Since the September 11th attacks, the overwhelming majority of 779 Guantanamo inmates that have been held have been Muslim. Since 2001, 674 have been released without trial, and of the 80 that remain today only 7 face formal charges. The indefinite holding of prisoners without charges, the questionable status of inmates as guilty due to a lack of trials, renditions, and the use of torture and other inhumane holding procedures sets Guantanamo apart from other prisons. With the many different stories of innocents ending up in Guantanamo casting doubt on the authenticity of the accusations against the remaining prisoners, the question then remains that if there is no concrete criterion for being captured and held at Guantanamo why do all the prisoners share a common tenet in their practice of Islam? The answer is islamophobia. In Guantanamo Bay the prisoners are innocent until proven Muslim.
Guantanamo Bay prison has been allowed to exist for all these years today largely in part to the public conception of Islam’s relationship to terrorism. This viewpoint allows for the continued human rights violations against the camp’s Muslim detainees because most people do not associate them with any sort of humanity. Back in April of 2013, President Barack Obama verified as much in his own words:
“I understand that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, with the traumas that had taken place, why for a lot of Americans the notion that somehow we had to create a special facility like Guantanamo and we couldn’t handle this in a normal, conventional fashion — I understand that reaction. But we’re now over a decade out. We should be wiser… Now, it’s a hard case to make, because for a lot of Americans, the notion is out of sight, out of mind, and it’s easy to demagogue the issue.”
The dehumanization of Muslims has led to continued abuses towards them today in Guantanamo. The thoughts that “there would be no need for Guantanamo had there been no September 11th”; or that “radical Islamic terrorists threatening to destroy America make the prison necessary”, are faulty because they are an allegory for the past histories of the Japanese Americans post Pearl Harbor and the Jewish holocaust after the German banking crisis. The Bush Administration used September 11th and Guantanamo Bay prison to justify their agenda for the unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today the point is surely as attorney and president for the Center of Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner put it:
“I am convinced that Gitmo and other places like Gitmo only exist because its detainees are Muslims. I cannot imagine a Christian Gitmo I cannot imagine a Jewish Guantanamo. It exists because of Islamphobia.”
Today Guantanamo Bay is the most blatant symbol of Islamophobia – a reminder of how fear and hatred of people can cause countries and their people to go around the values that differentiated them. In the end it is not just about the mistreatment of innocent people but about a loss of innocence and a corruption of ideals of state founded on the principles law, justice and due process.
Focus keyword: Guantanamo: Beacon of Islamophobia