By Younus Abdullah Muhammad
CNN that patriotic, Pravda-like state sanctioned media component of American Empire recently released an expose entitled Revolution Muslim Leader Changes Tune at the request of unwitting crony Yousef al Khattab. The segment represents but a parcel of an interminable propaganda war waged by the Corporatist News Network (CNN) to maintain at least tacit domestic support for the perpetuation of American-led imperialism. In reality, this new piece was yet another example of how untrustworthy the American free press is; it was widely inaccurate, selective, and rationally fallacious. However most viewers never have the time to verify information and indeed most will never read this short reaction displaying the propagandist nature of the report. Still, in order to clarify reality and continue to encourage alternative solutions to the Global War on Terror, I would like to take some time here to elucidate.
Anderson Cooper reported in the introduction to the segment that, “we’ve been monitoring this group Revolution Muslim for a while now confronting them on their extremist rhetoric.” In reality, his definition of confronting would entail sitting down for a half an hour interview and cutting and chopping the final version into small segments that suit CNN’s own political agenda. We have never been given an opportunity to discuss our views live with CNN and rather than confront our rhetoric, they have in reality deliberately manipulated the messages we have delivered.
For example, Anderson Cooper introduced the latest piece by saying that, “members of Revolution Muslim say it is their job to terrorize non-Muslims.” CNN then cuts to a clip including a quote from myself that says, “We’re commanded to terrorize the disbelievers in the Quran… Allah says very clearly in the Arabic language ‘turhibunna’ this means terrorize them.” The clip ends there. Thus, what CNN would have viewers believe is that we are including in this segment support for attacks against any non-Muslim, indiscriminate acts of violence against anyone that does not accept Islam. This is as an exaggeration and broad generalization that represents a deliberate and clear manipulation of reality to affect sinister gain.
The original video on CNN pertaining to Revolution Muslim first aired in November 2009 and contains the aforementioned quote in context. It is true I did highlight the reality that the word for terrorism is in the Quran, but that section of the interview in a deeper context was never aired as that segment of our conversation was about the concept of jihad in Islam generally. I was referencing the reality that Islam fights weapons with weapons and words with words and stated emphatically that our job as Muslims in the West was to combat Western propaganda against Muslims that are defending themselves from Western imperialism abroad. Were CNN to air the entirety of that interview without cut and paste efforts to manufacture rather than report the news that would become obvious. Still, the original interview itself makes clear the propagandist nature of this new report. Here is the full version of that segment in context from the 2009 interview:
Younus: “We’re commanded to terrorize the disbelievers?”
Drew Griffin: (Shocked) “You’re commanded to terrorize the disbelievers?”
Younus: “The Quran says very clearly in the Arabic language ‘turhibunna’, this means terrorize them, it’s a command from Allah?”
Shocking? Probably… True? Absolutely… the Quranic verse can be found in the eighth chapter, verse 60. The section continues,
Drew Griffin: (misleading or misunderstanding) “So your commanded to terrorize… anybody that doesn’t believe…”
Younus: “Doesn’t mean… you define terrorism as going and killing an innocent civilian… I define terrorism as making them fearful so that they think twice before they rape your mother, or kill your brother, or go onto your land and try to steal your resources.”
In no way, shape, or form is that a call for attacks against civilians. In no, way, shape, or form has Revolution Muslim ever called for attacks against civilians. What we do call for is anti-war activism and opposition to empire in the West with support for those physically, even violently, resisting the empire abroad. And we have consistently called Muslims and non-Muslims alike to this understanding.
The remainder of that edition’s coverage suggested that we justify the killing of American soldiers, that we hold the attacks on September 11, 2001 as justified, that we want to restore a global caliphate, wipe Israel off the map, and that attacks on almost any American are justified, to which they also included the quote, “Americans will always be targets, and legitimate targets, until America changes its nature in the international arena.” I would be a liar if I said I did not hold these ambitions and aspirations, but since that time CNN has incessantly covered only the quote out of context in order to try to utilize this misrepresentation to affect political gain.
I understand that this platform and the quotation aforementioned, even in context, is controversial to say the least. In reality, the platform of Revolution Muslim has always been that we neither condone nor condemn terrorism committed against America or her allies, that is that we are not prepared to condemn those Muslims that have attacked civilians until Americans and Western citizens generally are prepared to condemn their own state sponsored terrorism and to cease interventions that create the conditions for such violent reaction to imperialism abroad.
While many Americans would understand this proposition, most do not and that is largely due to the fabricated and lopsided reporting done by mainstream media outlets that manufacture a mainstream view that popularizes the myth that wherever the United States intervenes in the world, whether diplomatically, economically or militarily, it is to promote freedom and democracy. Those actually educated about past and present foreign policy practice laugh at that very notion. For example, the recently deceased academic Chalmers Johnson classified the true cause of international terrorism against America and its allies as ‘blowback’. He defined blowback as "a term the CIA invented to describe the likelihood that our covert operations in other people's countries result in retaliations against Americans, civilian and military, at home and abroad," and stated emphatically that, “what the daily press reports as the malign acts of ‘terrorists’ or ‘drug lords’ or ‘rogue states’ or ‘illegal arms merchants’ often turn out to be blowback from earlier American operations.” Indeed, once this awareness is included in the frame of debate and added to the discourse, the mainstream view immediately falls apart. It is hard for us to imagine that Muslims would sit forever without violence knowing the atrocities that continue to unfold in Muslim countries. For that reason we engage the press, not expecting to gain any justified coverage but in order to make alternative information and evidence available to those that seek it, and to thereby try to craft some opposition and effort in the face of disproportionate odds.
It is also for this reason that we hold firmly to the belief that we cannot simply see the world through the black and white, “you’re either with us or against us” worldview offered by George Bush, Barrack Obama, and the mainstream press. While the majority of Americans are completely ignorant of the atrocious covert and overt interventions that represent US foreign policy, the victims of such operations are far from ignorant of them. It is also for this reason that we publish the words of people like Osama bin Laden, not so much because we hold them in high esteem but because we feel that people have more right to access the entirety of what people like bin Laden say than the same ten second, cut and paste propaganda afforded his speech by the allegedly free press.
Indeed, while media like CNN attempted to adopt the line that America was attacked on 9-11 for her freedoms, no one with any rational understanding of the world believed that for a minute. Shortly after the attacks, major media outlets agreed not to publish any of the statements of the "terrorists" for fear that the messages may include encrypted messages with directives for more attacks. CBS said it was committed to "responsible journalism that informs the public without jeopardizing American lives". CNN, for example, continuously showed footage of Osama bin Laden saying: “If inciting people to do that is terrorism and if killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we are terrorists,” however, a review of bin Laden’s quotes from that time shows that most of the stated causes of the attack had nothing to do with Western liberties as was presented as cause in the mainstream media. For example, shortly after 9/11, bin Laden was interviewed by Tayseer Alouni of Al-Jazeerah (later put in Guantanamo for the coverage). In the interview he stated emphatically,
"But I mention that there are also other events that took place, bigger, greater and more dangerous than the collapse of the towers. It is that this Western civilization, which is backed by America, has lost its values and appeal. The immense materialistic towers were destroyed, which preach Freedom, and Human Rights, and Equality. It became a total mockery and that clearly appeared when the US government interfered and banned the media outlets from airing our words which don't exceed a few minutes, because they felt that the truth started to appear to the American people, and that we truly aren't terrorists by the definition they want, but because we are being violated in Palestine, in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Sudan, in Somalia, in Kashmir, in the Philippines and in every place, and that this is a reaction from the young men of this Muslim nation against the violations…”
Hardly a word about democracy or the American way of life; in 2002 bin Laden stated yet again, “As for the first question: Why are we fighting and opposing you? The answer is very simple: Because you attacked us and continue to attack us.” He proceeded to describe not the horrors of freedom of expression and Western society but the horrors of a generation-plus of US intervention in the Muslim world. His list included Palestine, where he says, "You must know that the Palestinians do not cry alone; their women are not widowed alone; their sons are not orphaned alone," Iraq where more than 1.5 million Iraqi children were killed prior to 9-11 due to sanctions, only to have Madeline Albright say on 60 minutes that she thought, "the price was worth it." He cites numerous atrocities committed against Muslims and concludes that, "America does not understand the language of manners and principles, so we are addressing it using the language it understands." Thus in some circles violence is viewed as self defense, terrorism as freedom fighting, but CNN must quell such identifications and seek to demonize any and all that may call to this reality.
Actually, there has been a definitional debate for quite some time about the term terrorism itself. One of the primary reasons for this is that if the international community were to define terrorism generally as something like ‘the indiscriminate and unlawful use of violence to further political or social objectives’, the United States and Israel would instantly become the biggest practitioners of terrorism in the world today. In late 1972 the UN General Assembly established an ad hoc Committee on International Terrorism that was to establish an agreed upon definition of the term. The results were inconclusive and there was much disagreement. The nonaligned members vied for a definition that protected the label of terrorism from ‘the inalienable right of self-determination and independence of all people under colonial or racist regimes,’ but to this day there isn’t the slightest fathom of consensus. Since 1996 a new Ad Hoc Committee to Eliminate Terrorism has also been unable to define the term despite the conclusion of the Cold War. Last month, it made another unsuccessful effort at drawing a distinction between "freedom fighters" and "state sponsored terrorism".
Mouin Rabbani, contributing editor to the Washington-based Middle East Report, said about the futile attempts to attach legal meaning to the term terrorism, "Thus, in the Middle East, it has reached the point where Palestinian or Arab armed activities that target Israeli military personnel are characterized as terrorist acts, while Israeli armed activities that deliberately target civilians are characterized as legitimate acts of self- defense." This is the lens through which CNN covers the world, the War on Terror, and international affairs generally. Definitions apply only to others, never to Americans, and viewers are continuously convinced about the exceptionally benign nature of American intervention, even in the face of such atrocious evidence as the present Wikileaks cables. The sad part is that most are all too willing to believe such rubbish and toe the empire's line.
Anderson Cooper continued at the conclusion of the piece with his own unsubstantiated rhetoric saying, "It’s interesting that a lot of the folks that run these websites they seem very happy to encourage other to, uh, go out and encourage others to blow themselves up, you know from the comfort of their little room where have this website." This is another absolutely, farfetched and unsubstantiated claim but obvious in its intended political ramifications. It is reality, that a few viewers and perhaps even frequenters of the Revolution Muslim website have been arrested over the past year, but there was in no way direct incitement to violence through our organization. It is however probable knowledge about the reality of US foreign policy shared on our site did contribute to their radicalization. However, the question then becomes who pushed them to violence? The answer to that question leads one to draw some very questionable conclusions.
The CNN report called Revolution Muslim a “"buglight for Muslim misfits" and indeed we are confronted almost daily by contact with some of the most disturbed, angry, and perhaps even excessive Muslims in the West. In fact, the majority of them are young, lacking direction and even proper Islamic understanding but for those that contact us personally and remain in communication with us, there has never been anything that even remotely resembles a call for domestic attack against civilians. What we encourage Muslims to do is become educated about their religion and the world around them, to dedicate their lives to working for justice, but not to get caught up in blind hate, not knowing why there is the very real need for resistance to empire today. The FBI, on the other hand, seems to have prided itself in recognizing these individuals as well, perhaps even by analyzing the IP addresses of those that visit Revolution Muslim online. Yet, rather than engage them in counter-narrative or let them know firsthand that they are being watched, they have established a long record of posing as members of Al-Qaeda and leading these youth down paths that cultivate false homegrown terror threats and that sustain support for the exorbitant national security state domestically and the perpetuation of wars abroad.
If you are not too bright and some tough looking guys accost you and tell you that they are Al Qaeda and expect your help in a terrorist operation, you might be afraid to say no, or you might be thrilled to be part of a blowback against an American population that is indifferent to their government’s slaughter of people of your ethnicity in your country of origin. Whichever way it falls, it is unlikely the ensnared person would ever have done anything beyond talk had the FBI not organized them into action. In other cases the FBI entices people with money to participate in its fake plots.
For the fact that Revolution Muslim may have unintentionally aided in allowing the FBI to locate, investigate and entrap others I feel great remorse. As we go forward I would like to say that the idea of our movement is not to incite others to engage in acts on their own, but to incite others to care about the deteriorating conditions of the world around them and to mobilize within organizations to act collectively in opposition to the atrocities in the world, certainly an international empire cannot be brought down and replaced with something better if individuals act alone.
There is a long record of criticism for CNN’s news coverage. The cable news network has been the focus of much attention for its lopsided reporting with regard to Israeli-Palestinian issues, for its coverage of the lead up to the War in Iraq and more. While many consider Fox News to be ultra-propagandist, CNN’s coverage is in reality little different at all. Investigative journalist Abe Debries, writing even before 9/11 and during the military intervention in Yugoslavia in 2000 revealed that CNN employs military personnel for deliberate “psy-ops.” In his report, he interviewed Major Thomas Collins of the U.S. Army Information Service who said, "Psy-ops personnel, soldiers and officers, have been working in CNN's headquarters in Atlanta through our program 'Training with Industry’… "They worked as regular employees of CNN. Conceivably, they would have worked on stories during the Kosovo war. They helped in the production of news.'' And a study by the European Journal of Communication in 2000 as well found that CNN reported the war in Kosovo misleadingly as a form of humanitarian intervention. The study concluded that, “Television pictures tended to follow the news agenda set up by the US military. Few alternative views were aired and, most importantly, a fundamental change in the nature of NATO from a defense alliance to an offensive peace-enforcing organization was largely ignored,” and that, “given the global reach and influence of a channel like CNN, this type of framing also shaped the wider view of the crisis in Kosovo.” Indeed CNN propaganda continues and the latest piece about my organization is clearly an example of just that.
CNN continues to support false propaganda about intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, portraying the Muslims resisting occupation as terrorists and the American empire’s militarist interference as ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the name of peace. It is a modern form of the same propaganda that was used during the Crusades by the Catholic Church where Muslims were portrayed as savage barbarians dedicated to spreading their religion by the sword. The history books today bear testimony that the show was on the opposite foot. Today we know that is still the case, al we need to do is analyze the evidence, but contextualized and false tidbits of lopsided propaganda continues to allow these same old myths to perpetuate.
For our part then our religion does not allow us to remain silent no matter how severely the mainstream media may twist our words or message. Classical Islamic scholar, Ibn Taymia explained the importance Muslims hold for defending their lands, people and religion from external aggression where he said famously that, “The first obligation after being a Muslim is to repel the enemy tyrant oppressor who assaults the religion and the worldly affairs.” This places resistance to occupation as more important than our prayers, our fasting, our charity, or our trips to the Holy Land. It is inconceivable that a Muslim will ever sit idle while we witness everyday as more of our brothers and sisters are killed. This is exactly what reports like this are to do, intimidate those that contemplate speaking out against the empire, portray those that do in a negative light and continue to manipulate the masses away from the idea that wars waged for control of our soil, the imposition or maintenance of corrupt despots, or the theft of our natural resources are in fact not a war against Islam. Indeed our way of life will never be maintained without sovereignty and self-determination and that is something every human being on Earth should understand. As Abdullah Azzam, famous for his efforts to educate the Muslims about these realities as well once said in regard to those that demand we remain peaceful while they slaughter us everywhere,
It has become a crime to carry the sword, being armed has become barbarism and savageness. The Westerners and the Americans are like a man dressed in white who slaughters a sheep and if that sheep's leg shudders as its soul departs its body then that is a rude sheep. Likewise they want to slaughter us while dressed in white garments and if our limbs shudder as we die we are barbaric. Look, look, look at them they are uncivilized, they are terrorists, they are beasts, they are from a Jihad group protecting ones honor has become barbarism and cruelty.
The Prophet Muhammad’s life is an ideal representation of struggle against an aggressive, boorish and reckless society. For 13 years he never raised a weapon, his message was twisted, he was called insane, branded a magician, boycotted, persecuted and tortured. Then for ten years he fought against his oppressors eventually replacing them with one of the longest lasting and most productive civilizations the world has ever known. After World War I, Western powers arbitrarily drew lines over the map of what was once that civilization, creating nation states, in actuality colonial mandates, that began a process of destroying the role Islam plays in politics, economics and the everyday affairs. Like the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims have been working, predominately through non-violence to wrest themselves from this foreign oppression for over 90 years. Like the Prophet Muhammad Muslims are now fighting their enemies where they occupy land and in so doing are increasing the likelihood that Islam will play an even larger role in the future and hopefully replace the authoritarian regimes, corrupts despots, or proxy colonial masters with a return to that great, classical civilization.
A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center finds that Muslim publics overwhelmingly welcome Islamic influence over their countries politics. The survey found people in Indonesia (95%), Egypt (95%), Pakistan (88%) and Nigeria (88%) are on the top the list of Muslim-majority countries which said that Islamic Shari’ah would be good for their countries. These four countries were followed by Lebanon (72%), Jordan (53%) and Turkey (45%). News outlets like CNN would have you think however that people of the Muslim world are begging for American intervention. It is an absolute joke.
Philosophically I and Revolution Muslim have always promoted the notion that citizens of the West, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, have a moral and rational obligation to oppose Western imperialism wherever it roams. We have held firmly to the axiomatic principle that in the situation of expansion we see unfolding before us there can be no real activism for peace without direct opposition to the continuation of the paradigm of domination now led by pax-Americana. Addressing local issues and remaining silent about the aggressive wars and interventions abroad is, in our opinion, akin to consent. We believe it is this incessant silence that compels those most affected by oppression to rely on terrorism to attempt to promote change. We are ready, willing and able to condemn acts of indiscriminate violence against civilians to effect political change, but unwilling to do so in a climate where those engaged in disproportionate attacks against civilians are regarded as the upholders of law as a consequence. Thankfully, more and more people are starting to come to this conclusion, although they are pale in comparison to the majority that remains blinded by the mainstream press.
Chris Hedges, fired by that bastion of freedom the New York Times for opposing the rhetoric of war leading up to the Iraq debacle recently proclaimed rightfully that, "Innocence, as defined by law, makes us complicit with the crimes of the state. To do nothing, to be judged by the state as an innocent, is to be guilty. It is to sanction, through passivity and obedience, the array of crimes carried out by the state." We concur with this sentiment. The majority of Americans and Westerners generally continue to sit unaffected by continuous wars and troop surges, domestic suppression of civil liberties, intervention in more and more countries, and etcetera and I will remain persistent on the path of resistance as long as this is the case.
On August 17th, 2007 Raed Jarrar, a California-based Iraqi peace activist and US permanent resident, was forced to cover a t-shirt he was wearing that said We Will not be Silent in Arabic and English. He was informed by JFK Airport security officials and Jet Blue Airways that he could not board the plane to return to his home in California unless he complied. The inspiration for the T-shirt was the White Rose movement of Nazi Germany, a group of students and a professor that opposed the Nazi regime and spoke out against it. They signed off on several of their documents with the words, We Will not be Silent and showed bold courageousness in a time of horrendous atrocities the likes of which have not been seen again until today. Today, turning a t-shirt inside out is nothing compared to the personal cavity searches, x-ray checkpoints, no-fly lists and other repressive procedures that have become the norm of American travel. While CNN can falsely portray us as terrorists with the typical logical fallacies of the contemporary mainstream media’s approach to journalism, we too refuse to remain silent in the face of what we consider to be Hitlerian aggression.
CNN and other media outlets like them are terrorists. They are guilty of an intellectual terrorism: the use of psychological terrorism to cast a populace into entropic indifference in order to further the political objectives of a rogue state. Slowly and slowly however, people are waking up, but this struggle must not stop at discrediting the press as it exists and operates in the now. Instead, it must also offer alternative media, and form the basis by which nightly news is sandwiched in between corporate advertisements that breed consumerist ignorance, self-indulgence and hate. Only the establishment of press that gives credence and stimulates discourse that includes all views could ever be called free or fair. Otherwise it’s all just ‘extremist rhetoric.’ For our part, Revolution Muslim is now islampolicy.com, and we will continue striving to improve our coverage of the issues. I strongly doubt we will ever be able to say the same for CNN and media like it; all the more reason to persist and refuse to be silent.