I don’t usually do box sets but there is just so much to say about the All Party Parliamentary Group on Muslims report Islamophobia Defined that it just keeps calling me back, fascinated by the brazenness of the attack on our freedom of expression.
In Part 1 I detailed the evolution of the term Islamophobia over the last 20 years from fear of Islam and Muslims to racism about Muslimness and noted the involvement in the inquiry of a sinister Islamist organisation called MEND.
In Part 2 I studied the contributions to the inquiry from various activists, sociologists and activist sociologists, and what “toilsome reading and a wearisome confused jumble” I found them to be (that was Thomas Carlyle on the Koran, by the way). I also noted the unavoidably subjective way in which the APPG definition would have to be interpreted by those attempting to apply it and, thus, the power it will put into their hands.
In this third, and hopefully final, part I want to examine more closely the concept of cultural racism, which is at the heart of the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia:
“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of
Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
I also want to look at some of the practical implications of the definition and to bring to your attention various responses to it, both positive and negative.
[NB There is also a Postscript]
Cultural racism examined.
Although the Group do not specify in their definition what “type of racism” they consider Islamophobia to be, it is clear from the text of the report that they mean cultural racism.
What is that? Craig Considine, very much an activist sociologist, explains here. He at least lays out the concept and its claimed link to Islamophobia clearly enough to engage with it, which is more than can be said for most of the contributors to the inquiry.
Claiming the Marxist sociologist Stuart Hall as his inspiration, Considine declares that:
“Racism is no longer about race (skin color) but culture. People are Othered and
discriminated against not (simply) because of the color of their skin (or other phenotypes)
but because of their beliefs and practices associated with some imagined culture”.
This is the core of the concept but there is something obviously wrong about it. Cultural racism is actually two concepts presented as one. If racism is no longer about race then it is no longer racism. If it is about culture then it should properly be called something like culturism*, just as discrimination based on sex is sexism and discrimination based on age is ageism. Just because people are “othered and discriminated against” (assuming that they are) it does not mean that one form of discrimination is necessarily a disguised version of another, or even connected to it.
* NB It appears that there is a long established term for discrimination on the basis of culture, ethnocentrism, but I think I’ll stick with culturism because it’s snappier and because the link with culture is obvious.
So let us start from the position that what we have here is two possible forms of discrimination, racism and culturism, and then explore whether they can sensibly be fused together to form a new compound form.
I suggest that attitudes about culture may sometimes be genuinely independent of attitudes about race, something which I believe we can establish empirically with regard to Islam in Britain.
If Hall and Considine are correct, that culturism is just a disguised form of racism, I think we would expect perceptions of particular groups not to differ markedly over time when judged either by culture or by race.
If I am correct, that culturism is a distinct phenomenon and that racism has been spuriously attached to it, then we shouldn’t be surprised to see perceptions of particular groups based on culture diverge significantly from earlier perceptions based on race.
I claim that Considine is wrong to ascribe negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims to a form of racism and I can demonstrate it. All I need is a subject group (Muslims) and a control group to compare over time.
In Britain we are fortunate in having not one but two control groups. There are three culturally (but not racially) distinct populations originating from the Indian subcontinent: Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims. The three groups all share similar pigmentation and ancestry, the same history of British colonialism and similar histories of immigration and settlement. But they do have radically differing cultures centred around three very different religions, the implications of which only started to dawn on the British people after the Ayatollah’s fatwa on Salman Rushdie in 1989.
The first two generations of post-war immigrants from the subcontinent were barely distinguished from each other by the native population. Going for an Indian (meal) was a very standard end to a Saturday night out with almost no awareness that the cooks and waiters might in fact be Pakistani and Muslim rather than Indian and Hindu. I remember, I was there. Any negative feeling there might have been toward them was uniform.
How things have changed. Today there are street organisations and even political parties devoted to stopping the increasing Islamisation of Britain while Sikhs and Hindus rub along with the natives just fine.
Why do Muslims today attract so much more hostility than Sikhs and Hindus? I did what any good social scientist would do and conducted a survey. I might add that academics in the field would do well to get out of the mosque and their Hate Studies departments, and spend some time in pubs and betting shops…it would give them a whole different slant on the issue.
It turned out that people are not at all concerned about Muslims’ pigmentation or their clothing or their “perceived Muslimness”. What really concerns them is that periodically some members of the Muslim community take it into their heads to blow us up or mow us down or chop our heads off, claiming religious sanction.
My respondents were also angered by the long standing rape on an industrial scale of vulnerable indigenous girls. At this point it may, or may not, be relevant to mention that APPG member Lord Ahmed (back row, third from the right) is currently awaiting trial, along with his two brothers, charged with historic sexual abuse of minors in – you guessed it – Rotherham.
This is not to say that anyone thought that all Muslims are jihadis or paedophiles, just that some are…enough to establish a pattern. Put it this way: if members of the W.I. (a much loved organisation primarily known for jam-making and nude calenders) started blowing up children at pop concerts, claiming parts of the W.I. constitution as justification, it would be disingenuous not to expect people to regard both the W.I. and W.I. members with suspicion or worse.
But my respondents were particularly infuriated that Muslim representatives routinely respond to these assaults on the host population by claiming that Muslims are the real victims. They give the impression of caring only about Muslims, with a pulled hijab or a nasty look carrying as much weight as someone’s child blown to bits. Perhaps this is not surprising when you consider that their god tells Muslims that they are “the best of peoples” and the rest of us are “the worst of creatures” who deserve to be tortured for eternity.
Sikhs and Hindus have not become associated with similar behaviours and attitudes and therefore do not excite similar animosity. Accordingly they do not need their own special words to deflect attention from, and avoid the consequences of, their own or their fellow religionists’ actions. The very act of attempting to play the victim and blame the very understandable hostility which exists towards Muslims on the indigenous population only intensifies the mutual resentment which drives the Muslim and non-Muslim populations ever further apart.
I therefore contend that the differing current levels of negativity towards Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims are wholly explained by their differing cultures, at the centre of which sit their respective religions, not at all by any residual racism.
Can Considine explain this puzzling discrepancy by means of cultural racism? Until such time as he does I claim that the hybrid concept of cultural racism, specifically in relation to Islam, is bogus, a mere mixing together of two unconnected concepts for the dishonest purpose of producing the race card where it is not relevant. That being so, the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia, which is based on it, must also be bogus.
If you disagree with this analysis and conclusion please explain why in the comments below, preferably without using the words “trope”, “essentialised”, “narrative”, “intersectional” or “orientalism”.
Other reasons to be sceptical about the application of cultural racism to Islamophobia.
Firstly, we only have to look at Wikipedia to find that there are academics who oppose the validity of the concept, but unfortunately none of them made it to the inquiry. The Group heard only one side of the story, repeatedly presented as fact by professor after professor, so it is perhaps not surprising that they swallowed it whole. Who selected such a one-sided presentation of views? Well, we do know that the secretariat contained a member of MEND and also an activist who loudly complained about Islamophobia on the part of the police after the horrors of Rotherham were exposed (see Part 1) so I think we know where to start looking.
If you read the contributions to the inquiry, accepting the speciousness of the central concept, it appears very much like a prolonged sales pitch to gullible buyers of the cloth so fine that only the most intelligent can see it. Some people have already noticed that the new definition is a perfect set of Emperor’s new clothes. Hopefully more will raise their voices when those in authority attempt to use it to curb our free speech, and it will become the laughing stock it deserves to be.
Secondly, When do we ever hear of cultural racism being applied to Muslims rather than non-Muslims? Islam is absolutely built on discrimination against, and othering of, non-Muslims. No one “others” like Allah. Just read his book and see how he encourages his followers to view Jews, Christians and any other unbelievers. Not surprisingly, these attitudes are acted out wherever non-Muslims, or even the wrong kind of Muslims, find themselves in proximity to those who take Allah’s words seriously.
Consider all those Muslim activists and their sociologist supporters contributing to the inquiry. When do any of them protest at the obvious “cultural racism” practised by Muslims upon Copts in Egypt, Ahmadiyya in Pakistan, Anglicans in Nigeria, Catholics in Sri Lanka, Jews anywhere and Kafir girls in Northern England? The answer is never. “Cultural racism” serves solely to boost the effectiveness of “Islamophobia”, and the APPG, in their innocence or otherwise, have given it their blessing.
Implications for Free Speech.
The report claims that the definition of Islamophobia has become more robust. This is not so. It has actually become flakier, but at the same time more controlling.
The group tell us that:
“the aim of establishing a working definition of Islamophobia has neither been motivated by,
nor is intended to curtail, free speech or criticism of Islam as a religion…”
but is only aimed at:
“the victimisation of Muslims through the targeting of expressions of Muslimness”.
It turns out though that Muslimness covers so much that we had thought of merely as religious issues, or questions of fact, that there is very little left that we can say about Islam or Muslims that will not fall foul of the APPG’s strictures.
On pages 56 and 57 of the report there appears a list of things we may not say, for instance,
That Muslim identity has a unique propensity for terrorism
That there is a demographic ‘threat’ posed by Muslims
That there is a threat of of a ‘Muslim takeover’
That Muslims invent or exaggerate Islamophobia
That Muslims are more loyal to the Ummah or to their countries of origin, than to the interests of their own nations.
That Muslims should be expected to take loyalty tests
That Muhammed was a paedophile
That Muslims spread Islam by the sword and subjugated minority groups under their control
That Muslims are ‘sex groomers’, inherently violent or incapable of living harmoniously in plural societies
I would say that there is good factual evidence for most of these assertions (what else would you call a 53 year old man who had sex with a 9 year old girl?) But facticity here is trumped by the religious sensibilities of Muslims.
That presents us with a remarkable juxtaposition. In British law the truth of a statement is a defence against slander whereas in Islamic law it is not because slander is only “what someone may not wish to hear”. Is it not ironic, and shameful, that British lawyers (well represented in the APPG group) should propose giving Muslims the benefit of Sharia level protection against criticism while non-Muslims will have to do what we have always done, to counter criticism with facts and argument?
No doubt the non-Muslim lawyers in the group had no clue about slander in Sharia, but I suspect that the Muslim ones likely did.
Reactions from the usual suspects.
When I wrote Part 1 three local Councils had adopted the APPG definition. As we see here there are now four. The Greater London Authority under Sadiq Khan (who appears to prioritise seeking out hate speech over sorting out the bloodbath that London has become) has also recently adopted it, with Khan calling on the Government to do likewise. Three national political parties have done the same.
Here are the 60 odd Muslim organisations which naturally think it a jolly good idea. One of them is particularly interesting. MAB, the Muslim Association of Britain, is, according to a British Government report, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot. In this press release about the definition they make clear what they see as the next click of the ratchet of sharia compliance:
“Alluding to only racial and cultural aspects of Islam, rather than the religious and symbolic elements, is problematic and must be developed through an ongoing broad and extensive discussion”.
The “racial and cultural aspects of Islam” are taken care of by the de facto Sharia slander law referred to above. To protect the “religious and symbolic elements” would also require a full blown de facto Sharia blasphemy law. Take note what some of those among us actually plan for our future!
Here is another interesting MAB press release congratulating the NUS (representing 7 million students) on adopting the APPG definition and Zamzam Ibrahim on being elected as President.
It has emerged that Ms Ibrahim once posted online that she wanted to see “an Islamic takeover”.
What…one of those things the APPG want us not to mention because it would be a racist attack on Muslimness? Yes, the same. Naturally it was taken out of context and she was only a mixed up teenager and she no longer holds those sorts of views. Well, that’s a relief but one has to wonder where did they come from in the first place…her parents perhaps, or the mosque or the community? Or maybe straight from Allah who declared in his best seller, the Koran, “He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion”.
But the news is not all bad.
The Government have so far refused to have anything to do with it.
The National Secular Society and Maajid Nawaz of Quilliam have called the APPG definition unworkable.
Trevor Phillips, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (under whose leadership the original Runnymede definition was produced), has written that:
“despite the undoubted good intentions of the MPs and peers who wrote the definition, they
appear to understand neither the concept of racism nor the meaning of Islamophobia”
“the definition reduces the lives of British Muslims to the status of perpetual victims and pawns
in some wider battle”.
Here anti-extremism Czar Sarah Khan points out that an increasing amount of hatred towards Muslims comes from other Muslims. She wishes for the definition of Islamophobia to be enlarged to include such hostility however the examples she gives only show her confusion over the matter.
Jalal Uddin was killed in Rochdale by an ISIS supporter who believed that Uddin’s practice of an Islamic form of faith healing was blasphemy, and therefore apostasy. Kahn rightly points out that this is takfir, the act of a Muslim declaring another Muslim not a Muslim, and therefore a Kafir. She also cites Muslim persecution of Ahmadiyyah Muslims (who are not allowed to call themselves Muslims in their native Pakistan).
In both cases Muslims are not being attacked for their “perceived Muslimness” but their “perceived non-Muslimness”. Therefore the hostility Kahn identifies does not constitute Islamophobia but merely another category of Kafirphobia alongside the Judeophobia, Christophobia and Polytheophobia which appear so frequently in the Koran and among the Ummah.
Various journalists, and even the occasional blogger, have pointed out the definition’s shortcomings.
But the most surprising, and welcome, ray of sanity in all this came all the way from Indonesia and from an astonishing source. Yahya Cholil Staquf is apparently the head of the largest Muslim organisation in the world, the Nahdlatul Ulama with 90 million members. He recently wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph entitled “To prevent another Christchurch, Islam must confront the attacks in its name that have radicalised the West”. It is behind a paywall but a filleted version can be found here.
In a display of shockingly unIslamic self-reflection he suggests that hostility to Islam and Muslims may have something to do with Islamic teachings and Muslim actions. This is what he has to say about the APPG definition:
“There is a desperate need for honest discussion of these matters. This is why it worries me to
see Western political and intellectual elites weaponise the term “Islamophobia,” to short-circuit
analysis of a complex phenomenon that threatens all humanity. For example, it is factually
incorrect and counter-productive to define Islamophobia as “rooted in racism,” as proposed by
the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims. In reality, it is the spread of Islamist
extremism and terror that primarily contributes to the rise of Islamophobia throughout the
If only the members of the APPG had such clarity of vision.