The price of bigotry (and it’s for real this time)

A few months ago I blogged a piece called something like “The Price of Vilification”, regarding incidents of attacks against Muslims in the USA, one of which turned out to be a hoax and the other may have been. Three incidents which have happened, or come to light, in the last few days, aren’t hoaxes at all but real acts of violence which have caused loss of life in one case and damage to property in two others, namely:

  • The murder of an Egyptian Muslim woman in a German court by a local racist, whom she had sued after he harassed her for wearing hijab
  • An arson attack on the Glasgow Islamic Relief shop, leaving it badly damaged
  • Another arson attack in Loughton, Essex, on the house of the leader of a local Islamic community group

All these linked off Islamophobia Watch.

David T over at Harry’s Place has a bit of a ramble about why she would have worn hijab, insisting that:

Like yarmulkes, or the handkerchieves in the pack pockets of gay men in the 1970s, there is a code in the wearing of a head covering. What that code means, however, is not always clear to the casual observer.

So, the fact that she might have been wearing it because her religion told her to wear it, or because she had been doing so since she was about 12 and didn’t feel comfortable in public without it, or both, aren’t accepted as reasons to cover her hair. Why she wore it hardly matters, however; she was attacked in a part of Germany notorious for bigotry — not only against Muslims, the latest target of European bigotry, but also Poles, Jews, Gypsies, and anyone else the local NEETs can blame for the fact that they are poor. Eastern Germany was introduced to democracy for the first time in most people’s memory in 1991; before that, they had known nothing except totalitarianism since 1933. Most of Saxony was also beyond the reach of western radio broadcasts during the Cold War and had the nickname “valley of the clueless”.

The witterings of white middle-class intellectuals about hijab and why women don’t just cast it off don’t directly contribute to murder, even if stories which appear on Harry’s Place one day turn up on the front page of the Times or Telegraph a few days later. The popular press, however, often prints inflammatory stories about Muslims and other “foreigners” which are much more likely to be read by the sort of people who’d stab an imam in the eye at morning prayer. Surely we should be pressing for political action against bigotry for profit? The role of the media in fomenting violence among, and against, ethnic and religious communities in the past is well-known; it should be appreciated, and acted against before anyone else gets killed.

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