Maleiha Malik and Some Low Redefinition

Here’s Maleiha Malik saying that “Muslims Are Now Getting the Same Treatment Jews Had a Century Ago” in the Guardian. The problem is, Malik doesn’t seem to acknowledge any real distinction between opposing Islamic fundamentalism and simply indulging in “anti-Muslim racism” and “cultural racism” and possibly other types of racism that also, curiously, have nothing to do with race. Moreover, these particular evils seem to have been defined as a spuriously broad category.

Jews and now Muslims have been and are the targets of cultural racism: differences arising from their religious culture are pathologised and systematically excluded from definitions of “being British”.

Such as? I wish it were made clear. Not that I think the term “being British” actually means anything much, but if these differences stem from opposition to things like gender equality, gay rights, free speech, secularism etc. then I can’t see how their exclusion from being considered “British”, whether or not it’s in at least some sense culturally divisive, is all that lamentable.

Both anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism focus on belief in religious law to construct Jews and Muslims as a threat to the nation.

To construct them as a threat? Seemingly then, a substantial minority being in favour of the invocation of sharia law and all that goes with it is not a genuine threat but instead one that has, in the interest of demonising Muslims, merely been manufactured. It depends on how you define “threat” I suppose, but, again, if we’re talking about egalitarian, liberal and progressive values then a desire for a draconian theocratic legal system does start to look a bit like one.

Pnina Werbner, professor of social anthropology at Keele University, argues that Jews are predominantly racialised as an assimilated threat to national interests emerging at moments of crisis. Muslims are now being represented as a different kind of “folk devil” – a social group that is openly and aggressively trying to impose its religion on national culture. This partially explains the recent concerns about multiculturalism. “Anti-fundamentalist images provide racists with a legitimising discourse against Muslims,” as Werbner puts it, which is used by “intellectual elites as well as ‘real’ violent racists”.

So, since anti-fundamentalist images are being used by racists and intellectual elites we should just keep quiet about creeping fundamentalism? And is she, in invoking such denigrating nomenclature, suggesting that those who oppose Islamic fundamentalism in a more sophisticated way than violent racists do, these “intellectual elites”, are merely snobbish intelligentsia so they, too, can safely be disregarded? Possibly not, but it’s far from clear; and worryingly dubious if so.

By the way, why, after terms like “discourse” and “intellectual elites”, did I suspect this Ms. Werbner of being some sort of daft postmodernist? I dunno. But you can check out her weird and wonderful website for yourself if you like.

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