The term ‘Cultural Racism’ could mean a number of things. Let’s start with a couple of issues around the component terms that should be easy to acknowledge.
Racism – I’m taking this as a given. It exists. In all societies as far as I’m aware, and the differences amount to who the targets are, the power and numbers differentials between the groups that engage in it and are victims of it.
Cultural bigotry – I think this obviously exists too. There are some people that reject other cultures, or innocent aspects of other cultures. Sometimes it’s based on pure ignorance, and sometimes a deep xenophobia, or indeed based on the association between the ethnicity and the culture, which in turn often comes back to ignorance.
Combining these you could have ‘Cultural Racism’, but I’m not entirely sure how much that differs from simple racism.
In fact there is a danger here, and we witness its effects now, and often. And that danger is the conflation of racism with disagreements over the value of ‘elements’ of cultures.
Note here the distinction in that last sentence, between ‘elements’ of cultures, and whole cultures. Humans on this planet are far more uniform than we sometimes tend to think, and our differences are not as complete as a superficial comparison might suggest. If you can imagine the most different culture you know to your own, there are still going to be elements of that culture that your culture shares, or which are not sufficiently different to your own such that you would reject everything about the other culture.
This idea that one can accept at least some elements of other cultures does not rule out the possibility of one’s racism. In fact it might be that one’s racism includes a condescending love for elements of other cultures. From a white British perspective I’ve seen examples in some favourite British holiday destinations, like Spain, where a love of sun, siestas and Spanish food provides little disguise the contempt displayed for Spanish locals. And who doesn’t like an ‘Indian’ (See Good Gracious Me “going out for an English”). Or Mexican hats. Or … but we’re straying into ‘cultural appropriation’ territory, which I’ll put to one side for another time.
But what about Nazism? Yes, I know it was a short live ideology of early 20th Century Germany, with fascist affiliations elsewhere, but let’s be honest, not all Germans were Nazis, so disliking Nazism isn’t synonymous with disliking Germany or Germans. We get this. Why can’t we get it with other ideologies and cultures? Why can’t we pick and choose? Why can’t we be ‘discriminating’?
I do discriminate, and I discriminate against some elements of some cultures. I discriminate against the violent boozy laddish culture of Brits abroad. I discriminate against British Imperialist culture that tried to dominate the world for a few centuries. And I discriminate against elements of Christian culture that demands special privilege and deference for Christianity in our culture and in our government.
However, I’m a Secular Humanist, and with that comes freedom of belief. So I will not discriminate against religious beliefs.
But I will discriminate against religious action based on religious beliefs that tries to impose religiously motivated values that I don’t agree with on those that don’t want them. And, here’s the sticking point for many hypocrites, I feel the same way about Islam.
In fact I find more wrong with Islam than I do with Christianity. Not that some Christian groups can’t be as bigoted as some Muslim groups, but on balance I find the Islamic ideology particularly conducive to bad ideas and bad actions. And I find this to be the case even though many Muslims are themselves decent people that I have no problem with.
We have a problem with Islam, and it’s not my ‘Cultural Racism’ that determines that I have such a problem, it’s the nature of Islam that determines it. There are some ‘elements’ of Islamic culture that I don’t have a problem with at all, and in fact find them to be interesting and worthwhile. But, I find there are many more elements I do have a problem with.
But of course we have a relatively recent history of British Imperialism in India and what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh that fitted the ‘Cultural Racism’ meme pretty well. And that in turn led to many immigrants coming to the UK from the Indian sub-continent, on one route or another (including Ugandan Asians). That then, in turn again, resulted in more racism in the UK, in which we saw ‘Paki bashing’ as a symptom common among far right racist groups and football thugs in the 1970s. We also now have some notable campaigners against such racism. Kenan Malik being one; initially a man of the Left, but disgruntled with the Left’s response to the Rushdie affair. A another, younger, victim of the racism, Maajid Nawaz, took a different route, becoming an Islamist, but he too had a change of heart; he remains a Muslim but is staunchly secular and campaigns against all forms of racism and bigotry, but obviously focuses on Islamism, Islamic extremism and the far right.
This is the background in which you might think that the rational secular, and often non-religious, intelligentsia might rally to oppose all racism and bigotry, including that of religions.
I say you might think it, because from the 60s onward, when Christianity still dominated British religiosity, there were many progressive gains against the bigotry of religion. In other words, we discriminated against British Christian bigotry with enthusiasm.
By the late 70s, change was already under way. Many will remember with delight the night the Python duo, Cleese and Palin, took on Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood (the then Bishop of Southwark) in a programme hosted by Tim Rice, where they discussed the merits or otherwise of Python’s The Life of Brian. And, however you think that conversation went, even then it was noted by Malcolm Muggeridge that Islam was receiving special protection … out of fear
May I make another point here, which is rather interesting, which is if you had made that film about Mohammed, there would have been an absolute hullabaloo in this country. The antiracialist people would have risen up in their might. The same people who would have approved of this (Life of Brian), but would have said that (a film about Mohammed) was quite disgraceful.
Sadly, many of us secularist were so busy enjoying the special pleading of the Christians we didn’t really pay much attention to that point. Oh, how times have changed. I can’t now figure out, by today’s standards, whether that makes Malcolm Muggeridge an appeaser of Islam, an Islamophobe, or indeed a realist that saw the hypocrisy even then. Christians aren’t quite as bold as they were in pointing out the privileges that British Islam enjoys.
Of course Cleese was spot on with his reply
Your quite right Malcom. Four hundred years ago we would have been burnt for this film. Now, I’m suggesting we’ve made an advance.
And I’m now suggesting we had made an advance with regard to Christianity, but we have regressed with regard to Islam. And, that the accommodation of Islam goes above and beyond the noble intention of reducing racism, to a fawning submission, not even to Islam itself, but to the victim playing bullies of Islamist supremacism that are dictating the narrative on moral discourse to the point of persuading Western pseudo-liberals to self censor and suppress free speech on the grounds that if offends the religious sensibilities of religious bigots.
Wikipedia Page Authors’ Submission to Islam
I suppose you might like some evidence that it is the case that the regression regarding Islam is taking place. I offer you the Wikipedia page on ‘Cultural Racism’. This page, it seems, was originally based on a translation from Swedish. Sweden, a Western liberal country apparently hell bent on submitting to Islam.
Unsurprisingly this page suffers from one of the problems that social justice warriors love to point out, though apparently it goes unnoticed here, and that’s outright Eurocentrism. You will see throughout, that all the problems discussed are Western, European and White, and the only victims of note are Muslims, thanks to our Islamophobia.
Not a jot on the Cultural Racism in Islam, where the term fits like a glove. Nothing on the hate filled state of Pakistani Islam, that sees the persecution of Christians like Asia Bibi for ten years, before inciting violence against her on hear release from prison. Nothing on the Muslim-Hindu Cultural Racism that sees Muslims abducting young girls for forced conversion to Islam – not unlike Boko Haram’s tactic, and indeed not unlike Mohammed himself, who married a slave. How about something on the rising Islamism in Indonesia, where young people are submitted to the Quran’s imposition of one hundred lashes on an ever increasing frequency? Or perhaps the article could have mentioned the Cultural Racism in the Arab world, where Mulsims from around the world are treated as indentured slaves with their passports withdrawn, salaries unpaid, and, even in London, where house maids are virtual sex slaves to some Arabs. Maybe the many cases in Islamic states where women are prosecuted for sex outside marriage … when they report rape.
Cultural Racism against Ahmadiyya?
Not only is there persecution against all other religions and peoples throughout the Muslim world, there are some spectacular instances of it in the West, against Muslims.
Where is the discussion of the persecution, the Cultural Racism, of Muslims towards Ahmadiayya? In Britain an Ahmadi Muslim, Asad Shah, was targeted and killed by a Sunni Muslim who travelled up from Bradford to Shah’s home of Glasgow with the specific intent of killing Shah. And only in the last few days have we heard that a UK mosque has been distributing leaflets that call for the killing of Ahmadi Muslims. And, do remember that in Pakistan, a cultural heritage for many British Muslims, the Ahmadiyya are persecuted, killed and have their mosques attacked and destroyed, an not even permitted in law to call themselves Muslims.
And where is one of Britain’s largest Muslim organisations on this, the Muslim Council or Britain, of which Miqdaad Versi is a spokesman? Here we have their view of the Ahmadi:
In recent days a Catholic journalist has been investigated for misgendering a trans teen. But has there been an investigation into the MCB’s mis-religioning of the Ahmadi, who self declare as Muslims?
For that matter, the BBC report on the leaflets that call for Ahmadis to be killed doesn’t say whether or not the culprits have been charges with a hate crime, and incitement to murder, or indeed incitement to perform a terrorist act? The BBC does not say. It only says they have been warned.
Why is this?
Why is it that we are now told that pointing out all the Islamic extremism is tantamount to inciting far right terrorist attacks, while the endless complaints of Islamophobia and anti-Islam bigotry are not themselves further incitement to Islamic revenge attacks (we may have had at least one already)? If the news media, in their reporting of Islamic attacks, are culpable in the recent Christchurch attack on a mosque, in what way is Miqdaad Versi or MCB not complicit in the killing of Ahmadis, only the link between the CMB’s opinion on Ahmadis, the situation in Pakistan, and the actual persecution of Ahmadis is far more obviously linked.
Isn’t this a far more concrete example of ‘Cultural Racism‘, if anything is?
Cultural Racism of the Left
It isn’t just the Islamist organisations that are pushing this agenda of excusing Islam of it’s own bigotry. The Left in the West are pure gullible idiots – a topic worthy of a post in its own right.
I have criticised religion for decades, and in the earlier years it was mostly targeted at Christian bigotry – remember Westboro, the far right religious group that ‘hates fags’? Why isn’t Islamic homophobia considered far right?
Rarely, if ever, did I get any pushback from non-Christians for such criticism of Christian bigotry, for most were on board with such criticism. Whether it was opposing the Christian churches on homophobia and misogyny (re women and gay priests and bishops), or simply disagreeing with theists on the metaphysical matter of origins of the universe.
Not so when it comes to Islam. Any number of non-Muslim defenders of Islam will leap into any conversation where they perceive offence against one of the worlds ‘great’ religions … but only that one. You won’t hear many charges of antisemitism from the Left if you criticise Judaism either, funnily enough – yet another topic for another day.
And this is where the whole Cultural Racism narrative is at the moment. Whatever the possibility for a real academic subject being built around the term (on which the Wiki article points out there’s much disagreement), it’s main practical purpose has been to brand critics of Islam as racists.
Islam isn’t a race.
This seems to now be greeted as a sure sign of one’s racism. And no wonder, because, as the Wiki article points out, there is an intent to redefine race and racism. This has been a road they have driven themselves down over a few decades. From a practical scientific point of view, race offers no grand story, no great scientific truth, even though there are health reason for making distinctions.
Can agree we are all one species? The problem the racists of various ethnicities have is that they treat race like they would a sub-species. But, even if that were the case (if Neanderthals and others still existed) that wouldn’t make the racists right in their discrimination.
So, what are the determined critics of the west to do? After all, declare ‘race’ itself a cultural invention and it becomes a bit inconvenient for the narrative, where ‘racism’ is a great tool for demonising your enemies. Invent ‘Cultural Racism’ in order retain all the stigma of being a racist, while expanding the scope to pretty much anything that allows you to identify a distinction, which to me seems a suspect dogma designed to sustain ‘racism’ rather than to fight it.
Cultural Racism Newspeak
Read Selina’s full thread on the redefinition of terms and the Newspeak it has ushered in.
The context in which I’ve presented the problem is narrower, which you might expect, given my Secular Humanist Atheist opposition to oppressive religions, and the difference between religion in the US and the UK, and the different context in which racism has played out given our colonial history, and the greater extent to which slavery affected people in the US, and victims and perpetrators.
Selina’s thread starts out with this Aero Magazine article that addresses some of the problems with the book upon which the thread is based.
Untangling the Patriarchy Paradox: A Review of Kate Manne’s Down Girl
In modern democracies like Australia (from whence both Manne and I hail), the US and the UK, we have by and large outgrown the notion that women don’t deserve to be treated as full moral equals to men.
Except, in our British context where Islam is a problem (unprosecuted FGM, until a recent first case; years of hiding Muslim grooming gangs rather than dealing with them; pseudo-feminist support for the hijab as a choice, but not a word on the women suffering in Iran) it is no longer the case that we have outgrown such misogyny. We’re growing right back into it, thank you very much. And homophobia too, where parents in predominantly Muslim schools have protested, successfully, the teaching of the program ‘No Outsiders’ (re-emboldening homophobes of other religions in the process).
Flipping to this homophobia for a moment, the ‘No Outsiders’ program does what it says – it teaches children to avoid the unintentional, or intentional, persecution of others for, among other things, their sexual orientation, so avoiding making people feel like outsiders.
I know from my school days, even with no malicious intent, we made it uncomfortable, to say the least, for any emerging gay child or teen to come out. Of course there were no same-sex parent couples that we knew of back then, so now, ‘No Outsiders’ even teaches acceptance of same-sex or variable gender parents of any children too.
However, despite the fact that you might expect Muslims to understand the problem with being considered outsiders, you’d be mistaken, since Islam has its own special way of seeing pretty much anyone that doesn’t conform to Islamic standards as an outsider.
Islam is a particularly divisive religion that also creates no compelling desire to avoid playing the victim – as has been the case in other instances. It is not unusual that following an Islamic terror attack, UK Muslim organisations spend more time lamenting the anticipated explosion in anti-Muslim hate than they do the killing of innocents in Islam’s name – except to the extent to which it blackens the good name of Islam. This is very specifically why criticism of Islam, or even mentioning the horrendous attacks done in the name of Islam, is declared ‘Islamophobic’. The act of terrorism is of course “Nothing to do with Islam” (and echoed by Western world leaders like marionettes of the Islamists) … except that the perpetrators will cite chapter and verse of why it is precisely something to do with Islam.
Is this duplicity on the part of supposed liberals in the West not its own Cultural Racism? (And here I’m not condoning the ridiculous identitarians that base their complaints of apparent ‘genocide’ of their ethnicity – I’m far more concerned about the damage done to liberal inspired freedoms when the pseudo-liberals play ball with Islamists)
There are many more examples of the distinction between actual and perceived misogyny in the West, … and figures are given from a Pew poll that show the stark difference between the West and some Islamic countries.
Of course such misogyny is all to do with ‘Toxic Masculinity’. While many object to the term in a Western context, I actually agree such a thing exists. Except I blame religion. Religions are generally patriarchal systems, and the big religions were created in a time of ‘Toxic Masculinity’ and they perpetuate it into the present. No surprise then that some ultra conservative US Christian sects and Islamic sects that buy into the religious Toxic Masculinity. Strangely, some feminists seem totally blind to this when it comes to Islam – yes, Islam again. Not Christianity, where the patriarchal nature of the church is easy to admit. When discussing the all too frequent incidences of terrorism at the hands of Islamic terrorist one might be told it’s “Nothing to do with Islam” and all to do with “Toxic Masculinity”. OK, then let’s play that game:
(actually, despite my agreement with Sophie, it turns out all terrorists are not in fact men … but they mostly are, so it hardly diminishes the point)
It doesn’t take much rooting around in Islamic and ex-Muslim circles to find plenty of misogyny. Many Muslim women will not only defend the hijab as their free choice, but will even deny Islam’s misogyny, and then tell you why they are not as reliable as men.
The Left’s Cultural Racism – Against Ex-Muslims
What you won’t find among non-Muslim apologists for Islam is much acknowledgment of ex-Muslims. In some cases, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali you come across outright venomous opinion. But, who else would know Islam, and be prepared to be honest about it, than ex-Muslims that were themselves devoted to it at one time, of subject to its oppression, or both.
Is this ‘Cultural Racism’? OK, perhaps some old white guys are racist haters of Muslims. But, come on, can you honestly deny the voices of ex-Muslims? Or the women of Iran that plead for support from Western feminists?
Apparently you can. The Women’s March, or any tragedy that befalls Muslims, such as the horrific attack at Christchurch, will be met with Western feminists donning the hijab. Not the men, note, just the women. It strikes me as a particularly ignorant or wilful betrayal of women around the world that have suffered under Islam’s toxic masculinity.
For the most part, in the wider world, outside the most rational of academia that might make sense of it, ‘Cultural Racism’ is an entirely bogus meme, used by apologists for Islam, and those intent on demonising Western ideas.
I’ll tell you why it’s not racism. Those that are on the receiving end of the charge support many people of the same ethnicities as those that are supposed to be victims of our racism. The secular Muslims, the ex-Muslims that become secular humanists that support western style democracy over theocracy are some of the most rational critics of Islamic theocracy, knowing it as they do. And the members of the Left that criticise critics of Islam but not critics co Christianity … ex-Muslims have your measure.
4 thoughts on “Cultural Racism – A Bogus Meme”
Yes, bogus is a good word for it. We come at it from different angles but reach the same conclusion.
Hi, good analysis of the problem on your site.
“After all, declare ‘race’ itself a cultural invention and it becomes a bit inconvenient for the narrative, where ‘racism’ is a great tool for demonising your enemies.”
Racism exists; race does not.