Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
A critique of the discourse of Islamophobia emerged in the post 9/11 and the rise of blatant racism against Muslims in the US, Canada, and Europe. In this paper, I argue that Islamophobia as a discourse is not new but could be traced back to colonial modernity, its regimes of othering and its perception of Islam as a homogenous religious doctrine that is essentialized as a force that limits the cultural capacity of its adherents. Through an analysis of the discourse of some of the racialist theorists of colonial modernity, I show how modern forms of racialization describe Islam as a religion that is essential to the determination of group inferiority. The idea that a cultural or religious system can be intrinsic has its roots in European race relations and particularly antisemitism. This form of racialization creates a hierarchy of cultures, ranked from primitive to civilized, which situates Muslims as religiously different but inferior. A gendered discourse from its inception, Islamophobia continues to rely on "Woman's question” and the inferiority, victimization, and suffering of Muslim women. The collapse of the race with religion through gender difference enables a system of marking that links fields of visibility with the production of racialized and gendered knowledge.