Update: The Triple Helix has confirmed that the tag has been removed. The publication uses an automatic tag-generator and this tag was regrettably and accidentally overlooked. According to the Triple Helix, “we do not endorse the view implied by the tagging”. I commend the Triple Helix for remedying the mistake in a timely and respectful fashion.
Editor’s note: The author of this Triple Helix article has indicated to me that he was not behind the offensive tag (see comment below). Rather, the tag was chosen by the publication. The author has also indicated that he will be contacting the publishers to have the tag removed. The contents of this article have been edited to reflect this information.
Every once in a while, if I’m lucky (or unlucky), I happen to stumble across something so offensive that I begin to question society’s ethical standards. In fact, this happens far too often and most of my day is spent wondering why people do the things they do or why they say the things they say.
In a post dated back to July 8, 2011, the Triple Helix at Ohio State University equated the Muslim Brotherhood and Islam to Nazism based in the Middle East. Something is very wrong with this picture.
I should provide you with some background. The Triple Helix is an international student-run publication that “addresses interdisciplinary issues in modern science”. The organization boasts at least twenty-eight chapters, many of which are based in the nation’s most elite universities. Seeking new writers and editors, the chapter hosted at my university sent out an email linking to the organization’s website. Naturally, I found the “Politics” tab to the left and, hoping to find insightful articles on the intersection between global health and public policy, clicked it. The second listed article commanded my attention with its bold title: “Muslim Brotherhood: A Different Breed of Islamists”. It was written anonymously by student writers at the Triple Helix at Ohio State.
Ignoring the condescending title (which refers to Muslims as ‘breeds’), the article’s content isn’t the most disagreeable. It blasts the United States’ intentional misunderstanding and mislabeling of the Muslim Brotherhood as a fundamentalist and illegitimate political group working in conjunction with Al Qaeda. The author goes so far as to identify the Muslim Brotherhood as a strategic ally for America, a moderate religious group, one that “’lures thousands of young Muslim men into lines for elections … instead of into the lines of jihad’”.*
So why, then, does the United States feel so threatened by an organization that apparently values the same civil liberties outlined in the U.S. Constitution (which, if I may add, seems to have been torn into thirty pieces and fed to a horse at about the same time the Patriot Act went into effect)? The author pins the problem primarily on Western media and its concerted efforts to paint the Muslim Brotherhood as just another terrorist offshoot.
In comes Google. The author points to Google’s new autocomplete function that automatically guesses the remainder of a search term based on previous popular Google searches. In July, typing ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ revealed “a very telling list of predictions … that includes ‘terrorism, Iran, and Al-Qaeda'”. Having tried this myself just moments ago, Google predicts “website”, “Obama”, and “terrorism”. The negative connotations are rife and this is, according to the Triple Helix, indicative of the “spoken and unspoken fears transmitted by the media to the mass public”.
It’s an interesting take on an even more interesting topic, but the article’s sheer arrogance, as you’ll soon see, outweighs its efforts to inform and ultimately contradicts its purpose. At the top of the article is a collection of tags. Some are classy: “Geography”, “Islamic Revival”, and “Islamic History”. Some are straightforward: “Politics”, “Egypt”. But one in particular devalues the article entirely: “Nazism in the Middle East”.
Nazism? The article itself doesn’t even contain the word. In fact, the word Nazi can only be found once on the website, in an article written about technology and war in February 2011. So why equate the Muslim Brotherhood, Islam, or “Islamism” to Nazism, a racist ideology condemned by Muslims worldwide?
I don’t have an answer for that question but I could give it a shot. Maybe it’s the sense of entitlement some Americans develop each time the United States aims its laser-guided democracy towards the Middle East. Or maybe over the course of reviewing the article, the publishers could no longer avoid the soothing shackles of Islamophobia (emphasis on shackles). Whatever the reason is, it’s offensive, highly derogatory, and backwards.
Note: The issue has been resolved. See the updates at the top of the article.
This is not a matter of misinterpretation. The tag “Nazism in the Middle East” is not meant to be shorthand for “Americans wrongly confuse Muslims as Nazis and that is offensive to all” because that could’ve been tagged simply as “Muslims aren’t Nazis”. Only the most despicable of individuals would have the audacity to associate Islam to Nazism. And even if the Triple Helix meant only for it to grab attention to the article, only the most arrogant of individuals would throw the association around loosely and for something as petty as page views.
The Western media does transmit a negative impression of Islam to the greater public, but with bonehead tags like the one found in the Triple Helix, a forum for the elite, it is clear that the publication has contradictingly joined the ranks of those it sought to enlighten.
* According to the Triple Helix article, this quote is originally from: Leiken, Robert S., and Steven Brooke. “The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood.” Foreign Affairs 86.2 (2007): 107-121. Academic Search Alumni Edition. EBSCO. Web. 6 Feb. 2011.