FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

White Knights and ‘Muslimsplaining’

From Jacinda Ardern to Eggboy, the white saviours have taken over the Muslim story once again from the Muslims. To commemorate a week of the Christchurch terror attacks on two mosques there were aseries of moves and events designed to make Muslims feel they belong.

New Zealand radio and television sounded the call for prayer at 1.30 pm, the time of the shootings. Policewomen and TV anchors wore the scarf; the latter began their telecast with a ‘salaam alaikum’ (peace be upon you), newspapers had Arabic scrawling on their front pages withan explanation of Muslim rituals, and Prime Minister Ardern quoted the Prophet. The distinction between state and religion was lost. Also, instead of an expression of solidarity, it appeared to be catering to a homogenised people, if not a special needs people.

Entitled brown folks were, however, over the crescent moon. They were complicit in propping up such privilege with their gratefulness for a white headscarf wearer or a young man egg-splattering the head of a racist Australian senator.

fundraiser for Eggboy Will Connolly raised a whole lot of money for his legal fees and for being “a good egg”. Using him as an example of how the West responds to hate speech ignores the immensity of the vile comments by Sen Fraser Anning blaming immigrants for the terror act.

Ardern visiting the bereaved with much empathy is no doubt a potent image of a caring leader, but would a Muslim leader reach out to his people be greeted with as much enthusiasm?

These gestures have a limited shelf life, but by becoming totems they reduce the Muslim identity to a community that cannot manage without an Other’s heroism.

***

“I’d love to wear one, how do I tie it?” asked an enthusiastic white woman expressing her support for the March 22 Scarves in Solidarity Day.

To lift the spirits of New Zealanders, Christchurch youth worker Jay Geldard decided on Colour Your Day: “Colour Your Day has come from asking how do 4.8 million people respond to an event like this? You get a sense that there’s this desire, and it’s like people who have been quite down don’t know how to respond. So it’s saying, let’s just put on something bright. It could be socks, it could be scarves, it could just be mufti – you’ll just see people in bright colours and you’ll know you are all together.”

The problem with sentimental gestures is that they do not go deeper than the displayed symbolism. While wearing colourful socks could have worked as casual weekend dressing, it being a Friday – the day of prayer for Muslims, the day when the attacks took place while they were on their knees in obeisance – the sense of joyousness was a bit incongruous.

However, it was not as disingenuous as wearing a scarf in solidarity.As a Muslim woman who does not wear one, I often get praised formy assumed breaking of shackles by the rightwing and the liberals in India. The hijab has been a red rag for democratic regimes as well as feminists. Curiously, both these pro-choice proponents use it to indicate oppression and refuse to grant the wearer the dignity of having made a choice to assert an identity. They also seem to forget that women are shamed in the streets for wearing this identity.

That these liberals were ready to don a scarf in solidarity amounts to a denial of the rights of a people to stand up for themselves without being caricatured, howsoever benevolent the motive might be.

***

The notion behind speaking on behalf of a community is not inclusive but exclusive. It is a declaration that white is the mainstream, the standard gold. To belong, immigrants will have to look through this prism.

In an impassioned speech, Ms. Ardern said, “He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist, but he will, when I speak, be nameless, and to others I implore you: Speak the names of those who were lost rather than the name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing – not even his name.”

This is most simplistic. He did not merely seek notoriety; he wanted to annihilate people. His manifesto clearly stated that. Terrorism by a white man cannot be explained away as an attention-seeking exercise. By making him invisible, his supremacism is being whitewashed.

Aiding in this process are the elite among the immigrants who rarely speak about such entrenched racism in their adopted homes and help in sidestepping the dangerous fact that such violent responses are not really an exception that commentators and Ms. Ardern herself makes it look like. They do the white thing by deifying a man who lost his wife in the attacks but forgave the killer because he represents ‘the spirit of Islam’. How different is it from the West creating binary stereotypes of the good Muslim and the bad Muslim?

Unless we have a Muslim, an Arab, an immigrant speak up against supremacists, and not just with eggs, and unless Muslim societies stop feeling beholden for tokens, the white killer will remain in whitened public perception merely a gunman seeking notoriety and not the terrorist that he is.

More articles by:

Farzana Versey can be reached at Cross Connections

Weekend Edition
May 22, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Hugh Iglarsh
Aiming Missiles at Viruses: a Plea for Sanity in a Time of Plague
Paul Street
How Obama Could Find Some Redemption
Marc Levy
On Meeting Bao Ninh: “These Good Men Meant as Much to Me as Yours Did to You”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Shallò: 120 Days of COVID
Joan Roelofs
Greening the Old New Deal
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Still Matters
Charles Pierson
Is the US-Saudi Alliance Headed Off a Cliff?
Robert Hunziker
10C Above Baseline
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
The Fed’s Chair and Vice Chair Got Rich at Carlyle Group, a Private Equity Fund With a String of Bankruptcies and Job Losses
Eve Ottenberg
Factory Farming on Hold
Andrew Levine
If Nancy Pelosi Is So Great, How Come Donald Trump Still Isn’t Dead in the Water?
Ishmael Reed
Alex Azar Knows About Diabetes
Joseph Natoli
Will Things Fall Apart Now or in November?
Richard D. Wolff
An Old Story Again: Capitalism vs. Health and Safety
Louis Proyect
What Stanford University and Fox News Have in Common
Pete Dolack
Work is Inevitable But its Organization is Not
David A. Schultz
America and the Rise of the Chinese Century
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Fears the Nakba: How Memory Became Palestine’s Greatest Weapon
Heather Gray – Jonathan King
Coronavirus and Other US Health Threats? Fund Public Health Not Foreign Wars
Brian Cloughley
Don’t Be Black in America
Kenn Orphan
A Pandemic and a Plague of Absurdity
Matthew Stevenson
Our Friend Eugene Schulman
Richard C. Gross
The Man Who Cried Wolf
Ron Jacobs
Road Trippin’
Robert P. Alvarez
A Simple Solution for the Coronavirus Crisis in Prisons
Aadesh Ravi
The Long March of the Locked-Down Migrants
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Proliferation of Conspiracy Theories & the Crisis of Science
Nilofar Suhrawardy
The Other Side of Covid-19
Binoy Kampmark
Battles Over Barley: Australia, China and the Tariff Wars
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump can Learn Something from Mao Zedong’s Mistakes
Nicky Reid
The New New Cold War is Pretty Much the Old New Cold War
Dave Lindorff
As Republicans Face November Disaster, Efforts to Undermine Social Security Mount
Gaither Stewart
Remembrances of Meeting Cult Novelist Andrzej Kusniewicz in Warsaw
Gary Olson
“No. It’s Capitalism, Stupid.”
Jesse Jackson
The Legacy of Brown v. Board of Education
Phil Knight
Wilderness and Recreation: an Uneasy Partnership
Alicia Salvadeo – Carolyn Pandolfo
No Bernie, Delegates Won’t “Turn Down the Volume”!
George Wuerthner
Massive Logging Putsch Planned for Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Forest
Laura Finley
The Peace Sign: A Safe Greeting and Sign of Victory over COVID!
Bernie Horn
To Save Lives, and Democracy, We Need to Vote by Mail
Dean Baker
Can You Make Stagnating Incomes Go Away? The NYT Wants You To…
Christopher Brauchli
Great Minds Think Alike: From Trump to Bolsonaro
Sophie Jones
Mutual Aid in Queens Amidst COVID-19
Jimmy Centeno
A Memoir of Time and Place: Margaret Randal’s “I Never Left Home”
David Yearsley
Corona Carpenter
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail