Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Memo to Conservatives on Islamophobia: Have Some Perspective

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo terror attack, there have been a few warnings against Islamophobia. Conservatives are freaking out.  Granted, they say, there have been a few anti-Islamic hate crimes, but no widespread riots or pogroms, no threats of riots or pogroms, so what's the big deal.  Suggesting that Islamophobia is any sort of threat is just a way of showing hatred of the native-born white working class, treating them as a deranged mob on the verge of mass riots or pogroms. Anti-Muslim hate crimes are rare!  Show some perspective!

I suppose my response would be, show some perspective yourself.  Consider the overall response to the attack. Denunciation of the crime were widespread across the political spectrum.  The police posted guards to protect Jewish areas and launched a crackdown, arresting 54 people for expressing support for terrorism.  Over a million Frenchmen turned out to show solidarity against terror.  Charlie Hebdo magazines sold out. Many people flocked to republish its offensive cartoons.  The New Yorker, bastion of the sort of liberal multiculturalism conservatives despise ran a cover in solidarity.  The French sent an aircraft carrier to fight ISIS.  One mosque was shot at, one burned down, and another had a grenade thrown at it. Approximately 50 lesser crimes against Muslims such as graffiti were also reported.  And a few newspaper articles warned against an anti-Muslim backlash.  I would not say that liberals are taking advantage of the terror attacks to show hatred to the white working class.  I would say liberals fully support the rally against terror and just don't want it to go too far.

Or consider George Bush's response to 9-11.  He authorized the Air Force to shoot down planes they believed had been hijacked.  He authorized the FAA to shut down all air traffic.  He got up and made a speech expressing the nation's grief and outrage.  He authorized a general crackdown on suspects. He asked for (and received) the Patriot Act vastly increasing the government's powers of surveillance. He immediately began planning an invasion of Afghanistan.  He began remotely planning an invasion of Iraq.  Oh, yes, and he assured everyone that we are not at war with Islam and urged Americans not to punish American Muslims as a whole.  Does that mean that he, too, hated the white working class and regarded them as an unruly mob?*  Was he engaged in a "culture war status contest" to burnish his politically correct credentials?  Or was he saying something that needed saying?

And, after all, why does "Islamophobia" or "anti-Muslim backlash" have to mean mass riots or pogroms?  Neither of the cited articles I was able to access suggested anything of the kind.  One specifically referred to "the inevitable statist backlash," (emphasis added), making clear that this was a warning against giving police increased surveillance powers, ethnic profiling, and other civil libertarian concerns.  The other spoke of Muslims being "hated, targeted and discriminated against," something already ongoing and well short of riots or pogroms.

And you don't need riots or pogroms or even widespread hate crimes to have a serious problem. Just as the number of police killed on the job is just the tip of the iceberg of danger and stress cops experience on the job, and just as the number of black people killed by police is just the tip of the iceberg of general harassment and indignity that black people experience from police, so to are hate crime just the tip of the iceberg of Muslim complaints throughout Europe.  Europe has a lot of angry, alienated Muslims, resentful of a society that rejects them.  And yes, I know, Muslims bear a considerable share of blame for this situation.  And yes, I know, young Muslim men often express their anger and alienation in ways that makes society (justifiably) reject them all the more.  It is a vicious cycle.  It is a cycle that terrorists want to perpetuate.  "Islamophobia" or "anti-Muslim backlash" don't have to mean widespread riots or pogroms.  All these terms have to mean is anything that makes Muslims more rejected by society and makes the anger and alienation worse.  And that, my friend, is an absolutely legitimate fear.

*Actually, given his pro-immigration stance, a lot of nativists would probably say yes.

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