Ertan Karpazli / World Bulletin
So long as this hatred does not amount to direct violence or inciting violence against any individual or group, people are free to express their aversion to religions and ideologies as much as they like. This can be in the form of a polite expression of disagreement, or it could be expressed with insults and mockery. Either way, there is nothing protecting Muslims in the west from feeling victimized because of their religion. However, many Muslims feel that racism is the real factor steaming the growing wave of Islamophobia that is sweeping across the west.
Due to the fact that Islam has no ideological attachment or limitation to any specific race, it cannot be protected by race hate laws, unlike religions like Judaism which is intrinsically limited to the children of Israel. Despite the many misconceptions of a largely uninformed public, Islam is not a race. Rather, it is a religion that has been adopted by millions of people around the world from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. However, because of their centuries of affiliation with Islam, there are certain races that have traditionally become viewed as being simultaneous with the 1,400 year old religion. Namely these are the people of the Middle-East, North Africa, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
In medieval Europe, the words ‘Turks’ and ‘Arabs’ were often interchangeably used to refer to Muslim, and although not politically correct, this is still the case in parts of Europe today. During the civil wars of Yugoslavia, Serbians often referred to their massacres against the Bosnian Muslims as an ‘act of revenge against the Turks,’ even though the Bosnians are an ethnically Indo-European race belonging to the Slavic family. As well as the concept that all Muslims are Arabs and Turks, the concept that all Arabs and Turks are Muslims is also an incorrect one. Communities of Christian Arabs and Turks have been living across the Middle-East, Eastern Europe and parts of Russia for hundreds of years. However, it is this kind of rhetoric that makes many Muslims believe that beneath all the so-called ideological slurs and slanders is nothing more than old-fashioned, medieval racism.
Particularly in the west, the vast majority of Muslims are brown-skinned migrants from places like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Somalia and Morocco. Despite being the fastest growing religion in the world in terms of both birth rate and conversion, the rarity of white-skinned western converts to Islam makes them difficult to spot among the crowd. This may be deemed to be the root cause of the misconception many westerners have of Islam being race-specific. Even non-Muslims who fit the description of western perceptions of a stereotypical Muslim have been victims of anti-Islamic hatred.
Among the many Muslims who are already stopped, searched and questioned at places like airports and shopping malls are many non-Muslims who have a ‘Muslim appearance’, whatever that may be. This means anyone who has a beard, covers their hair or likes to wear long, loose clothes could potentially find themselves on the CIA’s list of suspected Islamist militants. After 9/11 and similar tragedies in which Muslims were also killed, turban-wearing bearded Sikh men were often targeted in the backlash just because they ‘looked Muslim.’
This is alarming considering that most terrorist attacks in the west throughout history have been committed by white-skinned conservative Christian men. When Anders Breivik killed 69 people in Norway in July 2011, no one saw a backlash against tall, white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed men in Europe. Also, having been on the receiving end of decades of bomb attacks by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), today no one in Britain is stopped and searched for having ginger hair and speaking with an Irish accent.
Islam may not be a race, but Muslims feel that much of the hatred directed against them is in fact racial under an Islamophobic disguise.
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