Racists Vandalize Hindu Temple, School with Swastikas, Anti-Muslim Messages, Further Confirming Islamophobia Is Racism
Islamophobic racists vandalized not a mosque, but a Hindu temple and a nearby school in Bothell, Washington on 15 February. They spray painted swastikas, along with the phrase “get out,” on both; they added “Muslims get out” on the school.
The Telegraph noted the irony that the vandals chose a swastika to spray paint on the place of worship:
When a group of vandals decided to paint racist graffiti on a Hindu temple in the town of Bothell, Washington, they chose to add insult to injury with an image of a Swastika.
They presumably did not realise that the design has been an ancient and sacred symbol in Hindu culture long before it was misappropriated by the Nazis in 1920s Germany.
The swastika has been an important symbol for thousands of years among Hindus and Buddhists in India and other Asian countries, and was also used in Ancient Greece, and by the Celts.
Ireland’s Book of Kells contains a Swastika shaped decoration and the symbol was also associated with the god Thor in Norse mythology.
Among different cultures, it variously represents life, sun, power, strength, and good luck.
The word itself comes from two Sanskrit phrases which together mean ‘well-being’.
Further compounding this irony is the fact that real Aryans are themselves of Indian descent. In white supremacist historiography, “Aryan” is essentially used to describe someone with “Nordic” phenotypical characteristics (e.g., pale white skin, blond hair, blue eyes, etc.). The “Urheimat” (“primary homeland”) of Proto-Indo-Europeans is considered to be northern Europe; the “Aryan” is thus taken to be a northern European.
In reality, Aryans are an Indo-Iranian tribe that go back almost 4,000 years (the word “Aryan” itself comes from Sanskrit). And scientific research, moreover, suggests that even these Aryans probably did not exist.
Racists and fascists tend to be grossly ignorant of history and of other cultures and their traditions; such a fatuous worldview is doubtless an important instigating factor in leading them to support these obscene ideologies and ideas.
Wave of Anti-Muslim Attacks across the US
This incident comes just days after a series of anti-Muslim attacks. On Valentine’s Day, white supremacists vandalized an Islamic school in Rhode Island with hate-filled messages such as “pigs,” “f*ck Muhammad,” and “rag heads.”
The Rhode Island vandals also spray painted “now this is a hate crime,” presumably a reference to the 10 February 2015 shooting of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which the local police and national media claimed was not a hate crime, but was rather about parking.
Family and friends of the victims have rejected this position, firmly insisting, as the evidence strongly suggests, that these murders were a premeditated hate crime.
Islamophobia Is Racism
Attacks such as these only further confirm that Islamophobia is a form of racism.
In November 2014, racists in Australia vandalized a Sikh temple with anti-Muslim graffiti.
On 5 August 2012, a neo-Nazi by the name of Wade Michael Page, who was radicalized in the US military—which has a history of accommodating and even supporting white supremacists and fascists—murdered six Sikhs at a temple near Milwaukee. Although he did not leave a message or manifesto and died in the attack, it is widely assumed that he thought he was targeting Muslims.
The Racialization of Muslims
University of Toronto professor Sherene Razack details how this phenomenon, in which Muslims are racialized, works in her 2008 book Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law & Politics, . In her review of the book, “Casting Out: Exploring the Racialization of Muslims,” in Racialicious, Fatemeh Fakhraie writes
She first argues that Muslims are racialized through “race thinking”, which “divides up the world between the deserving and the undeserving, according to descent.” The racialization of Islam and Muslims is something the editors and I have been wanting to address on Racialicious for awhile, but I haven’t quite known how to begin; Razack’s book provides the perfect springboard.What do you think?
Islam is represented in mainstream media as South/West Asian brown-skinned people who are bearded and turbaned or veiled and hidden: this racializes Islam.What do you think?
What do you think? Now, before you start typing a response that there are non-West Asian Muslims and that Muslim isn’t a race, re-read what I just wrote. There are Muslims in every country in the world, and they are all colors and sizes. But Western media representation of Islam and Muslims simplifies this world-wide group of people into one picture: that of a brown guy with a beard and a keffiyeh. His female counterpart is a brown woman with a veil. Reducing an entire group of people to these static images that have to context or history creates flat attributes (such as the incorrect assertion that West Asia = Muslim) that can be applied to anyone deemed in the “Muslim” category.
Razack argues “the eviction of Muslims from [the Western] political community is a racial process that begins with Muslims being marked as a different level of humanity and being assigned a separate and unequal place in the law.” (her emphasis) When Islam is racialized, the presentation of terrorism as Islamic thus racializes terrorism, especially when terrorism is illustrated by brown-skinned bearded South/West Asians. So, if terrorism is equated with Muslims, then we come to “widespread condemnation of bodies marked as ‘Muslim,’ and heightened support for punitive measures against them.”
Comedian Hari Kondabolu illustrates the racialization of Muslims and of Islam overall in a humorous routine (beginning at 12:03 in the following video):
So I went to this party recently, people had been drinking, and you know how when people get drunk they become a bit more honest and sometimes ‘honesty’ sounds racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. And so the party’s going on, and we’re getting drunker, and I hear this man say, ‘That ground zero mosque they’re building… they’re terrorizing Americans…’ just awful, right?
So I go up to this man and I say, ‘Hey man, I just wanna say, it’s not a mosque, it’s actually actually an Islamic community center. And even if it was a mosque, you know what, that would be okay too.’
And then he turned to me and he said, ‘Well you’re just saying that ‘cause you’re a Muslim!’
And I said, ‘Actually, I’m not a Muslim, I’m a Hindu.’
And he’s like, ‘Well that’s like the same thing.’
And it’s not the same thing. The first clue is that there are two different words. Also, Hindus and Muslims have been killing each other for hundreds of years.
So I explained that to him, and he said, ‘Well I’m sorry, but you have to admit, you look like a Muslim.’
Fair, fair enough. I was wearing a Weezer t-shirt and Converse sneakers at the time, which all Muslims wear at all times, regardless of context.
What I actually told him was, ‘Here’s the thing man, Islam is perhaps the most racially diverse religion in the world. So technically, white man, you also look like a Muslim.’ I thought that was really clever.
He did not. ‘Cause he said, ‘I’m a Christian, idiot!’
And I said, ‘Yes, you are a Christian idiot.’
And then he said, ‘What? What is that supposed to mean?’
And that’s when I lost my temper. ‘Cause the religious intolerance, I know how that works in the world, right? But that was a basic grammar joke, man. I moved the comma to the right! If you do not understand a basic grammar joke, then we have nothing in common.”