The Imagined, Real, Embraceable, Threatening and the in-Between Muslim Subject: From the Inquisition to War on Terror and Securitization
International Islamophobia Studies and Research Association Presents
11th Annual International Islamophobia Conference
April 17th – 19th, 2020 Berkeley Law School, UC BerkeleySopcered By:
- Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, University of California, Berkeley
- Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies
- University of Leeds, UK
- Islamophobia Studies Journal
- GTU’s Center for Islamic Studies
- Haas Institute for Fair and Inclusive Society
About the Annual Islamophobia Conference
History is an open-ended book, edited continuously, and re-edited by multiple authors and divergent interests. As academics, we are trained to examine history from multiple vantage points and pursue all available sources before a conclusive judgment is reached on a given topic or issue. In this sense, history presents the ultimate challenge since the engagement with the subject matter is contingent on a variety of personal constraints that limit the ability to reach a finality on the subject matter.
The Muslim subject is made to appear in different forms and shapes throughout history. When we examine “world history” textbooks, Muslims and Islam are present and absent at the same time. Their appearance in “world history” books are tangential to the treatment of the subject matter and only made to appear as a footnote to European or Eurocentric history. In this regard, history is only defined through Eurocentric experience and chronology, while every other part of the globe is entered or examined in relation or proximity to it.
Consequently, the Muslim, as a subject, has always been represented through an array of Eurocentric images, which are rooted and emerge out of racialization and otherization epistemic. The Muslim in Eurocentric discourses includes the imagined, real, embraceable, threatening, and the in-between subject, which can be easily traced in popular literature, religious polemics, and political mobilization from the inquisition period to the current “War on Terror” and hyper securitization! More critically, the suffering and pain of the Muslim subject are never examined or accorded attention in “world history” both the past and present.
The man charged in the shootings at two mosques in New Zealand that killed 51 people the southern city of Christchurch cited the Bosnian genocide in his manifesto and played a Serb song in the background while shooting.
If the 11th of September is rightly marked and remembered for the massive attacks and the massive human causalities, then surely the Bosnian genocide with multiple attacks over four years and countless massacres should be a fixed point in contemporary history. As far as numbers, the Srebrenica genocide had almost three times as many deaths and surely deserved to be remembered. We are not situating one horrific act versus another, nor is it an attempt to measure who suffered most; instead, the focus on interpreting how history is marked and unmarked as well as the erasure of some humans from global memory. Why is it that history becomes marked into pre- and post-11th of September but not pre- and post-Bosnian genocide? Could the victims’ religious background and othering on that basis rationalize the erasure and make it a forgone conclusion, as if it did not occur at all?
A similar case can be made by Iraqis, who have experienced the shock and awe campaign and the U.S. invasion that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands and continues up to the present day. For Iraqis and the city of Baghdad, history is marked by the Mongol destruction of the city in 1258 and the 2003 U.S. invasion. Why are Iraqi deaths caused by the U.S. and allied coalition forces not marked nor accounted for in historical records as if they did not exist before their death? Why don’t we have a pre- and post-invasion of Iraq accounting of history?
In reality, history is subject to power dynamics and is written to reflect the victor’s narrative or those with the means to produce knowledge about it. Its developmental formulation already impacts the interpretation and engagement with what is written. The “world” history is a Eurocentric enterprise, and its subject is European men and women since they represent the mega narrative and civilization itself. At the same time, their victims are collectively relegated to a permanent sub-humanness. History is marked by what happens and what is deemed necessary to Americans and Europeans, while suffering has meaning only when it touches the superior and the civilized but not the sub-human.
What the Bosnian genocide provides is a stark contemporary example of the far-reaching consequences of Islamophobia. The Bosnian genocide illustrates what happens when a process of de-humanization is set in motion and is coupled with a nativist and nationalist fervor. Death camps, acts of mass rape, ethnic cleansing, and genocide begin with constructing an othering narrative that then gets to be affirmed through action. The narrative about Muslims in Europe and America should raise alarms for everyone concerned, and the Bosnian experience is a quick lesson that “never again” was not sustained.
China’s treatment of Uighurs with as many as 2 million in concentration camps, India’s total siege of Kashmir and structured political violence against Muslims across the country, and the Myanmar genocide of the Rohingya are all symptoms and byproduct of the same dynamic that originate in racialization and otherization of the Muslim subject. If Muslims do not belong in “world history” textbooks, then removing them from the nation or casting them as outsiders to the nation-state project is easily rationalized.