We’re on day three of our excursion into the career of Deepa Kumar – who, by the way, holds a B.A. from Bangalore University in India and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, and who teaches about media and the Middle East at Rutgers. We’ve seen how Kumar, after 9/11, was one of the louder voices decrying the West’s supposed Islamophobia. She doesn’t exactly whitewashing terrorism, but she rushes past it as quickly as possible in order to rail (a) that all this voice is a reaction to Western imperialism and oppression and (b) that the Western media and leaders have responded to it with a hysteria that has only intensified the general public’s irrational anti-Muslim bigotry.
We’ve already looked at a couple of pieces she wrote in 2006. Three years later came her essay “Behind the Myths about Hamas.” While containing a bit of mild criticism, it was essentially a love letter to that organization, which Kumar praised for rejecting the Oslo peace process and for “holding on to a vision of liberating all of historic Palestine.” She also defended Hamas from the charge of Jew-hatred, noting that “in 1990, it published a document stating that its struggle was against Zionists and Zionism, and not Jews and Judaism.” (Never mind the endless stream of anti-Semitic propaganda that Hamas has spewed out for decades, and the poisonous lies about Jews with which they fill their children’s heads from infancy onward.) Her main problem with Hamas: it’s insufficiently socialist, insufficiently concerned about the working class.
Then there was her 2010 essay, “Green Scare: The Making of the New Muslim Enemy,” in which she depicted 9/11 not as marking the start of a new phase of jihadist conquest but as laying “the basis for the emergence of a vicious form of Islamophobia that facilitated the U.S. goals of empire building in the 21st century.” Here as elsewhere, Kumar all but ignored jihad violence while focusing on the imperialist designs supposedly underlying the Western response to these acts. She also pushed the idea (popular among professors of her ilk) that there’s been a huge anti-Muslim “backlash” in the West, part of it taking the form of official probes of Muslims who are “charged with planning or being involved in terrorist activity.” (These authorities, Kumar proposed, should instead be policing “Tea Party lunatics.”) Her term “Green Scare” (green being the color of Islam) alludes, of course, to the post-World War II Red Scare, and in fact there’s a legitimate parallel: in the 1950s, there actually were Communists, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, who labored for world domination, just as today there are Muslims, both in the West and in the Islamic world, who seek to bring the whole of humanity into the House of God. But to Kumar, the Green Scare is, and the Red Scare was, utterly unfounded – products of pure paranoia and prejudice.
What about such acts of terrorism as Major Nidal Hasan’s murder of 13 people at Fort Hood? Well, despite mountains of evidence that it was a jihadist act, Kumar insisted it was a reaction to racist harassment and overwork. Quoting media reports on a series of arrests of would-be “homegrown terrorists,” Kumar wrung her hands not over the terrorist plans themselves but over the media attention, which, she lamented, was laying the “groundwork…for the new ‘Green Scare.’” Her point, in sum: the problem isn’t Islamic terrorism but concern about it. Even President Obama’s constant readiness to praise Islam wasn’t good enough for Kumar: while he dropped some of Bush’s “worst Islamophobic rhetoric,” he “continued the project of imperial domination” – and exploited the public’s Islamophobia to pursue his imperial goals.