Although the Indian occupation of Kashmir, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and the Chinese occupation of East Turkestan predate the global War on Terror by decades, the dominant discourse surrounding these sites of dispossession has been cemented by the global War on Terror – masking the terror of settler-colonial violence.
In the 1990s, the Indian government instrumentalized fears of Muslim terrorists, but nowhere to the extent that they have done so in relation to Kashmir after 11th September 2001. The Kashmir conflict was essentially reframed as a fight against terrorists, stoking identity politics amongst the BJP government, ethno-nationalists and far right political leaders.
The unbridled Hindu ethno-nationalism used to dominate Kashmir mirrors political Zionism. India and Israel’s increasingly close cooperation makes this all the more striking.
The construction of this threat, however, has become rooted in the vocabulary of the War on Terror, which reconfigures reactions to settler-colonialism as terrorism, rather than resistance to an occupying power. Although neither of these occupations have a historical link to 11th September and the War on Terror, Kashmir and Palestine have been actively reframed through the logic of the War on Terror as a means of India and Israel evading censure for their brutality.
Similarly in East Turkestan, we observe how the perception of the Uyghur shifted from being considered an outside threat to Chinese Han supremacy, to a terrorist threat.
The US gave the green light to the Chinese to present the Uyghurs as terrorists by incorporating China’s antagonism within the War on Terror, and thus became complicit in the designation of the Uyghur as terrorists, furthering their repression.
With 22 Uyghur Muslims being detained unlawfully at Guantanamo Bay, the US government chose the political expediency of securing international support for the continued use of the detention camps, over any consequences that acquiescing to China’s repression of the Uyghur might have.
All of this has helped produce our contemporary moment. The Uyghur are structurally denied the ability to practise their religion. The notion that somehow their cultural and religious life is a marker of their ‘extremism’ shows us how the logic of the War on Terror, taken to its extremity, results in the complete pathologisation, criminalisation and ultimately evisceration of Muslim belief and behaviour.