In July 2019, 18-year old Kashmiri-born, award-winning Muslim actor Zaira Wasim wrote a detailed post on Facebook announcing her intention to withdraw from acting. The post began in a way that is familiar to a lot of people midway in their careers across the world – she talks about starting something five years ago (a career in the Hindi film industry), gradually realising that it is not for her and of the pressure on her to become someone else.
British Muslims, Cultural Freedom, Political Dissent, and the Counter-Extremism Industry: Some brief reflections on “Bradford in Our Own Words: Resisting Counter-Extremism Apparatus”
On a sweltering Sunday afternoon (30 June 2019), a hundred or so people, mostly young, were packed in together at the Speakers Corner Collective  on Ivygate in the centre of Bradford. They came to discuss the withdrawal from the Bradford Literature Festival 2019 by a number of writers, artists and speakers. This withdrawal was sparked by the news that a pre-festival project promoting the literacy and education of British Pakistani women had been funded by a Home Office counter-extremism fund, established in 2016, called Building a Stronger Britain Together (BSBT).
On March 15, 2019, a white supremacist walked into two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and shot and killed 50 Muslims. All over the world, vigils to mourn the dead were quickly organized to bring together communities in shock. In New York City, two NYU students, Leen Dweik and Rose Asaf, were present at a local vigil for the Muslim victims, as was Chelsea Clinton.
Of Sea Walls and Rising Rides: Critical Race/Religion Readings of ‘White Crisis’ in Science Fiction Dystopia Part 3 of 3
I now want to turn attention to the phenomenon of ‘White Crisis’. However, I should first clarify how I am using the term whiteness which goes beyond its association with epidermal considerations. In this connection, I draw upon the sociological exploration of whiteness due to Garner (2007, 2010a, 2010b) – specifically, (1) his processual understanding of whiteness as a phenomenon existing in dynamic relational-tension to other racialized identities, (2) the function of whiteness as a tacit invisible background standard, and (3) the socio-political manifestation of whiteness as a persistent, yet contested, globally-systemic structure, viz. white supremacy, a position he derives from Mills (1997).
Of Sea Walls and Rising Rides: Critical Race/Religion Readings of ‘White Crisis’ in Science Fiction Dystopia Part 2 of 3
Notwithstanding the soundness of the line of critique summarised in my previous blog post, I suggest that it falls short insofar as there is a lack of critical interrogation of what I perceive to be the tacit liberal logics of ‘inclusion’ and ‘diversity’ at work in referring to the whiteness of casting roles and the attendant lack of non-white representation in such media productions.
Of Sea Walls and Rising Rides: Critical Race/Religion Readings of ‘White Crisis’ in Science Fiction Dystopia Part 1 of 3
In October of last year, I attended the screening of director Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited sequel to Ridley Scott’s dystopian science fiction classic, Blade Runner (1982). Both films were co-written by Hampton Fancher and inspired by Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968). Just for the record, I find the screenplays written by Fancher and his collaborators far more engaging than Dick’s novel, and this tends to be the case with so many other of his works including, for example, The Man in The High Castle (1962).
On January 29, it will be two years since Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six Muslims and injured many others at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec in Sainte Foy, just outside of Quebec City. The incident remains shocking for its explicit Islamophobic violence. Bissonnette went to the mosque to kill Muslims because they were Muslims. Court documents reveal some of his political views; he supported Trump’s “Muslim ban.” He was against the immigration of racialized minorities, including Muslims, because he was worried that white people, like him and his family, would lose their status and privilege as the majority.
Since arriving in the UK last year, I would not be wrong in saying that after learning that I am from Turkey, Ertuğrul has been mentioned by almost every Muslim I have met. Indeed, there are many reasons for the recent Turkish series Diriliş: Ertuğrul (Resurrection: Ertuğrul) to be a hit among Muslims, even at very first glance: the series tells the story of the Kayı clan during the establishment of the Ottoman Empire, centring around the life of Ertuğrul, who was the father of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire.
A definition is not a magic spell. Defining Islamophobia will not by itself end Islamophobia. What is needed is not a detailed legal definition but one capable of circulating in broader society, and changing the way in which Islamophobia is understood and resisted. This means a definition that is brief, which builds on already existing norms of public etiquette and which triggers a debate that helps to change the national conversation.
I recently attended an international conference in South Africa on re-evaluating civil society in the Middle East following the 2010-2011 Arab uprisings that failed to bring about lasting changes in the region. There were progressive academics, politicians and leaders of non-governmental organisations in attendance. I had prepared a paper based on my research of welfare and social services in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which I knew was quite radical. However, my presentation created controversy for different reasons than I expected.