Colonisation · General philosophising · Whiteness & racism

Racism & Islamophobia

Today I had some words with people on conflating race & religion and it reminded me of a comment I wrote about racism & Islamophobia in response to a comment on

this article

Some dude wrote:

People dislike Islam because they dislike racism, misogyny, homophobia and fascism. Religion is nonsense and deserves to be ridiculed and demonized – just as it seeks to demonize anyone whom opposes it.

There is no such thing as Islamophobia – you cannot discriminate against an idea.

I wrote:

I’ve read A C Grayling’s argument about religion and free speech, in which he concludes that, while it’s bigoted to take issue with things about a person they can’t choose, like their colour gender or sexuality (issues here, but we’ll definitely pass over them), it’s totally fine to ridicule (his word, not mine) their choices, like political views and of course, religion. I’m assuming you’re coming from that position here.

Frankly, I think even Grayling ought to know that religion isn’t a choice in the way that deciding between the carrot cake and the tiffin is. Please someone call me out if I’m overstepping, because I’m an atheist, but organised religion is an extremely complicated social construct, sustained by deep personal aspects including faith, intellectual and emotional experience, study, discussion with respected elders and peers, educational and state institutions, and often, various degrees of social pressure (examples – parental encouragement, the expectations of relatives, advice of a teacher or faith-leader, prospective parent-in-law opinions, the idea of salvation in an afterlife exclusively for believers, more overt coercion like abuse of heretics). So mocking someone for being part of a religion is a bit like saying ‘haha your whole life and everyone you love is ridiculous and pathetic’, or in other words spectacularly ignorant of the cultural background and structures of privilege involved.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a serious problem of excessive ‘blasphemy policing’ around today and we hear a lot about this within Islam. I hope that changes, but it’s hardly surprising that some Muslims have tended to close ranks and preach hatred of Westerners after all they have endured and continue to endure at the hands of White/Christian/European/USA crusaders/colonisers/corporate interests.

While people raised as Muslims might convert or lose their faith, it is not possible, Grayling would argue, to convert to another ‘race’ or lose their ethnic otherness, so in order not to be bigots (because this is all about YOUR *identity* and not how the person on the other end of your aggression feels, obviously) we need to separate the two things and then make sure we only ridicule their religion. I’m not racist, you might say, I just don’t like Islam. But even by saying this, you’ve acknowledged what Bangee points out about, that ‘Muslim’ is a highly racialised identity in the UK. Of course race is a social construct, Muslims are extremely ethnically diverse, so it’s clearly BS, but check out the ACTUAL abuse and hostile othering that Muslims experience and you will find that it’s packed with racial stereotypes. And that cuts both ways, as I know from living with Muslims, and hanging out with Iranian/Afghani/Indian/Pakistani friends who AREN’T Muslim etc etc and etc.

So the whole ‘it’s not racist to ridicule Islam’ thing might sound fabulous to Grayling/Dawkins as they’re excitedly scribbling down that thought in their nice leather desk chairs or whatever, but in the media and out on the streets, I think the evidence amply demonstrates that it’s not going to fly.

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3 thoughts on “Racism & Islamophobia

  1. Yeah, deliberate misunderstandings like these are why I reject the term Islamophobia. Either you hate all religion – then you won’t need a term that targets only one of them – or you actually just hate Muslims. So I use “anti-Muslim racism”.

  2. There’s a difference between insulting a religious group because you don’t like them and criticising flaws in their theology in an effort to get them to think logically and critically about their beliefs.

    People like Dawkins poke holes in Christian theology all the time and are met with one of three things; Derision (ie: Mindless insults from those offended by his logic), spirited debate from those who are either confident in their belief enough to defend it or those who are finding themselves disillusioned with their religion. Whilst the first two reactions are pretty harmless, in fact the second one is one that should be commended and be met with calm, spirited debate in response, the third response is a complete cop out.

    “Why don’t you try that on Islam, eh? Too afraid of them are you?”

    So, this leads to Dawkins and the like turning their cross-hairs onto Islam, providing the same logic and critical thinking about Islamic theology. This, more often than not, is met with a lot more ferocious language, and not just from those of the Muslim faith. People seem to be compelled to tie any criticism of Islam with the kind of knuckle dragging arseholery you get from the average EDL member and call it racism.

    Why is it that when the same criticism is applied to Islam as it has been to Christianity and the like, it’s met with this? People throwing up the race card in the face of questions about their beliefs is what is compounding Islam to people from the Middle East’s racial identity.

    What started out as a short debate between the two of us on this subject has turned into a lengthy one with no insults and our opinions shared freely. You’ve made some very valid points and I hope I’ve made some fairly decent ones as well, however I’ve now said all I can say on this subject and won’t be responding any more.

    Thanks for your time and the spirited debate.

  3. First point obviously true, but Dawkins said nothing about theology, only about the achievements of Muslims

    Second to last paragraph ridiculous, you are blaming victims for racism. Rethink. This is clearly NOT why Muslim identity is racialised, or the reason why they experience abuse that compounds racial, religion-based and xenophobic stereotypes in a single sentence (I don’t need to give you an example of the ‘knuckle-dragging’ I have in mind)

    Dawkins’ tweet may not be racist in intent but it is in effect since it is a negative comment about a racialised group of people. When it comes to racism, your identity as a ‘non-racist’ is irrelevant – only your actions are, since they are what the victim experiences in the interaction. It really doesn’t matter if your best friend is black, you spent 10 years doing aid work in Liberia and you give all your money to anti-racism campaigns; if you say something racist, it’s still racist!

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