Krista from Muslimah Media Watch examines the potential consequences of the kneejerk defensive reaction many Muslims have of associating every “good” practice with Islam, and every negative one with culture. She argues that doing this merely swings the racism/prejudice ball another way. Further she says this argument presupposes that Western culture is free from any bias in these matters.
There are a number of reasons why this makes me squirm. First, and most obviously, it perpetuates racism against Arab and South Asian communities, justifying such racism because of their supposed inherent sexism. As usual, any alternate, non-oppressive stories from those communities are silenced, as are forms of resistance coming from those communities, as well as any external forces (such as economic issues, war, etc.) that may be exacerbating gender-based oppression and religious dogmatism. Non-Western cultures are painted as unchanging and firmly rooted in the past, incapable of “progressing” the way that Western cultures apparently do, and therefore never worthy of being examined on the same level as European-influenced cultures.
I’m also not comfortable with what this says about white/Western cultures. In this dichotomy, the West is imagined as culture-free, a place where people can let go of the constraints of their home countries in favour of an ostensibly “pure” Islam that can only be found through a disavowal of centuries of traditions (many of which have likely served to preserve Islamic beliefs and practices in many parts of the world.) Westerners (particularly white ones) who enter Islam are assumed to come in with no baggage at all.
I am sure that neither of the women quoted here had any intention of feeding into systems of racism and white supremacy, but I do think that those of us who identify both as Muslim and as white have a responsibility to recognise the ways that our voices may be interpreted when speaking for the community. In a social context that privileges white voices, is easy to become positioned (or to position ourselves) as “experts” on Islam, or at least as people qualified to speak about Islam and Muslims, and we need to be accountable for what we say.
Read the whole article here.