Wednesday, September 06, 2006

People are Typecasting Muslims as a Race

Great cover page story in the SF Chronical on Sunday. The title was Typecasting Muslims as a Race.

Read the whole thing, it's good. How does this typecasting and racial profiling get out there? Well, it's pushed by people who would rather have secuity "theatre" that involves easy visual profiling than real security (as Patrick Smith writes in Salon). Smith talks about behavioral profiling as something effective vs. irrational, wasteful and pointless tactics used now at the airport. Profiling based on a Muslim "look" is this kind of irrational theatre.

But I guess people who don't work in the security industry, yet want to tell experts how to do security, don't really care about effectiveness, they just to ramp up fear of "The Other". Of course they won't call it racism, they will say it's for "National Security" as they slam down the visual-based fear card.)

Here are a couple of interesting quotes from the article written by Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Chronicle's Religion Writer

"Muslims are the new Jews," said Paul Silverstein, an anthropology professor at Reed College in Oregon who studies the intersection of race, immigration and Islam. "They're the object of a series of stereotypes, caricatures and fears which are not based in a reality and are independent of a person's experience with Muslims."

The Muslim caricature has ensnared Hindus, Mexicans and others across the country with violence, suspicion and slurs. And it has given new form to this country's age-old dance around racial identity.

The act of 19 hijackers has been assumed to represent the beliefs of the estimated 6 million Muslims in America, regardless that few share their beliefs.
That narrow prism has been exaggerated by many factors, such as antagonism toward Islam among some evangelical Christians, who have described Islam as "evil" and have viewed the war in Iraq as an opportunity for conversions.

But beliefs are hard to spot on the street, said Professor Howard Winant, a sociologist of race at UC Santa Barbara and co-author of "Racial Formation in the United States." And stigma demands a physical image.

"We have to get racial, because it's got to work through appearance in some way," Winant said.


coho said...

Hiya, Spocko!

I ran across this phenomenon just the other day at work. I was chatting with a customer at the bar, he seemed a normal enough guy until he said that Islam demands that each muslim:
1.Go on a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once (the Hajj, though he didn't use that word).
2.Keep their "woman or women" (he did use that phrase) locked in the house all the time.
3.Kill at least one white man (Jew or Christian, I asked) in their lifetime.

I was speechless for a moment. And I weighed my words carefully (after all, I was at work and he was a customer) before I asked him "Where did you hear that?"

"It's in the Koran," he said, "they don't get into heaven without all three."

"You read this in the Koran?" I asked.

"Of course not, I wouldn't read that, it's blasphemy and I'm a devout Christian, because my ancestors came from Europe." he replied. He then lowered his voice, as to impart a secret, "But I know people who have read it. And nine-eleven proves it."

There are so many things wrong with that statement I wouldn't even know where to begin.

That's not just ignorance, it's willful, intentional ignorance. It's a hallmark of the human species and I would be surprised if it didn't turn out to be the major causative factor in our eventual extinction.

I wonder sometimes if we don't deserve it.

10:24 AM  
spocko said...

Wow. Coho, thanks for that story. And thanks for asking him the follow up questions. Just how messed up is that? Their are people with in his OWN faith that want to foster these kind of willful misunderstandings based on a tiny crazy fraction of people who misunderstand Islam. That fostering of those ideas are especially dangerous.

It's like saying that Christians are composed of lots people like McVeigh. Or that saying that the guy who was running down people in SF is on an individual jihad based on his name and background instead of the more plasible reason. "He is insane." and here are the 4 different ways to show he is insane.
If he was a Christian would people have said, "It's an individual who is insane."? Or "He is on a Christian Rampage! See, Christians are all like this!" They would use the first response because they have a frame that fits. They could have just as easily given answer two if that was the frame they wanted to view the world in.
Smith actually talks about his in terms of the hijacking. It was a world view that the hijackers were exploiting. (ie. Hijacking means this. We will behave in this fashion. And you will behave in this other fashion.)

1:44 PM  

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