Less than a week after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, then-President Bush infamously called the resulting “war on terror” a “crusade…[that] is going to take awhile.” The use of the phrase brought about global rebukes, ranging from French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine, who said that we “have to avoid a clash of civilizations at all costs” to Soheib Bensheik, the Grand Mufti of the mosque in Marseille, France, who warned that the use of the phrase was “most unfortunate.”
Bush’s trip-up was seen largely as a gaffe that U.S. public affairs officials sought to avoid in the future. But in John Feffer’s Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War on Islam, we are shown that the current conflicts the United States is involved in with the Muslim world — both at home through Islamophobic protests of mosque construction and abroad in hot conflicts in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere — in a way do resemble a renewed Crusade.
Feffer’s book seeks to connect the Christian-Muslim wars of yesteryear to today by taking the reader first through a re-told, myth-busting history of the original Crusades. The book corrects the notion that the Crusades were largely a defensive war against the Muslim armies in the east, and looks at much of the rhetoric about the insatiable evil of Muslims and how that rhetoric has entered the Islamophobic dialogue of today.
But it is the Cold War that serves as the bridge between the original Crusades and Crusade 2.0. Feffer explains how the massive geopolitical conflict between the United States and Soviet Union involved a huge expansion of American military power onto Muslim land. We are brought through the history of the U.S. arming dictators, siding with paramilitary extremists, and ignoring legitimate grievances of the Islamic world in order to gain the upper hand on the its Soviet nemesis.
Finally, the book recounts the current “war on terror” and laments how President Obama has continued too many facets of Bush’s Crusade 2.0. Feffer links our wars abroad to an increase in demonization of Muslims at home by the far right, and notes that it’s very difficult to separate the two. Despite modest efforts by both the Bush and Obama administrations to preach tolerance towards Muslim Americans, Islamophobia is on the rise, driven by far-right figures like Frank Gaffney. Crusade 2.0 also shows that things are worse abroad, with Muslim populations and their rights under increasing scrutiny and attack in European countries.
Feffer’s book concludes by proposing a path to ending Crusade 2.0 and coming to a reasonable conclusion of hostility between the West and the Muslim world. This path includes re-aligning U.S. policy to end military conflicts against Muslims, respecting the civil liberties of the domestic population, and coming to a meaningful understanding of modern Muslim states like Turkey who are seeking a more assertive role in global politics.
Please welcome John Feffer and let’s begin this discussion of our renewed Crusade, and, perhaps more importantly, how to end it.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]