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Political and Historical Context

This argument flies in the face of reality, particularly in the French context. Muslims in Europe and the United States have been caught in an unbridled vitriolic firestorm in which their religion, ethnic backgrounds and cultures have become merged into a series of negative stereotypes, distilled, for example, into the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that recall classic anti-Semitic caricatures or vented in the constant stream of bigotry broadcast by Fox News. The notion that anyone in a position of power with or access to the media has held back from attacking Muslims and their beliefs for fear of being accused of racism is absurd.

It is quite something to realise that Islamophobia has become such common currency that it is effectively cloaked in invisibility. It is heavily funded by powerful backers from right wing foundations and business interests and networked internationally.

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The reality? They are among the most deprived members of the working class; suffering discrimination, structural unemployment and the effects of poverty. A report based on Office for National Statistics data found that Muslims are facing the worst job discrimination of any minority group in Britain and have the lowest chance of being in work or in a managerial role.

He concluded the situation was:. But colour is dynamic, which means white colour can be valued in one case, but devalued when associated with Muslims. Equally, having a dark skin colour—Hindu Indians, for example—is not always associated with any significant penalty. Muslims over the age of 50 are more likely to suffer bad health than their peers in the general population.

Nearly half of the entire Muslim population live in the ten most deprived local authority districts in England. Some 5 percent of Muslims are in hostels or temporary shelters for the homeless general population figure 2. Muslims are much more likely to live in social housing than the general population, and less likely to own their own home. Muslims are over 13 percent of the prison population roughly 11, out of a prison population of 86,, 8, of which are British black or South Asian.

Overall there is greater disproportionality in the number of black people in prisons in the UK than in the US. Black and Muslim prisoners both report being perceived through racialised stereotypes; black prisoners through the lens of gangs and drugs and Muslim offenders through the lens of extremism and terrorism. The figure is even higher in prisons that serve Paris. Those who carried out terrorist attacks in Paris, Toulouse and Brussels all had backgrounds as petty criminals, and appear to have made up their minds to carry out the murders either in prison or upon their release.

This is not to argue a direct causal link between being jailed and carrying out murderous attacks, but neither can we ignore the backgrounds and position in society of the attackers. The only indicators upon which they depart from general attitudes is when it comes to defending their religion. How then have large elements of those who regard themselves as progressive and on the left come to the position by which they view this marginalised, vilified and oppressed section of the working class with such suspicion and animosity?

A Pew Global Attitudes Europe survey found that although distrust of Muslims was mainly held by those who consider themselves as holding right wing ideas, a significant percentage of those who aligned with general left wing ideas also held negative views. So in France 47 percent of those on the right held anti-Muslim views as did 17 percent of those on the left. In Spain the figure was 54 percent of the right and 38 percent of the left.

In Germany it was 47 percent of the right and 20 percent of the left and, in the UK 34 percent of the right and 19 percent of the left. Significant sections of the left and anti-racist groups have convinced themselves through a variety of baleful political misjudgements that the fundamental dividing line in Western society is between secularism and religious obscurantism.

They believe that the principal enemy of the values emerging from the Enlightenment is not war, neoliberalism, austerity and the far-right, but Islam and its followers. This position relies partly on a reductive caricature of both the Enlightenment and religious ideas.

Scholars such as Jonathan Israel have revealed a contradictory and ambiguous view of Islam among Enlightenment philosophers, many of whom took the study of the particulars of Islam extremely seriously. They were far from seeing it [Islam] as do the B52 liberals who claim to be the heirs of the Enlightenment today.

Islam, like other religions, has its philosophic framework and textual approaches hermeneutics that cannot be reduced to a bundle of irrationalism and superstition. In this context setting up a false binary between the secular and religious ignores the philosophical advance that monotheistic religions such as Islam were able to achieve, contributing to the rationalism underpinning the Enlightenment itself. The creed of Mahomet is free from suspicion or ambiguity; and the Koran is a glorious testimony to the unity of God. The prophet of Mecca rejected the worship of idols and men, of stars and planets, on the rational principle that whatever rises must set, that whatever is born must die, that whatever is corruptible must decay and perish… These sublime truths, thus announced in the language of the prophet, are firmly held by his disciples, and defined with metaphysical precision by the interpreters of the Koran… The first principle of reason and revolution was confirmed by the voice of Mahomet: his proselytes, from India to Morocco, are distinguished by the name of Unitarians ; and the danger of idolatry has been prevented by the interdiction of images.

Despite this, there are those who regard themselves as the inheritors of Gibbon and the Enlightenment who believe the left project to be an exclusively secular journey. They view the emergence of a Muslim religious identity, particularly in the West, as an unambiguously backward development. This turns the entire anti-racist tradition on its head.

The political right has found in the Islamic spectre a confirmation of some of its old prejudices towards Islam, the Third World and Arabs. Its anti-clericalism focuses on the religious content of a phenomenon. Once the left has retreated behind its supercilious should one say fundamentalist? Why single out Muslims from other religious minorities and deny them the capacity to make their own history?

For example, why should a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf be regarded any differently from a Sikh man who wears a turban as an outward sign of his religiosity, or a Jewish man who wears a kippah? It is also simplistic to say that young Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, for example, swapped their Asian identity for a Muslim one after falling into the arms of reactionary Imams during the Rushdie affair.

The reality was more complex.


Most of the people in the youth movements were religious, but religion was not an issue for the members, it was their own affair. Many Sikhs, Hindus and Christians helped to protect mosques, as Muslims did of temples when they were attacked. We had very close relationships with gurdwaras and mosques whom we were always calling upon to support us in our actions. There were many among the Muslim [members] who kept all fasts… The unity was in anti-racism and anti-imperialism.

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Even among these groups there were believers and non-believers all working together. Ishaq Mohammed Kazi came to me about the question of God. Two weeks later he was in jail as part of the Bradford Religion was important to many—weddings, funerals, etc. People celebrated or commemorated in their own ways. Any divisions were political, either Labour Party or left party.

Or else caste or national. In the period before this the previous generation of Muslims who migrated to Britain in the s and s entered into a series of struggles in the workplace, in the community and against racism and fascism; yet we should not forget that at the same time they were clubbing together to buy the empty premises that laid the foundation for the early network of mosques. Writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik describes himself as a holder of secular universalist Enlightenment views.

He defines himself against a left represented by this journal whom he regards as abandoning these principles post-Rushdie in favour of multiculturalism and identity politics. Religion is a set of beliefs. I can be hateful about other beliefs, such as conservatism or communism. As such it is open to wide and differing interpretation. It is the lack of inclusion of Muslims under this protective category that the BNP, EDL and others have exploited; allowing them to use racist and inflammatory language against Muslims that they would be prosecuted for if aimed at black people and Jews.

A similar situation exists in other European countries. Secondly, recent history shows that reactionary forces are wholly capable of collapsing the distinctions between race and religion into one another, with terrible consequences. The Muslim population of Bosnia were massacred and driven out by Serb ultra-nationalist forces despite both ethnic groups sharing the same racial phenotype, the same language root and a common culture apart from their religious denominations. The subsequent war led to the deaths of , people and 2 million driven from their homes.

Most Muslims in France have roots in North Africa, around two thirds of German Muslims are of Turkish descent, the Dutch Muslim population is made up principally of those of Moroccan and Turkish origin as well as refugees from the Middle East and Africa, with Muslims in Scandinavia also being drawn from displaced people from war zones such as Palestine, Somalia and Iraq. The effect of Islamophobia has been to overlay a negative religious identity on top of a pre-existing negative racial identity. The two have become merged and mutually reinforcing. Naser Meer and Tariq Modood write that Islamophobia has:.

A religious and cultural dimension, but equally clearly, bares a phenotypical component. It took a long, non-linear history of racialisation to turn an ethno-religious group into a race. More precisely the latter did not so much as replace the former but superimposed itself. Regardless of all this, Kenan Malik argues in his article that there is no proof of a direct link between hostility towards Islam and attacks on Muslims.

  1. Globalization, Flexibilization and Working Conditions in Asia and the Pacific.
  2. Muslims in Prison by Beckford, James A., Professor (ebook).
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If an Afghan taxi driver is assaulted, is this a racist attack, an Islamophobic incident or simply a case of random violence? Even taking into account disputes over the accuracy of figures including under-reporting and their interpretation, a pattern can be clearly discerned. One of the most significant events in the field of anti-Muslim hate crime over the past few years was doubtless the ruthless murder of Lee Rigby, and the ensuing anti-Muslim backlash.

While different agencies reported different rates of increase—Tell MAMA found a percent increase over the course of a week relative to the week before—one London Borough Commander suggested that there had been an eight-fold increase in parts of London, and Home Office Statistics suggesting a low estimate of a 63 percent increase in the West Midlands—it is clear that anti-Muslim hate crime spiked after this. A feature of Islamophobia is the disproportionate level of attacks on Muslim women, particularly those wearing outward signs of religiosity.

Serie: Migration, Minorities and Citizenship » Bokklubben

The Islamophobic view of Muslim women specifically as carriers of fundamentalist ideas, and of their clothing as signifiers of their intent, has made them a target for discrimination, abuse and violence. The call to ban the hijab in the name of individual autonomy relies on essentialist arguments about Islam that deny any personal autonomy to Muslim women and girls… A debate about the furthering of Enlightenment values leads to the exclusion of Muslim women and girls from the culture of civil rights.

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  • It is important that the racist reality of Islamophobia is acknowledged against all those who seek to deny it in order to wield it. However, it is also crucial that its nature—how it resembles or differs from other racisms—is understood, so that it may be effectively opposed. In a similar way there was a time in European history when a new word, anti-Semitism, was needed and coined to highlight the growing dangers of anti-Jewish hostility. However, the term has been subject to scrutiny from the left. The anti-racist educationalist Robin Richardson has pointed out that:.