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
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’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.