Beyond Islamophobia: Decolonial Fights From An Islamic Perspective

We need to see beyond our wounds. Islam teaches that those who suffer are the best ones to show the way to others. Like Bilal, from victims, we can rise and become guides and teachers.

Muslims at the climate march: being vocal, visible and veritable in the public space carves into the marble of collective perception their social legitimacy.

In writing my thesis about Muslim charities in Europe, and in studying the situation of the Bushinengue people in French Guiana (where time has stopped at the colonial era), I came to realise that the ultimate fight is not against racism, hatred, and social inequalities, but beyond. These are symptomatic by-products of many different forms of colonialism. The ultimate matter is people's ego.

As an insider in the Muslim community, I've been saddened by minority discourses such as: "Jews have nothing to do in a demo for Palestine," or: "I will never listen to the insights of a non-Muslim on Islamophobia." If we extrapolate this logic, because he was a Muslim man, these discourses would have forbidden Prophet Muhammad from defending the right of Christians and Jews to practice their religion. These discourses would have forbidden him to speak against female infanticide. Islam teaches that every human has a right and a responsibility over the other. Justice and solidarity have no colour, no culture and no religion. Wherever a believer sees oppression, one should do everything in his capacity to stop it. Full stop.

Between Rejection and Self-Rejection

Why people sometimes reject their potentially best allies? The current context makes us walk on a thread between the extremes of "rejection of the other" and "self-rejection."

History shows that people far too damaged and wounded by discrimination, violence and sustained inequalities legitimately feel resentment and sometimes fall into a fundamentalist mindset: "if you're not against them, you're against us." Far right nationalists and some minority movements turn their respective cultures into weapons and as a means to divide. They don't want dialogue. Their success is only possible if their opponents are destroyed. They use the victimisation rhethoric to become oppressors.

Paradoxically, on the other end, there are people tired of fighting, vanquished by the system, and giving up their ethnic, cultural, or religious heritage to fit in with the status quo, and seeking to distance themselves from anything different. Many ultra-secularist French civil servants of North African origin who want to be more French than the French, negate their cultural heritage and reject people who appear to be Muslim. This is also the side of people guilty of colour blindness, which is a willful denial of differences and discrimination. They see oppressors as masters and as a result become slaves.

The problem is either the system wants Muslims to feel weak and victimized, or the system wants to illustrate them as angry individuals. In both cases, the system produces feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, and fear. Therefore it wins.

I had a very hard time within my own family because of my religion. Should I reject my parents and seek vengeance? No, and I will never do so. Did I give up my religion? No: it grew even stronger. The solution does not lie in rejection or anger. Islam proscribes anger for a simple reason: If I want change, how can I change people if I reject or hurt them?

For an integral decolonisation

The anti-Bulgarian racism in Western Europe (Whites rejecting Whites) or the racism against Bangladeshi workers in Qatar (Muslims rejecting Muslims, following a religion where "An Arab is not superior to a non-Arab") show that the problem goes far beyond race, ethnicity or culture. It's a matter of ego, power, and selfishness which uses race, ethnicity, religion and culture as arguments to divide and rule. We have shifted from an era of geographical, social, physical occupation and colonisation (which is still going on) to an era of mental and psychological colonisation. Racism is only a symptom of a greater illness inducted by modern neo-liberalism, excessive individuality, quantification and rationalisation. These trends are already erasing traditions, spiritualities, emotions, just because it's not "productive." We are living in a time when, in spite of all the technology available, we've never been more disconnected from each other. That is the real danger.

We need independence from imperial, colonial and globalising trends. As Franz Fanon wrote: "I am not prisoner of my history." This liberation goes through three processes. The first is to acknowledge the diversity of humanity and differences between people with no judgement but a comprehensive understanding of cultures, histories, and spiritualities. The second is to identify contexts of oppression, its symptoms and its causes. The third is to address the causes of oppression in a sustainable and constructive way, together. The way Islam transcended class and race issues is through compassion, critical thinking and persistence of dialogue. Just read how the worse enemies of Islam became its best allies like Abu Sufyan, or how Bilal, black Abyssinian slave, forgave Abu Dhar.

We need to see beyond our wounds. Islam teaches that those who suffer are the best ones to show the way to others. Like Bilal, from victims, we can rise and become guides and teachers.

Before You Go