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Understanding Islamophobia

September 15, 2010 No Comment

The New Left Project (NLP) publishes the transcript of a lengthy interview with IPRD Executive Director, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, by NLP’s Samia Aziz – on the nature, causes and future of Islamophobia in the UK and the world.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Dr. Ahmed explored key issues such as the disproportionate marginalization of Muslim communities from mainstream social, cultural, economic, and political structures; institutional discrimination; questions surrounding immigration; anti-terror laws and securitization; and the wider systemic context of Islamophobia, including the global economic recession, the unequalizing structure of neoliberal capitalism, as well as the convergence of ecological and energy crises.

Dr. Ahmed’s interview sets out one of the key arguments of his new book, that the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ is not an objective condition of international relations, but rather a construct, projected precisely in response to the acceleration of the convergence of global ecological, economic and energy crises. Dr. Ahmed warns that as these crises intensify, we may see an increasing legitimization of far-right politics, ‘Otherization’ and political violence which already contains logics that appear tendentially genocidal.

NLP: The term ‘Islamophobia’ has only become part of common political vocabulary in the last two decades. First of all, can you tell us what this word means?

Dr. Nafeez: Islamaphobia refers to a state of mind or a set of beliefs which characterise Muslims in a regressive and derogatory way, resulting in them being discriminated against. That’s putting it very simply. First of all, it’s the targeting of Muslims as a specific group. Furthermore, it’s a set of ideas about them, which are usually mistaken, inaccurate and can be harmful. These then lead to forms of behaviour which are discriminatory in the social, political, economic and cultural realms, manifesting itself in a number of ways.

NLP: In what ways does Islamophobia manifest itself?

Dr. Nafeez: Islamophobia can manifest itself in lots of ways. Firstly, there are latent, institutional ways, which are sometimes difficult to detect. These can be seen in economic statistics about the conditions of Muslims. Approximately 69% of South Asian Muslims live in poverty in Britain, which is undoubtedly an extraordinary figure. It is the result of inequitable social structures, which don’t just affect Muslims, but affect a number of communities, such as the white working class, and asylum seekers. This significant figure is not something that can be put down to conspiracy. In Western societies particular ethnic communities tend to face the brunt of these inequitable structures, and are thus marginalized. It is commonly referred to as institutional discrimination. Even though as a society we have renounced racism, we still find large sections of the ethnic minority populations being socially excluded as they lack access to the same goods and services that other members of society do.

Read the full interview transcript at the New Left Project »

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