The phrase “Muslims are the new blacks” has become a popular mantra since September 11. Despite the vast differences between the experiences of these two groups, the euphemism points to the fact that increasing anti-Muslim bigotry in the West has made Muslims the new enemy-Other.

Commenting on this trend, Karine Walther, professor of history at Georgetown University, suggests that Islamophobia is rooted in centuries of Western antagonism against the Other, who through cultural and religious differences is perceived to be stuck in a barbaric past that the West has long since overcome.

In America, this tradition began with the earliest days of European colonialism, when native tribes were depicted as primitive beings deserving of extermination. It continued with European colonialists subjugating countless black slaves for economic and social gains. Today, Western approaches toward Muslims are inspired by similar beliefs, namely, that Islam’s values are inferior to Western civilization’s achievements.

What many Muslims face today is, in other words, a historical trend, both specific to Muslims, but also similar to what Native Americans, members of the black community, and other disenfranchised groups have faced in the past and continue to experience in the present. Professor Deepa Kumar of Rutgers University notes that Western perceptions about Muslims emerged out of “a systematic body of ideas which make certain constructions of [the Other]—that they are prone to violence, that they are misogynistic, that they are driven by rage and lack rationality—appear natural.” In Kumar’s words, this is why Islamophobia is “tied to a set of practices that sustain and reproduce empire.”

Against this backdrop, degrading Muslims, like degrading other groups, represents an attempt to enhance the West’s sense of superiority. Media coverage of Muslims regularly reflects this, in particular, by depicting the hijab as an oppressive Islamic obligation for women. By presenting the hijab in this light, media outlets imply that the Western woman is, by contrast, liberated. Since many of those engaged in this discourse are often the same ones who use crass, sexist language to speak about women, these critiques are pure demagoguery.

Where Native Americans were once considered savages for wearing revealing clothing (or being nude), Muslims now face comparable scrutiny for choosing to dress conservatively. In this way, today’s Islamophobia is both a continuation and a new chapter in the larger story of how the West approaches “Otherness” and that which it chooses not to understand.

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  • Jay Shawn

    Muslims were learning to have hatred in their hearts for Jews, Christians, and polytheists 1400 years ago from the Quran they strive to memorize and then repeatedly recite

  • Jay Shawn

    Wow and even you guys are censoring counterpoints

  • Mustafaa Carroll

    This is a flat out lie Jay Shawn. There is nothing in the Qur’an to have hatred for Jews, Christians, nor anyone because they believe or disbelieve. The Qur’an does address, for that specific time only, the issues of those people who actually attacked the Muslims or were traitors to the state, The Quran says and Muslims believe that “Jews, Christians, and the Sabians are peoples of the Book…” and are to be respected as such.

  • Canadian Apistevist

    “Muslims are the new blacks”

    So no such thing as a black Muslim?

  • QuiCreva

    Awfully simplistic and one-sided analysis. No mention of the endless acts of Muslim terrorism against non-Muslims going on all over the globe, although this is surely a major source of the “Islamophobia” criticized here. No wait – a “phobia” is an irrational fear of something. If Muslims around the world are attacking, raping, enslaving, murdering, committing genocide, etc. in the name of Allah (with the blessings of the Qur’an and ahadith, along with the example set by Muhammad) then the fear of Islam is not in the least irrational. And since MUSLIMS are the only carriers of Islam…well, you get the picture. In fact, we’ve all seen the pictures. How about those Muslims in western countries, living off of western social welfare programs no less, carrying signs saying “Behead those who insult Islam”, “Islam will conquer Europe”, “Freedom go to Hell”, “Westerners will Pay for Insulting the Prophet (PBUH)” and similar “peaceful” slogans? Or how about the all news videos of screaming Muslims, rioting, looting and murdering because someone burned a Qur’an, made a movie, or drew a cartoon of Muhammad? Are you telling us this sort of thing is all a misunderstanding? That it is irrational to fear people who make such claims and behave in such bestial ways?

    Sure, many Muslims are peaceful and disapprove of terrorism. Unfortunately, even these irenic folk don’t dare to criticize or reject the violent teachings of their faith. To do so would make them apostates, and Islam teaches that apostates must be killed. Many moderate Muslims and would-be reformers of Islam have been attacked and even murdered for the crime of speaking out. Besides, how do we tell the peaceful Muslims from the violent jihadis? Both affirm the perfection of the Qur’an and the sterling example of behavior set by Muhammad. There is something rotten about Islam; no wonder so many people fear it. This is not a phobia. It is a sober assessment of the danger Islam poses to non-Muslims.

  • QuiCreva

    These are at best half-truths, Mustafaa. The Qur’an contains plenty of hate speech against Jews and Christians. They are “the worst of creatures” for example, remember? Plus most of the (rare) nice things that the Qur’an says about non-Muslims are early verses that were abrogated by later “revelations”. And how can you say that anything in the Qur’an is “time-specific”? Few members of the ulema would agree with you on that! The Qur’an is supposed to be eternal and uncreated, which means that its teachings are true and applicable EVERYWHERE and FOR ALL TIME. To claim otherwise puts you outside the umma.

    As for the idea that the Jews and Christians whom Muhammad attacked, murdered or enslaved were “enemies of the state” – POPPYCOCK! If you study the sira and ahadith you discover that most of Muhammad’s raids were unprovoked acts of aggression against people who had done him no harm. He was a bandit and a warlord who needed wealth to maintain his power, but was unwilling to work an honest job to obtain it. Why else would he demand 20% of all booty his henchmen captured? Why else would a “prophet” promise his followers temporal riches in this life and 72 virgins in the next?