Why is the West So Islamophobic?
Farjana Mahbuba is completing her PhD in Islamic gender studies at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. You can email@example.com.
I first met this particular professor at a postgraduate gathering. I was a fresh PhD student and a new arrival in Australia to boot—my ears were not yet used to the Aussie accent. I tried to hide myself in the corner during the morning tea break, but this professor found me. “Hi there! I just heard that you are from Bangladesh?” “Yes,” I replied weakly.
I’d never seen someone so happy to meet a Bangladeshi. She guided me to another corner where two professors were having a serious-looking conversation. “Look who I have here,” she said. “She’s from Bangladesh! Remember, I was talking about Taslima Nasreen? She’s from the same country!” They began bombarding me with questions. “Why are people so angry with Nasreen?” “Why do they want to kill here?” “Why is the state not supporting her?” “What’s wrong with criticizing a religion? It’s her human right!” “What about the feminists in your country? Why can’t they do something for her?”
I could say little to them. To be honest, I have never liked Taslima Nasreen. She seemed to me a genius who wasted her talent in running for cheap popularity. She could have made constructive criticism of the blindness of the religious; instead she used the suffering of Bangladeshi Muslim women to propel herself to the top of the global feminist movement. I’m not a fan of the fatwas issued against her, either, but I was surprised to see how academics (in this case in Australia) were so concerned about one woman who is actually leading a luxurious life abroad, manipulating world sympathy in her favor and in reality doing nothing significant for the “victims” for whom she extolled.
I ran into this professor again at another recent postgrad meeting. My English had improved and I was presenting a short talk on Bangladeshi Muslim women's sufferings under the new secularist government. Naturally I had to talk about the ruling party’s history of political violence—thirteen members of opposing parties were killed in 2006. The government is now arresting and torturing its political opponents and censoring the press. They are also banning the hijab in government buildings, this in a country where 91 percent of the population is Muslim! The professors knew nothing of this.
On my way back home I couldn’t help but wonder: why do this people get so invested in the persecution of Taslima Nasreen but know nothing about the current government’s deprivations? When a single illiterate village imam declares a fatwa to punish a village girl, the world sits up and takes notice, but it ignores the 2006 political violence? Why do so many people care about rural resistance to NGO activity because they advocate female empowerment, but no one knows or cares that three girls from Pirojpur were arrested last July for their supposed connection to extremists and held for three weeks before the case was dismissed?
It’s hard for me to escape the conclusion that the world just doesn’t care about the suffering of Muslims. No one seems to care about secular fanaticism. In April 2010, the social science department of Rajshahi University (a public university in Bangladesh) banned any form of veil for female teachers and students. Women who wear the veil are now being harassed. In a 2008 Harvard International Review article, the son of Bangladesh’s current prime minister portrayed the country as a breeding ground for Islamic extremism and advised that the Bangladeshi government ban the burka in all government facilities. Not a single feminist voice has been heard either inside or outside Bangladesh in favor of freedom of choice, freedom of expression, or freedom of religion. Why is it when one criticizes Islam, it is called freedom of expression, but when a Muslim defends his or her religion it is called extremism?
When I compare the reaction to the case of Taslima Nasreen to the present crackdown in Bangladesh, it becomes crystal-clear to me that the world, or at least the Western world, has a naked anti-Muslim face. Secular Westerners read every single story about Taslima Nasreen and shed tears for Muslim women who are suffering in the name of religion, but they don’t even bother to look back when anti-religious secularists undemocratically torment the same Muslim women. They listen to Ayan Hirsi Ali, Taslima Nasreen, or Irshad Manji decry the Muslim world’s “unjustified” behavior, but they refuse to hear the cries of Muslim women when their hijabs are forcefully removed. A double standard is clearly at play here, but why should it be so naked?
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art eckstein - 10/10/2010
Whatever the circumstances, the Goldstone Report only is the Palestinian narrative. Even Omar himself admits this (though by way of justifying it). Therefore, by definition you only have one side of the story. It cannot be considered objective.
But let's go a little further.
The only reason Omar thinks that Goldstone is a "self-respecting professional Jew" is because he agreed to go along with the charade.
Well, here's an example of Richard Goldstone in operation. It's only one example of many, but it is simple, and will be easy for people such as Omar to follow.
The Goldstone Report accepted the claim of Amr Hamad, head of the Palestinian Federation of Industries, made directly in English before the Commission with Goldstone personally in the chair, that 324 Gaza factories had been destroyed in Cast Lead, at a cost of 40,000 Palestinian jobs (Paragraph 1009 of Goldstone).
The loss of 40,000 jobs would be devastating to an economy like Gaza.
But if you go to the actual report of the Palestinian Federation of Industries, of which Hamad is he head, it puts the job losses at these 324 factories not at 40,000, but at 4,000. Repeat: not 40,000. 4,000. (That's because most of the "factories" were actually small workshops: p. 12 of PFI Report.)
That's an order-of-magnitude misrepresentation by Hamad of his own organization's findings.
Goldstone should have checked Hamad's testimony. He didn't. Instead, he accepted Hamad's lies at face value, and it is now in the Goldstone Report. Hamad has continued to lie about this elsewhere:
(where the number of jobs lost is now 35,000)
The 40,000-lost-jobs figure has made its way to numerous websites.
So much for the "professional" job of the Goldstone Report.
omar ibrahim baker - 10/9/2010
Elliott & Eckstein
1-Re E's "Goldstone talked only to Palestinians" is that NOT because Israel refused to cooperate in the investigation?
He could not force Israel to cooperate! Could he now ???
2-Also re E's "And why should it matter (to you or anyone else) whether he is a Jew or not? "
Should you read Elliott's and comment thereon you will get the answer to your question
3-Re Elliott's: One woud conclude for an international commission to be acceptable to Israel, and to Elliott, it should be composed by Israel and approved, under Israeli pressure or black mail , by the USA and should NOT have any Moslem states init !
Unless all its constituent states, Moslem and non Moslem, have an Israel/USA issued certificate of non opposition to Israel and/or the USA.
Having a self respecting professional Jew for chairman is not reason enough to forgo the ever present and ever ready potential accusation of anti Semetism and anti Jew!
Unless ,of course, that chairman is an Israeli Zionist Jew ,all qulalities enjoyed by Goldstone except being Israeli,nominated or appointed and approved by Israel or by the USA acting for Israel!
Elliott Aron Green - 10/8/2010
A very basic problem with the "fact finding report" of the mission sent out by the UN"human rights council" is that the UNHRC is dominated not only by states that repeatedly show contempt for human rights and civil rights [Libya, for example], but that it is dominated by states belonging to the Organization of the Islamic Conference [OIC]. The OIC initiated what became the "goldstone report" through the instrumentality of the UNHRC which it dominates, as Ihsanoglu, head of the OIC, boasted to al-Jazeera. Hence, the "goldstone report", ya `Umar, has no moral or legal claim to respect.
art eckstein - 10/8/2010
Goldstone ONLY talked to Palestinians, Omar--not to Israelis. The Report is totally flawed. It is not an objective account--merely the Hamas narrative of events. And we know how trustworthy Hamas is.
And why should it matter (to you or anyone else) whether he is a Jew or not?
omar ibrahim baker - 10/8/2010
Elliott & Art
Goldstone , a Jew, entrusted with the investigation of Civilian casualities of Molten Lead DOES NOT support you!
art eckstein - 10/7/2010
Yes, Elliot: gullible people in the West are gulled by the lying propaganda of Omar and his ilk. It is our duty to block this, at least on HNN which is intended as a History blog.
It's easily enough done. I often wonder whether Omar isn't a Mossad agent, a sock-puppet put onto HNN to make Islamists look like ignorant morons.
Elliott Aron Green - 10/7/2010
Arab civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead were caught in the cross-fire, mostly because Hamas not only intentionally attacks Israeli civilians (thereby putting into reality the genocidal ideology of its covenant), but intentionally situates itself among Palestinian civilians. Civilian Palestinian deaths--a minority in the fighting--are caused by this strategy and are the responsibility of Hamas, no one else.
Art, this is an excellent, concise statement of the problem with Hamas and of Israel's dilemma facing Hamas. Nevertheless, gullible people in the West, perhaps already bearing prejudices against Jews which make it easier to believe any accusation made against them, echo claims made by Omar and his fellows.
art eckstein - 10/7/2010
I thought this thread was over. Now I see that Ignorant Omar had to put in his two cents.
In Cast Lead, 1400 people were killed, but 1000 of them were Hamas soldiers, not "civilians". The others were caught in the cross-fire, mostly because Hamas not only intentionally attacks Israeli civilians (thereby putting into reality the genocidal ideology of its covenant), but intentionally situates itself among Palestinian civilians. Civilian Palestinian deaths--a minority in the fighting--are caused by this strategy and are the responsibility of Hamas, no one else.
In any case, the Hamas War may have been an Islamic jihad from the Hamas side but from the Israeli side it was not a war for religion. It was a war for Israeli secular self-interest and in respond to 8,000 rockets fired into Israel by Hamas.
The same issues appear for hunting down terrorist leaders, which also upsets Omar. Omar objects to their being hunted down as they prepare to murder Israeli civilians. Meanwhile, they hide intentionally among the Palestinian civilians, using them as shields. Omar objects that this vile strategy no longer protects them. The civilian deaths are a terrible price to pay for killing those intent on genocide, but they are also the result of the Hamas strategy.
Omar, I'd like the source on the alleged slaughter in broad daylight of hundreds of suspects on the West Bank. You mean people who were shooting at the Israeli army and the army shot back??
Omar, I'm not religious. So you can't accuse me of hypocrisy. But if you think religiously-based violence is so bad, then you are the hypocrite, because where is your outrage at the 34,000 civilian deaths murdered by Jihadists in Iraq in 2006, every single one of them done in the name of Allah and done of his glory? (UN figures)
Israeli Arabs have more civil rights than any Arab in the Arab world. They have representatives in Parliament, they have judges (who judge Israelis), the Minister of Culture is an Arab.
Meanwhile, in Europe and the U.S., those who criticize or satirize Islam come under death-threats (e.g., Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the creators of South Park), or physical attack (e.g., Rayhana the Algerian feminist, almost burned alive in Paris, Westergaaard the cartoonist, almost axed to death in front of his grand-children), or actual death and beheading (Theo van Gogh). This is in ADDITION to the mass terrorist attacks aimed at civilians.
To which one adds 9/11, 7/7, the lotion-over-the-ocean plot, the Doctors' Plot, etc., etc., etc., and the utter failure of Muslim protests against this terrorism. EVERY act here is done in the name of RELIGION. And Omar, you--and the author of the idiotic article--wonder why Muslims are getting an increasingly bad reputation??
If you respond that the West has done bad things--well, that's not relevant to the issue of Muslims doing bad things, even if what you say were true (and the examples you give are false). But what IS true is that the West has a bad reputation among the Muslims, and no one calls it Westophobia. Maybe they should.
You yourself, Omar, suffer from Truthophobia.
omar ibrahim baker - 10/6/2010
Elliott Aron Green - 10/6/2010
Omar, you are too sick to understand that you contradict yourself.
omar ibrahim baker - 10/5/2010
" They were ALWAYS (my stress) both a religious group and a nationality .."
That is they were and are , or liable to always be: French and German; American and Korean, or Vietnamese or Afghan or Iranian ; Russian and Polish or Finnish; Chinese and Indian etc etc at one and the same time in war and peace which raises interesting questions about their real,genuine ,heartfelt "nationality" and, of course, the repository of their ultimate "national" loyalty and "national" allegiance and devotion!
Elliott Aron Green - 10/5/2010
Omar, it would be tedious to correct all of your errors and I'm sure that Art can defend himself very well against your false claims. I will just take up one point.
The Jews were never simply a religious group. They were always both a religious group and a nationality or nation, if you like. For instance, the Quran regards the Jews as a people or nation. The Jews are also called Sons of Israel and People of Moses in the Quran. They are clearly regarded as a people. Ibn Khaldun too regards the Jews as a people. So you are going against the Muslim holy book and the Arab historical tradition when you deny that Jews are a people.
omar ibrahim baker - 10/5/2010
Seldom is one faced with a claim emitting as much hypocrisy as is embodied in Prof Eckstein’s following statement above:
"But Islamists have killed thousands of innocent people, and seek to impose their totalitarianism everywhere. Therefore, fear of Islamic aggressiveness, triumphalism, and violence--given 9/11, 7/7, the Bali Bombings, the Shoe Plot, the Lotion-over-the Ocean plot, the Doctors' Plot, Nidal Hassan, the death threats to dozens of artists and writers, e.g., Salman Rushdie (and the actual murders there), or Naguib Mahfouz the Nobel Prize winner, the murder and beheading of Theo Van Gogh,etc., etc., etc.-- "
Reading it the unknowing would safely presume that it emanates from an ardent human rights upholding pacifist who rigorously believes that:
1- “killing of innocent people” is, as it surely is, an abhorrent practice though this very same author had in the recent past- defended and eulogized the acts of the criminal state of Israel which include, inter alia:
a-the perpetrators of Molten Lead which killed 1400 civilians in Gaza recently,
b- the bombing and demolishing of residential buildings housing and thus killing tens, possibly hundreds, of its civilian residents of that same building for allegedly housing a certain man “suspected” of a certain , allegedly “terrorist”, activity ( Nablus and Gaza)
c-the bare faced outright execution/ assassination in broad daylight of hundreds “suspects” without any due process of law (throughout the WEST BANK in occupied Palestine by Israeli secret Arab dressed operatives (Al Mustaribbin))
2-And is a man who abhors and rejects religion based political dogmas (“ By Islamist…etc ”) though he :
a-happens to be an outspoken defender of the only state that whose SOLE self admitted “raison d’être” is religion: Israel with Judaism.
b- an attitude that blinds him, but more probably makes him accept ,welcome, eulogize and glorify the corollary inevitable facts resulting there from including, inter alia: racist discrimination of non Jews; denial of the inalienable rights of non Jews; the dislocation , dispossession , disfranchising and subjugation of non Jews in their own homeland etc etc
With all of the above as too well known, at least to the readers of HNN, to be documented what value does such words above retain and what is one supposed to think about it??
And about the racist blindness that glorifies one's crimes while condemning others'; eccept that it is innate. inborn and culturally induced!
Elliott Aron Green - 10/5/2010
jjb, you mention Israel as supposedly committing sins against the Muslim world. But you forget about more than 1000 years of Muslm [in this case, Muslim/Arab] oppression, exploitation, & persecution of Jews, of oppressing the Jews in their own homeland, Israel, albeit Euro Christian crusaders are reported to have massacred much or most of the sizable Jewish population in Israel at the time of the Crusader conquest [1099 and after].
You mention Kashmir but somehow you don't know of the massacres of Hindus and other native Indian peoples/religious groups/ by Muslim invaders, and of the suppression of those Indian natives by the Muslims. Did you ever consider why Buddhists almost totally disappeared from India [and Afghanistan] where they had been numerous? As to Kashmir, did you know that since the Kashmir Muslim independence struggle began in the 1980s, at least 400,000 Hindus and other non-Muslims have been driven out of Kashmir, and others have been massacred??
Now Islam considers Jews, Hindus and other non-Muslims to be inferior in rights and human value to Muslims. These beliefs go back to early Islam.
Maybe Ms Mahbuba can tell us about the treatment of Hindus in her own Bangladesh. How should the oppressed and persecuted Bangladeshi Hindus feel about Islam?
In any case, jjb, one of the uglier post-WW2 phenomena is that some Westerners seek to dispel any sense of guilt for Western crimes [such as the Holocaust] against Jews by blaming Israel for oppressing supposedly innocent Arabs. The argument is widespread and even conventional. It is part of official or semi-official ideology in the UK, in the EU as an entity, and on the part of many journalists and academics throughout Western lands. But it is false as explained above because Muslims/Arabs have oppressed and abused Jews in various ways since early Islam. Furthermore, the Arab nationalist leadership was mainly pro-Nazi. And the chief Palestinian Arab leader, Haj Amin el-Husseini [al-Husayni] took part in the mass murder of Jews by the Germans. Among other things, he urged that Jewish children be sent to Poland [a Helen Thomas ahead of his time!!] where, he wrote, they would be "under active supervision." He knew what lie in wait for Jewish children in Poland at the hands of Nazis.
Peter Kovachev - 10/3/2010
Right you are, Farjana. We're are such nasty Islamophobes...it's a fair cop. We get upset over honour killings, mutilations, stonings, amputations, acid splashed on faces, temporary marriages, fatwa-inspired gang rapes, religiously sanctioned beatings, legalised pedophilia, lack of basic women's rights and such and sundry in Islamic regimes. This is not culturally sensitive of us, inclusive or equity-minded.
And, of course, our self-proclaimed official feminists, who've been inexplicably mute over such charming cultural expressions listed above, will no doubt appreciate your help in providing much sought-after politically correct nuances, balances or situational ethics...as soon as they hand you your obligatory PhD, perhaps on the basis of this thesis here. With your help, your helpful dhimmi siters can now get exercised and huffed-up over such gross human violations such as banning of the practice of wrapping women like mummies for the moral and spiritual safety of Muslim men.
And the terrible Islamophobic West, as you would have it, which continues to be the choice destination of even the most primitive of Islamists is, of course, obligated to assist folks of your shining calibre to pursue a doctorate in "Islamic gender studies," of all things, and to parrot Islamofascist propaganda on campuses and on this forum to boot.
art eckstein - 9/30/2010
I have no idea what point you're trying to make, James.
"Islamophobia" is a political descendant of "homophobia." There's some justification for "homophobia"; though it sometimes medicalizes differences on policy, which is not acceptable, it can refer to straights so obsessed with gays that they go out and injure or kill them (it's happened).
But gays didn't fly planes filled with screaming civilians into towers filled with peaceful office-workers. Those who claimed to be acting on the precepts of Islam did; and a Pew Poll in 2003 showed that two years after 9/11, the chief perpetrator of the crime, Osama Bin Laden, was viewed as a hero by 40 to above 70% of Muslims in different countries around the world.
Thus there is a reasonable fear here; the medicalization of that fear is political jujitsu originating in the poisonous alliance of the far left and the jihadists. By contrast fear of gays unreasonable.
It's not hard to understand the difference.
james joseph butler - 9/30/2010
"gay people have never hurt anyone." Art, replace gay with straight and even you might begin to see categories as categories, you know; gay guys are good looking, monied, and nice. DUH.
james joseph butler - 9/30/2010
We all belong to tribes. Taslima Nasreen justifiably gained praise for highlighting her tribe's sins. Your professors praised her for her courage but failed to mention their own tribe's sins against the Muslim world.
Before the West criticizes Islam it needs to recognize its sins against the Muslim world, whether it's Kashmir, Iran, Somalia, Israel.... Until the West can see that it's as much as fault as Osama the war will escalate. Which will please all who believe their tribe is right.
art eckstein - 9/29/2010
Yes, I agree with Beatty--that's the issue.
"Islamophobia" is political jujitsu to delegitimate any criticism of Islam as a mental illness. It descends from "homophobia" which is a real mental conditions because gay people have never hurt anyone. But Islamists have killed thousands of innocent people, and seek to impose their totalitarianism everywhere.
Therefore, fear of Islamic aggressiveness, triumphalism, and violence--given 9/11, 7/7, the Bali Bombings, the Shoe Plot, the Lotion-over-the Ocean plot, the Doctors' Plot, Nidal Hassan, the death threats to dozens of artists and writers, e.g., Salman Rushdie (and the actual murders there), or Naguib Mahfouz the Nobel Prize winner, the murder and beheading of Theo Van Gogh,etc., etc., etc.--fear of islamists is reasonable, rather than being illogical and baseless. It is therefore not a mental illness. That is the difference between homophobia and "Islamophobia".
For the author of this article--Farjana Mahbuba to use the phrase is in itself a form of intellectual bad faith. Moreover, she somehow neglects to mention that Nasreen has been driven out of Bangladesh not by vague fatwas but by constant death-threats, and a hundred-thousand demonstrators in Dacca, organized by Islamists, demanding her execution for "insulting Islam."
Someone who comes into a university environment and shrugs her shoulders at the worldwide Islamic persecution of intellectuals, including the Islamic persecution of intellectuals in her own country, can expect to get some questions.
John D. Beatty - 9/27/2010
Knife cuts both ways....
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