WASHINGTON — Despite the United States’ clear history of supporting extremists and provoking instability in the Middle East, the Washington Post recently attempted to blame Russia for the rise of al-Qaida in the region.
The Jan. 5 article by Amanda Erickson, a foreign policy writer at the Post, pointed to attempts by the former Soviet Union to wipe out Islam in the Middle East as the origins of religious extremism and terrorism today. She wrote:
“About 90 percent of the population there was Muslim, but atheism was the state religion of the USSR. So in the early 1920s, the Soviet government effectively banned Islam in Central Asia. Books written in Arabic were burned, and Muslims weren’t allowed to hold office. Koranic tribunals and schools were shuttered, and conducting Muslim rituals became almost impossible. In 1912, there were about 26,000 mosques in Central Asia. By 1941, there were just 1,000.”
“Rather than stamp out Islam, though, efforts to stifle Islam only radicalized believers,” Erickson continued.
Twitter users quickly voiced their concerns about the article, which blatantly overlooked the influence of the West on the rise of religious extremism in the Middle East.
pretty sure USSR didn't create the sykes-picot agreement creating Arab hostility towards the west.
— The Unknown Quantity (@Son_of_Timaeus) January 5, 2017
Was it USSR who created Al Qaeda? Did the US support all kinds of terrorist fighting against USSR in Afghanistan?
— JustCurious (@Stas01063744) January 5, 2017
Other tweets also pointed out inaccuracies in Erickson’s understanding of Islamic history.
The Sykes-Picot agreement, signed between France and the Great Britain in 1916, was a secret document which divided the Middle East into two competing empires which would be controlled by each country, setting the stage for a century of colonialism, conflict, and warfare. In 1945, Britain agreed to pass control over Saudi Arabia to the United States, and the Gulf kingdom has been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East ever since. The United States has helped Saudi Arabia foment unrest throughout the region, primarily through the spread of Wahhabism, an extremist form of Islam promoted by Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, during the Cold War, Washington and Riyadh deliberately cultivated and supported the mujahideen. The militants who fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan are the direct ancestors of the extremists operating in the region today, from al-Qaida to Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the terrorist group known in the West as ISIS or ISIL).
Osama bin Laden, who became a target for U.S. aggression after the 9/11 attacks, was once a recipient of CIA aid. At the time, bin Laden was well known as a respected builder of vital infrastructure in Afghanistan.
Western meddling in the region continues today. WikiLeaks’ archive of diplomatic cables revealed that the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel have sought to overthrow Syrian leader Bashar Assad since at least 2006. Since then, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies have provided millions in training and materiel to so-called “moderate” rebels fighting in the Syrian civil war, even though those groups have intimate ties to Daesh and al-Qaida.
While Russia does have a history of oppressing Islamic faith, the urge to blame the country for modern forms of extremism may say more about the media and the U.S. government’s agenda than world history. The Washington Post, in particular, has been sharply criticized recently for promoting stories of Russian interference in the U.S. media and accusing Russia of hacking the U.S. power grid, despite lacking credible evidence to support these claims.
Watch “‘Fake News’ Isn’t New: Dissecting Two Decades Of War Propaganda” from MintPress News’ “Behind the Headline”: