Saturday, 25 May 2013

Islam is the problem

Islam's the problem. That's what we're meant to say, right? After Woolwich and the soldier who was horrifically and despicably murdered in the street by two men the BBC described as being "of Muslim appearance"? Or are we meant to say it's not the fault of Islam but Muslims need to do more to root out the extremists in their midst? To distance themselves from it?

Well, pardon my French, but that's bullshit.

It might be what we hear every time this happens - what the media and politicians say, what Muslim "community representatives" say to try and avoid being tarred with the same brush (a futile effort as it happens anyway) - but that doesn't change the fact that it's bullshit.

When Anders Breivik murdered dozens of young people in Norway in the name of "European Christianity" he wasn't described by the media as being "of Christian appearance". The Archbishop of Canterbury didn't feel the need to take part in a press conference to point out that murdering kids isn't part of the Christian faith or endorsed in the Bible. The Norwegian Prime Minister didn't feel the need to give a press conference calling on the Christian community to do more to root out the extremists in their midst. Universities didn't start monitoring Christian student groups for extremism.

Despite the fact that my country, my home, the UK, has been subjected to (and is still subject to in Northern Ireland) a campaign of terror, which has killed far more people than Islamist terrorism in the UK ever has, in the name of Christian Catholicism and Protestantism, I have never been stereotyped as being "of Christian appearance" or felt obligated, as someone of a Christian background (even though I'm not Christian myself) to apologise publicly for these acts of terror.

When an elderly Muslim man was murdered on his way home in Birmingham earlier this month in a premeditated attack by a white man (e.g. of Christian appearance) no one cared. The media didn't show much interest. I wasn't judged, as a white person, as being partially responsible because the suspected killer came from "my community".

Because, fundamentally, this is an issue of racism and double standards. This is white privilege. I, and the EDL and the BNP and the paramilitaries of Northern Ireland, can commit violent crimes without my entire race being held responsible.

And don't pay any attention to those slimy bigots who try to say "it's not racist coz islam is a religion not a race" - when the BBC used the phrase "of Muslim appearance" we all knew exactly what they meant. It meant a brown person, probably with a beard. And we all know that because Islam is conflated with race in the eyes of most of us. Oh, we all know intellectually that white people can be Muslims but when we hear Muslim we instinctively think "brown person with skin darker than ours" - even when we know better.

That's nothing specifically wrong with white people - the human brain naturally thinks in stereotypes. But that doesn't mean we, as a community, should try and wriggle out of the fact that Islamophobia in this country, that the huge spike in anti-Muslim attacks this week, is tied to race.

If a Muslim commits a crime, especially a violent one, or one which hurts white people, the immediate reaction of the media, politicians and society itself is to assume that their faith is the cause - and to immediately dredge up all the tired old stereotypes about Islamic extremism as the narrative we use. If a white person does the same thing then the individual responsible is held to account - not their entire community.

When a policeman was murdered in Northern Ireland by Christians I didn't read about it and worry about strangers abusing me in the street because of it. My local church wasn't the subject of an arson attack. People didn't run up to me in the street and physically attack me or throw excrement at me.

Yet that's what happens, and has happened this week, to Muslims up and down this country. Our fellow Englishmen and fellow citizens, people who are patriotic, work hard and pay their taxes and never hurt anyone, have to worry about being attacked for daring to go out in public. Are collectively criticised for not doing more to stop violent acts that even the police and security services didn't see coming. Are debated around the dinner tables and in the newspaper columns of England as being alien "others" with people asking whether they are "incompatible" with our country.

And this despite the fact that the 6% Muslims in Europe [pdf file - look at page 15] are responsible for just 0.7% of the terrorist attacks which have taken place in recent years (most attacks are carried out by left wing extremists and by nationalist separatists). Despite the fact that Muslims are disproportionately likely to be patriotic and actively proud of being British. Despite the fact that the vast majority mosques and Islamic organisations go miles out of their way to speak out against extremism on a regular basis and bend over backwards to help the security find extremists.

The reality is that European and British and English Muslims do far more to tackle terrorism by a tiny minority in their midst than any other group - and especially white people like myself whose communities have no organised programmes to tackle "white extremism" in our churches, schools and communities (I've certainly never noticed or heard of any).

And that's because, as I said, we have white privilege. We are treated as individuals. Muslims are treated as a group with every member being partially responsible for the actions of every other member. That's one of the many double standards that corrupt our society. And that's the same double standard that has led to some of the worst atrocities in European history.

If the kind of articles being written and speeches being made right now about Muslims were being made about any other group, specifically Jews or black people, we would see them as the senseless bigotry and stereotyping they truly are.

So, as a white person, I apologise to this country, particularly to Muslims. I apologise for the actions of my community. I'm sorry that the lessons of two thousand years of genocide and pogroms and racism still have not been learned. I'm sorry you are forced to defend your faith and distance yourself from the actions of two lone individuals who you knew nothing of until they committed their horrific crime. I'm sorry your places of worship are attacked and vandalised. I'm sorry that you are subject to the constant threat of violence and verbal abuse in the street.

And I distance myself from those who display prejudice towards Muslims and blame innocent people for the actions of completely separate lone individuals. The EDL and the media and the commentariat and the politicians and the dinner party conversations do not speak for all white people. And the racism and prejudice and stereotyping on display is in no way compatible with the values of tolerance and equality and progress espoused by the white community.

However, while the EDL might be only a small minority of the white community, I must express my shame and sorry that the wider prejudice and bigotry that makes their existence possible is probably currently true of the majority of white people.

And I ask for your tolerance and understanding as we upstanding members of the white community try to root out and eradicate the extremism and prejudice in our midst.

6 comments:

  1. Would you be able to post some citations- I have this argument frequently with my family and friends, but I fear they will take my statements with a bucket of salt if I say I got the stats from a "wishy washy liberal" (sic) site - your words not mine... (particularly the percentages in regards to the % of terrorist attacks being executed by muslims etc)

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    Replies
    1. I'll add them to the article but, for starters, here's the link to the statistics on terrorism:

      http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/11/updated-europol-data-less-than-1-of-terrorist-attacks-by-muslims/

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    2. By the way "a "wishy washy liberal" (sic) site - your words not mine... "

      Where's the spelling/grammar mistake I've made? I normally pride myself on getting that kind of thing right so I'd be much obliged if you could let me know what I've got wrong.

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    3. Hold your horses, it appears as though in my late night question I got my latin terms somewhat jumbled- no spelling mistakes, had just paraphrased your tagline. Thanks for the reference.

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  2. Incredible article. Thanks and absoluetly agree not just because I am a Muslim living on Britiain but because that the logic and common sense. Media think prejudice can continue but lying has an end.

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  3. Well said George. Right again.

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I'm indebted to Birkdale Focus for the following choice of words:

I am happy to address most contributions, even the drunken ones if they are coherent, but I am not going to engage with negative sniping from those who do not have the guts to add their names or a consistent on-line identity to their comments. Such postings will not be published.

Anonymous comments with a constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted. Libellous comments or remarks I think may be libellous will not be published.

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Oh, and if you persist in repeating yourself despite the fact I have addressed your point I may get bored and reject your comment.

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