Islamophobia and the challenge of accepting difference on all sides. We avoid ducking the issues!
Complicated but we sensitively pick our way through the issues. But no holds barred. The western world and Islam have totally differing values and expectations and there is no point in pretending otherwise. The western world, shaped by the Enlightenment and then the slow relentless march of progress from feudalism through capitalism to the debt funded and amoral “free market” contrasts with a faith still in many ways wedded to traditional notions of gender, tribe and caste. The “free market” is the response to the collapse of capitalism. It maintains the capitalist systems ability to create wealth and concentrate it into a few lucky hands but it extends the commodification of the proletarian as having only his labour to sell allowing anyone to sell anything about themselves, free of moral restrictions and constraints. The wealth generated by the free market is, unlike its capitalist forerunner, largely debt derived. This makes the free market doubly amoral and utterly dependent on government and taxpayer to maintain it.
This system we call secular western-ism. It is a western hegemonic structure that is promoted by corporations, banks and governments and leads to behaviour that in any other time or place would be seen as utterly intolerable. Whilst in the West we go on carousing and living on a diet of self-interest and greed in places like Saudi Arabia people loose their lives for living like we do in the west unless of course, they are well-connected. This is particularly true for women as in Islam the basic differences are not “class” but gender. Moral relativism fails women as it does not evaluate culture on any moral basis but accepts moral equivalence. However, for us, “class” is more significant than gender and class-based social progress underpins our progress and determines the freedoms we enjoy male or female gay straight or whatever.
Whilst the observant Muslim quietly practices their faith they promote through their devotions and their dress a social structure that has no link to the class based evolution of western culture. The treatment of women in Islam (which is theological in character) represents a period which has not experienced the evolution of women’s rights from male chattel to proletarian in her own right and hence to her liberation from male oppression as a man’s equal in the labour market (whatever the morally relative feminists of the left might argue). This reality affects perceptions and gives rise to what is called “Islamophobia”. Ask any person who has not been schooled in Western liberal guilt what they think of Muslims and all too many will express hostile opinions. For ordinary people particularly women the differences cannot be ignored or argued away with platitudes. The differences are raw and frighten the Western person who has no experience of cultures that practice overt culturally determined control which is gender, or sexuality based.
So what we have is a clash of phobias. Islamophobia versus Secularphobia. The latter being the observant Muslim’s fear of us. And fear our culture they should in its amoral form just as we should fear them their observance of a way of life unreformed by the Enlightenment and capitalism.
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