I have already written one post clarifying what is meant by Islamophobia. Now it looks like I’ll have to write one saying why I think it has racist content.
Obviously on the surface it claims to be criticism of a religion – but this itself isn’t anything anyone has a problem with, if done with human decency at least. It’s more the whole burning down mosques and stabbing elderly men. Or even just the spitting.
To reiterate – nobody objects to you criticising a religion. We object to you abusing people or behaving in a bigoted or prejudiced way towards them, in this case people who are Muslims.
Clever voices are often deliberately stupid
A big part of the problem with the rising levels of fear Muslims now have to undergo as they go about their day to day lives is that discourse from the liberal press and intelligentsia helps to solidify hard nationalist and/or Islamophobic opinion by agreeing with the notion that political crimes by Muslims are not about individual agency, but a ‘faith problem’. ‘We are only criticising their faith’ is a cry that come from liberals almost as often as the apologists for far-right organisations and discourse that smatter the toilet walls of twitter.
That’s all very well to say from a newspaper building or a Reuters platform, but is ignorant of the effect it has in the real world where Muslims are being attacked. This is a material fact, normally the first category of information the liberally inclined parts of the left of centre chooses to ignore.
As well as such concrete facts, there are also facts that are political.
Race politics in British capitalism – a political fact
Islam is not a ‘race’. It’s a proxy for many races in Islamophobic discourse. Lumping these cultures together is part of what is offensive. Meanwhile, there are many organised people out there who are not happy with ‘outside’ culture or races, and will happily raise points about both, as part of a deeper divisive agenda. How to respond? Well, who knows?
But here’s another question – do they influence those of us who think themselves far more reasonable?
The idea that the cultures (and worse, individuals) are all defined purely by faith is racist, and the idea that the faith is monolithic is itself built on a refusal to accept the diversity between various predominantly Muslim cultures.
Somehow then we have generated at least one seldom discussed example of a religion specific bigotry built on generalisations about race.
Further to that, Islam is then used to target people at least in some measure because they do not look white. Firstly is is used to that end by groups such as the BNP. Does anyone really believe that they didn’t make a tactical turn toward talking about culture and identity rather than straight up eugenics? Or that this thinking isn’t also inherent to the base of the EDL, and its leadership? Liberal press, please stop ignoring this. It’s real.
Many impressions about Islam and what it means for Muslims are prejudiced, often because those making the judgements are from a different ethno-linguistic and cultural background. This is racist.
Secondly, Islam is used as a general targeting mechanism for a range of primarily Muslim groups by racists. This is also both real and racist.
Thirdly, taken together, this means prejudice and difficult living for people who are Muslims, regardless of what their idea of Islam or their wider personhood is like – something that white Britons are not willing to endure. This is racist.
Fourth, the attacks which result as this culture change embeds itself are concentrated on those who appear look ‘visibly Muslim’, not close-shaven white Bosniaks or white converts. This is heavily racist.
There are four connected and well joined-up arguments as to why Islamophobia is inextricably linked to racism in the real world – whatever your own views happen to be on Islam as a theology or cultural influence.
And of course if religious critique is your aim, you are of course free to avoid stoking all of these things up and to simply do something like, I don’t know, not becoming a Muslim.
So if your only response is to say ‘Islam is not a race’, congratulations on showing yourself capable of deliberately missing the point. I’m proud of you.
However, I might think slightly more of you if you condemn people burning down mosques or stabbing Muslims before you set the world to rights on others’ choice of private faith. These things are pretty bad.