The British press has been in a frenzy recently over nineteen-year-old Shamima Begum and her desire to return to the UK from the refugee camp in Syria where she currently resides. There are probably very few people in the UK who are unaware that Shamima travelled from the UK to ISIS territory in Syria at the age of fifteen, where she married an ISIS militant, conceived and lost two children before giving birth to a third (who also passed away) in the refugee camp in Syria she currently calls home.
“Since the news, little kids haven’t played outside, as if their moms are afraid someone might snatch them out of their yards and send them off to war.”
Kimberly Willis Holt, ‘When Zachary Beaver Came To Town’
In the early hours of 26th July, Satoshi Uematsu drove to a home for the disabled where he had previously worked and stabbed 19 residents to death and injured 26. Shortly before handing himself in, he tweeted “May there be peace in the world…Beautiful Japan!!!!” Once in custody, he said that ‘it is better that disabled people disappear’. Barely a week later and at a rally Donald Trump claimed to have seen video footage of $400 million being transferred to Iran by the US government as well as recounting the time he saw Muslims celebrating the devastation of 9/11. One of these stories received little attention while the other gathered headlines.
Trigger warnings: Female Genital Mutilation, Islamophobia, Homophobia, Torture
How does Islam actually fare in terms of human rights, and is it really any different from any other religion? The “religion of peace” has been getting a poor reputation in Western media over the issue for decades, with human rights abuses in Muslim countries often stretching from the major to the mundane.
Female genital mutilation, the stoning of homosexuals to death, the subjugation of women – the list goes on and on. Apostasy is frequently met with the death sentence in conservative states such as Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, individual liberties in these countries, such as speaking up against the state, are frequently curtailed on the pretext of actually insulting the religion itself. Just ask Raif Badawi, the Saudi activist and blogger who dared to criticize the Saudi regime and was sentenced up to 1,000 lashes from the theocratic state for his troubles.
Content warnings: xenophobia, racism, racial slurs
You’d think that after more than three decades of multiculturalism in the UK, racism should have, more or less, become a thing of the past. Yet bigotry has decided to rear its ugly head once more after the recent EU referendum, with many of those who voted for Brexit, in particular those from a working class background, feeling the result has given them the right, and indeed social acceptance, to begin verbally chasing out migrants, in some kind of vague collective bid to “get [their] country back”.
It’s been a pretty rough decade or so for Muslims. Since 9/11, negative images of the Islamic world have been relentlessly smeared all over the Western media, in a manner often mirroring the Orientalist perspective of Arabs as described by the historical anthropologist Edward Said. Ever since the Europeans first encountered Arabs during the time of the Crusades, Middle Easterners have been perpetually stereotyped as the social “Other”, known to act and appear completely differently from Westerners. Furthermore, the otherwise diverse Islamic world is frequently reduced to exclusively “exotic” stereotypes such as bearded mullahs, shady sheikhs in their groups of concubines, terrorists, Bedouin, belly dancers and harem maidens. Meanwhile, Muslim women are constantly portrayed as quiet, modest and uneducated, covered from head to toe and traveling several paces behind domineering males.
by Robyn Banks
Once upon a time, there was a period in history when everyone on the left was in agreement. In this time of solidarity many campaigns were fought and won and nobody within the movement felt excluded. The boundaries of race, gender and class were broken down, sectarianism was a distant memory and everybody held hands and formed the party of the glorious left.
by Kunal Chattopadhyay
Seldom has an incident in an Indian University received so much international coverage and solidarity as the ongoing confrontation in Jawaharlal Nehru University. 450 scholars, among who were names like Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar, as well as JNU alumni, signed a statement. 358 academics from Universities across California issued a letter in which they condemned the harassment of students for their political beliefs. The letter called the police crackdown on the students an “alibi for the incursion of an authoritarian regime onto the university campus”. Oxford University and the University of Chicago among others have sent in their support. Within India, solidarity actions developed in Delhi, Chennai, and various academic institutions, including notably Jadavpur University in Kolkata. And there have also been massive, unrelenting state and rightwing attacks, including physical violence.
by Eve Lacroix
2015 was a turning point in French security. After the attack of the 7th of January on the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and the multiple coordinated attacks in Parisian public spaces on the 13th of November, French President François Hollande decided to retaliate with a hardline approach, including a joint operation with the US forces of 20 airstrikes on the town of Raqqa in Syria.
After the November Paris attacks, President Hollande declared France in a state of emergency for three months. Those three months are soon coming to an end, and he plans to prolonge this measure when it runs out on the 26th of February. The state of emergency permits officials and police officers to raid houses and impose house arrests of suspected terrorists without passing first through the court. It is clear that this problem is ongoing. In the newspaper Le Figaro, a government report is cited stating that the number of radicalised individuals reported to authorities doubled since April 2015.
by Ellen Musgrove
Cherokee writer and academic Daniel Heath Justice writes in The Kynship Chronicles that ‘the memory of the world is short, and death rides hard in the forgetting.’ Being indigenous and queer, Justice knows very well the selective amnesia of the nation-state, and the resistance that demands.
Such an introduction may seem obscure, but this perceived obscurity demonstrates the problem I want to discuss. The same nation-state amnesia is imbricated in “western” society’s selective mourning of recent terror attacks, the current refugee crisis, and now renewed military intervention.
by Josh Wilson
I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how there is no chance for anyone to win outright in Syria. Since that article the tragic events in Paris have taken place and leaders from around the world alongside ordinary citizens have reacted to the news. As with all heartbreaking events, reactions have been fuelled by emotion, with the debate surrounding tricolore Facebook photo becoming a heated element of reaction to the atrocity. Many took up the option offered by Facebook to drape the French flag over their profile picture. I do have my reservations about this, mostly regarding Facebook picking and choosing which tragedies to offer this show of solidarity for. However, in a time of grief and high emotion I think this is a debate best left for another time.
By Dahlia Al-Abdullah
The events that unfolded in Paris have been devastating, as have the other numerous attacks of terrorism that we have seen ripple out across the globe over the last few days, months, and years. To acknowledge the other mass killings in Lebanon, Iraq, Kenya etc. is not a way of trying to play down this act of terrorism. Terrorism exists. Terrorism is absolutely disgusting. What happened in Paris is enough to instil enough fear in me to want to stay away from any big cities for a while.
Islamophobia appears to be so casual nowadays to the point that it is increasingly becoming the norm. On Friday, during a town hall rally in New Hampshire, US presidential candidate Donald Trump failed to condemn an outspoken audience member who called for the ridding of America of Muslims, and claimed that President Barack Obama is not an American.
“We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims,” the man told Trump. “We know our current president is one.You know he’s not even an American. Birth certificate, man.”
Despite almost 14 years of Western nations waging a ‘war on terror’, not much has been achieved in the way of making the world a truly secure place for all. With Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden now considered yesterday’s news, the Iraq war that was waged after 9/11 — widely considered by critics to be “pointless” — merely gave birth to another terrorist threat in the form of ISIS. Today, some sections of the Western media continue to be awash with Islamophobic articles on an almost daily basis, further fueling the public’s misconception of Islam and its supposed roots in terrorism. This in turn has affected Britain’s immigration and multicultural policies to an extent, and has only served to further heighten levels of prejudice against Muslims.
It begs the question: has the Western response to 9/11 really been that worthwhile?
The recent Rohingya crisis in South East Asia is nothing new — clashes between the ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar, have been ongoing since 2012 through a series of riots. By October of that year, Muslims of all ethnicities had begun to be targeted.
The riots were supposedly triggered by widespread fears among Buddhist Rakhines that they would soon become a minority in their own ancestral state. Riots sparked after weeks of sectarian disputes, which included a gang-rape and murder of a Rakhine woman by Rohingyas and the killing of ten Burmese Muslims by Rakhines.
It is the refusal from fellow South East Asian nations to
take in tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees which
has been the main source of recent controversy.
by Jonathan Lee
Prime Minister Erdoğan was speaking in reaction to the Obama administration identifying Turkey as a moderate Islamic country. The blunt statement challenges much of the narrative coming from Western governments, and forces the West to question the validity of the term as well as another of its favourite loaded words: ‘Extremism’.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the heavily sidelined Boko Haram massacre at Baga, the media’s use of choice words like ‘extremism’, ‘radicalism’, ‘fundamentalism’, and ‘Islamism’ has once once again been unleashed in a daily barrage on our television and computer screens. The corresponding rise of Islamophobia, which was already latent in the West, has reached even higher levels, resulting in liberals, apologists, and leftists having to try and stem the tide of what is sometimes wanton bigotry and racism. An oft deployed tool of argument is the careful labelling and distinction between ‘moderate Islam’ and ‘extremism’, usually in the vein of ‘moderate Muslims are not to blame, extremism is’.
by Adam Edwards
On February 10th the lead-panelled windows of Norwich’s Ihsan Mosque were smashed by vandals unknown. The mosque on Chapelfield East was founded in the 1970s, and was the first in the UK to be established by British converts to Islam, rather than by a nascent immigrant community. Nobody, except perhaps the proverbial rock-lobber yet knows why the windows of this former 19th century schoolhouse were smashed last Saturday morning, but beneath the pall of islamophobia that grows heavy in the wake of an atrocity like the one that rocked Paris in January and ensuing media frenzy, we seem keen to race to conclusions.
Following the vandalism, the non-Muslim community has rallied around the mosque, inundating it with messages support. Its doors have been covered now with colourful paper hearts bearing words of solidarity and friendship, from simple exclamations of “Peace”, the uncomfortable and memetic rendering “Je suis Ihsan.”