Why does travelling turn some people into Islamophobic racists?
Was the black woman who hurled abuse at the Muslim woman on a London bus displaying racism, or Islamophobia,or both? And what triggered the despicable behaviour in the first place?
To understand the first question we must look at definitions and ask ourselves whether this woman fits within defined categories. Many on social media point out that a black women can not be racist because “racism” in its classic sense is “discrimination plus power.” But others are quick to point out that the use of the phrase “sand bitch!” is not only highly offensive, it seems undoubtedly an insult based on race.
Now whether or not it fits the classic discrimination plus power paradigm depends on whether you feel the back women was in a position of power or not.
On the other hand, there is view that the tirade of abuse about the victims religion clearly falls into the common understanding of Islamophobia.
Again there is some debate about that term – given that a “phobia” is an irrational fear of something but some argue the fear of Islam is supported by clear evidence not irrationality linking some Muslims to acts of terrorism or holding unBritish values.
That aside – Islamophobia is to make stereotypical judgement based on a person being Muslim and to the use language or behaviour of hatred purely because someone is Muslim and again it has to be said that the black woman clearly falls into that category.
So is it fair to say that the black woman was being racist and Islamophobic or at the very least she was being discriminatory based on race and religion?
I took the view that the black woman was not being racist but was clearly displaying Islamophobia. I explained away the “sand bitch” as being made within the ignorance of the religious association of Islam as a religion of the desert not necessarily against the Arabs per se. Ultimately, the black woman had no real power over the Muslim woman and could not fall within the classically defined term of racism.
Expressing my view on my Facebook page prompted a number of likes but it was clear by the discussion the confusion over how to label the black woman prevailed. Speaking to a close friend of Irish origin who views Islamophobia as part of racism, it was pointed out that the English discrimination against the Irish is also viewed as a form of racism but then that begs the question how can the people from the same race display racism against each other? Surely that’s nationalism not racism!
That was almost the same question that many asked when the black women screamed “go back to where you came from!” Did she not realise that she too was the daughter of a generational immigrant?
I came to the conclusion that the confusion on both these issues had more to do with factors other than race and a number of explanations began to emerge. It dawned on me that mixed up in all of this were issues of identity, belonging and most importantly the ownership of space. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that the Irish question is driven by nationalism and the black woman’s tirade was driven by Islamophobia!
When I considers the words of the Prophet of Islam, upon whom be peace, I realise the statement which implies you only really know a person if you do business with them or travel with them is of great merit. It brought me to answering the second important question posed at the beginning of this article and that is what caused the tirade to begin in the first place. But it also shed light on the complex issues that were defined by the black woman’s behaviour.
Murad Qureshi of the London Assembly who came to the Islam Channel to be interviewed gave me some clues when he said he felt it may have been a dispute over space. That was evident in a another video posted on line in which a disabled man’s zimmer frame was unceremoniously hurled out of a bus following a similar tirade of abuse.
In both instances, the bid to claim ownership of space necessarily brings heightened feelings of belonging and identity. The black woman’s tirade was based on a number of narratives not least on the nationalist narrative on space – that Britain is for the British – that Britain is a Christian country or at the very least a non-religious country and not a Muslim one – that British law and culture supports monogamy and criminalises polygamy and children born to non-immigrants have greater legitimacy that a foetus who when born will invade the British space.
Here the black woman’s immigrant cultural heritage has no bearing on the argument. The Muslim woman is seen as inferior because according to the wrapped view of the protagonist, the Muslim has unfairly occupied a space that she is not entitled to. The evidence of which is she is not prepared to live in the inferior space where she constantly get bombed! There are echoes here of the migrant crisis in her argument which suggests migrants are invading this country and claiming our benefits.
What we were witnessing is the tension caused by travelling representing a snap shot of what is happening in our society. But in the broader picture emotions are not released so abusively. But despite being less apparent they surface when people against their will or despite their wishes resent having to share a space.
It is significant that the second video the abusers was heard to say “and next time vote UKIP” as the Nigel Farage’s message justifies xenophobic or Islamophobic behaviour.
Whatever the merits of that perception anti-immigrant sentiment appears to be something of an all time high in this country. Sadly the black woman was operating in an atmosphere where it’s becoming increasingly acceptable to point out difference and claim discriminatory views to be reasonable and fair.