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.

Judgment Day

The sky was pitch black a few minutes ago,

 

But now it was pierced by splashes of yellow light,

 

The splashes almost looked like fireworks,

 

Yet I knew what they really were,

 

They weren’t the signs of celebration,

 

They were a harbinger of death,

 

 

Each one was a meteor, visible from thousands of miles out,

 

By the time they reached Earth’s atmosphere they would block out the sky,

 

I had been warned this moment would come,

 

I did not heed the warning,

 

 

I thought I was going insane,

 

Hearing a voice in my head,

 

It called itself God,

 

It said that it wanted to punish Earth for its sins,

 

Hate, Narcissism, Greed, War

 

It also said I had the chance to save myself and the planet

 

I never answered, I only tried to shut the voice out,

 

 

As the meteors came closer,

 

I heard the voice in my head again,

 

“Do you want to save yourself and your people?”

 

 

The One Below

I still remember the fall,
My father’s wrath, then the fire that seared my flesh and destroyed my wings,
My skin was transformed from a white canvas into a sickly red one,
All while the others only looked on in fear,
Their fear left them helpless against the so-called almighty,

Above me, my Father’s creations scurry about their lives,
Some believe in me, some don’t
Whether they believe or not, very few worship me,
Yet there are endless hordes that waste hours praying to the one above,
Praying to the same man who ignores their pleas,
I appear to the people when they are at their lowest,
Offering them friendship and guidance, and for my efforts I am seen as a deceiver,
Yet the man who sacrificed one of his sons and nearly killed another is viewed as a great savior and redeemer,

I can see why the creations want to believe,
Their lives are continuous operas of disappointment, regret, misery and injustice,
After observing them for thousands of years, I know nothing will change,
Evils don’t disappear, they only transform,
I’ve seen their society go from enslavement, to segregation, to some semblance of equality,
Yet discrimination always survives beneath the surface,
Praying to the Father gives them hope that they and the world they live in, will get better,
They are an imperfect race praying for a perfect world,
They need something to embody the evils they face,
So that they do not have to look inward,

I have tolerated my role long enough,
I have begun sowing seeds of doubt,
I have guided the most desperate to use their beliefs to justify violence,
When the creations see what beliefs can lead others to, they will truly realize how tainted their rituals are,
A new day will come when the creations will no longer worship the Father,
Their fear and uncertainty will give way to anger and action,
The almighty will be exposed and when he is weakest,
I will wage war on him and all those who watched me burn.