2014/07/26

What is Islamophobia?

I just had a bit of jolting experience.

I wanted to make some notes (on actual paper, for once), and I grabbed a notebook. The notebook had all kinds of random scribblings: notes about books; ideas for blog posts; to-do lists started, amended, re-written, and abandoned; German vocabulary for understanding something by Walter Benjamin; notes from a USPTO Software Patent Roundtable. I mean this thing is random. Various projects that never got off the ground over the last five years.

And I think to myself, why don’t I rip out the pages relating to the more thoroughly dead projects? As I start to do so, I stop briefly. I look down at the page. It’s got Arabic letters on it.

And I remember that one time I saw that the tiny, hole-in-the-wall mosque on my block taught weekly Arabic lessons, all levels, beginners welcome, etc. And I decided to check it out. It was a very informal affair, taught by a native speaker to a handful of students with very little knowledge of Arabic. I quickly realized that this class would progress very slowly, if at all, and said, ok, well I checked it out. And thought no more thereon.

When I paused at the page, though, it wasn’t because of this memory. It was because some tiny part in the back of my brain said, woah. Hold up. This is dangerous stuff. Might need to put that in the shredder, not the recycling. What if the feds were searching the garbage and this tidbit just elevated your KST score?

Well, it didn’t say all that. The tiny part of my brain just said “woah”. But behind the woah was a lot of forethought about danger. And although I regard the scenario as far-fetched, unfortunately it’s not as far-fetched as it used to be. (After all, we now know that the US government takes a picture of the outside of every piece of mail and that their procedures for “No Fly” lists and evaluating “Known and Suspected Terrorists” are decisively Kafka-esque.)

This is the power of state-backed Islamophobia today. It reached way into the back of my brain and planted this fear not of Muslims, but a fear of Islam as a dangerous subject, a known or suspected terrorist, a bad reputation.

When will we tire of their games? The war on Communism, the war on drugs, the war on Islam. It’d be pathetic if it didn’t have such dire human consequences.