Measures of social inequality, crime surveys, polling data, reports on media bias, all consistently show that Muslims face obstacles which limit their ability to fully participate in society as equals. For too many Muslims, Islamophobia is unnamed but experienced. Its effect ranges from everyday slow burning micro-aggressions to eruptions of violence and murder; its scope extends from classrooms and workplaces to neighbourhoods and state frontiers, from print and social media to the public square. Muslims find themselves framed by Islamophobia in the form of questions around national security, social cohesion, freedom of speech, gender inequality, and cultural belonging. All this, we know already.
Published by: Pluto Journals
On 12th December 2019, the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAA) was signed by the president of India, after being passed through both the houses of parliament. It provides an opportunity for obtaining citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Buddhists, or Jains who are ‘illegal immigrants’ from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and who have been residing in India since before 31 December 2014. Muslims are selectively pushed outside the purview of granting citizenship under this Act. Simultaneously, there are serious attempts to implement a National Register of Citizenship (NRC), which will result in a large chunk (almost 2 million people in Assam alone) of the population being devoid of citizenship rights altogether. Of these excluded populations, the non-Muslim communities can obtain citizenship through CAA, while Muslims will be bereft of their rightful place in India.
In late October 2020 French authorities raided the homes of suspected ‘Islamists’ – a term that is hardly distinguished from anyone that practices or speaks out for Islam, and police held children aged ten without clear reasoning other than the notion that these children might be radicalised. Clearly, even children are not exempt from Islamophobia in France.
In the midst of the global pandemic, France still finds time to continue its intense focus on Muslimness in the country. Following his earlier comments around alleged Islamic separatism, on 4th November 2020 French President, Emmanuel Macron, wrote in the Financial Times “Visit the districts where small girls aged three or four are wearing a full veil, separated from boys, and, from a very young age, separated from the rest of society, raised in hatred of France’s values.”
It is difficult to feel sympathetic for dystopian fears in the US that the empire is dying and that this time it is for real. The pandemic has certainly made palpable the cracks in Euro-American coloniality; but since crisis is what capitalism is made of, we should not be too quick to succumb to its liberal threats that its demise will take everyone with it. We have heard this tale before. If Muslims survived the fall of the caliphate and communism, the collapse of racial capitalism may actually be an auspicious moment to think through the bonds between peripheries along the traces of unfinished decolonization projects.
We have been here before: another killing of a Black man by a white police officer in the US. It is all too common. This time, however, something different, something else also happened. The social context is both racially familiar and racially unfamiliar. First, the racially familiar. Only a few weeks before George Floyd was killed, during the last week of February, a young Black man named Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by two White civilians in Glynn County, Georgia, while he was out jogging, and within the same time frame, Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman in Louisville, Kentucky, was also shot and killed by police officers who entered the wrong address with a no-knock warrant. Although the killing of Arbery was recorded on video and the killing of Taylor went under the radar for some time, their stories are so racially familiar that the killing of Floyd seemed to almost simply add another ‘seen it before Black execution’ to an expanding list.
It has been just over two weeks since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police, and the beginning of a wave of protests across the world. Whilst neither the first nor the last incidence of police brutality and murder against Black people, this event has acted as a spark in a global movement to demand changes to White supremacist structures and oppressions. An aspect of these protests, particularly in the UK and USA, has been the destruction and on some occasions dismantling of statues honoring the lives of slave merchants and historical White supremacists.
The loss of lives and the carnage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – not to mention the scrambled response of global leaders to it – inspired me to revisit the above scene from V for Vendetta. Today, death tolls are exponentially rising against the backdrop of austerity cuts to public health infrastructures and, following China’s lead, global leaders have resorted to imposing national lockdowns and curfews to contain the pandemic. With a drastic dip in symptoms being reported in China, their government’s early success at halting the virus through a series of extreme lockdown measures, aided by surveillance technology, is being hailed as a model to be followed. Many countries have now initiated lockdown measures, including the UK, while the Indian government called for a day of national curfew and then a subsequent lockdown.
In 1827, while in command of a British squadron observing the ongoing war between Greek rebels and the Ottoman Caliph-sultan, Admiral Edward Codrington sailed past the entrance to Navarino Bay, caught sight of the Turkish fleet lying at anchor, and blasted it to the bottom of the bay. The absence of a state of war between Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire notwithstanding, Codrington was celebrated and promoted because beating up on Turks seemed to a lot of Brits like an intuitively good thing to do. Afterwards, since the overextended Ottomans did not respond militarily, the incident was officially declared “an untoward event.”
In popular Eurocentric parlance, the Caliphate is viewed as a relic of a bygone era, its re-establishment constituting a central objective – if not, the objective – of Muslim “fundamentalists” and militants. Yet its trans-“religious” deployment is also evident in culture; for example, from a cursory survey of Western science fiction literature, which reveals how Orientalist framings are negotiated and drawn upon on a regular basis in order to maintain the image of the Caliphate as an institution haunting the future of both the known and unknown universe. The science fiction genre is often portrayed as a landscape enabling readers (and viewers in the case of film and television) to escape the limits of the ‘real’ world into distant ‘other’ worlds imagined as informed by utopian ideals and technological advances – worlds liberated from the ‘actualities’ of everyday life.