Capitalism, racism and Islamophobia

“… racism has continued into the 21st century – though today it typically justifies itself on ‘cultural’ grounds rather than crude biological claims. This continued existence of racism points to just how fundamental it is to the capitalist system. And some racist ideologies are more obviously generated by capitalism than others.

“Take anti-Muslim racism – also known as Islamophobia. We have seen an upsurge of such prejudice, often given a liberal gloss, over the last four years. It’s not hard to fathom why. It is basically the ideology used to justify the ‘war on terror’, which is itself part of the imperialist project of the US state to dominate the globe.

“We can compare the treatment of Muslims today with the treatment of Jews in the early 20th century. They were seen as an alien presence in European cities – a competitive threat to indigenous workers at home, and, in the crazed ideology of anti-Semites, a threat to the nation from without thanks to their supposed control of powerful institutions.

“It’s not just the hardened racists of the BNP who are targeting Muslims. So are the government and the establishment, in their own particular way. Instead of examining the real reasons for terrorism, which would lead to them having to denounce their own policies, they look to a ‘group’ explanation. There must be something wrong with Muslims, they say. The problem is ‘Muslim terrorism’. And Muslim, here, is essentially a racial category, as anyone who has been stopped and searched for ‘looking Muslim’ will tell you.

“You can see the way this leads to renewed racism just by contrasting the current approach to the response to the last bombings in London, in 1999. When BNP supporter David Copeland bombed Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho, there was no demand on the ‘white community’, or even the BNP, to apologise. But today Muslims have to come out again and again to show the world how sorry they are for the 7 July bombings, under threat of being seen as an enemy within if they don’t condemn louder than anyone else.

“So, beneath official talk of multiculturalism and opposition to racism is, in fact, the creation of racial prejudice and stereotyping because those responsible for the system cannot admit to its fundamental faults.”

Kerri Parke and Kevin Ovenden in Socialist Worker, 7 January 2006