another version of this article was originally published on New Arab
October 7th marked the 17th year of the U.S. led war on Afghanistan and the launch of the so-called “War on Terror” . It is also Indigenous peoples day — a relationship which was merged on 9/11, but goes as far back as this same date in 1492 when Columbus reached “the America’s”, which also know to natives and their supporters as “Turtle Island”.
In the days following 9/11, the US government began pushing its narrative weeks ahead of its military operation dubbed “Enduring Freedom”. U.S. officials claimed that international laws did not apply to Muslims detained on the battlefield of the War on Terror since they were “terrorists” or not fighting under any nation-state flag. International laws regarding rights of prisoners of war were ignored as the US introduced the term “enemy combatants” into modern discourse.
The US’s signing of the “Patriot Act” and slighting of the Geneva Convention and the circumventing of international laws regarding Afghans specifically, but Muslims generally manifested in US sponsored abductions, extraordinary rendition, arbitrary and indefinite detentions and torture, in some cases leading to death. Afghan homes were raided, civilians brutalized or taken into arbitrary custody.
This disregard for human rights was also extended to Muslims domestically. According to the ACLU, between November 2001 and March of 2002, attorney General John Ashcroft, the Department of Justice and FBI detained or questioned more than 8,000 Arab or South Asian Muslim immigrants and visiting students.
Many of those detained were deported without reason, trial or access to legal representation – a basic fundamental right and the conditions for democratic practice. It was the largest roundup since WWII, when the U.S. placed between an estimated 110,000 to 120,000 Japanese into internment camps.
Today, almost two decades after American troops invaded Afghanistan with the stated aim of wiping out the Taliban, violence in the country is deadlier than ever and peace talks have stalled. This weekend alone, over 50 were killed in three separate attacks.
And domestically, in the 17 years from 9/11 to today, we have seen the US police go from using disposable cameras, to now using high tech surveillance equipment and ‘fusion centres‘, apparently in an effort to aid domestic intelligence sharing.
Similar to the drones that were tested in Afghanistan, only to come home to surveil US cities, high tech weaponry and and anti-riot equipment have made it into the hands of nearly every police department in the country, regardless of need. It is now become unusual to not see MRAP tanks patrolling the streets during protests and riots.
The War on Terror should be understood as having a much longer history that encompasses the repression faced by Black radicals in the US, especial Black Muslims but is essentially a war focused on the annihilation of resistance to white supremacist colonisation that started on this date back in 1492 with the conquest of Indigenous lands and the start of a “New” world.
War on Terrorism started in 1492
“Its especially important to this next generation of young Muslim activists to understand how the history of Islam in the United States is directly tied to racial oppression” said former political prisoner of 17 years, member of the Black Panther Party and Co Founder of the Black Liberation Army, Dhoruba al-Mujahid bin Wahad .
“Black Muslims in the US were treated as anathema long before 9-11. Prior to what you’re seeing today against Arab Muslims, the majority of these FBI entrapments were happening against Black Muslims” says Wahad. “One of those that’s important to mention is H. Rap Brown or Imam Jamil Al-Amin, he is a common day political prisoner and victim of the war on terror against Black people”.
The War on Terror should be understood as having a much longer history that encompasses the repression faced by Black radicals in the US, especial Black Muslims but is essentially a war focused on the annihilation of resistance to white supremacist colonization that started on this date back in 1492 with the conquest of Indigenous lands and the start of a “New World”
“The United States has completely absolved itself of the narrative of being a terrorist organisation, perpetuating any acts of terrorism despite the very nature of its founding and how it operates as an oppressive colonial state,” says one Sqilx’w (British Columbia) indigenous anarchist organiser, who goes by the twitter persona BadSalishGirl, and who is engaged in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist resistance on her ancestral lands.
“Although, the very act of settler colonialism, in this case the acts of violence against indigenous peoples in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres by colonial actors such as United States and other acting imperialist and colonialist entities, were acts of terrorism by the definition are set” says BadSalishGirl.
“The United States was only able to establish itself as a colonial power because of the acts of terrorist violence. This was all done through genocide and slavery that has been perpetrated since 1492, which makes this the 526th year of an ongoing “War on Terror” and connects indigenous and Muslim struggles globally
War on Terror, but from the Left
The rhetoric that opened the door to the demonization of Muslims across the globe and domestically as a “barbaric and backwards” other– irreconcilable with modernity and “western values”, has now infected the political spectrum, not just in nation-states like China, India and Myanmar where abuses against Muslims are widespread and taking place with virtual impunity, but the political “left”.
It is now commonplace for well-known leftists to abandon any meaningful engagement for slanders and threats; “Al Qaeda”, “Terrorist”, “Jihadi” and “Islamist” are all weaponized and used in an effort to silence their Muslim opponents, often journalists and activists themselves. No mind is given to the threat that comes along with being labeled an extremist for a Muslim.
This is the left’s War on Terror, and when it’s not apologia for Russian or Chinese crimes, it’s being waged online by the likes of famous leftists like Bill Maher, Max Blumenthal, Rania Khalek, Dan Cohen, Ben Norton and the legions of Party for Liberation and Socialism members, which have been dubbed “Tankies” in online discourse.
Afghans and immigrant Muslims generally have no true ally in their struggle against Islamophobia and the War on Terror. The destruction of the US Muslim community that took place after 9/11 has left Muslims with practically no Islamic organizations involved in protests movements in any meaningful way.
Since Muslims do not have strong ongoing movements of their own, it is crucial to align with the indigenous sovereignty movements while in the Americas and commit to the cause of Black power both in the Masjid and in the streets.
The role of Muslims in struggle, as clearly stated in Qur’an and Sunnah, must be in support of all struggles against oppression and injustice wherever we see it; “first with our hands” – meaning direct intervention,” and if we can not do that, then with our tongues” – meaning protest, and if we can not do that, then we hate it in our hearts, but that is the lowest form of faith” – meaning if we have the capabilities., we must act, unless we are cowards who lack faith.
Written by Mohammed Harun Arsalai.