On Islamophobia

islamophobia

A charge is leveled against anyone who dares to venture any concern about radical Islamic terrorism – a problem that is rampant throughout the world.

The charge? “Islamophobia.”

But what is Islamophobia?

According to the University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender,

Islamophobia is a contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure. It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve “civilizational rehab” of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise).  Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.”

Source: UC Berkeley Center for Race and Gender

Let’s consider this definition more closely.

First, what is a “contrived fear”? The definition of “contrived,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means “ingeniously or artfully devised or planned.” How – and by whom – would a fear of Islam be “artfully designed or planned”? For something to be designed or planned would mean that there is an agent behind the design and planning. UC-Berkeley identifies the agent that is fomenting the alleged fear of Islam: “the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure.” How a power structure might be defined as “Eurocentric” and “Orientalist” given the fact that many European countries have opened their borders to mass migration of Muslims into their countries is not entirely clear.

The UC-Berkeley definition also charges that the “Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure” – a power structure that is so toxic to Muslims that it, paradoxically, allows for the settlement of great numbers of Muslims and maintains a sociocultural taboo against any critique of their religion – maintains and extends “existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations” between Muslims and Western citizens.

So, according to this definition of Islamophobia, the Eurocentric global power structure “maintains and extends” economic, political, social, and cultural disparities. If this is the case, then how does Islamophobia account for the generous social welfare benefits given to Muslims by European countries?

In total, the EU has dedicated over €10 billion from the EU budget to dealing with the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016. The EU also provides humanitarian aid to refugees and migrants in countries outside the EU, such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. Turkey hosts by far the biggest number of refugees – about 3 million in total, of whom 2.5 million are Syrian. In order to support refugees in Turkey, the EU and its Member States are providing €6 billion through a dedicated facility between 2016 and 2018.

In Sweden, asylum seekers receive free housing and monetary support while their application is pending. Persons who live in asylum centers where food is not offered free of charge also receive an extra sum to cover food expenses. Money received as financial assistance is not reclaimed if a person’s asylum application is denied. Asylum seekers have the right to health and dental care; minors who are asylum seekers have the same right to health care as Swedish citizen children living in Sweden. Asylum seekers have a legal right to attend school (ages pre-kindergarten to completion of high school) while awaiting asylum. In the fall of 2015 Swedish Minister for Education Gustav Fridolin announced a legislative bill that would require schools with queue systems to receive asylum seekers by prioritizing them over ordinary citizens who were placed in the queue earlier.

The refugee crisis has put a strain on Swedish community/societal functions, with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency reporting in November 2016 that there was a risk to the health and life of people in Sweden because health providers, the police, and the like could not keep up.

Germany, famous for taking about 950,000 migrants, spent 5.3 billion Euros for migrant benefits in 2015 – 91 percent of migrants got basic benefits such as food, accommodation, clothing and health as well as durable and non-durable household items – mainly provided as benefits in kind, although they did get some cash for personal needs as well.

And it’s not just Germany and Sweden. Here is a comprehensive list of all the benefits given to refugees – most of whom are Muslim – by European countries

Of course, not all Muslims are refugees. What about Muslim populations that have been settled in Western countries for a bit longer? What about the conditions for Muslims in the United States? A Pew survey found:

Muslim Americans generally mirror the U.S. public in education and income levels, with immigrant Muslims slightly more affluent and better educated than native-born Muslims. Twenty-four percent of all Muslims and 29 percent of immigrant Muslims have college degrees, compared to 25 percent for the U.S. general population. Forty-one percent of all Muslim Americans and 45 percent of immigrant Muslims report annual household income levels of $50,000 or higher. This compares to the national average of 44 percent. Immigrant Muslims are well represented among higher-income earners, with 19 percent claiming annual household incomes of $100,000 or higher (compared to 16 percent for the Muslim population as a whole and 17 percent for the U.S. average).”

Source: Muslims in America: A Statistical Portrait 

How is this a portrait of a group that is, as the UC-Berkeley definition of Islamophobia asserts, affected by “disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations”?

Islamophobia, as the UC-Berkeley definition states, is directed at a “perceived or real Muslim threat.” It is interesting that this definition admits that the threat might be “real.” Liberals often argue that the threat from Islamic extremism is overblown because all religions have been violent, as well as other political ideologies, such as right-wing extremism. However, scholars who have looked at the evidence have found that 90% of the world’s terrorism related deaths are attributable to Islamic extremism, and only a fraction of 1% attributable to right wing extremism.

But let us leave the issue of whether the threat from Islam is “perceived or real” and continue considering UC-Berkeley’s definition of Islamophobia. The definition states that Islamophobia rationalizes the “necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve ‘civilizational rehab’ of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise).” What type of violence is deployed, and by whom? Is the UC-Berkeley definition referring to governmental and military action as a response to the violence wrought by Islamic terrorism? The definition is unclear in this regard. Moreover, the definition is unclear on what is entailed in “civilizational rehab” – does this mean the attempt to discourage the use of violence by Muslims? If so, how is this a bad or oppressive goal? Finally, if the “target communities” of this “civilizational rehab” are not strictly Muslims but are “Muslim or otherwise,” then how is the aim of “civilizational rehab” targeting only Muslims? If other communities are included, then how are only Muslims being singled out?

The UC-Berkeley definition concludes with this statement: “Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.” The word “reintroduces” is perplexing because “reintroduces” means that something existed, then went away, and then was brought back. According to this logic, the “global racial structure” of resource disparities existed at one time, then went away, and then was reintroduced – apparently through Islamophobia. How is the “reintroduction” of the “global racial structure” possible when, throughout the definition, the scholars consistently state that there is an “existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure” and that there are “existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations”?

How can something be “reintroduced” if it already exists and never went away?

This definition of Islamophobia does not make any sense. Apparently, logic doesn’t matter to liberals.

I will address more issues on the topic of Islam and the West in future posts.

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