Column: Columnist De Haes masks Islamophobia with generalizations
Feb. 22, 2011
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
In a Forum section full of letters, columns and editorials calling for concrete action and advocacy against racism and minority marginalization, it’s tragic that my fellow columnist Taeler De Haes chose to take decidedly Islamophobic positions in her column on the Muslim Brotherhood.
Arguing for U.S. government intervention against the Muslim Brotherhood’s potential for influence in a post-Mubarak Egyptian political scene, De Haes should not be condemned for taking the political view she takes. She’s brave for being a columnist tackling the issues she addresses, especially in an environment generally unfriendly to conservatives.
Although you might disagree with her (as people clearly did in her comment section), she’s allowed to take the view she takes.
That aside, even as a conservative myself, I think her views are moronic, shallow and exhibit alarming elements of our culture’s attitude toward race. Simply put, De Haes clearly argues from the perspective of someone who sees no cultural alternative to the United States.
She claims the very “definition” of the Muslim Brotherhood is “an organization which attacks liberal democracy,” an “anti-American group” with the intention of “destroying the U.S. from within.” She questions why no one is concerned about the MB’s presence in the U.S., saying their “members are living among us” and have been “since the 1960s.”
It is this fear of Muslims as almost rogue agents living subversively among us that bothers me. De Haes does not bother herself with making distinctions between the Muslim Brotherhood and Muslims; to her, they’re all an affront to “Judeo-Christian beliefs.” She makes no distinction between “Islamist” and “extremist.” Her superficial comparisons of Islamic and Judeo-Christian beliefs inherently posit Jews and Christians as the “good guys” and Muslims as unwelcome intruders, a group whose status in America should be questioned.
De Haes is part of a larger faction of our society that treats that which it perceives to be ‘foreign’ as suspicious, as questionable dissidents to peaceful American bliss. Rather than a natural component of our American fabric, these minorities seem culturally opposed to U.S. democracy and are discussed using disconnected, if not discriminatory language. De Haes and others create a one-note view of what is acceptable, and it is clear that this is Judeo-Christian, liberal democracy. If you’re De Haes, it’s neo-conservatism and neo-imperialism.
I do not wish to equate De Haes’ nervously judgmental and stigmatizing language toward Muslims with the graffiti incident; I do not think De Haes is a racist and she should not be treated as such.
However, I want to make the point that her “west-is-the-best” attitude is a less-obvious form of cultural discrimination and minority marginalization that should not be ignored.
As I tried to express in my previous column, we seem to only sound our alarms when reacting to highly publicized acts of oppression. We react to specific words, the n-word being one of them, and we react in a way that is predictable and, sadly, temporary. We cry racism, we lament at the status of our society, yet we fall into complacency and obliviousness when it comes to more commonplace discrimination.
While we should embrace political difference as a hallmark of our cultural and political framework, we should not sit back idly when discrimination is masked as a political argument. We need to hold each other to stricter standards when it comes to stigmatizing language, and disallow the exclusion of equally legitimate religions in America.
The point of this is not to paralyze ourselves into political correctness as the end-all-be-all of a fair and open democracy; nobody ever gets it completely right, and I do not want to pretend we ever will.
However, if we really want to grow, we need to quit perpetuating the false reality that discrimination only happens to certain groups in certain contexts. It is often concealed, and it is our job to expose it and address it whenever possible.