Yasmin Seweid and Ugly Truths
Joel Leon.
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When I see far more reporting and reflection on a alleged hate crime involving an Muslim-American Women and see nobody writing about a woman in Saudi Arabia who was arrested two days ago and imprisoned for posting a picture of herself on Twitter without a hijab. When we care more about an alleged hate crime that was universally covered and condemned and fits into a narrative we like rather than shed just a little bit our light on the reality that elsewhere if a woman walks the streets wearing what she likes and has wind pass through her hair she does so at the pain of death. I wish more people were covering Saudi Women’s current efforts to end the government enforced oppressive guardianship, which is the system under Saudi law, where women must obtain the permission of a male relative before traveling, marrying, leaving prison, and, in some cases, accepting employment and accessing healthcare.

For Muslim ‘community’ leaders, inflating the threat to their communities helps consolidate their power base. For government ministers, making a song and dance about police harassment allows them to appear both tough on terrorism and sensitive to Muslim needs. But it does the rest of us, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, no favors at all. The more the threat of Islamophobia is exaggerated, the more ordinary Muslims believe that they are under constant attack. It helps create a siege mentality, it stokes up anger and resentment, and it makes Muslims more inward looking and more open to religious extremism.

It also creates a climate of censorship in which any criticism of Islam can be dismissed as Islamophobic. The people who suffer most from such censorship are those struggling to defend basic rights within Muslim communities.

I only ask that in our prioritization we recognize there are campaigners who regularly risk everything within their own Muslim communities to challenge such religiously justified oppression. These activists need our solidarity and support. They are not racists. They are not Islamophobes. No idea should be above scrutiny, just as no people should be beneath dignity. It is not Islamophobic to criticize aspects of religion and culture that provide the context to such murderous attitudes. Nor is it these activists’ responsibility alone to challenge such cultural taboos anywhere we find them. Just as one need not be gay to challenge homophobia, one need not be Pakistani or Muslim, to challenge religiously and culturally entrenched oppression. Muslim reformers need your support, not your sneers.

And in the future please wait for a confirmation on a story. Finally, in some ways the belief that racism lurks everywhere, in every nook of society, in every Trump voters’ heart, in every white person’s historically determined sense of entitlement, in every movie that doesn’t have 50% black actors, in every university curriculum that has more white philosophers than black ones, in the mind of every white kid who twerks or wears dreadlocks, in every policeman’s soul, in every poor neighborhood that isn’t cock-a-hoop about the arrival of more migrants — that’s the true prejudice of our age. The idea that people are innately, unwittingly racist, the overblown concern with racism, the incessant hunt for racism — all of this now plays the role racism once played, in differentiating the racially enlightened from the racially backward.

Using ‘they’ to describe and generalize about an entire group of people seems to put you at a disadvantage when trying to critique an Islamophobe or Racist who does the same, does it not? I mean is constantly saying “You are a white man. Your whiteness defines you. Everything you think is because you’re white, everything you say is because you’re white. Don’t try to be post-white. Don’t try to be colorblind. Don’t say you are ‘over race’. You’re white, own it and deal with it,” not going to be without consequences, say racialize thinking among whites? I understand Whites are privileged in the sense they never have to think as a racial being, but don’t we want that to be the norm not some privilege? Yes, America is not post-racial but isn’t that still the eventual goal, to diminish the centrality and power race commands over people’s lives? If not then what is it you are working towards? At what point would you feel comfortable saying, “we made it, America is no longer a racist nation’? Or is that an impossible scenario? That’s a view I find nihilistic, but if it is your position you still shouldn’t be using such broad generalization when describing what was the actions of 2, now zero, men. Writing or thinking as if you can get inside the head of the white men at the coffee shop legitimizes white people who just know by looking at a Muslim and know what they are thinking and what they believe and wish for.

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