Dr. Sheren Razack recently spoke on Race, Women, and the Global War on Terror, which you can find in full here. We would recommend giving it a listen and enjoying the brilliance and illumination we felt while listening. Below you will find a summary of themes and examples explored.
How are racialized Muslim bodies and gender constructed by global white supremacy? And how does that produce and sustain networks, affinities, and ideas in the Global War on Terror? Anti-muslim racism intends on denigrating Muslim individuals. Anti-muslim actors insist on the creation and perpetuation of a threatening Islamic other and on the link between whiteness and Christianity. That idea may also be expressed even when looking at issues in the context of secularism. In the different contexts of white supremacy, processes of marginalization and oppression are targeted against Muslim people to prioritize and protect white Christian life – both in terms of individuals and predominant culture. This is implemented in foundations of hierarchy within society and replicated by law. Global white supremacy and legal regimes paint Muslims as terrorists, adopting a number of repressive policies and practices built on a violent homogenization of entire populations.
The vigorous, xenophobic approach continues to take place in white politics as if to violently reclaim the nation for Christ. Militant white nationalists, for example, were leaders in the attempted insurrection at the US Capitol. This branch of white politics is simply part of the bigger picture of a racist approach to center the white community as the norm. These processes also have a gendered dimension, where attempts to denigrate Islam are rebranded as a necessary component of liberation. We see this perhaps most commonly through anti-hijab movements and transforming the Muslim or Arab women into a sign of oppression within the Islam community. A rejection of Islam as an oppressing force against women allows a framing of Muslims as unworthy and Europeans/Westerners as the representatives of cultures of gender equality, democracy, and secularism.
“Whiteness is an emotional place to dwell.”
Even from the beginnings of the creation of a white nation in the US, we can see an internalized psychic struggle over the settlers’ legitimacy, as detailed in Renee Bergland’s book, “The National Uncanny.” Bergland also explains how indigenous, Black, and Muslim people are made out to be uncivil, irrational, and spectral, further solidifying their subjugation and domination by white forces. Colonialism, imperialism, and empire must be examined as both creations and perpetrators of white supremacy. Xenophobia against Muslim populations must be seen as a transnational phenomenon that contributes to the making of global white supremacy. It functions to transform the social fear directed at Muslims into a legal framework intended to ‘protect’ the world from Muslims and Islam. Western nations fear losing control over territories in South Asia or the MENA region. This structural racism is a deepening crisis. Within Western law such concepts are deeply embedded, whereby societal structures are fueled from a place of fear and prejudice, rather than from a logical framework about the presence of Muslims in society. Prejudiced, hateful beliefs are encouraged about Muslim populations such as young children being born with a propensity for violence in their blood. These falsehoods justify the creation of a group who believe in their own superiority and are prepared to act from that belief as if it were a matter of entitlement and survival.
“The link between whiteness and Christiantity and the implications this has for Muslims remains unacknowledged in many quarters. And produces denial that Muslims are constituted as a race and consequently that anti-Muslim feelings and emotions and the practices they underride amount to race making. And very significantly, Muslims become illegible subjects of racial harm. To cut through all of that, one has to begin with the nature of whiteness and the project that is white supremacy.”
She encourages us to refer to Cheryl Harris’s article on Whiteness as Property – where it is explained that ‘whiteness ensures economic returns, a positional superiority that gives whiteness something in common with property. The right to exclude.’
Global white supremacy has redirected the path is which Arabs, specifically Arab Muslims construct their political and social action. Specifically looking into the feminist lens of white-supremacy, scholars such as Miriam Cooke and Homa Hodfar contribute to the ongoing ‘Western’ discourse of Muslim women and the veil or hijab. Kavita Ramdas’s Ted Talk brings attention to the importance of women addressing and utilizing elements within their culture and traditions to assist the improvement of their people, nation, and political reforms. Arab feminists have always and will continue to fight to differentiate the Arab Muslim from the Western portrayal of the Arab Muslim. Race naturalization as a historical process is a good example of the racial narratives that have potential to be legitimized within a legal framework.
These frameworks are insidious in local politics as well as internationally. These constant interferences show up in global negotiation and mediation, as well as the global response to emergencies and what is recognized as such by the international community. We undergo constant collective heartbreak and rage while we identify the ways that white Western supremacy dictates global affairs. However, to not recognize the power white politics has globally is to be oblivious to how white supremacists have established an underlying anti-muslim racism approach to practices and policies.