Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Racism

“The phrase “anti-Muslim hatred” would be clearer, legally speaking, than “Islamophobia”. But it is resisted by some who seem determined to conflate beliefs, which are a choice, with race, which is biological.”

I am slightly bemused by the above comment taken from the quoted FT article. The first thing that comes to mind is that beliefs are not really a choice for many people. If you are born into a Sikh family, for example, then the probability that you will maintain some form of Sikh belief, culture or tradition is extremely high. That applies to so many people of different backgrounds. Of course, you can choose to separate yourself from your tradition or culture just as you can choose to separate yourself from the appearance of belonging to a race. I have a Pakistani acquaintance, for example, who, when dressed in a suit and speaking English is not distinguishable as a Pakistani. There are British racists, of course, who pretend that they are able to spot a Pakistani just as there are American racists that I have known who say they can distinguish whether an American is black or white by their telephone manner. My initial reaction is always “I don’t believe you but who cares anyway”.

Many people refer to a behaviour called “anti-Semitism” that is extremely confusing. Semitism is a racial or linguistic characteristic which encompasses many non-Jewish people (Goyim if you wish). So, an expression which would be more appropriate might be “Judeophobia”. There have been many attempts, possibly successful, to conflate anti-Semitism with Judeophobia. They cannot be equivalent in all logic but we can see why the problem exists. If one is Judeophobic does one have an irrational hatred of Judaism, the people who believe in the hundreds of different versions of Judaism or simply the people who self-identify as Jewish. What we intuitively know is that most acts of anti-Semitism have nothing to do with the analysis of actual religious belief. We also know that there is little difference in the physical characteristics of the Semitic peoples. The stupidity is that traditionally the hatred in Europe was of the Yiddish culture not really of the Jewish peoples or religion.

Now if we refer back to the article and its discussion of the conflation of beliefs and race, we can see exactly the same problem. I had a Sri-Lankan friend with whom I played cricket many years ago who was beaten up by white youths at Southend who called him a Paki Muslim. The fact that he was not a Pakistani and was a practising Christian did not cross their mind. He looked like a Pakistani and that was good enough for them

The idea that people are opposed to Islam as a religion is preposterous because most of those people would not understand the differences between what the old testament says in the three Abrahamic religions. Certainly, if we take a literal view, all three are proponents of multiple forms of barbarism against non-believers, usury, so-called idolatry, and various other practices that are currently acceptable. I do not pretend to know the details of these religions either. What I do know is that racism knows no boundaries. You can call it whatever you like but, at the end of the day, racists are people who believe they can define a person’s contribution to humanity by their non-adherence, by choice, circumstance or birth, to a preconceived idea of community. An irrational hatred of otherness.

Author: Danny Barrs

Proud to be European, Prison Poet, Humanist, Moderate Vegan, Republican in the UK sense. Music Lover: Schoenberg, Mahler, Boulez, Shostakovich amongst many others Fair weather cyclist, speed walker, amateur mathematician

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