Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Islamophobia in the Balkans

In sum, Islamophobia, in the Bosnian war, was an expression of hatred directed against an ethnic group, or groups. One of the paradoxes of this is that for all the Islamophobic hatred directed against the Balkan Muslim peoples by Balkan Christian nationalists, and indeed by the anti-Muslim bigots in the West who supported them, the Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians are among the most secularised Muslim peoples in the world. Just as Jewish atheists will always be the Christ-killers or ritual slaugherers of Christian children in the eyes of certain anti-Semites, so Bosnian Muslim and Albanian atheists will always be jihadis in the eyes of Islamophobes.
A long and interesting historical perspective from Marko Atilla Hoare.

I agree with his initial statement that it's incorrect to say, as many do, that religions are a matter of choice and therefore unlike race or sex and that therefore discrimination against religions are not like racism or sexism. The distributions of religions plainly correspond to geographical and demographic distributions. In this, they are more like nationality than race, and they are not a matter of simple choice. I argued this a couple of years ago during a talk I gave to the Oxford Secular Society.

The real difference is that unlike nationality religions have bodies of dogma. Sure, there can be national narratives and these can have important texts, but this isn't analogous to scripture. And scriptures can be liked or disliked, admired or hated, on rational, analytical grounds - unlike race or gender.

But scriptures aren't people, and this hatred or admiration doesn't transfer to individuals or groups without becoming a prejudice just like racism or sexism.


Kit said...

It reminds me of a story I was told during the conflict by a Bosnian work colleague. Pakistan took a plane load of Muslim refuges and put them in a hotel in Islamabad. Much to the horror of the hosts the men headed to the bar to get drunk and the women stripped into their bikinis and headed to the pool.

bob said...

I agree.

There is such a thing as hatred of particular religions or religions in general, and this is completely legitimate, and is completely different from hatred of people.

The problem is, I suppose, that the line between the two can be very blurry. There are many critics of Islam who attempt to hide a visceral hatred of Muslims behind a critique of Islam as a religion, often to poor effect - this is perhaps a hallmark of a certain type of neocon politics, which you can see at Little Green Footballs, Western Resistance, etc.

And similarly, there is a blurry line between (Christian and Islamic) theological and atheist anti-Judaism and pure antisemitism, a line Voltaire crossed in more innocent time, and which Richard Dawkins has also, in my opinion, crossed more recently.

Peter Risdon said...

Yes, Dawkins did cross that line. Unfortunately, he's a political idiot.

That might be unfair to LGF, which has relentlessly exposed the fascist links of people like the Western Resistance bloggers.