Author(s): Arsalan Iftikhar
Report Published: 28th June 2016
Quake Magnitude: 5.0
Set against the catastrophic meltdown that occurred the moment the Twin Towers were reduced to rubble, Scapegoats is a critical deconstruction of the pervasive language of terror, political rhetoric and spiteful condemnation, increasingly endured by Islam’s followers in the West, for no reason other than the fact that they call themselves or “look like” Muslims.
In his book, which frequently reads more like an extended essay, Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer and media spokesman, sets out his stall not to defend Islam but the wider Muslim identity that has been hijacked by extremists of opposing sides – the jihadists and the neo-conservative faithful alike, to the detriment of all mankind.
Iftikhar’s scrutiny of any regime supportive of a powerful majority, consistent in its terrorising of a minority, means that Scapegoats takes an unflinching look at the ugliest elements of human nature. And in doing so, it refuses to shy away from the contentious issues that ruin polite dinner conversation – the sick Charlie Hebdo covers that mocked the death of a Syrian child washed up on European soil, the alarmingly well-supported demeaning statements that Republican candidates whip up for voting frenzies and the apathy of the average white American when it comes to looking beyond the sensationalist headline and into the real issues of lax gun laws and hate crimes, perpetrated not by Muslims particularly but young disenchanted American men.
With the sad events of Orlando looming, America’s worst public mass shooting to date, the fears raised by Ifitkhar have been realised and will continue, he argues, as long as minorities continue to be marginalised in an “us” or “them” battle cry. Consequently, this book is for anyone who recognises that it is only in studying the oppressor can their actions be stopped and societal wrongs rectified. Scapegoats is not about Muslims, it is about allowing freedom for minorities to prosper, regardless of gender, religion, race or sexual preference. It is about peacefully standing one’s ground and calling for a ceasefire.
“Fear and ignorance, of course, fuel this anti-Muslim hysteria. But so does money. Because there is political capital in scapegoating Muslims.”
“All forms of modern-day racism, xenophobia and bigotry need to be addressed lest we repeat the tragic lessons from the ghosts of scapegoats past.”
“When irresponsible political leaders and media talking heads rush to demonize Islam and lump all Muslims – all 1.7 billion of us – with murderous terrorists, it falls to a few “go-to” professional Muslim public intellectuals like me to try and talk America down from that precipice ledge of hysteria.”
I used to think that humans were by nature forgetful creatures, but in reading this book I have come to realise that is not so much an episode of amnesia but rather a severe case of selective memory. For evidence of this, which is actually presented in Scapegoats, just ask a Japanese American about the internment camps that their parents/grandparents, along with 110,000 others, were placed in and then kindly ask a public school educator where that shameful act is written into the curriculum… enough to make the ground shake.
For most people, an important aftershock should be paying attention to detail, that is to say not just which facts are included in a story, and if they are actually factual, but also which facts have been conveniently left out of the narrative. This is an approach I teach my university students in my undergraduate and master level classes on Critical Thinking in Sustainability.