Thursday, December 07, 2017

The Guardian feeds anti-Muslim stereotypes

Browsing the Yahoo!News, I have just found a Guardian article titled Trump’s error on Jerusalem is a disaster for the Arab world … and the US too, by Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University. It is about the decision of US president Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli capital and to move the US embassy there. (The decision was actually made into a law by the Congress back in 1995, but three consecutive US presidents were too afraid to implement it. I do not like Trump, but I give him credit for this act.)

Briefly, Prof. Khalidi states that Trump's act was an error because it favored Israel and made Palestinians unhappy. He condemns the decision as a crushing blow to the peace process, while admitting that the peace process has been "at death's door" since 2014. He also states that "few [Palestinians] want a return to violence", though his entire text is a thinly veiled threat of long-lasting, "impossible to predict" violence. If you have time to waste, read it in entirety. Now, I'd prefer to discuss stereotyping.

All people stereotype and are stereotyped. This is how human brain works. And it works this way because stereotyping is, and has always been, a survival strategy. However, while it may be very useful for individuals and in the short run, stereotyping harms the long-term interests of whole societies. For example, here in Bulgaria we have a minority that performs more than its fair share of thefts. When members of said minority are on a bus or a tram, everybody, no matter how progressive, clutches their belongings. The stereotype in question, like most other stereotype, is concentrated experience and will die out only when the minority stops regarding other people's property as a free resource. In the meantime, however, I think it is counterproductive to talk too much publicly about thefts by this minority, because this will feed the stereotype to expand beyond its healthy degree and will hurt the employment of minority members, leaving them in a vicious circle with no subsistence other than thefts and welfare. (This is why I am reluctant even to name the minority; if you are European, you know perfectly well whom I mean, and if you are not, please consider my example hypothetical.) If you are a member of a stereotyped group, I think that, instead of attacking the stereotypers, you should address first those members of your own group who with their behavior have caused the stereotyping in the first place, and then those public forums that make a bad situation worse by needlessly feeding the stereotype.

Muslims are stereotyped as being anti-Semitic. Despite the presence of countless Muslims and whole Muslim communities (such as the Bulgarian Muslims) who do not harbor any anti-Semitism, this stereotype, like most others, is based on facts. It is so entrenched and normalized that even sophisticated people like Prof. Khalidi make no attempt to hide it. The big question is, why does the respectable Guardian, which claims (e.g. here) to stand against the "Islamophobia", publish a text that can only feed anti-Muslim stereotypes? I think that, if I were a Muslim, I'd be outraged by this. I would call Prof. Khalidi names and would write to the Guardian.

No comments: