In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims, argues that Islamophobia has become the civil rights issue of our time, demonstrating how it underpins racist discourse in a way that is no longer considered acceptable towards other minorities. Lean writes:
Islamophobia is undeniably a form of racism. Though it doesn’t operate on overtly biological prejudices, it does divide the world between “superior” and “inferior” cultures, the latter of which are marginalized not only because of their ethnic background (cue up the Arab terrorist jokes, for example) but also because of their belief system. It attributes to the whole community the negative traits of a minority few. And while it’s considered shameful today to prejudice African Americans or Jews, Muslims are always safe targets.
With a raft of examples, substituting ‘Jew’ or ‘African American’ for ‘Muslim’ in statements made by politicians and candidates on the right, he shows just how prevalent and commonplace such racism is. Here is one such example from a statement made by Mitt Romney:
“Based on the numbers of African Americans [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified,” he said. “But of course, I would imagine that blacks could serve at lower levels of my administration.”
Actually, that’s not what he said at all. But if you cringed or grimaced or cried “Racist!” after reading that remark, so too should you also be disgusted by what Romney did indeed say. Replace the words “African Americans” with “American Muslims” and “blacks” with “Muslims” and there you have the former Massachusetts governor’s actual words:
“Based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.“
He concludes by reiterating that although such racists and political opportunists will attempt to parry accusations of racism by declaring that Muslims are not a race,
it is abundantly clear that their bigotry against this minority group is grounded in the same blinkered worldview that places humans into exclusive biological categories and ranks them as innately inferior to the larger, dominate group.
Islamophobia is the civil rights issue of our time. If you can’t say it about Jews or African Americans (or [any] other minority group), you can’t say it about Muslims either.
For the full article see the Huffington Post.
How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims
Nathan Lean. Foreword by John L. Esposito
Disturbing account of the rising tide of Islamophobia sweeping through the United States and Europe.
“This concise, accessible and illuminating book meets one of the most urgent needs of our time. Lean has provided a compelling counter-narrative that reveals the vested interests and highly organized networks of those who preach the virulent Islamophobia that is not only endangering world peace but is also corroding the tolerance and egalitarian ethos that should characterize Western society. This book should be required reading.” – Karen Armstrong
“Islamophobia is not only about ignorance and fear. Some people purposefully nurture it and use it as a political strategy. Nathan Lean’s The Islamophobia Industry shows what is happening behind the scenes. It is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand the rationale and objectives behind those who foster this new racism against Muslims.” – Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University and author of The Quest for Meaning