No, Islam is not a race. Yes, you are still a racist


islamophobe_web-racist-rally
No, Islam is not a race. Yes, you are still a racist

Biological race doesn’t exist. But the concept of biological race is an invention with a long history. Its transformations help answer the question.

One of the earliest and most detailed systems of biological racial classification existed in the French colony of St Dominguez. According to the historian C.L.R. James, the system of classification contained more than 150 gradations of “blackness”.

Only people who could prove that they were “purely white” were granted full rights. This system was overthrown by a slave rebellion and revolution. The “aristocracy of skin”, a term used by the Parisian masses to describe racism, was temporarily defeated. Those 150 gradations of blackness, which were regarded as a natural fact, have long been forgotten.

Roughly 80 years later, biological racism enjoyed a renaissance, as all sorts of new so-called races were discovered. This was the advent of pseudo-scientific Darwinian racism. For example, the Irish were considered a separate race to the English, and closer to apes. Skulls were measured, intellects compared and, lo and behold, the Irish were found inferior. This conveniently explained the Irish famine, in which between 800,000 and 1.5 million people starved to death while the British exported their food.

Nowhere did social Darwinism go further than in Germany. Prior to the late 1880s, Jewishness had been regarded purely as a religion. Of course, Jews had suffered religious discrimination, but they could escape this through conversion, as many did. Yet, from the late 1800s onward, with the aid of “science”, Jewishness was transformed into a race, which was then associated with a series of visual and cultural markers, involving facial hair, big noses, dishonesty and suspicious customs such as kosher food.

These examples highlight how racism was never really about “natural” differences. It was a manufactured ideology of oppression. Racism is really about power.

Biologically linked racism started to go out of fashion with the fall of the Third Reich. But this didn’t mean that racism disappeared. It just changed form.

Take the example of the USA. Since the Declaration of Independence, the USA has concealed real inequality under a constitution and political system premised on formal equality.

In the past, the contradiction between real and formal inequality was justified by the alleged inferiority of non-white races. But the struggles and achievements of those non-whites increasingly made such claims untenable.

Today, no one credible argues that inequality and poverty stem from innate racial differences. Rather, we are told that “cultural problems” are to blame. The new rationalisation is not biologically based, yet it is the politically acceptable code for the same old racism.

Anti-Muslim racism, which exploded following 9/11 and the “war on terror”, fits into this mould. Small-l liberals have played a special role in promoting it. The polite arguments that Islam is more repressive than other religions, that Muslims lack respect for women or democracy, or are particularly violent, are all coded signals which, like a dog whistle, prick the ears of rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth racists.

This is what happened at the Cronulla riot in 2005, where men of Arab appearance were bashed by a white mob trying to defend “their” beach and “their” women. It was referred to by participants as “Leb and wog bashing day”.

Racism always relies on stereotypes and visual or cultural markers. So, the racists portray Muslims as big-nosed, fat, fanatical, bearded misogynists who want to slaughter animals and non-believers alike, impose sharia law, prohibit tasty food and beverages, destroy liberty and reason and generally fuck things up for the “enlightened” West.

Why do they want to do this? Well, who knows, but one thing is for sure – they aren’t as civilised as us.

All of these tropes are based on racial stereotypes of Arab people, which are as old as they are repulsive. Edward Said’s magnificent book Orientalism traces this tradition of representation through Western art and literature. It turns out that “good Muslim” vs. “bad Muslim” is just an updated version of the colonial era “good savage” vs. “bad savage” trope.

Christopher Hitchens took war-mongering atheism to new depths when he endorsed cluster bombs and said that the death toll in the Iraq war wasn’t high enough. But the tradition of atheism and Enlightenment values being used as the spear tip for colonial-style racism goes at least as far back as the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt.

Racism has changed with the times, but it is still a system of oppression that commits violence towards whole swaths of humanity, who are depicted through a few crude stereotypes.

So sure, Islam is a religion. But the statement “Islam is a religion, not a race” remains the most transparent of covers for real racism.

Right Wing Terrorist Supporter Heads Homeland Security


The Republican congressman who supported terrorism

Why Peter King is the right man to probe terrorism

Reuters/Chip East
Peter King

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is set to assume the chairmanship of the House Homeland Security Committee in January, and today comes the news that he intends to launch an investigation of “radicalization” among American Muslims.

In some perverse sense, King, who has represented part of Long Island in Congress since 1993, may be just the man for the job: He spent years openly supporting the terrorist Irish Republican Army.

The journalist Alex Massie has ably documented King’s history with the IRA, a group that he did not break with until 2005: 

In the 1980s, he was a prominent fundraiser for Noraid, the Irish-American organization that raised money for the IRA and was suspected of running guns to Ulster, too. Indeed, King’s rise to prominence within the Irish-American movement was predicated upon his support for the IRA at a time when New Yorkers were softer on terrorism than they are now. Noraid helped win King his seat in Congress, making him, in some respects, the terrorists’ Man in Washington. …

In 1982 he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County, New York, that “We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.” That same year, an IRA bomb killed eight people in London’s Hyde Park. Two years later, the IRA almost succeeded in murdering the British prime minister.

If “IRA” were replaced with “Hamas,” the sort of fundraising King did would these days earn you a lengthy prison sentence for material support for terrorism.

Ironically, King has since emerged as the member of Congress perhaps most willing to toss around the “terrorism” label; he recently called for the designation to be extended to WikiLeaks. A few years ago, he also made the ludicrous claim that “80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.” After Sept. 11, he floated the idea of using “tactical nuclear weapons” in Afghanistan.

In another literary twist in the tale, when King did finally break with the IRA in 2005, it was over his frustration with the lack of Irish support for the American invasions of two Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan. King’s fear of Muslim terrorism had finally overwhelmed his support for Irish terrorism. 

  • Justin Elliott is a Salon reporter. Reach him by email at jelliott@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin More: Justin Elliott

Meir Kahane (of unblessed memory) Comic Strip Hero


By Jesse Bacon

Ma’an News reported last week on a comic book honoring Meir Kahane, the slain Jewish fascist leader whose politics were even too much for the Israeli Supreme Court. His party remains banned. Reading the comic strip, a few things become clear. First of all, the artistic quality is incredibly poor. If only the Middle East conflict could be solved by a comic-off, Joe Sacco’s recent Footprints in Gaza would have it shellacked. Second, the ideology is so disturbing that even the bad artwork can’t obscure it. Check out these two panels:

Thirdly, the style put me in mind of Jack Chick, the prosletyzing comics created by American Christians. Here’s a panel from their one “Jewish” strip (I used to be miffed that Catholicism and Islam got whole books denouncing them, while Chick could only manage this one .)

And here’s the Kahane rabbi picture.

So why am I spending this much time on such a clearly fringe character? Because I’m not so sure how fringe he really is. Here’s an excerpt from a recent Alex B. Kane article about a New York synagogue holding a Kahane memorial.

‘We were pretty outraged to see that a synagogue in the Upper West Side–from what I understand, a relatively mainstream, Orthodox Upper West Side synagogue–would be holding a memorial to Meir Kahane, who is one of the most extreme, radical, right-wing Israeli leaders in the last few decades,’ said Itamar Landau, a full-time fellow at Yeshivat Hadar, in an interview.  Landau is a key organizer behind the planned protests this Sunday.  ‘That’s not the Jewish community that I believe in, and that’s not the Jewish community I think we have.’”

These yeshiva “bochers speaking out is definitely a hopeful development, they are taking a stand for what kind of Jewish community they want. And it’s hard for me to imagine them accepting the argument that a Kahanist event is ok , but having a discussion of BDS isn’t.

And finally, how many Israeli political figures share some less cartoonish, more sophiticated version of these views?

%d bloggers like this: