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Myriam Francois-Cerrah: Islamophobia: Orwellian ‘Doublespeak’ ?‎

13 July 2012 Huffington Post 4 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Islamophobia: Orwellian ‘Doublespeak’ ?‎

by M. Francois-Cerrah (HuffingtonPost)

Earlier this month, James Bloodworth wrote a blog for the Independent ‎comparing Islamophobia to a type of Orwellian doublespeak, designed to ‎shut down public debate. He joins a chorus of voices on the Left who reject ‎the term on grounds of the ‘freedom to criticise’ Islam.‎

Some on the Left have gone further still, joining voices on the Right in ‎denouncing Islam on the grounds of its alleged anti-liberal tenets. British ‎novelist and former New Statesman editor Martin Amis has previously ‎stated Muslims should be deprived of their civil liberties and Guardian ‎columnist Polly Toynbee frequently regurgitates the most odious and ‎decontextualized translations of the Quran as if they were, well – Gospel. ‎Paul Hockenos argues that “the left and liberals have largely capitulated, ‎unable to address the issue of Islam and the Muslims among us in a ‎constructive way.”‎

Despite the frequently erected straw-man of stifling free speech, ‎countering islamophobia is not about limiting discussion of the faith itself. ‎It is about ensuring a largely sociallyeconomically and politically‎disenfranchised minority is not stigmatised, stereotyped, further ‎marginalised and consequently left open to hate crimes.‎

A personal bugbear is the suggestion that Islam or the Quran ‘says’ – Islam ‎doesn’t speak – people speak in the name of Islam, filtering the texts ‎through their experiences and drawing on interpretive traditions. ‎Islamophobia is when influential figures like Toynbee define Islam in a ‎public sphere where Muslims struggle to make themselves heard, over ‎and above how Muslims themselves understand their faith. In other ‎words, it is to ascribe meaning to Islam which most Muslims do not. This ‎reification of faith assumes that, unlike other religious traditions, Islam is ‎monolithic and can be gleaned from a brief perusal of sacred texts. It can’t. ‎To do so is to misrepresent Islam, the faith of over 1.3 billion people in the ‎world, and to leave its practitioners open to the accusation of complicity in ‎a depraved hate cult.‎

What’s more, despite a clear ontological distinction between race and ‎religion, it cannot be ignored that Islam is associated with racialized ‎minorities – South Asians in the UK, Arabs in France, Turks in Germany. ‎When critique of religion overlaps so significantly with a particular racial ‎group within society, and is often used as short-hand for that racial group, ‎the line between religion and race becomes obscured. The Daily Mail’s ‎choice to use the term “muslim gang” to refer to rapists, is one such ‎example. The recent case in Rochdale further illustrated this confusion. ‎While Chief Crown Prosecutor in the case Nazir Afzal blamed “imported ‎cultural baggage”, commentators such as David Aaronovitch promptly ‎interpreted that to mean Islam.

Although Pakistan is a Muslim majority ‎country, to assume Islam is the central motivating factor in the behaviour ‎of all Pakistanis, is a form of cultural racism. ‎

Islamophobia, as a term, is required to refer to precisely these cases where ‎the focus of abuse is a projected understanding of what someone stands ‎for based on their being identified as Muslim. New forms of discrimination ‎avoid the crude biological markers of racial stereotyping and have been ‎replaced with a focus on cultural differences, real or imagined, to ‎rationalize the unequal status and treatment of different racial groups. ‎

The assumptions is that honour killings and forced marriages are ‎reflections of a backward ‘islamic’ culture, which through the presence of ‎Muslims in Europe, poses a threat to our identity and values. Despite ‎Muslim objections to these practise, such assumptions are then reflected in ‎people’s attitudes and behaviour towards Muslims. ‎

The topic of Islam has had a uniquely harmonising effect on Left and Right, ‎uniting unlikely pundits in a shared concern that Islam – assumed to be a ‎hegemonic influence on people’s behaviour- is responsible for virtually all ‎social ills, from sex trafficking to benefit fraud. Perceived ethnic uniformity ‎is taken to mirror a uniformity of belief and outlooks, despite the fact, all ‎religions have plural expressions.‎

The concern is that the racist essentializing of “Muslimhood” is ignored on ‎the grounds that the term ‘islamophobia’ isn’t clear enough. I would wager ‎the term is crystal clear for those on the receiving end – such as when ‎Muslim columnist Mehdi Hasan was described by one blogger as a ‎‎”moderate cockroach“. Or when the American writer Laila Lalami ‘s ‎husband was asked by an immigration officer “So, how many camels did ‎you have to trade for her?” ‎

Islamophobia is only unclear to those who seek to obfuscate its meaning. It ‎is the tendency to reify Islam – that is to assume the behaviour of given ‎individuals (typically extremists) reflects an accurate concretisation of the ‎principles of the faith itself, and it is the tendency to view its practitioners, ‎Muslims, as a monolithic block, whose every behaviour is a consequence of ‎that essentialised identity.‎

Rather than investigating and investing in countering rape culture, we ‎claim the ‘muslimhood’ of particular rapists is to blame, absolving popular ‎culture when the men themselves refer to the victims using the popular ‎playground put down “slags“. We regularly see ‘Islam’ used as a catch-all ‎phrase to explain complex phenomena, distracting us from the real issues.‎

Islamophobia is rejecting the ease with which dejecting stereotypes are ‎accepted as normal, such as the recent claim, popularised by the Daily ‎Mirror, that Zain Malik of boyband One Direction, was “pimping Islam” on ‎young girls through “boyband jihad”. Or the use of imagery to fan the ‎flames of fear, as the Sun on Sunday did by superimposing the image of a ‎woman in a burka against a caustic anti-immigration article. ‎

Raising awareness of islamophobia is also about recognising that far from ‎being a lone sociopath, Breivik’s actions were grounded in an all too ‎common view of Islam and Muslims as a fifth column and a threat to ‎Western values. A consequence of this ‘theoretical’ islamophobia, the ‎intellectual jousting over the place of Islam in Europe, is that Muslims in ‎Europe are facing increasingly tough conditions. ‎

According to a report from Amnesty International, “European Muslims are ‎regularly denied employment and educational opportunities because of ‎widespread cultural and religious stereotypes that lead to discrimination ‎against them.” ‎

Just as minarets or or face veils have become imbued with a significance ‎beyond that attributed to them by Muslims themselves, discrimination ‎against those bearing religious symbols becomes justified through the ‎fallacious reasoning that people have chosen to subscribe to those ideas, in ‎a way people don’t choose their ethnicity. We don’t choose the significance ‎people attribute to our symbols – especially when we have so little access ‎to defining them ourselves. We have no choice in the stereotypes and ‎assumptions people make on the basis of our skin colour, nor do we have a ‎choice in those stereotypes concerning the symbols which people interpret ‎according to the dominant narrative of extremism and cultural ‎incompatibility. ‎

John Mullen of France’s radical left-wing Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste has ‎argued that “opposition to religious practices on the basis of progressive ‎values can easily turn into a thinly disguised form of racism.” It is time the ‎Left take a stronger and clearer stance against islamophobia and stop ‎giving the Right free rein to dictate the terms of European interaction with ‎Muslims based on misplaced and ill-informed assumptions about Islam ‎and Muslims.‎

The struggle against islamophobia is the struggle for a nuanced and ‎contextualised appraisal of events involving Muslims, a refusal to accept ‎that everything can be explained away through a facile reference to ‘Islam’ ‎and a defence of a European minority group. There is nothing Orwellian ‎about that.‎

Follow Myriam Francois-Cerrah on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MFrancoisCerrah

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4 Comments »

  1. Finally,
    Someone explains the problem with Islamophobia in detail. Something that Anon and Mike should read carefully,

    “So, how many camels did ‎you have to trade for her?”
    Lol, definitely something they would have mentioned. Slavery and oppression of women, total stereotypes.

  2. mbennet,

    i read it carefully. let’s have some fun.

    “Earlier this month, James Bloodworth wrote a blog for the Independent ‎comparing Islamophobia to a type of Orwellian doublespeak, designed to ‎shut down public debate.” well i don’t know about orwellian doublespeak, but i get called a hater and a bigot when i question islam. i get called an islamophobe.
    “He joins a chorus of voices on the Left who reject ‎the term on grounds of the ‘freedom to criticise’ Islam.‎” i love the ‘s. so can you criticise islam? or if you do are you an islamophobe.

    “Some on the Left have gone further still, joining voices on the Right in ‎denouncing Islam on the grounds of its alleged anti-liberal tenets.” stoning adulterers and lashing fornicators are pretty anti-liberal tenets, aren’t they?
    “British ‎novelist and former New Statesman editor Martin Amis has previously ‎stated Muslims should be deprived of their civil liberties” that is crazy.
    “and Guardian ‎columnist Polly Toynbee frequently regurgitates the most odious and ‎decontextualized translations of the Quran as if they were, well – Gospel.” lol. decontextualized translations. sounds like psychobabble to me. so god couldn’t make his “divine writ” understandable without a masters in islamic history? decontextualized. lmao ‎
    “Paul Hockenos argues that “the left and liberals have largely capitulated, ‎unable to address the issue of Islam and the Muslims among us in a ‎constructive way.”‎” so much for the british liberals. maybe they feel that to defend islam would be to abandon their own tenets of freedom of speech, of feminism, of pro-choice, of legalizing pot, of free love, etc. etc.

    “Despite the frequently erected straw-man of stifling free speech,” lol. straw-man. no muslims on this very site muslims have shown their wiliingness to stiffle free speach. so rioting after the cartoons…..come on dude you know the list. ‎
    “countering islamophobia is not about limiting discussion of the faith itself.” you sure she is not decontextualized the facts of recent muslim behavior. so pointing out the actions of muslims is islamophobia. then when people on this website say that if you have a problem with islam quote from the koran. i do that and again i’m an islaophobe
    “‎It is about ensuring a largely socially, economically and politically‎disenfranchised minority is not stigmatised, stereotyped, further ‎marginalised and consequently left open to hate crimes.‎” i guess she is speaking of british muslims. because we all know american muslims have a higher education and income level then the general population in america. but we are all open to hate crimes. just ask the workers in wtc.

    “A personal bugbear is the suggestion that Islam or the Quran ‘says’ – Islam ‎doesn’t speak – people speak in the name of Islam,” first i’m going to have to take a guess at translating bugbear, i’m going with pet peeve. but that is truely baffling. i thought quran translates as “to recite”/ do you not recite by “saying” something, to speak? i’m starting to think this woman believes her own psyhco-tower-of-babble.
    “filtering the texts ‎through their experiences and drawing on interpretive traditions.” ok so the ones who’s interpretive traditions lead them to blow up the tube and double decker buses are what?
    “‎Islamophobia is when influential figures like Toynbee define Islam in a ‎public sphere where Muslims struggle to make themselves heard, over ‎and above how Muslims themselves understand their faith. In other ‎words, it is to ascribe meaning to Islam which most Muslims do not.” ok maybe so. first decent point she has made. but given the information age why can’t muslims make themselves heard? perhaps muslims unwillingness to distance themselves from some of their interpretive traditions is the problem. i’ll give you some free marketing advise. denounce stoning, lashing and cutting off hands. that will do wonders. instead you (and lashing drunks) you bring up abortion rates and unwed mothers, alcohol abuse and the horrors caused by adultry. maybe that is why the liberals have abandoned you.

    “This ‎reification of faith assumes that, unlike other religious traditions, Islam is ‎monolithic and can be gleaned from a brief perusal of sacred texts.” who claims other religious traditins are monolithic?
    “It can’t.” so by reading ther koran you can’t figure out islam. sounds like a great flaw to me. what is the point of “divine writ” of “perfection” if it doesn’t lead to understanding???????????
    “‎To do so is to misrepresent Islam, the faith of over 1.3 billion people in the ‎world, and to leave its practitioners open to the accusation of complicity in ‎a depraved hate cult.” i don’t get why muslim always bring up the number of muslims? is this the old, a billion chinamen can’t be wrong, reasoning? i don’t care if they make up 99% of the world population. that doesn’t mean the are right. so in one sentence they aren’t a monolithic group, in the next they are all grouped together? i guess that makes perfevt reason to a psychobabblist. ‎

    “What’s more, despite a clear ontological distinction between race and ‎religion, it cannot be ignored that Islam is associated with racialized ‎minorities – South Asians in the UK, Arabs in France, Turks in Germany. ‎When critique of religion overlaps so significantly with a particular racial ‎group within society, and is often used as short-hand for that racial group, ‎the line between religion and race becomes obscured. The Daily Mail’s ‎choice to use the term “muslim gang” to refer to rapists, is one such ‎example. The recent case in Rochdale further illustrated this confusion. ‎While Chief Crown Prosecutor in the case Nazir Afzal blamed “imported ‎cultural baggage”, commentators such as David Aaronovitch promptly ‎interpreted that to mean Islam.” another good point. the islam of pakistan isn’t the islam of noth africa, isn’t the islam of turkey. which ofcourse begs the question, what is islam?

    “Although Pakistan is a Muslim majority ‎country, to assume Islam is the central motivating factor in the behaviour ‎of all Pakistanis, is a form of cultural racism.” what? i thought islam is an all encompassing religion. is it not the motivating factor for all muslims? ‎

    “Islamophobia, as a term, is required to refer to precisely these cases where ‎the focus of abuse is a projected understanding of what someone stands ‎for based on their being identified as Muslim. New forms of discrimination ‎avoid the crude biological markers of racial stereotyping and have been ‎replaced with a focus on cultural differences, real or imagined, to ‎rationalize the unequal status and treatment of different racial groups.” we should all be treated equally. regardless of race creed or sexual orientation. hey there’s another reason why the liberals may not be defending islam. your hatred of the fags. ‎

    “The assumptions is that honour killings and forced marriages are ‎reflections of a backward ‘islamic’ culture, which through the presence of ‎Muslims in Europe, poses a threat to our identity and values. Despite ‎Muslim objections to these practise, such assumptions are then reflected in ‎people’s attitudes and behaviour towards Muslims.” well if it is objected to by muslims, then why is it that muslims are the ones doing it? ‎

    “The topic of Islam has had a uniquely harmonising effect on Left and Right, ‎uniting unlikely pundits in a shared concern that Islam – assumed to be a ‎hegemonic influence on people’s behaviour- is responsible for virtually all ‎social ills, from sex trafficking to benefit fraud. Perceived ethnic uniformity ‎is taken to mirror a uniformity of belief and outlooks, despite the fact, all ‎religions have plural expressions.” ‎is responsible for virtually all ‎social ills, who says that? the hyperbole is laughable.

    “The concern is that the racist essentializing of “Muslimhood” is ignored on ‎the grounds that the term ‘islamophobia’ isn’t clear enough. I would wager ‎the term is crystal clear for those on the receiving end – such as when ‎Muslim columnist Mehdi Hasan was described by one blogger as a ‎‎”moderate cockroach“. Or when the American writer Laila Lalami ‘s ‎husband was asked by an immigration officer “So, how many camels did ‎you have to trade for her?”” so again your going to hold up Mehdi Hasan as a shining light amoung british muslims. he called me cattle. should i cry about kuffaraphobia? is this chic serious? ‎

    “Islamophobia is only unclear to those who seek to obfuscate its meaning. It ‎is the tendency to reify Islam – that is to assume the behaviour of given ‎individuals (typically extremists) reflects an accurate concretisation of the ‎principles of the faith itself, and it is the tendency to view its practitioners, ‎Muslims, as a monolithic block, whose every behaviour is a consequence of ‎that essentialised identity.‎” jesus fucking christ, the monolithic block again. how many $5 words is she going to use. we are all impressedwith your vocabulary. could you please say something original or about what islam actually preaches?

    “Rather than investigating and investing in countering rape culture, we ‎claim the ‘muslimhood’ of particular rapists is to blame, absolving popular ‎culture when the men themselves refer to the victims using the popular ‎playground put down “slags“. We regularly see ‘Islam’ used as a catch-all ‎phrase to explain complex phenomena, distracting us from the real issues.” so what is this “rape culture” she speaks of? so what is the real issue. her deflection is first grade. sorry i’m a bit drunk, don’t follow if she’s saying some muslims bring a rape culture from their interpretive traditions. or she is saying only western men in the west rape women? “absolving popular ‎culture” wait i get it. these women walk around uncovered, so what do you expect.

    “Islamophobia is rejecting the ease with which dejecting stereotypes are ‎accepted as normal, such as the recent claim, popularised by the Daily ‎Mirror, that Zain Malik of boyband One Direction, was “pimping Islam” on ‎young girls through “boyband jihad”. Or the use of imagery to fan the ‎flames of fear, as the Sun on Sunday did by superimposing the image of a ‎woman in a burka against a caustic anti-immigration article.” well that is just crazy. the brits seem to have alot of problems. ‎

    “Raising awareness of islamophobia is also about recognising that far from ‎being a lone sociopath, Breivik’s actions were grounded in an all too ‎common view of Islam and Muslims as a fifth column and a threat to ‎Western values. A consequence of this ‘theoretical’ islamophobia, the ‎intellectual jousting over the place of Islam in Europe, is that Muslims in ‎Europe are facing increasingly tough conditions.” so if “that far from ‎being a lone sociopath, Breivik’s actions were grounded in an all too ‎common view of Islam” so could not the same be said for the 9/11 hyjackers? not 19 sociopaths. so should not the same thing be said ever time a muslim blows something up? so if islamophobia is fueled by these columnist writings, then why is it not fair to say that islamic terrorists are motivated by islam itsself? ‎

    “According to a report from Amnesty International, “European Muslims are ‎regularly denied employment and educational opportunities because of ‎widespread cultural and religious stereotypes that lead to discrimination ‎against them.”” well that sucks. ‎

    “Just as minarets or or face veils have become imbued with a significance ‎beyond that attributed to them by Muslims themselves, discrimination ‎against those bearing religious symbols becomes justified through the ‎fallacious reasoning that people have chosen to subscribe to those ideas, in ‎a way people don’t choose their ethnicity. We don’t choose the significance ‎people attribute to our symbols – especially when we have so little access ‎to defining them ourselves. We have no choice in the stereotypes and ‎assumptions people make on the basis of our skin colour, nor do we have a ‎choice in those stereotypes concerning the symbols which people interpret ‎according to the dominant narrative of extremism and cultural ‎incompatibility.” “with a significance ‎beyond that attributed to them by Muslims themselves” well if there isn’t much significance of them for muslims then let them go. now that is doublespeak. she is still yet so say anything as to what islam is? ‎

    “John Mullen of France’s radical left-wing Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste has ‎argued that “opposition to religious practices on the basis of progressive ‎values can easily turn into a thinly disguised form of racism.” It is time the ‎Left take a stronger and clearer stance against islamophobia and stop ‎giving the Right free rein to dictate the terms of European interaction with ‎Muslims based on misplaced and ill-informed assumptions about Islam ‎and Muslims.” so please straight us out on these ill informed assumptions about muslims. yet to hear any detail from this author. ‎

    “The struggle against islamophobia is the struggle for a nuanced and ‎contextualised appraisal of events involving Muslims, a refusal to accept ‎that everything can be explained away through a facile reference to ‘Islam’ ‎and a defence of a European minority group. There is nothing Orwellian ‎about that.‎” lol. now we are “‎contextualised” instead of “decontextualized”. “There is nothing Orwellian ‎about that.” well if you mean to scrub away the actual actions of your prophet, that is very orwellian. to expalin away the brutal behavior of your prophet by ‎contextualised is quite orwellian. it was neccesary for the common good to lash people, very orwellian. big brother is ever watchfull, divine, seems straight out of 1984.

    lmfao.

  3. Islamophobes do not care what names you call them. You think the charge of racism will sink deep and make them ashamed? Nah, it bounces like nerf off of them.

    I see the danger of importing people bringing religious conflicts/hatreds into my country.

    It is ok for muslims to hate the kuffar, it’s just when the kuffar does turnabout that hatred of the other becomes wrong.

  4. Some of the so-called enlightened liberals claiming to possess superior culture and values are OK as long as they look at other cultures without any prejudice. Nothing wrong to think one’s culture good unless someone’s prejudiced actions or words puts others having equal rights to live safely and successfully in the harm’s way. Islam should get an unprejudiced treatment from one claiming to be good.

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