– Awareness on rising anti-Muslim bigotry in Europe and prejudice –
Aren’t we all asking ourselves this same question after more atrocities in so many countries last week and the previous ones? Those performed worldwide by radical extremist Islamist fundamentalists creating more outrage and, parallel to that, we are continuing to see loud protests over a cartoon? Like the one last Sunday, on the 8th of February where about 1,000 Muslims protested in London over a magazine cover of the Prophet Muhammad that was published on the 14th of January in millions of copies.
Having an open mind would be healthier and would help alleviate the rage.
Bringing forward a point, an argument or a perspective from a society or a community doesn’t make you straight away belong to them. It is opening our mind to different views and taking into account their viewpoint that helps us all to go forward. We may not agree with every aspect of different viewpoints or may not be ready to hear them. Yet, to try to be open to take those other views into considerations, to absorb one’s meaning is to listen to each other for a better entente.
Isn’t there a huge risk in mixing up all Muslims?
I am still hearing and reading too often the disambiguation over the term Muslim and I believe this is part of the chore of the tumult that the world is facing. It strongly appears that too many people still haven’t dissociated Muslim’s ideas of theology with the ideals of radical Islamist extremist fundamentalists, as they are not the same! And the idea that they are all the same, leads to more bigotry and racism which the world really does not need right now. In short, not all Muslims are Islamist extremists like the Jihadists (who are committing awful crimes) – in simpler term: not all Muslims are ‘fanatic-terrorists’ with whom the majority of Muslim do not collude with. How many times have we heard a Muslim’s voice crying out, “Not in Islam’s name!” in reference to atrocities committed?
Muslim should be used to describe all people of the Islamic faith but not the faith itself. Islam and Muslim are both words used to describe the religion revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. Islam or Islamic should describe the religion and its subsequent cultural concepts whereas Muslim should only describe the followers of the religion of Islam. (Part of Wikipedia’s explanation).
“Islam, like any religion, is neither solely good nor bad but it is what its followers make of it” reminded us James Brandon in his article: Our false narrative on Islamist terror helps nobody.
Some, perhaps more vulnerable than others are easily led to follow an unhealthy radical movement, which is driven by hate and violence, and controlled by extremism ideals. Some are easily influenced and have the need to follow in order to fit in.
And what to make of radical opinions and how to discern the victims?
Kundnani writes that the “official narrative on the causes of terrorism… is not based on solid evidence but rests upon the assumption that ‘extremist’ speech and beliefs are the most significant factors in causing terrorism. The term extremism is used selectively and inconsistently to construct Muslims as a suspect community and to discourage the expression of radical opinions”.
I think that the expression of radical opinions is discouraged simply because people in general are scared of it and don’t know what to make of it. Radical opinions imply to reject or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice. On ‘The Moral Maze’ on BBC radio 4, Melanie Phillipps raised the issue that the refusal from the West to accept religious fanaticism is part of the problem. It was a very interesting debate but I sense that we are still lacking answers.
Kundnani has got a point in how wrongly Muslim can be portrayed and I hope that Muslim (victims in particular) can understand that it is ever so hard for non-Muslims to simply know which term to use in describing them. There is no doubt that racist people in particular would construct Muslims as a suspect community; and that shouldn’t be the case.
If something is designed to incite racial or religious hatred, that isn’t permitted in the law of the UK democratically elected Parliaments.
Let’s bear in mind that there are many sub-groups within the term Muslim
N.B. Those ‘Muslim titles’ in Italic are figure of speech and are not meant to offend. I thought using them to be clearer for the indigenous population in order to transmit the message that there are many different types of Muslim (only citing a few here) just like there are among Catholics for example.
- Some practice the Muslim religion devotedly – those Authentic Muslims would be more likely to be genuinely offended by the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.
- Some originate from a Muslim family and are not practicing; they may, or not, eat pork for example – those Modern Muslims would be more likely to be less sensitive of the cartoon but among them, some would be influenced to follow the ‘we are very offended path’ and others wouldn’t be bothered.
- Some might just use the ‘we are very offended path’ just to stir, and use it as an excuse for discord or revenge. – those Muslims with a hooligan tendency could be saying that they are offended by the cartoon just for the sake of arguing but might not be genuinely offended.
- Some, much more extreme would use any mean to enforce their principal or ideology and it may not be in a very human way as we’ve seen from recent further barbaric actions – those Islamist extremists – Jihadists, Wahhabis – may just be using the cartoon for the purpose to create chaos and terror. Following orders blindly (a sort of fatwa) and/or are completely brainwashed.
~All those different sub-groups are intricate and the list could go on…~
“Hatred motivated specifically to target Muslims must be condemned…”rightly said -Maajid Nawaz in his more in-depth article On Blasphemy – And he continues with, pressing that “ignoring Islamist extremism in the name of respect for difference will only fuel racism more by feeding the Far Right’s victimhood narrative.”
French Prime Minister (Manuel Valls) says: “I refuse to use the term ‘Islamophobia’ as it’s used to invalidate any criticism of Islamist ideology…”
Hillary Clinton (Fmr U.S. Secretary of State) reminds us that “we can’t close our eyes to the fact that at this time in our world history, there is a distorted and dangerous strain of extremism within the Muslim world that continues to spread”.
“How did we reach these extremes? Yasmina Khadra on radio 4 is asking. And “Why is the world gradually losing its bearing? How do their killings come to form an integral part of political debate and an escapable part of the same ideology?”
Things can only be changed if we, individually and each party, make the steps towards questioning ourselves and listening attentively to each other’s perspective in order to achieve a more harmonious society. For sure it is not that simple and one has to feel ready.
Perception of Charlie Hebdo being racist overlooked?
I still hear this question frequently asked: “How come Charlie Hebdo claims to be anti-racist when there was that cartoon of Taubira as a monkey?” Again let’s see it in context. Here is an explanation by John Sargeant from his letter to Medhi Hasan: “A particular cartoon of Christiane Taubira, a black politician, as a monkey is where the misunderstanding of Charlie Hebdo comes in. The context and satire is aimed at lampooning the far right by parodying them to leave no doubt supporting Le Pen means supporting racism. Lack of knowledge of French politics makes all this lost in translation.
“RACIST BLUE UNION” – It is showing that supporting Le Pen (Front National) is to endorse racism.
The font chosen (serif) is reminiscent of traditional right-wing political posters. Left-wing and communist posters in France usually use a sans-serif font. This is the first hint that the cartoon is mocking a right-wing element. The blue and red flame logo on the bottom-left is the logo of the Front National, a far-right political party in France.
The person depicted is Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, drawn as a monkey. This is referencing various occasions of far-right activists depicting Taubira as a monkey.
The title is a play on words of Marine Le Pen’s slogan “Rassemblement Bleu Marine” (Navy blue Union).
The cartoon was published after a National Front politician Facebook-shared a photoshop of Justice Taubira, drawn as a monkey, and then said on French television that she should be “in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government” [Le Monde] (she was later sentenced to 9 months of prison). The cartoon is styled as a political poster, calling on all far-right “Marine” racists to unify, under this racist imagery they have chosen. Ultimately, the cartoon is criticising the far-right’s appeal to racism to gain supporters.
Understanding the context shows the cartoon is more than a black politician depicted as a monkey. It is showing that supporting Le Pen (Front National) is to endorse racism”. Explains in details John Sargeant.
And among others Leigh Phillips, in his article, reiterated the same message concluding with:
“It is obvious to any French person familiar with the political context that the cartoon is mocking the racism of the Front National and indeed Taubira herself, in the wake of the massacre, has mounted repeated defences of Charlie Hebdo.”
Being offended doesn’t make Charlie Hebdo racist. And some cartoons are more offensive than others so we can’t make a generality on the whole magazine.
“Racism must not excuse fundamentalism. And fundamentalism must not excuse racism. We have to unceasingly fight both at the same time”. (From the article – In the aftermath of atrocity is this the New face of Europe?)
Prejudice can perpetuate bigotry & racism – judging hold us back
We have to be on guard against prejudice reminded us Taubira in her recent interview.
“We have to get personal and do the hard work of reconciliation by starting with the darkness inside. We have to root out that darkness in ourselves and work on developing empathy and compassion. We have to recognize our shared humanity.” Tells us Rachel Pieh Jones (full version goo.gl/Y614Ps)
Photo caption: Drawing by Christo Dago
“Freedom of speech wasn’t won by being nice, it has been won by struggle with religion” proclaimed David Starkey, historian and NSS honorary associate.
Violence should not be used to defeat free speech. However, like I was challenging in my last two posts, many feel that a cartoon’s visual impact should not have the effect of falling into a trap of making a massive assumption about the general interpretation of its meaning. In the light of how much offence the cartoon of Muhammad created we have to consider this: It is how it appears to indigenous people that become their reality that is at risk of dangerous misinterpretations outside its context… especially to those who are not at all familiar with it outside France and in particular outside Europe.
Explaining the history of Satire and comparing other satire magazines with Charlie Hebdo’s one, here is an article by Adam Gopnik from The New Yorker where he also points out that the magazine was offensive to everybody equally whether it was from a political party or a religion or a movement or a social status.
Adding to this it is important to take into account that lots of people don’t find Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons to be offensive because they chose to let it rise over their head; they chose to not be offended by tolerating it in their satire context.
Europe on high alert
The vast amount of ignorance is alarming but we must welcome discord as long as it doesn’t perpetuate violence. Talking about ignorance in this context doesn’t imply that some people lack intelligence just because they are not in the known and are not informed on a particular matter. And I certainly am not in the known of everything.
As I tried to demonstrate in my last post (Part 2 of this topic) on division awareness (goo.gl/t7SknZ), I don’t think those labels ‘je suis Charlie’ or ‘je ne suis pas Charlie’ work anymore. Because they are too often misinterpreted worldwide for what they stand, as well as the high saturation of those labels, both could be an important factor of the cause to the rise in anti-Muslim and racism that we are seeing so strongly in Europe. Could the bearers of those badges ‘I am Charlie’ and ‘we are all Charlie’ in particular, however much they are attached to them, acknowledge this? This is not in any way erasing its meaning, as described in my last article, because their values behind those badges remain ever so important.
Our governments tell us to remain vigilant. Defensiveness is running high – We have to be so careful with what we say; so much can be deformed and taken to the exact opposite of what one wants to convey. And when people are defensive they are less likely to be receptive.
What are the causes of this kind of barbaric behaviour? And how can people be convinced that Islam is a peaceful religion when there are so many atrocities performed by Islamist extremists?
I can’t answer in depth those two questions but it is much of a factor to acknowledge the importance of context when the listener/reader takes things out of context which lead to prejudice, hatred and racism. It is much of a factor too that lots of people are confusing religion with race and mixing up all Muslims together who follow the religion of Islam. There are different types of Muslim as noted above; a Muslim following the religion of Islam doesn’t make him an Islamist extremist automatically. Some people know that and some don’t. You can’t blame Islam for actions of a small percentage.
I think it’s so important to try to see things from other perspective than your own for a better understanding of the situation and alleviate rage. Of course not “All is forgiven” by many people, sadly and not yet…and it won’t happen overnight. This message was delivered from Charlie Hebdo (in a satirical context) to their attackers conveying that Charlie Hebdo forgive them for the hurt they have caused them, understanding that they are not on the same wave length of thinking .The element of ‘black humour’, irony and sarcasm to be taken in consideration, we are still facing up to the consequences because so much was taken the wrong way and blew out of proportion.
So many prejudices have travelled across the net, and on the street, based on a gut feeling reaction of outrage (powerful emotion) which turned into a scandal worldwide without fully understanding the contexts and different perspectives across the world.
Was the Muslim’s protest in London a good idea?
They had the right to protest and a lot of them may have had the need to do so. However it could be argued that the protest against the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad could no longer be a ‘knee jerk reaction’ since it happened so many weeks after the publication of that cartoon. What happened during that lapse of time from the 14th of January to the 8th of February? Shock, confusion, outrage, more horrendous events and trauma can lead to so many things under the influence of others and what the press – as well as political figures (both under huge pressure) – are leading us to believe. And can we comprehend that some Muslim community leaders even claimed to have protested –not burning to death al-Kasasbah in Islam’s name, but cartoons? Are we, Westerners non-Muslim and moderate Muslims finding the concept hard or impossible to grasp that some protesters claimed to be more offended by a cartoon than the rape and murder of children? I hope and dare not doubt that many Muslim do not share that view. As noted above, there are many different types of Muslims.
A petition was also signed by more than 100,000 British Muslims to land at the door of UK’s Prime Minister.
Of course, this sort of protest takes a while to be organised, however because of its timing following the atrocities of last week, it might have been perceived by some to be a bit misplaced. For those supporting the Muslim communities, I included who support the moderate Muslim; could this protest have jeopardised support to the Muslims by some people? Muslim supporters must not be discouraged and racism must continue to be discouraged. Let’s remember too that some Muslims are persecuted by the Islamic State (IS) and forces linked to the extremist group Islamist State (also known as ISIS).
How free is the world press? https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B7d6pteCYAAneti.jpg:large
It is often said that depicting the Prophet is forbidden by Islam – and fundamentalists take it as a grave offence – but it turns out that Muhammed has been depicted in various Islamic texts over the centuries: http://goo.gl/N0EWy5
“Criticizing the paper is the wrong conversation” as Marjane Satrapi pointed out.
In France, 64 suburbs have been identified as breeding grounds for Islamic extremism.
“Bridging the gaps between cultures is one of the most challenging tasks we face today” rightly said Dr Widad Akrawi.
The issue of integration in France have a part to play in this anti-Muslim rise and racism, where 10% of the population are Muslims. The huge dilemmas happening in suburbs forming ghettos, where no non-Muslims dare entering nor the police, needs to be taken into consideration because of considerable social problems and inequality. And those issues are familiar all across Europe too.
“We need to breathe life into the principle of equality” said Taubira, Minister of Justice.
“It is incomprehensible that you can turn against freedom. But if you do not like freedom, in Heaven’s name pack your bag and leave.” Proclaimed Mayor Aboutaleb told Dutch news programme Nieuwsuur on (News Hour). That’s very well to say but what about those outside Europe where the strong offence have travelled worldwide and on which I questioned their freedom of choice in my last article.
Awareness on prejudice through ignorance:
- jumping into conclusion (without knowing and understanding the full context)
- making generalisations on religions and groups of people
- wrongly categorising people sharing the same religion or following the same religion
- making derogatory statements and taking a bigot attitude (with or without knowing)
- overriding powerful emotions driven by outrage or/and hate
- ignorance generating prejudice and prejudice generating violence
- making assumptions based on what you know
- not looking at the other perspective or/and blowing things out of proportion
- Influencing negative and/or untrue statements and ideas as well as manipulating vulnerable people, being driven by hate and spite and/or driven by a self-beneficial agenda
- defamation, denaturing and exaggerating the reality seen by individual’s eyes of their own truth
Photo caption – Twisted – reality/ interpretation/ truth
In the recent Open letter to the World’s Governments in the wake of attack on Charlie Hebdo, a call is sent on our political world leaders to uphold international human rights. To not undermine human rights and to stand up for the importance of security, one of the call launched is to defend a free and open society where human rights are not only protected, but celebrated, and where diverse viewpoints, including the satirical perspectives embraced by Charlie Hebdo, can be expressed online and offline. Full version of the letter submitted on the 29th of January: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/open-letter-to-the-world-s-governments-in-the-wake-of-attack-on-charlie-hebdo
In his recent report, Kenneth Roth (executive director of Human Rights Watch) says that “meeting security challenges demands not only containing certain dangerous individuals but also rebuilding a moral fabric that underpins the social and political order”.
Call for working together, being aware of prejudice, listen to other perspectives and the usual…more tolerance to each other’s differences.
We can’t apologize for what we feel; it is like saying sorry for being real. But we can take responsibility in being more aware of prejudice and not jump to conclusion.
This quote is very true: “Don’t try to understand everything because sometimes it’s not meant to be understood but to be accepted”. Depending on what it is I’d like to add. Certain things need to be understood to be accepted; others need to be let go off, because yes we can’t possibly understand everything in complex issues and in humanity.
Clash over Cultures and Values – Part 3 – 13.02.15
Updated (20.02.15) – Changed the term ‘Islamophobia’ to anti-Muslim bigotry. Also added a say from the French Prime Minister and a say from the Fmr U.S. Secretary of State.