Sunday, October 01, 2006

Islamophobia - a dogma of prejudice and political success

Writing in The Monthly, Robert Manne analyses the divide between Islam and the West and examines how right wing ideologues are associating the fascist ideas of 'jihadist Islamism' with mainstream Islam and thereby whipping up irrational fear of all Muslims to achieve political goals. Thus we see the phenomenon of drive-by shootings targeting mosques and other acts of terror against Muslim citizens.

Following is an excerpt of the Manne article, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Clash of Civilisations":

"In the history of Australia, maritime border control had been dominated by fears about the arrival of Asians. With the Tampa these fears were displaced onto Muslims...a new and uncontested kind of anti-Muslim language...has insinuated itself and become increasingly respectable among conservative politicians, journalists, public commentators and religious leaders. I would like to reveal that blindness by asking what would happen if the kind of things now routinely said about Mulsims were to be said about another complex and diverse, non-Anglo-Australian group bound by ties of religion, culture and ethnicity...It is no longer uncommon for Australian parliamentarians, such as Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Panopoulos, to demand that Muslim women remove their headscarves in public. What would be the response it they were also to demand, as the French did, that Jewish boys remove their skullcaps if they want to attend government schools?

...It is not uncommon for conservatives such as John Howard or Peter Coleman, not conspicuous in other contexts as defenders of feminism or women's rights, to express outrage at the supposedly patriarchal nature of traditional Islam. What would be the response if these conservatives expressed a pseudo-feminist outrage at the separation of men and women in the Orthodox synagogue?

...On a similar theme, several Australian politicians have, either implicitly or explicity, warned Muslims to accept something they call "Australian values" and remind them that they must obey the law. What would be the reaction of government ministers thought Jews needed similar advice?

...Three hundred thousand Australians are now routinely being informed, in one way or another, that their manners are unpleasing, that their loyalty is questionable, and that they do not really belong. As this atmosphere grows, one of Australia's great national accomplishments is being placed at risk. With the rise of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab feeling in Australia, we have reasons to be alert and, yes, alarmed."

Indeed, and it is disturbing to find how easily these vicious sentiments, brimming with hate and prejudice, can be expressed blithely in daily discourse by otherwise educated, tolerant, progressive-minded people. This worries me more than the bile that spews out of the mouths of neo-Hansonites.

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