Thursday, July 19, 2007

COMMENT: No Islamophobia?

Today I met up with an ANU academic of North African Jewish descent. Dr Rachel Bloul is a sociologist who teaches, amongst other things, genocide studies. She is also highly regarded as an expert on ethno-religious racism.

Dr Bloul has written extensively on the question of ethno-religious discrimination, particularly in the context of what has become known as “Islamophobia” (or, perhaps better described as “Muslimphobia” or the fear and hatred of persons deemed Muslim). She is also regarded as a leading expert in Australia on the experiences of European Muslims and of Muslim minority affairs in general.

Dr Bloul is one of a growing number of experts questioning the mantra of the far-Right that criticising and attacking Muslims for being Muslim is not a form of racism (or, at least, ethno-rreligious hatred which, in most anti-discrimination legislation, constitutes racism).

I’m not sure what Dr Bloul would make of the claim by self-confessed migration fraud Ayaan Hirsi Ali that there is no such thing as Islamophobia. Perhaps Hirsi Ali’s definition of Islamophobia is more restrictive in that it refers to criticism of Islam as a religion.

Hirsi Ali's claims were made during an interview with a Canadian TV presenter Avi Lewis. Hirsi Ali made a range of other claims including the ridiculous one that she did not grow “up in freedom”. Yet anyone who reads of her privileged middle class childhood cannot help but laugh.

Yes, it is true that, like millions of African women, Hirsi Ali went through that disgusting procedure of FGM. But that in itself doesn’t detract from the fact that, compared to millions of other Somalis and Ethiopians, she grew up in extraordinary wealth.

Hirsi Ali also makes the extraordinary claim that Islam as a doctrine is a monolith. She clearly doesn’t know much about the major doctrinal differences between sunni and shia Muslims. Further, she is unaware of the profound disputes and debates going on within the sunni world, for instance, the debate between barelwi and deobandi Muslims concerning the status of the Prophet Muhammad. For millions of Muslims, these are hardly trivial issues.

Whilst a number of far-Right activists and bloggers applaud Hirsi Ali’s performance in this interview, for me this is just another example of how much further cultural warriors need to go before finding a more credible voice.

Words © 2007 Irfan Yusuf

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