“Islamophobia is one central topic in European far-right discourses. But it cannot be attributed just to them: part of the left movements have argued against Islam presence, alleging certain arguments which compose the new fascisms and post-fascisms vade mecums”, writes the author.
“The story about Islamophobia is going to finish”: was a commentary done by a person who defined himself as ex-Muslim and left-supporter, launched in a social network as a warning to Muslims and anti-racists. The islamophobia can be understood as a culturalist racism mode against Muslims or people considered as such, without regarding their real religious practice or its subjective importance. As all different types of racism, islamophobia interweaves with social othering and inferiorization dynamics, which lay on class, race and gender basis. Furthermore, its effectivity is sustained on apparent common sense arguments, that actually create illusionary realities and present themselves as “respectable” as antisemitism was long time ago.
Despite islamophobia is not restricted just to religious discrimination, it mustn’t be separated from it. The Islamophobia’s anti-Islam element is racist by itself: following the know-power colonial orientalist tendencies, Islam is presented as a determinant and unchangeable essence which permanently conditions Muslims’ life. In this line, they defend exclusion and regulatory mechanisms towards the individuals who worship this religion.
Islamophobia is one of the main European far-right movements’ discourse topics. But it cannot be attributed just to them. Part of left movements have argued against Islam presence, alleging certain arguments which compose the new fascisms and posfascisms vade mecums: Islam should be excluded due to it is reactionary, dangerous, it oppress women, hate homosexual, and because it is a religion, and religion is the opium of the masses.
Ex-Muslims and Islamophobia
When left have lost part of their references and social relevance, they have resorted to “Enlightened islamophobia” as a vague and sterile avant-garde, through which they pretend to define who are the legitimate political subjects and how they should articulate their resistances.
According to this rationality, due to Islam is not something inherent to humans, such as skin colour or ethnic origin, islamophobia isn’t considered as racism. Being Muslim is a religious identity, and as such, it is a choice that can (and should) be given up. This idea is reinforced by the existence of “ex-Muslims” that present themselves as examples of people who have “overcome Islam”, consequently legitimising these Islamophobic discourses. Following this path, they understand islamophobia as a story: in order to use white left’s guilt complex, the Islamists created a subterfuge that would avert critics to Islam, and furthermore, they took advantage of the neoliberal “cultural wars” trap for pushing the left aside from its principles. At this point, and bearing in mind the real reasons behind labour divisions, resource sharing and the racialisation regimes that working class is suffering in Europe, we can appreciate how “class” ideals are used under totemic purposes rather than as effective analysis categories.
‘Progressive’ islamophobia dodges accusations by avoiding to frontally attack Muslims. They present them as societies and family environments’ passive victims, and as subjects manipulated by reactionary Islamic political movements, which are called “islamofascists”. Furthermore, part of the left that doesn’t participate in this types of discrimination are portrayed as Islamist conspiracy dummies, who blindly believe in the “diversity trap”.
Progressive islamophobia dodges accusations by avoiding to frontally attack Muslims. They present them as societies and family environments’ passive victims
When constructing this demonizing discourse, the practices which doesn’t fit in it are featured as unauthentic, decaffeinated, westernised, or as traps used to disguise the Islamist cause. Besides, the Muslim individuals that confront these characterisations are despised, citing their alleged “alienation” or interest in perpetuate “oppression”. The unique profiles which are generally accepted are the ones who publicly reject Islam, so called “cleared Muslims”, and accept the Islamophobe discourse.
The idea of progress becomes the main discursive mechanism used by progressive Islamophobia. Muslims are presented as anachronistic: they live in another epoch, they haven’t reach civilisation levels, and their presence (especially when they attempt to exert their citizenship) threaten to bring us to “old times”: fascism, clericalism, patriarchy, sexual repression.
Religious practice constitutes the essential representation of anachronism: Is there any greater sign of backwardness than not being able to overcome religion or to relegate it to the private sphere, “as we have done”? As Islam has “immigrated” to our lands (despite history can prove otherwise), it isn’t conceived as a cultural tradition, contrary to what it happens to Christian practices. Hence, it highlights for its visibility and is perceived as a religious excess. These discourses forget that, originally, laicism was a way to protect freedom of belief, rather than a tool for destroying it.
While nationalist and nativist islamophobia sees Islam presence as a threat to nation or imagined community identity, progressive islamophobia believes that what is threatened is the imagined moral community: a society that, allegedly, has conquered by its own the principles of liberty, equality and welfare, and that should defend them in front of the Islam anachronistic monster.
Non ‘enlightened’ Muslims
In the worst case, Islam is considered incompatible per se with social conquests, and in the best, it is assured that Muslims haven’t known yet Enlightenment, gender equality or sexual freedom. Thus, it exists an Islam, considered tolerable, moderate, with “enlightenment grains”, that would serve as a transitive point towards a reality without Islam. Following this latter logic, unfortunately, there are left party sectors who consider themselves anti-racist and even promote alliances with Islamic organisations. Nevertheless, all of them contemplate that in a future Muslims should all abandon their beliefs, on the basis that faith and social transformation are incompatible.
When left have lost part of their references and social relevance, they have resorted to Enlightened islamophobia, as a vague and sterile avant-garde, through which they pretend to define who are the legitimate political subjects and how they should articulate their resistances. This is a left, that when it has attempted to snatch spaces from the far-right and post-fascisms, has ended losing itself and creating disturbing results.
Translation: Toni Sastre – FUNCI