Sunday, April 20, 2008


I have not sought to make too much of the theoretical assumptions that guide the concept of Islamophobia.

Part of the reason why is because the concept does not adequately capture how Muslims are racialized and reduced to singular racial 'otherlings' in defiance of their complex ethnic and racial diversity.

There is also the issue that Islamophobia, like any other phobia, is an irrational act that is described in terms that focus on individual agency.

The Western state as agent of anti-Islamic bias, and policy focus, is usually religiously avoided in these discussions.

This is particularly true of media and some scholarly discussions in the US, Britain, and France, among other Western states.

I think it is important to note that anti-Islamic sentiment in the private and the public spheres is not merely an irrational feeling.

Accordingly, I reject the notion that to deal with Islamophobia there is a need to propogate a moderate version of Islam, a kind of positive steering strategy that would allow biased non-Muslims to feel a little less irrational.

Steve Biko was right when he said that racism was not a problem of Blacks. What he meant was that racism during the era of apartheid was a white problem.

In the same vein, I think that Muslims should not feel obliged to fashion Islam into bigot friendly frames. For this reason, I also reject the notion that there is such a thing as moderate or radical Islam.

There simply is no such religious division in Islam. The religion is based on five universal principles and there is no moderate or radical interpretation of how these principles guide Islam.

Marking a community as radical or moderate won't help bigots feel any more secure about their prejudices.

The division of moderate or radical Islam is more useful in describing the political interests of the Bush administration, for example, than it is theologically insightful.

That aside, I think there is some value in using Islamophobia as a means of describing some of what Muslims face in the post 9/11 era.

The Runnymede Trust cites 8 building blocks that define Islamophobia in a report entitled Islamaphobia a Challenge for Us All:
1. Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.

2. It is seen as separate and "other." It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.

3. It is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.

4. It is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations.

5. It is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.

6. Criticisms made of "the West" by Muslims are rejected out of hand.

7. Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.

8. Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal.

The last building block is of particular relevance to me as I write tonight. I have been thinking about a coversation I had with a young Muslim brother last night.

The brother told me that he was serving a white woman in a store where he works and she stopped and asked him what his religion was. He said he thought it odd that she would all of a suddent ask the question.

He decided to answer the woman. "I am a Muslim" he said with a smile. He expected she would say something like "oh that is interesting" or maybe something like "oh I know a Muslim woman I work with."

Instead, the woman drew back with a grim look and said, "Are you a terrorist?"

I knew immediately what he was feeling. I have been there too in Portland, Oregon, when a white car salesman asked me if I was a Muslim.

I said "yes" and he then asked, "Is your father a terrorist?"

I got up and walked out of the dealership but his comment has kept burning in my psyche ever since.



Dione said...

Religion shouldn't be racialized, but it is because people come to associate groups of people in a "certain way".
As I stated in my previous post, while most Arabs are Muslim, most Muslims are not Arabs. The "face" of Islam is an Arab, and a terrorist because it is what
our media and government want us to see. Religion should have no face, and Islam prohibits this and the use of any idols, or icons.

Muslims are villianized, because it easier to pillage and plunder and hurt people whom you have been told are evil, addressing the eight issues you mention.

A friend of mine, who is American but spent many years living in Lebanon sent me a good article discussing the 935 lies being told after 911. Lets remember that we are being force fed this information so that there is not as much public outcry over military spending and hurting innocent people.,23599,23098129-401,00.html

Islamophobia, is a sickness that has been brought to you by G.W and associates.
Muslims, Christians and Jewish people are all people of the book. These religions all have more in common, than any other religion so people from any faith should really think about what they are being told, as well learning about what you actually do hate, without any understanding.

People themselves decide to take their level of religiosity to whatever level they, or their family choose to practice and believe. From this standpoint you are correct in saying that their is no radical Islam or other religion. People make their own new religion, but from a Philosophical standpoint we may have to acknowledge it more than we like. A good example of this, is what is happening in the state of Texas right now. Mormons, are Christians although they are different from Catholics and other quote un quote "mainstream" Christian religions. Theirs is a baby in the scheme of history. However the modern day Mormon church does not condone such compounds as the one recently discovered in Texas. These compounds exist all over Utah, and I believe that the state looks away at this issue because of the tolerance they do have with these other Mormons. This situation is very debatable. Does the state have the right to intervene? Should women be allowed to marry at 14? Should America tolerate this? Or should people have the right to do almost whatever they please out of respect to the beliefs of others. Where do we draw the line?
The point is, even the Mormons in these compounds admit to being a fundamentalist, and having a "celestial calling" with god. If the off shoot religion isn't a real religion, then it isn't fundamentalist, just the people are. I would argue that there are groups of Muslims who are terrorists, who choose to be fundamentalists but any real Muslim wouldn't consider them to be a real brother/ not a part of actual Islam. It is unfortunate that society sees the negative individuals associated with problems, and then the rest must assume that guilt, which is ridiculous. I must remind everyone that Charles Mansion,and Domer (spelling) thought they were Christians. Why is the pope not apologizing? Why are Christians not being asked if they are like Manson? The point is,it is easier to make people into something they are not, than to understand them for who they are. If you did that, you would be humanizing them instead of villianizing, and that doesn't work under the control of G.W and Associates.

On a lighter note, I would rather be seen as a male terrorist than a woman at a car dealer ship. I'm glad, however you took your money else where. If I wasn't good enough, then my money shouldn't be either....

Peace to you Ridwan, let the people know!


Dade said...

A depressing post, my friend. As you know, my wife, Maty is Muslim as well. I've had old friends of mine recoil from this fact and look at me quizzically.

As a matter of fact, I have chosen to end some friendships because of the way those friends spoke of my wife's faith. And, keep in mind, these "friends" had never met Maty, did not ever even have the opportunity to get to know her.

I agree with you that there is no need to defend the beliefs/tenets of Islam. There is no need to accommodate the ignorant. Let them wallow in their ignorance; let their hatred consume them: whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jew, or Hindu. The rest of us have better things to do than to assuage their misery.

Thanks, Ridwan, my friend.


Ridwan said...

Dione thank you kindly for your comment here. You raise much and I will look at the link you provided.

Eugene has been doing some thinking on the Pope. I like his take on what the Pope represents and the merits of his US visit.

Be well now.

Peace Dione.

Ridwan said...

Dade I very sorry to read that Maty and you have been disrespected in this way.

It is indeed "depressing" and sad brother. Maty deserves more and you are right to kick those bigots out of your life.

Most of those who claim to know all about Islam and its prejudices can hardly see the "plank in their own eye."

Some of these folks will swear that they are believers too.

We live in treacherous times my brother. But we will stand against the bigots whether they seek to oppress Muslims, Jews, or Christians.

The principle of one humanity must guide us even as we live in different contexts.

Please convey my peaceful respects to Maty.

Onward! Dade.

Anonymous said...

But what threat does the west really see?

We hear talk of the looming muslim threat, But i think its more fear of a mythical bogeyman. "they are trying to destroy us." Who are they anyways?

The blonde kosavar? the asian cham (vietnam)? the brown indian? the black sudanese? Race and color doesn't seem to fit the usual bill...

The communist kurd? the capitalist tycoon? the secular beer loving turk? the devout saudi cleric?

economic, political and religous labeling doesn't seem to work either. And where is this central "caliphate" waiting to swoop in and destroy the west? Muslims are more fragmented now then ever in history. In the last 500 years, the west went about its (often nefarious) business no-holds-barred, even when there was something of a "caliphate".

I seen a comment above about the "arab being the face of islam" i disagree. Islam doesnt have a face, and that's what scares them.

So I think its a fear of what they can't see or understand. Also, the fragmented nature of the muslim world, created by the west, ironically, created an even bigger fear for them. Because now the muslim world is decentralized, and attempting to contain it is an exercise in futility. Years of colonization, divide-and-conqour, and domination have changed the nature of muslim world. It seemed to work for a while, but karma's a bitch.

So why the fear of this unfathomable enemy? Don't tell me the west is mad because instead of Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus etc, the muslims got an extra guy in the picture, that would be ridiculous.

I think the reality is, the muslim world has sheer numbers, and the (growing) will not to be subjugated (and thats the west's favorite trick, breaking wills, make them think they are inferior). It's not that the muslim world is interested in destroying the west or making britney spears walk around in a hijab. I honestly think they could give a rats ass what the west does in its own home. On the other hand, muslims, from all walks of life, like described above, aren't willing to be subjugated and made second-class citizens in their own homes. They aren't gonna jump through a hoop just to get a bone from the west, because they are sitting on their own resources, wealth, knowledge and the ability to defend themselves. They were sitting on it all this time, but I think are just beginning to realize its their rights to lose if they don't stand up.

Ridwan said...

Anonymous thanks kindly for an excellent comment.

You are absolutely right about the coherence of a threat from the so called Muslim world.

There is no "Muslim face" and Dione above makes that point too.

I also think your argument here is strengthened by the recent comment by the Catholic church that Muslims now outnumber Catholics.

One out of every six people in the world are Muslim, I can see the worry in the eyes of the bigots.

And you make the excellent point that the enemy is morphed in and between all those other threats that the West has demonized and feared in history.

Thanks again,


Anonymous said...

Why shouldn't Islam have a face?
If you insist on not planting vegetables, your garden will fill with weeds.

Can I have a face?

Ridwan said...

The point, anonymous, is that Islam is a religion that draws together more than a billion people.

There is no one kind of "face", or rather Muslim.

I am not sure what you mean by a garden or weeds but I feel the usual drift.

You may paint your face as you like ... please leave me to do the same.


Anonymous said...

I think you got my point. There can be many kinds of Muslims, but still the faces that are known are those of trouble makers. These are the weeds in the garden with no saints. Or are all Muslims saints? Clearly not. So then, where are the leaders who protect their people when trouble makers steal the camera, when they promote their face and their will as the will of Islam?

If there are so many of you, and growing so splendidly quickly, then support your leaders. Are you too divided, or can you come together despite your trivial differences? Can Islam give the world a face that it can talk to, or will Muslims continue to throw the book, and failing that, the grenade. Don't let this happen. Represent your people. Gain their confidence first, then the rest of the world.

The world will not negotiate with terrorists. They are Islam's cancer. They are your biggest threat.

Ridwan said...

Thank you for adding detail to your comment.

How do you suggest anyone inside of a religion made up of 1 billion and more people speak on behalf or represent it?

Are you not painting too broadly so to speak?

Inherent in the argument you present is that all Muslims are responsible for all other Muslims and, especially, those who carry out dastardly acts.

If this is true then we can say that all white people are responsible for the colonial havoc that was caused by white people from Britain, France, Portugal, etc.

It can't be so because the issues are too complex and it requires a more nuanced analysis obviously.

There is no more a cancer inside Islam than there is a cancer inside Christianity or any other religion.

Islam prohibits acts of war against civilians, or for that matter, acts of war that are not on the battlefield between combatants.

Flying planes into buildings is no more Islamic than enslaving millions of Africans was Christianity.

The issues are not so easy to demarcate.

What we need to do is to move away from the tendency to lump things (people/causes) into simplified categories.

We need also to stop demarcating human beings into "your people" and "my people".

I have no more right or duty to represent Islam or Muslims than you have a right to consider your being separate from me or the diverse world we live in.

Osama (if he even exists) is at war with the elites who run the US and he has no right to claim me as being on his side (his cause) just because I am Muslim.

You have, therefore, no right to ask me to reign him in (or other terrorists who happen to be Muslim) ... I am not at war with the US.

I am a Muslim and I do not represent Islam anymore than you represent the "world".


Dade said...

An excellent read, Ridwan! And the comments are insightful, too. I'm gonna bookmark this site for future reference.

Thanks for alerting me to this! Well done.


Anonymous said...

I would ask how a religion of over one billion cannot find someone to speak on its behalf, but then aren't you speaking on its behalf? Don't countries speak on its behalf? Everyone is speaking on everyone's behalf, unsolicited, yet no-one says what they really think. Its a game of perceptions, and when they are asked to speak for others, then they don't want it.

This is our crisis of leadership. Its not a Muslim problem, or a western problem. It's a symptom of this age. Our age, where we all live the consequences. There is no pressure to be a leader. But when you see one of your own making that sacrifice, promise me you'll support them. Real sacrifice is where you live to face the consequences. And for that you need a face.