Instances of Islamophobia examines worrisome phenomenon

Contributors to Instances of Islamophobia analyse interviews and speeches of heads of state and also offer suggestions for counter­ing image of Muslims as suspect 'other.'

2016/10/16 Issue: 77 Page: 15

The Arab Weekly
Dunia El-Zobaidi

The word “Islamopho­bia” has become common in recent years in public dia­logue and across international media. The contributors to Instances of Islamophobia analyse interviews and speeches of heads of state and also offer suggestions for counter­ing the image of Muslims as the suspect “other.”

Steven Fink discusses Islamo­phobia within American Christian Zionism, whose leaders interpret the biblical verse Genesis 12:3 to mean that Christians will suffer consequences if they “curse” instead of “bless” Israel. The focus on this narrative leaves no space for negotiation with Palestinians or tolerance of Muslims.

“While conflict may arguably be an appropriate label to characterise contemporary Israeli-Palestinian relations, the fear-based mindset infusing the Genesis 12:3 narra­tive effectively obstructs Christian Zionists from even considering this relationship as an opportunity for cooperation and dialogue,” Fink writes. “The dehumanisation of Muslims and justification of violence against them [is] a tragic result.”

Brian Klug analyses David Cam­eron’s speech on terrorism at the 47th Munich Security Conference.

“The language of race that Cameron uses is also the language of empire, in which white and non-white signify the difference in status between ruler and ruled,” Klug writes. “This…explains Cam­eron’s voice; the point or angle from which he speaks about Islam.”

Klug accuses Cameron of us­ing his authority as British prime minister to place Islam wherever he sees fit: “he takes it upon himself to give a ruling on the very nature of Islam, separating the ‘perverse’ and ‘warped’ variety from the straight and true. He draws a line around Islam, placing it in the box called religion and posting a Keep Out sign on the door to the political arena. He puts it in its place, the place he assigns to it [as] the British prime minister.”

Klug argues further that by “dis­ciplining Islam, barring it from the political arena, confining Muslims to peaceful and devout observance of their religion, Cameron is doing the equivalent of keeping the na­tives — the non-whites — in their place; all of which could certainly be called racist.’

Farid Hafez analyses an interview with Jorg Haider about Islam in Austria and finds that “racist ele­ments can be observed in his ethno-pluralistic argumentation as much as in his use of conspiracy theories.” He further argues that Haider not only uses Islamophobic language for its populist political appeal, but actually advocates the implementa­tion of Islamophobic laws: “Just as not all Irish people were engaged in terrorist activities during the Trou­bles, not all Muslim people support violence nor hold any truck with those who engage in terrorism in the name of Islam to further their own particular political ends.”

Carr suggests the Irish and Mus­lims can use their shared experi­ence of being suspects to challenge the perception of Muslims as the threatening “other” and provide a platform for meaningful discus­sion abroad about the securitisa­tion of Muslim communities.

Halim Rane and Nora Amath discuss the role of Australian media in influencing policies and public opinion towards Muslim asylum seekers. “Aus­tralia’s response to Muslim asylum-seekers exhibits significant Islamophobic tendencies,” they write. “The media’s unwillingness to challenge government pol­icy and tendency to adopt anti-asylum seeker political discourse appears to have resulted in increasingly hostile policies towards asylum seekers, which in turn tends to reinforce anti-asylum seeker attitudes among the Australian public.”

Laura Navarro suggests that media could avoid favouring culturalist explanations of the dis­crimination of Muslim women by giving more consideration to legal, educational, political and economic aspects when reporting on the situation of Muslim women. She also argues that media institutions could support greater access by immigrant women not only to the mass media but also the so-called “third sector” media and work to counteract the US monopoly on film distribution circuits and news agencies.

“In these discourses [over Islam], there is not a real con­cern for the condition of women but rather the will to defend a geopolitical space in which the West seeks to maintain its posi­tion of superiority and the Orient strives to challenge that position.” Navarro writes. She notes that while many in the West regard headscarves as oppressive of women, many Muslims make the same argument about Western pornography.

Stephane Lathion offers some final suggestions to encourage intra-community debate within multiple Muslim communities, to speak less of Islam and Muslims and instead privilege the terms of citizens and civic-mindedness and to no longer use religious terms like jihad outside of their context.

Dunia El-Zobaidi is an Arab Weekly correspondent in London.

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