If you’re an unfashionable leftie/ socialist like me, you’ll have noticed how some who occupy a similar political position on the left have been increasingly trying to court Muslims and their communities (or some at least) following the relative political success of the ‘Stop the War’/ Respect coalition.

Despite this, I was intrigued when I came across an article on Socialist Worker Online entitled, “Islamophobia: resisting prejudice”. As Nahella Ashraf, the author, writes:

“Most of us do not need to read the many reports coming out of the European Union, government departments and think-tanks to tell us there has been a rise in Islamophobia in Britain since 9/11 and the beginning of the ‘war on terror’.

…Some supposedly on the left have also been happy to contribute – from those writing in the Independent about how the sight of Muslim women wearing the veil on the streets of Britain offends them, to Martin Amis talking about how ‘all Muslims must expect to pay’ for terrorism.

And then we have the Oxford Union – one of the pinnacles of the establishment – inviting British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin to talk on ‘freedom of speech’, echoing the same line we heard from sections of the left around the printing of offensive cartoons in Denmark.

Islamophobia seems to be replacing antisemitism as the principal Western statement of bigotry against the ‘other’…

…’Polite society’ no longer has to worry about seeming racist, or sounding like the BNP, if they are talking about Muslims.”

All well and good. In fact I have some sympathy with Ashraf’s argument that Islamophobia is “the last acceptable racism in Britain”. Of course there are others, especially the prejudice and discrimination shown towards gays, lesbian and transgendered people. Nonetheless, Ashraf has a good point.

However, what shocked me about the piece was its overly simplistic analysis of the phenomenon of Islamophobia. For some time, I have been arguing that one of the reasons why Islamophobia has been neither been taken seriously nor adequately defined or understood is because its sheer complexity has always remained overlooked and unexplored. To this end, at a University of Birmingham Islamic Studies Postgraduate Seminar Series earlier this week, I presented a paper that expressly sought to address this, showing how the warring factions of the ‘Islamophobia doesn’t exist’ brigade and the ‘everything is Islamophobia’ tribe employ these same simplistic assertions purely for their own gain.

After the usual tub-thumping references to Guantanemo and Palestine, Ashraf goes on to offer a ‘solution’ to the growth of Islamophobia:

“there is one thing that is going to stop this growth in Islamophobia – that is to bring an end to George Bush’s war on terror”

Really? Of course not. Islamophobia is far from being merely a consequence of the ‘war on terror’. To evidence this, you only need to look back to 1997 and the Runnymede Trust’s report by the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia that was a direct response to what was then perceived to be a ‘new phenomenon that needed naming’. More pertinently a decade before that, those such as Khaleda Khan (An-Nisa) and Fuad Nahdi (Q-News) were already voicing and responding to a growing anti-Muslim hostility blossoming ‘on the ground’ in places such as Brent in London. To suggest then that an end to the ‘war on terror’ would subsequently bring about an end to a growing Islamophobia is little more than farcical.

Having offered the (final?) ‘solution’ to Islamophobia, Ashraf then delivers the sucker punch:

“this is just one of the reasons we must ensure that the Stop the War demonstrations are as big and as loud as possible. Make sure you join us in London on 15 March”

Maybe I’m being cynical here, but isn’t this little more than mere window dressing in an attempt to get more Muslims onto the forthcoming ‘stop the war’ demonstrations? Isn’t this a completely and utterly shameless rallying cry that lacks any credibility and sincerity whatsoever? Isn’t it a case of socialists using people to champion their own causes without due care for those being used?

The courting of Muslims by some on the left has and indeed continues to be extremely patronising and phoney and needs to stop with immediate effect. However, what really angers me is that once again, Islamophobia is being made out to be overly simplistic, inherently superficial and entirely lacking any complexity whatsoever.

If these approaches to addressing Islamophobia continue, the very real problems that Muslims and their communities have – for many, an everyday lived experience of today’s Britain – will continue. As a consequence – a real consequence I hasten to add – instead of the situation getting better and levels of Islamophobia reducing, the situation will unfortunately continue to deteriorate. Deteriorate quite irrespective of whether the ‘war on terror’ is ended or not.

Keep It Simple AND Stupid (K.I.S.S.) and help ensure that Islamophobia is never adequately addressed or combatted.

To read my paper from the University of Birmingham, click here.

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One thought on “Islamophobia: simple isn’t it…?

  1. trying to avoid the appearance of racism is one thing. Trying to avoid the potential rise in islamofascism in the west is another thing entirely. Both are noble goals, IMO

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