Why is Islamophobia okay?

September 23rd, 2011

Recently, fashion designer John Galliano and film-maker Lars von Trier faced a lot of opprobrium for their anti-Semitic rants. Galliano’s drunken remarks at a Parisian pub got him sacked from Christian Dior and Lars von Trier was banned from the Cannes Film Festival. In this age of social networking and reduced attention spans, is anti-Semitism really that important a stand? In his book The Freedom To Be Racist?, writer Erik Bleich says: “There are people who hold anti-Semitic views, but they generally don’t hold them intensely. They don’t fear that Jews are going to threaten their livelihood or culture or any of the things that people truly worry about.”

Still, anti-Semitism is somehow deemed equal to anti-humanity. That begs a question that why is Islamophobia allowed to thrive? Dutch politician Geert Wilders is furthering his political ambitions not by any brilliant reforms but through his unbridled hatred for Islam. So much so that he called Koran a “fascist book”, which should be banned in the Netherlands, like Hitler’s Mein Kampf. And Wilders got away with his rant because it didn’t deal with Jews.

Muslims are being oppressed in various ways. In her novel Welcome To Americastan, Jabeen Akhtar mentions how the FBI Terror Watch list contains “names of two-year-old kids. Names of dead people. People complaining about finding their names on the list and not knowing how they got on there”. That constant fear among Muslims is getting more and more visceral. We hear stories about Muslims shaving off their long beards and having cropped hair to assimilate with others and not raise any ‘suspicion’. The Western world is turning into a liberal Taliban if its constant raiding of madrasas and banning of burkhas is any indication. So ruthless is the stereotyping that the first image that strikes of any venerable looking man in long beard and skull cap is that maybe he spends half of his time in the Tora Bora caves. The recent tenth-anniversary of 9/11 was a huge slap on the extremists’ face, thanks to gunning down of Osama. However, the slap could have been tighter if only The Cordoba House project was okayed.

Last year, when a 13-floor Islamic center was proposed to be built three blocks away from Ground Zero, the 9/11 venue, there was an unprecedented hue and cry. In his piece for Financial Times, Basharat Peer wrote, “The Cordoba House project will be a venue for reconciliation between Islam and the west, delivering a powerful rebuttal to the al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked the trade towers; opponents call it an offence to the memory of those who died in 2001.” Finally, the project was scrapped.

Don’t think I’m being insensitive towards the Jews. It pains me to no end when someone compares a crowded Mumbai local train ride to a concentration camp. The sheer facetiousness makes me cringe. But then if you go to the same Parisian pub where Galliano was indicted and add any number of expletives preceding the word Muslim, you’ll still be fine. After all, those one per cent of Muslims who are mindless enough to blow themselves up subsume the other 99 per cent.

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