Mischaracterisations, Oversimplification and Empty Rhetoric: Muslims in the West

Today I fell into the unfortunate circumstance of watching three diatribes of absolute stupidity being put forth in a pointless CNN debate on Islamophobia and the West’s reaction to Islam. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ztGWnTU5oM

Now the discussion starts off well. Kundnani makes some interesting points about how Trump’s comments on Islam are a side effect of a larger issue with the marginalisation of American Muslims in everyday society. We can widen this out from the micro areas of ingrained social attitudes to the macro area of government spying and intrusion. Kundnani’s work on the Prevent Strategy in the UK goes some to way to showing the problem. Muslims are treated as a suspect population by the Prevent programme, with MI5 and police counter-terrorism officials being placed in among community engagement officials when engaging in community engagement strategies. So from the beginning there is a sense of being treated like terrorist suspects despite having done nothing wrong. It limits genuine engagement, marginalising certain groups and Mosques, as well as marginalising particular individuals who can become targeted simply for being Muslim and having a controversial opinion. Similar trends are being seen in the United States with domestic spying on Mosques and Muslim groups. I think this a pretty general, acceptable position unless you believe in spying on someone simply because of their religion, in which case your simply bigoted.

However from there, the debate quickly turns into a farce. Schlichter and Hughes quickly start shouting nonsense about how huge proportions of Muslims support ISIS or similar terrorist groups and making quite stupid arguments. However, then Kundnani falls into the same trap by saying because Muslim terrorists are using mass shootings as a terror tactic they are integrating themselves into American gun culture. Again this is a stupid argument[1].

Despite this, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem of Muslim integration into Western societies. First off, the mass immigration that has been seen from Middle Eastern and North African countries to Western Europe and to a lesser extent America does pose problems of integration and movement. The development of Sharia courts in certain areas of England as well as some radical (but unfortunately influential) Muslim groups declaring areas of London and Birmingham Sharia zones are serious issues in the effected areas. Now there is no doubt that these are small, marginal developments that don’t speak for the Muslim population as a whole. Further, this problem of integration has been the fault of the state in the first place.

First off, a policy of multiculturalism has meant that the overtures of radical Islam in Muslim communities in England and elsewhere become difficult to question, as every culture and subculture is viewed as equally beneficent or malignant. Thus things like common law, democracy and equal rights lose out as these radicals gain more recognition due to Muslim community marginalisation.

This marginalisation comes about mostly as a result of two issues. The first is the Prevent strategy and similar projects as mentioned at the beginning of this article. The second is the massive democratic deficit found in not just Muslim communities but communities and localities in general.

Due to centralised governance, the decisions on how to organise economically and politically are made by bureaucrats and their corporate partners. Thus local markets with decentralised ownership, local banks who finance with a local, social remit and the provision of services by those who use them is effectively outlawed by entry barriers and monopolies created by these centralised structures. Thus poor and minority populations are marginalised as they have no political control over their own life. Instead, they are given the false choices of where they can work as a wage labourer, what services they can pay for and what house they can buy or rent (most of them with inflated prices). This has particular effects on incoming immigrant populations, who are forced into socio-economic relations that are alien. Thus they tend to try and resist. This can lead, as it has, to radicalisation. The same should be said of immigration, which should be decentralised to counties and large cities in Western nations. By doing this, each community and/or tribe can engage in democratic debate over how these movements of people are paid for, how they access services and where they can live and be housed. These arguments will always be sites of resistance between different groups. But if these groups have equal democratic footing, actual solution will occur which have broad ranging support.

When debating and understanding the interaction of Western communities and their Muslim counterparts, we need to move away from mischaracterisations of Muslims are untrustworthy and evil. We should stop oversimplifying the community relations that can create radicalisation. And we need to end the empty rhetoric which all three commentators engaged in in that CNN debate video.

[1] This idea of gun culture and a gun problem are mainly an issue of viewing gun death statistics as an aggregate figure rather than viewing them comparatively in relation to regions and cities in America. The solution proposed by those like Kundnani is usually gun control, which entails the state and criminals owning most forms of deadly weaponry. If you also believe that the state is damaging the position of Muslims in society like I do, believing in gun control really doesn’t make sense.

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