The term islamophobia sparks numerous emotions: fear, disgust, judgment and a desperate need to protect people. One may ask when it all started and perhaps we should start from the beginning by clarifying that Islamophobia is a form of religious discrimination that emerged most forcefully as a backlash against Muslims in the wake of the terrorist horros that occurred on 11 September 2001. However, the term has been present long before the latter. The term was originally coined in the late 1980s and had first been used some decades earlier at the start of the twentieth century (Tyrer, p.21). However, Islamophobia, in fact, is not a form of religious discrimination but a contemporary example of biopolitical racism. Islamophobia does not even exist other than as a cynically imagined political device designed to override the right to offend the weaker and different ones by assessing their beliefs and practices. Despite the fact that the term Islamophobia has a longer history than people often are aware of, the publication of Runnymede Trust’s report Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All gave life back to the term and opened up a new political field by drawing attention to the phenomenon of discrimination against Muslims in a number of fields and that was increasingly visible in media portrayals.
This essay aims to look at modern-day west and its increasing discrimination towards Muslims. The paper will touch upon events, such as the attacks of September 2001, that forever changed the perspective about Muslims. The topic of xeno-racism and its affect on the Muslim community will be looked at, with specifically discussing the United States of America.
The Definition of Islamophobia
Defining islamophobia is at the same time defining the meaning behind being Muslim. The main question that is tried to be answered when defining islamophobia is: does it refer to a phenotype race, or to an essentially religious group (Tyrer, p.33)? This presupposes that identities and the notion of political meaning of a term can be differentiated by tracing the essential identities of its objects. However, when a practice is politicalized, the meaning is alternated. For example, the term political racism does not emerge from the skin color or the nationality of a person, but rather from the ways in which life becomes the object of power. As coined by Hesse, racism notes the emergence of a race as “a governing practice to distinguish between whiteness/Europeanness and non-Europpeanness/non whiteness”, which proves the fact that by adding politics to an issue, the meaning behind a term is changed. Once the political meaning of racism is accepted, any attempts to determine the phenotypal essence among its objects is problematic. That is why when Muslims are seen as “lacking proper raciality”, this does not mean they are seen as equal or that people are trying to see them as equal, but rather as a condition emerging from the racialized social settings, in other words the exact meaning of political racism. Because race and ethnicity are very closely related and even of help when distinguishing between the cultural and biological, when used in a religious context, they can be understood as terms supporting the terms of the political nature of racism. Thus, Muslims in the West are simultaneously a lack or an incompleteness, and yet an excess that was not able to be tamed or “integrated” into the prevailing white population of the country.
Xeno-racism And Its Effects On The Muslim community
Now that the ideology of communism is not seen as a threat for the West, a new menace is slowly building its way- that of 37.4 million people, living either temporarily or permanently outside their countries of origin (Fekete, S.,p.19). As western countries and some international organizations are mobilizing against migratory movements from “socially insecure countries with weaker economies”, a new popular anti-refugee discourse has gotten into the popular culture. According to Fekete and Sivanandan, the capitalist western world seeks to exclude the “different” ones in order to preserve the economic prosperity and national identity of the society/ies. (…) “It is racism that is meted out to impoverished strangers even if they are white. It is xeno-racism.” Therefore, the European Union has now imposed a system of “managed migration”, and opened up legal routes for migration. Looking at it like that, one may claim that Europe is unquestionably helping the ones in need. However, this “managed migration” has not only emerged as part of the strategic plan of Western countries to abolish the right to claim asylum, but also from the recognition that the global market-induced displacement of people cannot be left to market forces but must be managed for the First World’s benefit (Fekete, S.,p. 21). In order to understand how this strategy for managing global migration has led to xeno-racism, it is crucial to examine the scale to which international cooperation, when discussing migration issues, has come to the conclusion that seeking asylum is an illegal and a criminal act. Despite the fact that this global migration management may be using different strategies, depending on the location and the country, these power blocks share a common interest-they all aim at pooling information on migratory movement.
While it cannot be denied that exploitation plays a major role in these smuggling networks, it is often failed to address the issue of some governments which have prompted numerous requirements (visa requirements, certificate for being eligible to access the desired country) that have blocked the legal routes for those seeking asylum and have led them to fall into the arms of smugglers and traffickers. Interestingly, these countries refuse to comment on the latter and address the asylum seekers as people who seek illegal entry “after receiving daily images of the potential economic and … social benefits available in richer countries across the globe” (Fekete, p. 23). By giving this information to the world, international bodies adopt anti-trafficking measures to treat both traffickers and trafficked ones as being the same at fault. Asylum seeking has become so common that nowadays “the war against trafficking” serves the justification for some states to present asylum seekers in the public mind as “illegal immigrants”. Thus, it is no surprise to anyone why the world is becoming more and more xeno-racist, especially in recent years. In fact, the EU succeeded in shifting the meaning of the term refugee so that nations now treat asylum seekers not as people from particular countries and with an individual story but as a homogenous and undifferentiated mass.
What else could be argued is the policy regarding asylum seeking children. In the 21st century an emerging ideology is regarding children and prevention of hunger, as well as ensuring they are not sexually exploited or scrutinized. Yet when it comes to asylum-seeking children, the benefits for child protection are denied, leaving them to be treated as adults. This has resulted in plentiful organizations to start campaigns against violation of children’s rights, affirming more conscience regarding human rights, as well as put under challenge the racism inherent in public discourse.
Al-Qaeda and Why It Is So Hard To Fight It
The American government responded to the 11 September 2001 attacks with an aggression towards the Taliban regime and Al-Qaeda (Al-Qaeda means “the base headquarters in Afghanistan ”). Afghanistan is seen as a nation in ruins, a “failed state” with crushed social and political structure, with numerous towns and cities destroyed. According to Jeffrey Haynes’ paper, failed states, “are invariably the product of a collapse of the power structures providing political support for law and order, a process generally triggered and accompanied by anarchic forms of internal violence” (Haynes, p. 177). These circumstances and the slow destruction of the Afgan country, allowed for Al-Qaeda to set up bases within the country, which were approved by the Taliban. But what exactly is Al-Qaeda and why is it so important for the Western world? As defined by Collins English Dictionary, Al-Qaeda is a loosely-knit militant Islamic organization, established in 1980 from Arab volunteers who had fought against the Sovient troops and are known to be responsible for numerous bomb attacks in the West. It is useful to examine the development of Al-Qaeda’s ideology in relation to the beliefs of the Western world. By doing that, we will be able to enable Al-Qaeda’s ideology in the context of what its founders see as long-term, historically rooted, Western cultural, political and economic domination, involving a rejection of key “western” values: pluralism, liberal democracy, relativism and radical individualism (Haynes, p.185)
The idea of Islam as a body of religious and social thought can be first captured in the concept of Orientalism. Orientalism can be defined as a “style of thought based upon an Al Qaeda: Ideology and Action”. As claimed by scholars, many Western politicians and academics “essentialised” both Muslims and Islam into unchanging categories, which led to generalisations of the people with little or no foundation. When talking about Orientalism in Europe, one associates it with a person who generally acts, speaks and thinks in a manner exactly opposite to the European. These prejudiced beliefs led to Muslim dissatisfaction and madness in various European countries because they were seen as people who did not have the right manners for the society they were living in. Westerners often wonder why their countries are targeted and the answer is simple: because there are so many ideologies about what a European society should be like, as well as the strong believe that Westerners are above all, leaves minorities neglected and seen as a burden and a threat to the economic and non-economic development of the country.
Numerous attempts have been tried out to stop terrorists in Europe however, because of the strong ideologies and religious beliefs of the people in these organizations, it has been extremely hard to make the Western world terror-free. Historically, the use of violence has been used when the oppressed people did not have any other power to succeed in their cause. Even though most of the Western countries do not see Al Qaeda and other organizations as “rebellious”, the people in them see themselves that way (Davis, p. 4). What is more, terrorsim is difficult to fight because the people committing it feel like they have nothing to lose or because they are motivated by religion or other ideologies in which martyrdom plays an important role. As is now well known, bin Laden and other top leaders of Al- Qaeda are strongly driven by a particular image of Islam and its crusade against the infidels. Bin Laden may see himself as a prophet or at least as an instrument of God’s will. What also makes deterring terrorism hard is the fact that by attempting to stope terrorist organizations, nation’s only put fuel into their motifs. Moreover, terrorism is a way of life for the ones performing it, and the reason why these people attempt it is to acquire “positives”- a notable status, power, recruits and psychological rewards. What is more important than the above is that terrorism is the most important reason or purpose for one’s existence, and this makes disavowing it extremely difficult.
Sadly, violence and troublesome behaviours do not only exist in Afghanistan, but can be also spotted throughout most of the Arabic world. This can be seen as an issue because Americans in general do not like to stereotype people. American believe in universalist concepts such as those mentioned in the Constitution and concepts that are cherished by the United Nations- no racism and peace. Nonetheless, there is a clash of cultures in America which has brought the concern of whether this clash can be moderated or evolved so that everyone can live good and freely. What Americans believe in particular is in religious tolerance, whereas for the Islamic extremists violence is what they embrace. It is also important to understand that a large portion of the Arab-islaimc world have long lived with traditions in which power and violence are crucial. What happens when these cultural legacies are combined with social injustice and extreme versions of Islamic fundamentalism is that instead of decreasing the conflict, the latter is only reinforced. On the other hand, the cultures in which the terrorist leaders live in, oftentimes do not allow them to leave, threatening them with accusations of betrayal or even being killed. Individuals in these organizations do not have a way out because the subculture of fanaticism and violence requires them to show loyalty and not resign (Davis, p.6).
Ways In Which Terrorism Has Been Fought
Ever since the 9/11 events the United States has carried out a consistent first phase in the war of terrorism. The campaign has entered a more difficult phase as Al-Qaeda is adapting to the new circumstances and might also disperse, change names, merge with other organizations. Even if its leadership, structure, operatives, relationships and financing are slowly losing its power and supporters, the ability of this organization to survive in any form will lead to new terrorist operations (Jenkins, p.17). The Al-Qaeda enterprise cannot be easily deterred, that is why an attempt to disable the process of gaining resources for future attacks is the most important one at this point. The Western world is desperately trying to prevent another terrorist attack from the scale of 9/11 events. The Western world should keep in mind that the campaign against terorism will take time because these organizations have taken years and years of development. For example, Al-Qaeda itself represents more than a decade of organizational planning and development and has been working on its attacks on the United States since the mid 1990s. The thoroughness of the organization’s planning suggests that it has prepared for many scenarios surrounding the Western world’s attempt to destroy the organization, including laying low for a few years before striking again. The battle against Al-Qaeda could last decades before finding the right way to fight the organization.
In conclusion, it is hard for the Western world to see Muslims with strict neutrality (in other words equal) because of the many historical and contemporary issues surrounding these people. As the conclusion from the article of Jeffrey Haynes says: “we blame everything on Al-Qaeda, but what happened is more dangerous than bin Laden or Al-Qaeda … The issue is ideology, it’s not an issue of organizations …” Because each country is having its own ideologies and beliefs, integration and equality are hard to achieve. As discussed in class, most restrictions that are imposed on Muslims are written in the Constitution which makes it impossible or very hard for the country to change the law and strive for integration procedures. What is more, because the culture and the prevailing religion of the country is also contributing to the problem, it is only natural for people from western countries to feel scared- human beings like comfort and when something is outside of their comfort zone, fear is automatically engraved. In order for the world to overcome its fear of Muslims and the potential terrorist attacks, the ideologies, built for years, of the countries should change, as well as the way in which Muslims are perceived from the West.
- Davis P., Jenkins B., ‘Deterrence and Influence in Counterterrorism : A Component in the War on al Qaeda’ in: UBU Library, RAND Corporation, 2002 https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uunl/reader.action?docID=202776
- Fekete L., Sivanandan A., ‘Suitable Enemy : Racism, Migration and Islamophobia in Europe’ in: UBU Library, Pluto Press, 2009 https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uunl/reader.action?docID=3386517
- Haynes J., ‘Al Qaeda: Ideology and action’ in: Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, Vol. 8, Routledge Group, 2006 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13698230500108868?needAccess=true
- Jenkins B., ‘Countering al Qaeda : An Appreciation of the Situation and Suggestions for Strategy’ in: UBU Library, RAND Corporation, 2002 https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uunl/reader.action?docID=202775
- Tyrer D., ‘Politics of Islamophobia : Race, Power and Fantasy’ in: Decolonial Studies, Postcolonial Horizons, UBU Library, Pluto Press, 2013 https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uunl/reader.action?docID=3386745