Types Of Cultural Racism: Islamophobia

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These developments establish a framework for which political discourses, media outlets, and institutional design are addressed in terms of religion and cultural differences. In the coverage of 9/11, news media outlets and officials never once deviated from the response that this terror attack was attributed to Islam and Islamic culture (Semati, 2010, p.261-263). Semi argues that newspaper outlets such as New York Times and Washington Post never considered geopolitical explanations for the terrorist attacks. When Susan Sontag on Nightline, attempted to recognize this, she was instantly criticized and attacked by many (Semati, 2010, p.262). The depiction of the Muslim Other that was established before the events of 9/11, is used to explain the social, political, and economic problems of society. News outlets continue to perpetuate this conception placing a stronger emphasis on the connection of Islam with terrorism and violence (Considine, 2017, p.1). Considine (2017) finds that a Muslim attacker is going to get more news coverage than a non-Muslim one (p.2). The evil caricature of the Muslim Other is inherent in mainstream news. This frequent negative representation to society of the Muslim other allows for evasion of politics in examining political issues in which culture replaces (Semati, 2010, p.263). The issue with this Considine finds, is that it extends to the institutional level. The United States has anti-sharia bills placed in four states, that are designed to prohibit Muslims from practicing Islamic law. When President Trump was running his campaign in 2016, there was a huge emphasis on immigration and banning all Muslims from entering the country (Considine, 2017, p.1-3). Post 9/11, under legislative action, many Muslim Americans were violated of their rights and privacy (Semati, 2010, p.265). These practices Considine (2017) argues extend the constructed racial meaning to Islamic practices, and thus Muslims themselves (p.5). It cultivates a fearful aspect to them and normalizes this caricature and stereotype. It justifies the discrimination and hate crimes many Muslim Americans experience because it provides a framework that allows them to be discriminated against by society (Considine, 2017, p.3).

Both authors use Huntington’s concept of ‘clash of civilization’ to explain Islamophobia in political discourses, media outlets, and everyday life. The logic for the occurrence is not built on the inferior/superior dichotomy, rather it is built on insurmountable differences (Semati, 2010, p.266). Considine (2017) points out that American Muslims are in a clash between their racialized Muslim identity and their American identity (p.6). What this implies is those two identities cannot exist together because the Muslim identity has insurmountable differences. Semi uses the examples of European assimilation and integration policies to emphasize Islam’s incompatibility with Christocentric Europe. The different policies all take the same stance, which is that the inability of Muslims to assimilate is considered a threat to Europe and European culture. Culture in this instance plays a big part in distinguishing the racial differences between the groups that will remain fix and unchanging. This depiction of the Muslim identity creates an absolute and stereotypical conception of Islam, that essentially condenses the multitude and diverse cultures of the Middle East into a monolithic perspective (Semati, 2010, p.264-267).

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Islamophobia creates links between physical appearance and cultural and religious beliefs and practices. For Semi, her analysis of Islamophobia and cultural racism holds no place for biology. For her, cultural differences have replaced the basis of racism rather than biological differences (Semati, 2010, p. 265). Considine challenges this, with his views that biological difference plays a role in cultural racism and Islamophobia because cultural differences lead to the same discriminatory and prejudiced behavior that racism based on biological differences does. Cultural racism and biological racism are linked because both draw characteristics from each other. Racialization of religion looks on observable elements of culture that create a visible archetype that Muslims are identified by (Considine, 2017, p.5). This racial differentiation also includes skin color. This is where brown is used as a racial identificatory for Islamophobia, intersecting race and religion. The same monolithic perspective of the Middle Eastern Muslim also incorporates brown (Semati, 2010, p.257). With terrorism, for example, is examined in terms of religion, but brown is also included because Muslims are being racialized based on racial characteristics (Considine, 2017, p.6). Islamophobia does not distinguish between the two because it is one unified perspective that is used to identify and racially differentiate Muslims and ‘Muslim-looking’ people.

Cultural indicators shape society’s perception of someone that is ‘Muslim looking’ (Considine, 2017, p.10). Therefore, you do not necessarily have to be Muslim to feel the effects of Islamophobia. If you emulate any of the perceived constructed cultural characteristics of the Muslim Other: dark skin, long beard, any form of head covering such as a turban, burqa, or hijab, you would be categorized as them (Considine, 2017, p.6). Inderjit Singh Mukker was badly hurt by a man all on the basis that he looked Muslim. Despite him being a Sikh, a religion completely unrelated to Islam, constructed cultural representations placed the turban to be associated with Islam and thus a threat. Islamophobia functions on a social construct of Islam and the ‘imagined culture’ surrounding it, discriminating against any group with ‘Muslim-like’ features (Considine, 2016).

In conclusion, cultural racism functions based on discrimination by cultural differences. This is done by racializing cultural aspects and deeming them as inferior and different. Islamophobia is a form of cultural racism as the Muslim identity undergoes racialization. In this sphere, race, religion, and culture all intersect. Islamophobia condenses the diverse Middle Eastern cultures to socially construct a single Muslim Other caricature that has attached perceived cultural representations. They are associated with negative connotations such as terror and violence, so much so that it is embedded in both macro and micro social levels. Their identity is characterized by the fact that they possess insurmountable differences that deem them incompatible with the West.  

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