Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Art Of Manipulation

Propaganda. It's an art.

But it doesn't mean that it's any less conniving.

When I hear about some Mullahs on a UK Foreign Office tour of London it rouses my curiosity. The Mullahs are taken on-board the London Eye, where they recline, feet up, Afghan style and are treated especially well. I'm very happy for them and glad for once that Pashtoons are treated hospitably.

This does shape the visitors' opinions and when they hear of British Muslims for the first time, they learn that Muslims make up a part of the working social fabric of British society. The Mullahs are impressed. In southern Afghanistan, where there is poverty, it is perhaps not known so well that there are well-fed Muslims living in Europe. The Mullahs learn just enough to come away with the impression that British Muslims are well accommodated within British Society - free to worship and pursue their lives, and return with a message to Afghanistan that European and American forces in their country are good and are there to help.

The Foreign Office likes these types of Muslims when it serves their purposes.

But then, why do I, also Pashtoon and desiring to build bridges, not swallow this so easily?

A Very Different Reality

Perhaps, this is because it feels manipulative. I suspect that there is a deeper reason for allowing visiting Mullahs to come to Britain, especially at a time when many Brits probably feel saturated by the global Islamic presence. London is great; it's a city with lots to offer and remains one of my favourite places. Unlike the Mullahs, however, when I am in London, I have to push my way through the crowds and there is no special treatment. So a whistle-stop tour in a dynamic city as part of an official visit can create a rather superficial impression - this isn't the UK society that most Muslims that I know, are exposed to.

Consider the history - during my formative years, I came across a deep institutionalised prejudice that still shapes my thinking. This prejudice, which is built into the bricks and mortar of the social institutions we deal with daily, has still not gone away. The reality is that non-European migrants and their indigenous-born children have been at the centre of many discussions in the UK and not all favourable.

A 'Modern' Hysteria

I know what racism looks like; subtle racism, as well as overt and I know how unpleasant and damaging this can be. I am also aware that racism is primarily about ethnicity and that religious hatred is in truth, is a different thing. But look how they have come together.

The modern wave of post 9-11 anti-Muslim hysteria is traced back to an earlier time and I am deeply concious of how Muslims are continuously scapegoated for many of today's social ills. The UK is typical of its sisters in Western Europe in that Muslims have been ghettoised in the large parts to particular urban areas, often run down; where "white flight" is made up of that combination of racial prejudice and religious intolerance.

Divisions and Spoils

And then there is Afghanistan, where the military campaign is the physical front of the ideological racial and religious divide that I speak of.

President Hamid Karzai, speaks of it too, in an ever increasingly louder voice. If the Mullahs who visited London speak favourably of the military campaign in Afghanistan, then perhaps, this once, I can be forgiven for being a sceptic. There are, after all, many genuine concerns over the effectiveness of the foreign military presence, their behaviours and their governments' intentions.

Afghanistan is in need and no society is perfect. But I think it is particularly unfair to take people from a fatigued, war-torn society where a foreign military campaign is eyed with distrust and where development of social infrastructure is - lets face it - hardly without condition - to become the voice of that failing campaign. Favouring some hand picked Mullahs like this is highly manipulative and the British tactic of patronage and favouritism is how a small island nation managed to colonise half the planet.

Create the divisions and exploit the spoils.

It is an art. Though no less dishonourable.

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