Craig Murray: The Ignorance of Islamophobia

In response to the online hate and propaganda he is witnessing, the author tells a brief story that took place in Lahore, Pakistan, about a fortnight ago.

Rush Hour in Lahore, March 2020. (Adam Cohn/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Craig Murray

The deluge of Islamophobia on social media unleashed by supporters of the Gaza genocide has been profoundly shocking. It is one reason I am very sorry that Humza Yousaf was forced out as first minister of Scotland, as he was a particular target and his ousting will have encouraged the bigots.

On Twitter and Facebook I frequently receive comments suggesting that I should go and live in an Islamic country (from people evidently unaware that I have previously), or that I should meet Hamas or the Taliban (from people again unaware that I have previously) who would behead me, or that Muslims wish to kill all non-Muslims. 

What strikes me curiously is the sincerity of their Islamophobic beliefs — they really do believe all these things, because they have been imbued with this hate by absorbing years of propaganda in which Muslims are dehumanised. 

I want to tell you, and them, a small story. In Pakistan a fortnight ago, I was in Lahore searching for the house of General Allard, where Alexander Burnes spent time. Allard is a fascinating figure but I do not want to digress here from the point of this story.

I did not find Allard’s palatial residence, which has been demolished long ago, but I did find the tomb where he and his daughter were buried. The tomb was attached to the house, and my friend Masood Lohari and I were able to do some urban archaeology, discovering that elements of the palace and its outbuildings had been incorporated into much later structures now on the site.

We were walking around the dense buildings when a man got off his scooter and invited us into a doorway. Masood told him what we were doing, and he invited us up many winding steps to his attic apartment, where he opened a trapdoor into a roof cavity that revealed a very old structure.

His attic apartment was clean but very sparsely furnished. It had two rooms, in one of which his invalid father lay on a bed. In the other he and his wife had their bed. There were plastic chairs and a table and an incongruously large old fridge.

 (Craig Murray)

His wife produced dates and nuts and tea and insisted we sit down to drink. The fridge was opened and the entire contents were emptied out for us. There was a delicious half melon, which was diced and put into bowls. A handful of strawberries were crushed and whipped up with the milk. Bread was broken and the very small amount of meat diced and grilled.

We tried to refuse some of the hospitality but plainly to persist in that would have caused enormous offence. It was obvious that this was a household that, by Western standards, was living in great poverty, but every single bit of food available was cleaned out and given to the guests. Our beaming hosts told us of the blessing they received in providing hospitality to strangers.

The point is, that I have experienced this often in Muslim countries. In my experience, it is typical of the way that Muslim people behave. It is for example a fact that in the U.K., Muslims devote a much higher proportion of their income to charity than non-Muslims.

Hate is bred of fear, and fear is bred of ignorance. It is tragic that in developed countries, resources are available for war but not to counter that ignorance. 

But of course, the hate is deliberately inculcated as it is required to bolster support for war. From war the Establishment makes a great deal of money and foment yet more hatred with which to bolster their authority.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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15 comments for “Craig Murray: The Ignorance of Islamophobia

  1. peter mcloughlin
    May 17, 2024 at 09:24

    “Hate is bred of fear, and fear is bred of ignorance.”
    I agree with this wholeheartedly. To overcome fear we seek power: and this is more than ignorance, it is delusion. A definition of power is being able to control reality. But human control of reality is limited – critically so – and with dire consequences. If I may use reference to a syllogism: every empire in history eventually faces the war it is trying to avoid; everyone wants to avoid WWIII; therefore, that is the fate that awaits us. Paradoxically, the only chance of avoiding that fate is to accept it. It is not our differences that cause division, it is our interests. I explore this theme in my e-pamphlet The Doomsday Syllogism (Cantlin&Mynard).

  2. Tim Barlow
    May 17, 2024 at 08:26

    The one incident I’ve experienced that was virtually identical to Craig’s happened 30 years ago, funnily enough, also in Lahore! The Guest House I was staying at had a regular rickshaw driver who ferried guests around town. In my case, at the end of the day, he insisted, before returning me to the Guest House, that we stop by his house (well, more a mud hut, to be honest), where he and his family lavished me with what must’ve been a sizeable portion of the food they had. A very humbling experience.

  3. Patrick Powers
    May 15, 2024 at 17:27

    When Western governments passed the hate crime laws I thought, now the Muslims will be protected. But somehow that didn’t happen.

  4. Carl Zaisser
    May 15, 2024 at 14:10

    Reminds me of the story one of the Americans, from the Boston era, told when she returned home from Iraq prior to the illegal US invasion there in 2003. She was part of an American delegation of relatives of those Americans who were in Iraq and who the US government was trying to get the Iraqi government to release before an invasion. She was stunned at how generous and friendly the Iraqi people were. I found out how to contact her when I read her comments in the Boston Globe. I did write her, but never heard back. I tried to encourage her to keep speaking out about her personal experience of the Iraqi people. I don’t know if she got my letter, and what her thoughts were about it. I never heard her name again in this context.

  5. Jams O'Donnell
    May 15, 2024 at 13:34

    Nice one, Craig. Good to read a positive story when there is so much garbage around. ‘Keep on truckin’, man’. (As we used to say in the 1970’s).

  6. jean maxime
    May 15, 2024 at 06:05

    When it comes to online hate, troll farms run for and by 3-letter services are not to be underestimated even as their ultimate sponsors pass laws against hate speech.

    • May 15, 2024 at 14:18

      Much like the “War on Drugs” exists largely so that the MICIMATT has a monopoly in that arena, and the “War on Terror” exists largely so that the MICIMATT has a monopoly in that arena, the “War on (Hate) Speech and (Dis/Mis/Mal-)Information” is just a cynical means to drive out any freelancers in those fields so that the MICIMATT can exclusively control and channel expression in the manner of their choosing.

  7. Selina Sweet
    May 14, 2024 at 18:25

    Last October, when the Israelis were beginning to massively kill the
    Palestinians, a friend came over for supper. She told me of the time
    she had visited Israel and a kibbutz there and walked around Gaza a bit.
    She hesitated a little while, and said in a quieter voice almost as though she
    were musing again on her experience, that she found the Palestinians
    to be warmer, more receptive to her and “easier” to be with than
    her experience had been with the Israelis.

  8. Em
    May 14, 2024 at 16:13

    It would be more than uplifting, unexpected, and greatly encouraging, to hear that more than a handful (4) of people of non-Muslim traditions, were able to receive the same cordial hospitality from Americas ecumenical Christians, as they have received from Islamic communities elsewhere, but more especially, right here in the US.
    Hope springs eternal, despite the rules of moral bias!

  9. K. Jamal
    May 14, 2024 at 15:42

    Thank you do much for writing this, Craig. I’m a convert to Islam from a liberal family, and even I had to overcome my internalized Islamophobia. My Muslim in-laws are the kindest people I’ve ever met, and visiting them in their country, I’ve never felt so loved and welcomed. My husband’s extended family talk to me more than my own siblings.

    For all the fuss about antisemitism, not nearly enough attention has been given to the far more widespread Islamophobia in the West. Anti-Arab racism and Islamophobia are probably the main reasons why it has taken 7 months of genocide before people are just beginning to see Palestinians as human beings. But I still see an appalling number of online comments that say things like “they want to kill all Americans” or “they would throw you off a cliff!” It’s untrue, it’s nauseating, and it is causing irreparable harm in this world. Thank you for being one of the too few voices of reason.

  10. Stephen Berk
    May 14, 2024 at 15:16

    Of the three great religions born in the Middle East – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – all of which teach generosity to the “stranger,” it is the practitioners of Islam who most regularly and faithfully show such generosity.

  11. Tim
    May 14, 2024 at 14:52

    The reality is a spectrum of demeanors, from sweet and hospitable to fierce and hostile. You can find either extreme if you look for it.

    If you are a woman in Afghanistan under the Taliban, you see massive oppression and very little generosity of spirit.

  12. Carolyn L Zaremba
    May 14, 2024 at 13:26

    Thank you, Craig. I have found this to be true of the Muslim people I know.

  13. Nonclassical
    May 14, 2024 at 13:11

    Thank you as usual, Sir; my mentors, friends, students have received exactly such generosity while visiting student residing, London…and more; invited to local Middle-Eastern restaurant, Wolfenstau, entourage of multiple races, visitors from E.U., Cyprus, Middle-East and London denizens gathered.

  14. Dianne Marie Leonard
    May 14, 2024 at 12:49

    Wonderful essay! I had many similar experiences in the 1970s among Arab and Iranian students studying at my university in the United States, memories I treasure to this day. Some of those students were religious, some more or less secular. Like most foreign students at the time, they were from families who were wealthy enough to send them abroad to study, but the tradition of hospitality prevailed. I was invited to their homes, invited to attend student gatherings and activities they sponsored, and much more. The discussions I remember having were challenging and exciting, and–wow!–the food! I’ll never forget those students. It’s nice to read about that tradition persisting in their home countries to this day.

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