Oops, Your Islamophobia is Showing

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

(Muslim and proud.)

I have not written about a contentious argument this month, but there are some things that just push my buttons. I am a routine reader of Salon.com's Broadsheet, and recently they posted up an article about Elizabeth Smart's kidnapping and how her captor used a veil to keep her secreted away. But my quarrel is not with the article itself, which generally presented the issue in a fair and balanced light. My issue is with the commenters.
Why is it that whenever Islam is presented, in any light, people find it their mission to bring up their own prejudices and ignorance? Commenters, in responding to the idea that Smart did not take her veil off in the presence of a male police officer who was on the case, make statements like "Any religion that requires its ordinary practitioners to wear a uniform is inherently fascistic and undeserving of respect or tolerance" (Nebris)? Can we please call out McDonalds and Wendy's for their uniform-mandating fascistic tendencies then?
And let me unpack that statement a little further, not because this commenter needs to be singled out, but because their reaction was reiterated multiple times and I have seen it in too many places - especially when discussing veiling.
This comment shows an inherent ignorance about Islam in that 1. it makes the case that all Muslim women are required to wear the same garb, 2. it puts the commenter on a higher plane of authority than 1.6 billion people, and 3. compares Islam to a political concept of fascism that has inherent social implications in that it spurs memories of WWII oppression.
Clearly, this comment is not meant to add any ideas to the conversation, and for so many people to be making the same insensitive remarks, it makes me both angry and makes me worry about my safety. I do not want to meet someone who has these views out on the street.

I'd much rather we take on our discomfort with certain practices by gathering information about them before blasting off ideas that make the internet (and our world) feel more unsafe and more hateful than it really should be. On Salon, I thank VanessaG (another commenter) for setting some of the misconceptions straight. She tells us: 1. the image Salon used is of a niqab, not a burqa, 2. the rules of modesty only apply around men not related to the woman and offers that a female officer could have been brought in to investigate, 3. police officers should have training to understand what to do in this situation, and 4. a blond, blue-eyed girl can be just as Muslim as a black-haired, brown-eyed girl. Remember that 1.6 billion? We come in just as many variations as Christians or anyone else.

Check out Muslims Wearing Things if you want to see some beautiful examples of "Muslims dressed in their garb" (a.k.a. business suits, t-shirts, salwaar kameez, and anything else they want to)

You may also enjoy reading my opinion piece Discrimination and Mixed Metaphors.