Thu 2 Apr 2009
[Webshaykh’s Note: This is the start of a new blog thread dedicated to energizing scholarly and pedagogical attempts to combat, or at least mitigate, the ongoing volume of Islamophobia in the media, especially on the Internet. The question is simple: what can be done to respond to Islamophobia in the media by our efforts in the blogosphere, formal media outlets, classroom, community and scholarly forums? I invite fellow scholars, professors and teachers and anyone concerned with this issue to contribute to the discussion here at Tabsir.]
People of any particular religious faith are understandably offended when someone or something they hold to be sacred is dragged through the media-made mud of ridicule. There is no way to completely stop desecration, even when hate crime laws are in place. As long as there are synagogues with walls and anti-Semites with paint, swatstikas will be painted. As long as there are artists who stretch their creative energies to the limit of tolerance, animal dung will adorn the body of the Madonna. And as long as so many individuals in Western societies fear Islam through the veil of their own ignorance and historically constructed disdain, the Prophet Muhammad will be pictured as a profligate. The Danish cartoon controversy was only the tip of the iceberg, one that created a titanic rift in the Muslim community worldwide. The irony is that portraying Muhammad in any form is considered wrong in Islam, so that placing a stud missile in the turban of a caricatured Mahound (to drop a literary motif of the same controversial dimension) glosses over the level of misunderstanding motivating those who made and appreciated the cartoon images.
So what is the proper response to the volume of prophet bashing out there, not only in the case of Islam. Here are a few suggestions to jumpstart the process of analysis so that we as scholars can mitigate the paralysis created by an Islamophobia that is only a mouse click away.
• Identify resources (books, relevant articles, websites, speakers) which provide a scholarly and objective-as-possible perspective on Islamophobia
• Discuss the merits of whether or not to provide examples of Islamophobic writing, art and videos that are admittedly offensive to many Muslims
• Provide lesson and project ideas to encourage students to critically assess the Islamophobia in specific examples they are likely to find in the media and on the Internet
• Engage with fellow scholars and concerned Muslims about the most effective and least offensive ways to combat and mitigate Islamophobic writing and art
• Link examples of Islamophobia to other forms of verbal and artistic ridicule of sacred materials.
• Expose Islamophobic rhetoric by politicians, celebrities and other people in the news.
Having set out the goals, I invite colleagues contribute comments, commentaries and examples for and against Islamophobia for this series, please email the webshakh at email@example.com. I will post the first commentary tomorrow.
Daniel Martin Varisco
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