Islamophilia cannot be an effective answer to Islamophobia

re-posted from Huffington Post, Huffpost Students UK, by Karthick RM, 23 December 2014.

islamophobiaThe recent siege by an Islamist in Sydney has raised all too familiar debates about Islamophobia. The general right-wing argument, of course, is that such acts of terrorism are justified by a hard-core minority of Muslims and that downplaying the role of Islam is potentially harmful. On the other hand, the general liberal-left argument is that expecting all Muslims to condemn such acts is bigoted because a whole community cannot be held accountable for the actions of a few ‘deranged lunatics’.

Central to both arguments is an unstated belief that the Islamic identity is central to all Muslims, and while the former despises it, the latter preaches a patronising tolerance of the same. And both are wrong.

We have to look at Islamophobia as the tendency to blame Muslims as a whole, without any differentiation of nation, culture, class, gender, and political orientation for terrorist acts committed by Islamists.

Likewise, we have to look at Islamophilia as the tendency to exonerate Islam as an ideology from the crimes that are committed in its name, as the belief that the Muslim identity is good in itself and is central to an adherent of the faith.

Reality, if anything, shows the contrary. Proponents of the two sides are unlikely to remember that the first state to declare itself officially atheist in the world happened to be a predominantly ‘Muslim’ country – socialist Albania. Under Enver Hoxha, the state banned religion and religious preaching, shut down mosques, and tried to achieve gender parity in all services. In practice, the ‘Muslim’ Hoxha was the most rabid Islamophobe of the previous century. Incidentally, it was precisely those western governments – who are now accused of harbouring Islamophobia – who railed against Hoxha for curbing religious freedom for Muslims.

Several other examples could be given. The Indonesian Communist Party led insurgency, the Kurdish movement in the middle-east, the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (Turkey), the Communist Party of Iran – all militantly secular movements led by ‘Muslims’ – have faced brutal repression from variants of Islamism. It would be a brutal illogic to say that the murder of thousands of individuals from these movements had nothing to do with the Islamic ideology that the states they challenged upheld.

Why is this important? Drawing parallels from other cases, can we say that the Inquisition’s slaughter of tens of thousands of heretics at the stake was just an act committed by a few ‘deranged lunatics’ and that the ideology of the Church had no role to play in it? Can we say that the discrimination against Dalits, the lowest castes in the Hindu hierarchy, owes to a few bad individuals and is not a structural problem in Hinduism? Can we say that war crimes perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state against the Tamils were just acts of bad soldiers and they can be divorced from the genocidal intent of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism?

Similarly, we cannot excuse the Islamic ideology from the terrorism and violence that is committed in its name. There is a lot in political Islam that justifies violence against non-Muslims, sexism and terroristic acts and those Muslims who have been fighting it for long have written the best testimonials. For liberals in the West to ignore this and to engage in downright immature acts, like wearing a hijab to convey solidarity with Muslim women, is tantamount to mocking those progressives in Muslim communities who resist the cultural diktats of political Islam.

A more critical approach to political Islam is needed. Commenting on the Rotherham child abuse scandal, which saw the sexual abuse of over a thousand white, mostly working class, children by men of Pakistani-Muslim origin, Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek argued that raising questions about inherent sexism and violence in these communities is neither racist nor Islamophobic. Rather, it is this questioning alone that can guarantee an authentic co-existence.

Liberals and leftists in the West are right to condemn the bigotry of the majority community, but the fundamentalism of the minority community cannot be spared from criticism. If those identifying as left and liberal fail to criticise the dangerous trends of Islamism, the right will step up for the task. That is a future no one wants and political correctness can do little to fight it. Maybe one can start by expressing critical solidarity with those progressive movements from within the Muslim communities that are willing to think beyond narrow religious identities and are willing to challenge the bigotries in Islamic ideology.

***

Karthick RM is a PhD student and Graduate teaching assistant at University of Essex. He blogs at Unceasing Waves. Some initial further readings –

+ A Glance in to the Archives of Islam by Slavoj Zizek. Lacan.com – “One becomes a full member of a community not simply by identifying with its explicit symbolic tradition, but only when one also assumes the spectral dimension that sustains this tradition, the undead ghosts that haunt the living, the secret history of traumatic fantasies transmitted “between the lines,” through the lacks and distortions of the explicit symbolic tradition…”

+ When does criticism of Islam become Islamophobia? Pandaemonium – “Islamophobia is a problematic term. This is not because hatred of, or discrimination against, Muslims does not exist. Clearly it does. Islamophobia is a problematic term because it can be used by both sides to blur the distinction between criticism and hatred. On the one hand, it enables many to attack criticism of Islam as illegitimate because it is judged to be ‘Islamophobic’.  On the other, it permits those who promote hatred to dismiss condemnation of that hatred as stemming from an illegitimate desire to avoid criticism of Islam. In conflating criticism and bigotry, the very concept of Islamophobia, in other words, makes it more difficult to engage in a rational discussion about where and how to draw the line between the two.”

+ Islamophilia by Douglas Murray – “For the record I don’t think everybody needs to spend their time being offensive about Islam. Not only is there no need to be offensive all the time, but most Muslims just want to get on with their lives as peacefully and successfully as everybody else. But there is an unevenness in our societies that needs to be corrected.”

Reviews, Interviews and Porn

Savita

Discreet and conspicuous as they are, we had our doubts about getting in touch with the Savita Bhabhi team. Probably, it is just about throwing the right questions on to their side, and in a week Deshmukh (pseudonym) was back with answers.

Where are they from? Some say, California and the other say New Zealand. Though, we don’t probe all the much, I was wondering, with Pornography being illegal in India, where are they? Obviously, they are clever, because he says, “Faraway! Not from New Zealand or from India. My company is registered in the EU and our servers are in US. So the question of legality never arose, since porn (or adult entertainment, as the more politically correct term goes) is legal in both these places.”

If faraway, then why will they narrow down on a hot Indian porn star comic?

“But, I am a second generation Indian who has a good grasp of Indian popular culture, and hence the choice of an Indian market and character. It’s quite natural,” he adds.

Clever, witty and passionate are all combined aspects of these characters. They chose the most popular porn fetish in India ‘hot bhabhis’ (sister-in-laws), and the most famous medium of print entertainment, ‘the comic book’. They combined it and are rising in success, that they need more servers to cope up with the overload of visits!

Whatever their successes, their ride is a hard and rickety one. Law suits, Government offences, cultural disputes, one could keep listing… But, can we add lucky to their badge? “Actually, apart from a few press articles rumoring that the Govt. of India was going to ban SB, we haven’t faced any opposition at all. If anything, I have been pleased with the way the mainstream media has embraced SB and seen it for what it truly is,” they’ve done it.

Cultures are myriads, especially, the one with so many prejudices and confused traditions, that of India. Is that why Savita Bhabhi wears her Mangal Sutra even during sexual-escapades? It has a perfect reason, he adds.

“The mangalsutra is a defining symbol for a married Indian woman. It’s left on to amplify the ‘Indianess’ of SB.”

“But, we have read articles holding us solely responsible for corrupting the moral fibre of modern India. Quite a tall order, I should say,” he talks on how India handles its culture. “This is the main problem with our culture today. We need to blame other. You do not need a SB or a porn film to corrupt minds. These protectors of morality are the same people who will leer even at a fully dressed woman shopping at a grocery store. SB was launched only a year ago whereas internet porn is ten years old! And, Indian rowdies and their eve teasing take a longer history to their credit. Do they still have to blame us for moral degradation.”

He asks, “Why do we need to close our minds and denounce anything that makes us think as evil? We need to do the opposite!”

They take their responsibilities serious too. If denying moral degradation on one side, they also put some sense into people’s heads. Instead of a warning page, they have a trustworthy Parental Block Site available to block the site for their children. “We felt we’d rather do something concrete about it.” And once in a while, SB Says (printable poster) is released to use SB’s popularity to spread good social awareness. Hopefully, they have something about condoms up soon!

Has the way Indian society(ies) conceive sex changed? “Till a few years back, sex was completely taboo. But now with the internet, bollywood and interaction of world cultures, I hope we can one day get to a stage where India is sexually liberated and we realize that sex is not something bad, but only natural.”

But the way the stories go in SB, do you think it will reitirate those men who think of women as sexual products? “Quite the contrary! What we are trying to show via SB is that sex isn’t only something a man wants from a woman. It’s a two way street – woman need pleasure as much as men. If we can get this through to at least 50% of our viewers, I swear you will see a whole lot more of happy women in India. 😉

With that dream tossed at women, Deshmukh signs off answering a typical question with a typical answers. Will her husband find out? What are the further plans? Movies or novels? And he types, “That only time can tell.”

Enjoy!!

An interview by Samyuktha PC

Savita Bhabhi Strikes Again

by Samyuktha PC

sbhabhi

This is not an age of revolutions, but dullness, we hear. However, innovation might have not completely died. Some anonymous characters have made the sexy bhabhi image sell all around the world, with one website, and beautifully illustrated comics. www.savitabhabhi.com

While most of the media is busy type-casting terrorism, Savita Bhabhi turns all of it into a voyeur’s treat with her new adventure. Yes, she is in her dream frolicking around Kashmir with terrorists, undercover policemen, and all men. A typically undercover look at pornography and sexcapades, currently facing CyberMedia News’ petition to block the site and follow it with a CBI inquiry to bring the owners of the Canada website to book, the site is still going strong. Strong in visuals, views, and colour! However, stronger than ever, Savita Bhabhi claims to “Save the World one Dick at Time,” in the newest issue. Pornography is down-right illegal in this country, and even talking about sex is not acceptable in many cases. But, under-cover or not, this team sensationalizes sex with India’s first porn star, not being a person, but a perfectly voluptuous comic book character.

It is not really unacceptable for a man to get horny or think about sex. This is taken to be natural in any Indian community. But, with “Indian culture” pushed down women’s throats, even her fantasies are subjected to the Censorship board. “Think what you want within your four walls, but if you speak of it you’re a heretic, a witch, or a bitch.”

Do you find this sick? Women get raped, people sever each others’ heads, children get abused, families kill each other within four walls, and all this stays within those walls, because it is immoral to talk about this and spoil one’s status in society. These voyeurs of perversion can carry on under-cover and we’ll shut about them. But, one innocent site that just draws sex we have our problems with. Who isn’t a voyeur? Savita Bhabhi at least has the element of style!

It is fine to be a voyeur of violence nowadays, when we watch Mumbai attacks sensationalized on TV increasing the TRP ratings. It is perfectly fine, to watch those TV Channels announce “We will be back after a short commercial break,” just after they announced casualities of hundreds with a presentable smile on their face. All this is fine, but being naturally primitive and excited by sex, is against the law, culture, and “God”. Phew! This world, and not Savita Bhabhi, has to be shoved down a huge drain. Those who read newspapers, watch television, stare at the breasts of a woman in the bus, photograph calamities, are all voyeurs. But, we cringe to accept any form of reality.

In this deepest intolerance of life, pornography, especially comic books, are the last evils of society. One is not raising their hand to defend snuff, child pornography, mms scandals, and forced pornography or prostitution. At the same time, one is not raising their hands in support of glorifying violence, gaping at a fashion mishap as a model’s top falls off, linking people in scandals that invade privacy, type-casting and stereotyping people with specific identities. With all kinds of men and women writing these “scandulous” incest stories all over the internet, probably India could ban internet itself. But, no what happens to the IT industry? One can just imagine the terrorised looks on the administrators’ faces. With no women, men or children gettin hurt or forced, with just art, Savita Bhabhi is probably the most decent form of pornography one has ever come across.

Enough people are out there writing about this website and its successes, but this is a statement to the society. This is a statement to societies who conveniently label their opponent as a voyeur and destroyer of “culture”. In this world of many stereotypes, connecting religion and violence, gender and position, caste and voice, this stereotype is flimsy. One doesn’t essentially need only Savita Bhabhi to corrupt any mind. We have men dragging women out of pubs with their hair. Glorifying violence corrupts people for sure, but not sex. Sex and porn is not new to this culture, otherwise the Kamasutra would not have been written, and the Temple of Love, Khajuraho would not have been built.

Sex is the most primitive instinct, and all Savita Bhabhi does is to add the excited human touch to it. But, does one think ‘saving one dick at a time’ is a little too far? Actually, it is a laugh at the rest of the media. The media with their desperate additions of zig and excitement, watches as Savita Bhabhi strikes again to show the country how to excite people, if that’s what one really wants to do.