We need to stop giving
tragic Islamophobia a pass.
* * * * *
“We live in an age in which, since 9/11, racism
is becoming once more intellectually respectable.”
—Terry Eagleton, Reason, Faith, and Revolution:
Reflections on the God Debate (2009)
The comic Islamophobia that flares up from time to time among hicks in homogeneous hamlets like Hérouxville is fairly easy to ridicule. After all, these people have never seen a Hungarian, much less a hijab. Their ignorance is astounding: they don’t know any actual Muslims and their knowledge of Islam is woefully inadequate. Truth be told, their experience of cultural difference of any kind is severely limited. As such, their Islamophobia is wholly a product of media misrepresentations of Muslims inflected by the paranoid imagination.
Alas, the tragic Islamophobia that emerges among immigrant communities in diverse cosmopolitan centers like Montreal, Los Angeles, Sydney, and New York is far less easy to ridicule. After all, these people—usually Christians or Jews from the Middle East—have had first-hand experience with real persecution at the hands of Muslim majorities (much of it decidedly horrific): their businesses were destroyed, bank accounts seized, places of worship trashed—some of them were even tortured, kidnapped, ransomed. And these experiences have, quite understandably, left deep scars.
But does this give them a right to demonize 1.6 billion people? Does this give them the right to hate a quarter of the human beings on planet Earth? No, it doesn’t. And I’m really sick of people telling me that it does. If you’ve had a couple of bad experiences with women, that doesn’t give you the right to become a murderous misogynist like Elliot Rodger or Marc Lépine. Likewise, as I said to a friend from Baltimore the other day, if you were mugged by a black teenager three years ago, that doesn’t give you right to spew absurd generalizations about 45 million African-Americans.
If history teaches us anything, it’s that majorities have been periodically mistreating minorities since the beginning of time. Indeed, the protections afforded to minorities in liberal democracies were institutionalized precisely because the founders of these societies were well aware of this sad fact. Regardless, we need to stop giving tragic Islamophobia a pass. Islamophobia is Islamophobia—which is to say BULLSHIT—regardless of whether or not it’s a function of comic ignorance or tragic experience.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2015)
Originally published at Committing Sociology. Reprinted with permission.
Photo courtesy of author.