Islam is Not a Race- But Islamophobia is Real

I was watching some highlights from the previous year’s Golden Globes, and as I scrolled through the comments I couldn’t help but focus on one that attacked Ben Affleck. As the commenter writes, Affleck is an idiot for defending Islam and insinuating that Islamophobia is a real thing, since Islam is not a race. Affleck has received a wave of right wing backlash for his comments, being interpreted as another liberal who refuses to criticize Islam.

The sentiment that Islamophobia is an invalid, politically correct creation is even shared by former Muslim Salman Rushdie. After a fatwa was declared against him by the Ayotallah of Iran, Rushdie’s life was put in jeopardy by zealots who believed he insulted their religion. Zealot is the proper word to refer to people who would actually try to kill someone for insulting their religion, but I believe that this word is overused when it comes to Islam.

After the Danish newspaper Jylland’s-Postens depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, demonstrations predictably broke out amongst many Muslim populations. I am not here to defend violent extremists. However, I could never help but notice that even instances of peaceful protest  by Muslims are often seen as proof of their zealotry. Comments online indicated Muslims should learn how to take a joke, like people of other religions can. Can we agree that this cartoon is pretty offensive?

Maybe people will be quick to argue that it doesn’t matter, since the Prophet was not an angelic figure anyway. Whenever Islam as a whole is insulted, many people turn a blind eye since they see it as a religion that is inherently violent and misogynist. Even if critics can recognize that not all Muslims are terrorists, they still argue that the religion itself feeds into corrosive vices. It is easy to think this when we look at a nation like Saudi Arabia, but seeing nations such as Dubai and Egypt should make it clear that interpretation is just as important as content when it comes to religion. To those people I think it is important that they see this experiment, where people are given a copy of the Bible covered with a Koran jacket. The only thing better than seeing people express their amazement at how backwards the “Koran” is, is seeing their reactions when it is revealed they were reading the Bible. Watch the video, and read the comments to see Christians defending the bible and denigrating Islam. It seems like the Christians can’t just take a joke.

This experiment also highlights the key issue I wanted to discuss. There are far too many people out there who pat themselves on the back for recognizing Islam is not a race, thinking they can end the argument about Islamophobia with that sentence. There are recognized phobias of buttons and clowns, no one is trying to say there is a racial component for those. There is also homophobia, which we can see in people’s attitudes towards topics such as gay marriage. “Phobia” does not have to imply race. However, “Islamophobia” is a valid term due to people’s reactions to Islam, or what they perceive to be Islam. Islam is not a race, but racial ignorance can contribute to it. Following 9/11 there were hate crimes committed against Middle Eastern people of all religions, including Sikh. The fact that the people attacked weren’t Muslim is irrelevant. The attackers intended to attack Muslims, and their ignorance led them to attack people of a different faith. White people who convert to Islam have testified to being treated poorly by friends and family for their decision, due to their association with a religion perceived as backwards and violent.

It is easy to see Muslims as a faceless, terrorist horde with all the negative things we may hear from Trump, the news and maybe even our social circle. I don’t like throwing out the “I have ___ friends” argument, but I am curious to know how many people who relentlessly criticize Islam as the root of all evil actually have close relationships with Muslims. My own exposure has led me to people who rarely mention their religion and never criticize me for mine. They respect their religion, but they aren’t hellbent on killing or converting the infidels surrounding them. Exposure to moderate and liberal Muslims (the majority of them) isn’t a foolproof strategy, but it is something that can demistify and humanize the people we’re accustomed to thinking of as a threat to the safety of progressive Western societies.

The Right Wing Buzzwords

Politically Correct,

White Knight,

Social Justice Warrior.

 

We’ve probably all heard these terms, and many of us have probably used them,

People are always quick to say it’s (insert year) anytime a conversation about discrimination comes up,

As if the year itself changes the way people think,

There is the idea that time always means progress,

Yet the state of the world makes it clear that the flow of time can lead to more entropy,

Time can lead to a regression, instead of a progression,

 

It’s 2016, racial, religious and sexual minorities have more rights than ever and are more respected than ever,

In theory,

Many laws tell us that we fixed the problem of discrimination,

Yet why is rape culture increasingly embraced among men?

“Women shouldn’t dress like that if they don’t want to get cat-called or raped. Anyone who disagrees is just a white knight.”

Why is racism so accepted in our progressive population?

“I’m not racist but I’d never date a black guy.”

“A black guy got hired; no way he deserved the job. It’s affirmative action, reverse-racism. Why can’t these social justice warriors see that?”

 

Why is discrimination against other religions so widely accepted?

“We should ban all Muslims from entering the country. We can’t be politically correct about this.”

 

Maybe that last sentence is the issue, The use of terms like “politically correct”, “white knight” and “social justice warrior” to criticize anyone whose beliefs fall farther left of the political spectrum,

I can see why it is so seductive to rely on these words,

You don’t have to try to understand what your opponent is saying,

You don’t need research, facts or figures of any kind,

The words speak for themselves and you become a pied piper, attracting all the bitter and angry people who share your view of the world,

Your words entice them, seducing them and encouraging them to embrace their prejudices,

You can just throw out one of these words and wait for like-minded people to commend you for your argument,

The real beauty is that these words help to disguise prejudice,

No one who uses them sees themselves as possibly being prejudiced,

To them, it is only common sense,

It is the liberals and the minorities that need to smarten up and get their act together,

These same people who preach about their tolerance, how It’s 2016 and they don’t even see colour or care about religion, often hold the most discriminatory views,

Cognitive dissonance is a permanent part of their lives,

These right-wingers complain about how minorities focus on race too much,

Meanwhile, they also make decisions about who to date and what areas to live in based on the racial preferences whose existence they deny,

They will complain that Muslims get too much recognition in their secular country,

Meanwhile, they also protest against “Under God” being removed from the constitution,

They will deny that sexism and objectification is a problem for women anymore, arguing that men are the real victims,

Meanwhile, they will assume that a successful woman got her position due to her gender, not due to her skills or intelligence

 

It’s the start of a new year, and instead of making another failed resolution to eat better and get in shape, maybe we can make some real progress and try to change the way we see the world,

Instead of shutting down facts and common sense we can try to listen to reason,

Maybe we can have conversations about diversity, tolerance, equality, without going to our knee-jerk reaction to blurt out the right wing buzzwords