The Roots of Racism

Rachel Sladja at Talking Points Memo has a good piece up about the roots of all the recent Shar’iah-is-coming-for-your-freedom hysteria.  It’s worth a read for the research TPM did to trace the anti-Muslim commentary in the media over the past decade.  But I can’t help but wonder if Islam (and Shari’ah) doesn’t just conveniently fit into the bogeyman placeholder that’s been consistently used by conservatives to manipulate foreign policy.

Last night I caught a screening of Connie Field’s fascinating film, From Selma to Soweto, one in a series of seven documentaries that charts the U.S.’ role in ending apartheid in South Africa.  Why was the Reagan administration so reticent to put pressure on the South African government to end their institutionalized racism?  Communism.  Why pressure an ally (the South African government) when they might turn to the Russians for support (and sale of their rich minerals)?

The South African government was unafraid to use their own mutated form of Christianity to keep the black population in its place. God was in control; he put blacks where they were — in the township ghettos — and God would keep them there. Ultimately it was liberation theology, imported from America (though its roots were in South America) that motivated U.S. leaders and college students to challenge the South African dictatorship.

Islamophobia, for a host of reasons, fits perfectly into the stale cold war paradigm that we still find our foreign policy stuck in. Why we are still working on this paradigm is another question.

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