Friday, February 02, 2007
Islamophobia and Anti-semitism Comparison Overstated
The article today in the Guardian by London University Law Lecturer, Maleiha Malik, suggests current Islamophobia equals the anti-semitism of a century ago. She points to the spate of anarchist outrages at the end of the 19th century and how the ensuing 'discourse' was 'racialised' into anti-semitism. It is certainly true that anti-semitism was a powerful and malign element in British ruling class thinking in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; Churchill is quoted as believing the Jews part of a 'worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation. Indeed, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - a crude Russian secret police forgery which appeared in the early 1900s and was widely quoted, attempted to prove just that. But I think the comparison does not stand up to closer scrutiny.
1. The connection made by Malik between anarchism and anti-semitism is not supported by other historical sources. Anarchists' use of bombs to assassinate and blow up things like the Greenwich Observatory in 1894 was generally not closely linked to the activities of Jews. Maybe in the wake of the Seige of Sydney St in 1911 the two Jewish anarchists involved set off predictable anti-semitic reactions, but these seem to have been limited.
2. The allegations about Jews were actually wrong, though their evil myths subsequently inflicted huge damage and suffering. By contrast, whilst we might be sceptical of some security services alleged discoveries, we know the 7-7 bombers, and their less successful 21-7 copy-cats were Muslim and that a disturbingly large proportion of young Muslims sympathize with their actions.
3. The Jews did not have any worldwide plan to take over the world but the radical reaches of Islam certainly contains activists who wish to make Britain an Islamic republic.
I'm sure Islam is being unfairly represented and made the object of appalling racist abuse and I'm sure this is harmful I am sure also that the language used in the current discourse is inappropriate, as Malik argues, and as Ken MacDonald, the DPP, argued only recently. But by the same token, in reacting, we should not allow false analogies to mislead us nor concern to pre-empt racial tension to blind us to unpleasant realities.
The Jews and Israel on the other hand are our friends, and deserve our support as they continue to defend themselves against an array of enemies.
After rarely agreeing on casinos I reckoned it would not take long before we completely disagreed again. Still I hjope the rare cricket victory over the Aussies cheered you up.
One point, Skipper: Islam, being a religion, can't exactly be the victim of racist abuse. Perhaps discrimination and bigotry, but not racism.
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