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Accueil > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2012 > July 2012 > Crusade 2.0: A Book Review

Crusade 2.0: A Book Review

Sunday 1 July 2012, by Lola Duffort

There is little extensive Western journalism or academic work done on Islamophobia, and certainly no authoritative text on the matter, which is perhaps why John Feffer’s project in Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War on Islam is such an ambitious one.

Feffer attempts, in under two hundred pages, to cover nearly a thousand years of antipathy between Europe and the Middle East, the geopolitical reasons for and the consequences of Islamophobia in both Europe and the United States today, and, finally, to outline concrete solutions. While Crusade may try to do too much in too little space, it nonetheless provides readers with more than a few invaluable insights into the implications of Islamophobia, particularly in the United States, but also in Europe.

Feffer’s treatment of election-year Islamophobia in the United States is his most complete narrative, as it offers readers an understanding of why and how Islamophobia has been carefully cultivated in an anxious American public toward specific policy goals. On Feffer’s account, Islamophobia has recently served two primary political purposes in the United States. First, George W. Bush warned of the threat of “Islamofascism”—a term coined in the 90s, and reintroduced into the public discourse by Bush in 2005—to the American way of life, giving the Bush administration a renewed justification for a war with dwindling domestic support. With “Saddam Hussein gone and the 9/11 attacks retreating into memory”, Feffer argues that the Bush administration attempted to develop a political climate which distracted Americans from the “soldiers lost, money spent, civil liberties abridged, and critical issues […] ignored”.

Second, Islamophobia has allowed the political right in America to channel racist anxieties about Obama’s election as the first black American president into the “politically correct” fear that Obama is a Muslim, or, at the very least, has Islamist sympathies. In a recent survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, more than one in six Americans believe that Obama is Muslim, while only one in four believe that Obama is Protestant (Obama was officially baptized in the United Church of Christ). These false beliefs are perpetuated by a misinformation campaign spearheaded by organizations such as the Clarion Fund, a pro-Israeli organization connected to John McCain’s presidential campaign, which “decided to distribute the DVD [Obsession: Radical Islam’s War with the West] in swing states prior to the 2008 election”. This video implies that politicians like Obama would please Osama bin Laden and other members of Al Qaeda. Ironically, Obama would oversee the assassination of Osama bin Laden three years later.

Feffer proposes three remedies to Crusade 2.0. First, he discusses how the term ‘Judeo-Christian’—which emerged “from the theological debates in the late nineteenth century as a way of incorporating and belittling through hyphenation the Jewish contributions to Christian civilization”—suggests that so-called ‘Judeo-Christian values’ are not shared by Muslims. Feffer suggests abandoning this ‘Judeo-Christian’ construct altogether, or developing a new term to refer to the Abrahamic religions (i.e., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) that does not misleadingly exclude the latter. The second remedy to Islamophobia that Feffer recommends is ending Israel’s practice of settling occupied Palestinian territories, since he believes that true reconciliation between the West and the Islamic world can only occur if Israel participates. Finally, Feffer proposes that the European Union accepts Turkey’s application for membership, which will help Europe come to terms with the fact that it is not a unitary culture, but rather a multicultural center of many religions and ways of life.

However, Feffer’s last two recommendations seem unlikely remedies to Islamophobia, since both the Palestinian occupation and Europe’s insistence that it is a unitary culture are a direct result of the West’s distrust of Islam. Only once this distrust subsides will the West be prepared to embrace the world’s second-largest religion; as such, it seems necessary for comprehensive solutions to Crusade 2.0 not to presume that Islamophobia is on the decline.