‘Irish Machiavelli’. Though the inclusion of the oath of allegiance to the British monarchy in the Anglo-Irish treaty is cited as the reason behind the subsequent civil war, it is implied that the clash of these two personalities led to the subsequent civil war.

These folk tales of Irish history hide a much deeper tragedy. In reality, the vote for the Treaty by a majority of Sinn Fein representatives in the Second Dáil and subsequent formation of an Irish free state was the point at which the Irish revolutionary process was buried. Continue reading

‘Even the President of the United States has to stand naked’: Trump Strips America’s Corrupt Democracy

‘How Corrupt is Britain?’ edited by David Whyte is a collection of powerful and punchy essays that shine a light on the corruption embedded in UK politics, policing and finance. In this article,  David Whyte extends his study of corruption to the U.S., turning his eye to President – Elect Trump’s recent appointments and the continued love affair between the U.S. government and private interests.

Donald Trump’s pitch to the people on the eve of the election in November was that only he could overturn the “years of sordid corruption” in the Washington establishment.   But his earliest appointments are beginning to line up like a familiar identification parade of establishment crooks.

His nominee as Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, a company currently embroiled in a major Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation for publishing false reports about its assets.  The ‘white nationalist’ Steve Bannon, appointed as White House chief strategist has been exposed for channeling millionaire donor funds through a ‘charity’ to fund his work for the extreme right-wing Breitbart News. nude-trump-1  And Trump’s newly crowned head of manufacturing, is Andrew Leveris, the CEO of Dow Chemicals who was also investigated by the SEC for fraud, although the case has apparently now been concluded.  Perhaps the icing on the cake is the appointment of the climate change-denying corporate lawyer Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

But the alleged frauds that tie those appointments together is really not the headline story.  The headline story is that, perhaps unsurprisingly, they all have a long track record of rabidly opposing any regulation that gets in the way of business.

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The Colombian Peace Accords by Jasmin Hristov

The Colombian government and leftist Farc rebels have signed a revised peace agreement to end more than 50 years of conflict, following the negative vote on a referendum for peace in September. In this article, written exclusively for the Pluto blog, Jasmin Hristov examines the results of the referendum and asks what the revised Accords holds for the future of Colombia. 

Peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the largest guerrilla movement in Latin America, the FARC-EP, took place in Havana, Cuba between 2012 and 2016. On August 24th 2016 a deal was finally hristov-peacereached. On September 19, declaring that the war in Colombia is over, President Santos formally handed the peace agreement to UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who called the deal ‘a victory for Colombia.’ The Peace Accords outline major commitments to land restitution, rural development, illicit crops substitution, they guaranteed the political participation of the guerrilla and their disarmament, and would create the Special Jurisdiction for Peace for a system of ‘Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition’. Polls predicted that the peace deal will most likely be ratified[i]. However, to the shock of many Colombians and the international community, the peace deal was narrowly rejected with 50.21 percent voting ‘No’ and 49.78 voting ‘Yes’.

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Hezbollah, Syria and the Arab uprisings

We recently published ‘Hezbollah: The Political Economy of Lebanon’s Party of God’, Joseph Daher’s analysis of the Lebanese party argues that Hezbollah are misunderstood and to understand them better we must position them within socio-economic and political developments in Lebanon and the Middle East. In this comprehensive article, written exclusively for the Pluto blog, Daher examines the changing tone of Hezbollah’s support for people’s movements in the Middle East, arguing that their continued support for the Assad regime in Syria has been the main determinate on their opinion.  More broadly, this article seeks to disprove the theory that Hezbollah’s political activity is grounded in revolutionary spirit and is imbued in the economic and political apparatus of the Middle East.


In the last few weeks, the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has reiterated his vow to maintain Hezbollah’s “jihad” in neighbouring Syria and declared that “there are no prospects for political solutions” in the country, “the final word is for the battlefield”. All this, in spite of the human and material costs of bombing by Russian and Assad’s regime airplanes in Aleppo. This rhetoric is matched by Hezbollah’s military activity. Currently, Hezbollah fighters are participating in the offensive against the liberated neighbourhood of Aleppo,[1] alongside regime forces and Shi’a fundamentalist militias sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).

In spite of this, Hezbollah is still considered by large swathes of people as defending the “oppressed” throughout the region, it is even believed to be advancing the revolutionary processes of the Middle East and North Africa. This is an illusion we must challenge. It is imperative that we accurately see the record of the Lebanese Islamic Shi’a movement (Hezbollah) towards various uprisings and pay close attention to Syria where Hezbollah played a determinant role in support to the authoritarian Assad regime.


The uprisings are part of the resistance project


In early 2011, Hezbollah officials were claiming that the Arab uprisings were part of their project of resistance. During a massive rally in support of the Arab uprisings, organised by Hezbollah in Dahyeh, Nasrallah made a speech in which he voiced his support to the Arab people and their revolutions and sacrifices, but failed to mention the first demonstrations, occurring a few days before, that would become the Syrian uprising. The uprising would be severely repressed by the Assad regime with the support of Hezbollah.

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McCarthy and the death of Communism in the U.S. University: An extract from ‘The Capitalist University’

We’ve got a treat for you…an extract from Henry Heller’s soon-to-be-published The Capitalist University: The Transformations of Higher Education in the United States since 1945. The book is a history of the American university, from the ideological offensive of the early Cold War, to the radical upsurge of the 1960’s and the contemporary malaise that plagues postmodernism and neoliberalism, Heller shows how the American university has always been in constant dialogue with American capitalism. The book is available to pre-order now and will be published on the 20th October.

In this exclusive extract for the Pluto blog, Heller describes the wound left in American universities and cultural life by the anti-communist purges of the Cold War:

In the immediate post-war period there were communists within the universities but there was little organized political activity among left-wing faculty. Professors who were Communist Party members kept their affiliation to themselves for fear of dismissal. But significant numbers of returned war veterans increasingly in evidence on campus as a Heller T03139result of the GI Bill actively participated in politics, most notably through the communist-controlled American Youth for Democracy. And it was precisely against this group, named by J. Edgar Hoover as a communist front, that the anti-communist attack began. As the
Cold War gained momentum with the issuance of Harry Truman’s loyalty-security program in March 1947, university administrators revoked the campus charters of the American Youth for Democracy organization, banning it from campuses where it was an established student group. For the most part this was the work of administrators, but at Queens College the faculty held a special meeting and proscribed the organization themselves. As the anti-communist campaign gained momentum the chill on student activism was reinforced by growing demands from university administrators for the membership lists of student organizations. Communist Party leaders and, incredibly, leading figures like Paul Robeson and Howard Fast, were banned from speaking in many universities.

Anti-communist investigations focused not so much on actual communists as on sympathizers or ex-members of the Party. One of the most glaring and significant cases was the McCarran House Committee attack on Owen Lattimore of Johns Hopkins University, and the Institute of Pacific Affairs which he directed. In the early 1950s the McCarran Committee singled out the Institute as a communist front that bore a large responsibility for the loss of China to the communists. The consequences of this particular attack were serious in that it crippled open-minded and critical academic study of East Asia including, fatefully, Vietnam and China. Universities demonstrated their allegiance to the Cold War policies of the government by initiating their own loyalty investigations. They exchanged information on suspected left-wing professors with the FBI and other intelligence bodies. They joined a blacklist refusing to hire faculty members who had been penalized at other institutions because of their political sympathies. Following passage of the McCarran Act (1950), travel by scientists suspected of left-wing sympathies as well as visits by suspect foreign researchers were sharply restricted. The complicity of universities with congressional investigations into communism on campuses climaxed with the issuance in 1953 of an official statement by the American Association of Universities in which the presidents of most leading universities reiterated that those who adhered to the worldwide communist movement were disqualified from holding an academic position, and that full compliance and cooperation with congressional committees investigating threats coming from that quarter were expected from faculty.

In the fall of 1947 the AAUP meanwhile rejected the view of Truman’s loyalty program and officially took the position that membership in the Communist Party, as a legal political party, should not be grounds for the capitalist university dismissal. That did not stop the University of Washington from dismissing two faculty members precisely on those grounds, an action which proved to be precedent-setting. Moreover, it was the view of the philosopher Sidney Hook, by now a leading academic anti-communist, that membership in the Communist Party—as a conspiratorial organization which demanded intellectual conformity from its members—disqualified such members as academics. Hook’s argument became the line taken by university administrators and most liberal faculty as a standard rationale. The majority of American academics, it is fair to say, were in fact liberal in their politics and accepted the Cold War consensus. On the other hand, it is notable that Arthur Schlesinger did not accept Hook’s argument, although on somewhat specious grounds. Hook had argued that members of the Party were inherently inflexible and therefore disqualified themselves as seekers of the truth. Affecting to ignore the repression that was all around him, Schlesinger argued that the fact that so many academics had left the Party in recent years proved that they were not after all that dogmatic. For good measure, most states imposed loyalty oaths excluding Communist Party members and required signing such an oath as a condition of employment in most public universities. The proscribing of active communists in this way exposed the limits of American democracy and its supposed political and intellectual openness. In fact there were few communists in academe by 1950, nonetheless the witch-hunt of ex-communists, Marxists, leftwingers, and even civil libertarians by congressional committees, the FBI, truman-stalinand the media carried on into the mid-1950s. It was coupled with an academic blacklist which made it more or less impossible for those accused of communist sympathies or Marxist opinions to find employment. Like the inquisitorial proceedings in early modern Spain, U.S. government repression helped put a damper on political activity and academic thought that did permanent damage in limiting what was thinkable and sayable in American public life then and now. That, of course, was part of their purpose.

It is important in conclusion to take a closer look at Hook’s rationale for excluding Communist Party members from academic life. If one looks at the Soviet Union in the Stalin period not only was there no free discussion in the Party but all aspects of intellectual life were closely controlled under the aegis of a dictator who thought of himself as a working-class philosopher- king. On the other hand, this was not the policy that the Comintern attempted to enforce on the other communist parties in the period of the Common Front or afterward. Nor could it have imposed such a policy even if it had wanted to. In fact, the intellectual life of the Italian, Indian, and British communist parties, and even of the more closely controlled French Communist Party, was quite interesting and intellectually fruitful within its limits. And this despite repeated unsuccessful attempts by Communist Party dogmatists to impose a political and intellectual line on intellectuals. Certainly, with its admittedly fraught relationship to the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre, Henri Lefebvre, and Louis Althusser, the intellectual life of the French Party was more open and interesting than the life of the mind on American university campuses at the height of the Cold War, where a fearful conformity reigned. Can one seriously compare American historiography of this period with the work of the British Communist Party historians—Rodney Hilton, Christopher Hill, E.P. Thompson, and Eric Hobsbawm—of the same period? Indeed, if we look at the history of the communist movement from the time of Lenin until the 1980s, its intellectual debates, to say nothing of the arguments between members of the Party and Marxists outside it, were in fact an unrivalled school for those who participated. In this regard the testimony of Marcus Singer, a professor of zoology at Cornell University, before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the spring of 1953 is illuminating. Asked about the communist group at Harvard-MIT, of which he had been a member during the war, Singer talked about himself and the group’s discussions of Marxian philosophy and how it applied to the contemporary world. But he refused to testify about other members of the group. Pressed by the Committee that because the Party was a conspiracy prepared to use force and violence he ought to testify, Singer responded: “We did not conspire. We did not do anything subversive … We were intellectuals. We were scholars.” Nor is it likely that such people could have been anything else. Admittedly the issue is complicated and requires some sense of political philosophy and historical context. On the other hand, it has to be said that in retrospect Hook’s argument seems like a kind of deductive syllogism about Leninist organization, and one that he imposed with remarkable success on American academe. But in doing so Hook played the role of intellectual commissar within a fear-driven institutional setting that was prepared to accept his formulation without much scrutiny. The parallel with the situation in the Soviet Union under Stalin is obvious. The price to be paid was of course the intellectual and political conformity that crippled American university life for decades to come.


If this book sparked your interest, please check the Pluto Press website for other similar titles. If you need a gentle nudge in the right direction, we recommend:

The Assault on Universities: A Manifesto for Resistance edited by: Michael Bailey and Des Freedman

With funding cuts well under way and many institutions already promising to charge the maximum £9,000 yearly tuition fee, university education for the majority is under threat. This book exposes the true motives behind the government’s programme and provides the analytical tools to fight it.

Ramparts of Resistance: Why Workers Lost Their Power, and How to Get It Back by Sheila Cohen

Ramparts of Resistance examines the experience of British and US workers during the last three decades to offer a broad analysis of the need for a new independent politics of trade unionism.

The Birth of Capitalism: A 21st Century Perspective by Henry Heller

The author of The Capitalist University re-examines the debates surrounding the transition from feudalism to capitalism in Europe and elsewhere, in the light of the deepening crisis of capitalism and continued non-Western capitalist accumulation.

The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education by Andrew McGettigan

Andrew McGettigan surveys the emerging brave new world of higher education. He looks at the big questions: What will be the role of universities within society? How will they be funded? What kind of experiences will they offer students? Where does the public interest lie?

The History of Democracy: A Marxist Interpretation by Brian S. Roper

Brian Roper refreshes our understanding of democracy using a Marxist theoretical framework, tracing the history of democracy from ancient Athens to the emergence of liberal representative and socialist participatory democracy in Europe and North America, through to the global spread of democracy during the past century.


The Capitalist University: The Transformations of Higher Education in the United States 1945-2016  is available to buy from Pluto Press here


Henry Heller is a Professor of History at the University of Manitoba, Canada. He is the author of The Birth of Capitalism: A 21st Century Perspective (Pluto Press, 2011) The Cold War and the New Imperialism: A Global History, 1945-2005 (Monthly Review Press, 2006) and The Bourgeois Revolution in France (Berghahn Books, 2006).



Learning lessons from Deliveroo and UberEATS

Author of the forthcoming book Working the Phones: Control and Resistance in Call Centres, Jamie Woodcock, examines the radical possibilities for resistance born of ‘black box’ labour. 

The six-day strike by Deliveroo drivers recently ended with two important successes. The first is that this group of precarious workers, written off by many as being unable to organise, achieved a collective victory. The second is that their struggle provides a practical example of how workers can organise autonomously in the digital economy.

The action by Deliveroo drivers was sparked by the company attempting to introduce a new payment system, removing the hourly rate and leaving only per-drop payments.[i] This represents a further attempt to shift the risks of this platform-like business model onto workers, bringing so-called flexibility at the cost of workers having a guaranteed wage. The action was mobilised on WhatsApp, drawing on existing networks and those Woodcock T03174.jpgformed at the meeting points during the shifts. The strike and demonstration outside of the Deliveroo headquarters built upon mass meetings in which workers collectively voted on demands. Throughout the dispute the drivers received solidarity from customers and restaurants – with some restaurants even turning off their Deliveroo app in response to the drivers’ action – and a crowdfunding campaign raised £10,000 for their strike fund. All of this happened outside of traditional forms of organisation, but was supported by the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain), drawing on the experience of the couriers’ branch.[ii]

There are some other notable features about the strike that are now becoming clearer. A couple of days into the campaign I arrived slightly earlier than usual for a demonstration. Across the road there were two people also waiting, although unlike those starting to arrive in their green and black Deliveroo jackets, they were wearing UberEATS branded clothing. At first I thought this might be a cynical attempt by Uber to try and recruit striking drivers to their rival service. There had been stories circulating of Uber ordering food from Deliveroo to their headquarters and on arrival attempting to recruit them with promises of higher wages and so on. However, after a quick discussion it became clear that these were disgruntled UberEATS drivers. They had heard about the Deliveroo strike and were keen to find out what was happening. As the strike continued there were further appearances of UberEATS drivers, early evidence that there was potential for this kind of action to spread.

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