Sunday, July 24, 2011

Scandinavian Islamophobia

It goes without saying that the terrorist attack in Norway was horrific.  Somehow the fact that all of those children were involved makes it that much more difficult to stomach.

It also serves as a reminder of something that many people in the United States remain oblivious to:  there is a lot of immigration to Europe from the Middle East/North Africa, and there are a lot of Europeans who are hostile to these people.  There is a lot of nationalism and a lot of Islamophobia.

Back when there was all that controversy surrounding the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, many people in the U.S. could not comprehend the reaction of some Muslims.  But thanks to racism, we had a ready-made framework with which to make sense of these events:  namely that Muslims (or Arabs more generally) are irrational and prone to violence.

The reaction was incomprehensible to people in the U.S. because they did not realize the depth of the tensions that existed within Europe.  They did not realize how many Muslims had to live in fear and degradation.  These events in Norway, however, lend some credibility to those fears.  There are people in Europe who hate Muslims so much that they are willing to do something so extreme and erratic as kill dozens of innocent children.

Now, that is not to say, of course, that all Europeans are that Islamophobic (that goes without saying), nor that Europe is the only place in which one can find Islamophobia.  The U.S. gives Europe a run for its money in that regard.

But I do think it is important to remember how wide and how deep Islamophobia extends.  It is absolutely necessary to understanding events taking place in the Middle East and around the world, as well as some of the actions taken by some people of Islamic faith.

When we hear about people proclaiming Holy War against the U.S. or the industrial north, or whatever given entity, we must consider:  who proclaimed war first?

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