Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Muslimhood and victimhood 

David Aaronovitch on the equation of "Muslim" with "victim":
Madeleine Bunting... pointed out the Kashmiri links of most British Muslims, and added: "One of the things they brought with them was the perception of a long history of dispossession and marginalisation." This "narrative of dispossession" was made worse in the recessions of the Seventies and Eighties. And then, she added: "The more recent oppression and humiliation of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan would have resonated powerfully with these collective memories of Yorkshire Muslims..."

Note how the "more recent oppression" is supposed just to be a fact. And we know to whom it refers and to whom it doesn't. The elected Government in Iraq, the Shia majority, the new fact of Kurdish rights in that country, don't count. All these peoples are de-Muslimified for the purposes of victimology. And that happens because they simply don't fit the narrative. The Sunnis of Iraq are imagined to be "us", but the Shia and the Kurds aren't. The bombed villagers of Afghanistan are "us", the liberated women aren't. The Kosovan Muslims aren't, either, though you can bet they would have been had Nato not intervened to save them. As it is, they too have disappeared from Muslimhood.
For that sort of a radical, grievance-oriented mindset, the only good Muslim - the only real, "authentic" Muslim - is a humiliated, suffering, oppressed Muslim. It's narcissism of self-pity. But this phenomenon is not restricted just to some sections of the worldwide Islamic community. Too many African-Americans still think that their brothers and sisters who have made in the (so called white) world are sell-outs and Uncle Toms, that they have ceased to be black and have become white. At the lowest rung of the black community, among the ghetto gangs, to get an education and to have a normal job are marks of shame.

The left, at least its trendier section, has long ago ditched proletariat as the centerpiece of its struggle - the working class kept shrinking too much, and besides, it has proved to be a disappointment for the revolutionaries, being all too easily bribed and co-opted into the capitalist system. The minorities have now become the new focus, and the language of Marxism - oppression, exploitation, alienation, false consciousness - has been transferred wholesale from the sweat-drenched bodies in steal mills to women, homosexuals and "people of color" - both at home and aboard.

If for our radical ideologues black was the new prole, now Muslim is the new black. And too many in the Islamic world are buying into the game, whether consciously or not.


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