By the time the fever had run its course, in late August 1692, nineteen people (and two dogs) had been convicted and hanged of witchcraft.

“I want to open myself! . . . I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!” Abigail Williams from ‘The Crucible’

In the early part of 1692, in the small and seemingly insignificant village of Salem, a collection of girls fell ill, falling victim to hallucinations and seizures. In the extremely religious Puritan New England, frightening or surprising occurrences were often attributed to the devil or his cohorts. The unfathomable sickness spurred fears of witchcraft, and it was not long before the girls, and then many other residents of Salem, began to accuse other villagers of consorting with devils and casting spells. Old grudges and jealousies spilled out into the open, fuelling the atmosphere of hysteria. The Massachusetts government and judicial system, heavily influenced by religion, rolled into action. Within a few weeks, dozens of people were in jail on charges of witchcraft. By the time the fever had run its course, in late August 1692, nineteen people (and two dogs) had been convicted and hanged of witchcraft.

For each of the accused, there was only one of two options: admit guilt and accuse someone else or deny the charges and be hanged.

Two hundred and sixty years after Salem, the year is 1952, and Senator Joseph McCarthy reached the climax of his political ascendancy in the US when made chairman of the Senate Permanent Investigations Committee. He was a demagogue whose vitriolic anti-Communism proved the spark needed to propel the US into a dramatic and fractious anti-Communist fervour during the first tense years of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Led by McCarthy, special congressional committees conducted highly controversial investigations intended to root out Communist sympathisers as means of escaping punishment. The policy resulted in a whirlwind of accusations. As people began to realise that they might be condemned as Communists regardless of their innocence, many ‘cooperated’, attempting to save themselves through false confessions, creating the image that the United States was overrun with Communists and perpetuating the hysteria. Those who were revealed, falsely or legitimately, as Communists, and those who refused to incriminate their friends, saw their careers suffer, as they were blacklisted from potential jobs for many years after. The executions of Alger Hiss, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are a testament to the madness of that time. 

“You must understand, sir that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between. This is a sharp time, now, a precise time—we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world. Now, by God’s grace, the shining sun is up, and them that fear not light will surely praise it.” Danforth from ‘The Crucible’.

The year is now 2005. The War on Terror is attempting to bi-polarise the Muslim world into terrorists and collaborators. A situation is resulting whereby if we do not take a stance along the lines that the Western world dictates, we will be seen as the enemy. In the words of the king of hegemony, George W. Bush,  

“In this conflict, there is no neutral ground. If any government sponsors the outlaws and killers of innocents, they have become outlaws and murderers.”

The horizon of the Muslim people is already beginning to show all the tell-tale signs of a Salem-McCarthy esque witch hunt. Those Muslims who are weaker in their eemaan and have done things that are wrong in the context of this society’s legal system will initially be taken away, even if they have no Islamic dealings whatsoever. They will be pushed and prodded into making deals to confess against Muslims that MI5 will already know they may have contacts with. What will then happen is for that unfortunate soul to be used as a pawn to hunt down bigger fish until a chain is established linking every Muslim to one type of organisation or another.  We already have our first political martyrs in the form of the brothers in Guantanamo Bay and Belmarsh Prison. Who will be used next in this game of cat and mouse, and where in the grand chain of witch hunting will that person feature?

(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)