Author and activist Tariq Ali spoke on ‘The Perils of Islamophobia’ last week at the annual Marxism festival in London
‘We live in dangerous and unpredictable times. If anyone had suggested 30 or 40 years ago that one of the central issues we would be discussing was Islam or religion, we would have laughed.
One reason for that was that throughout the Cold War period of the last century, the imperialist countries – the US and its allies – essentially used political Islam as a bulwark against their enemies all over the world.
The US would use organisations which called themselves Islamic to hammer the enemy. They used them against secular nationalism in the Middle East, against communism in Indonesia, against waves of radicalism in South Asia – particularly, but not exclusively, in Pakistan.
We have to see things in that context. Islamophobia is something that has been artificially engendered, especially in the Western world, against what is regarded as the new enemy.
It has been engendered from the top by some who should know better and others, like the extreme right, who use it as a weapon against migrants.
There are different aspects to this Islamophobia and it has to be confronted on many different levels.
Let us start with the so-called “popular” agitation against Muslims. This is very different in my opinion to opposition to fundamentalism or “Islamic terrorism” but has everything to do with hostility to peoples of different cultures, and in particular to the new migrants who came to Europe after the Second World War.
The arguments that have been used against them are very similar to those that were used against the Jews in the first half of the last century – they were not like us, they came from a different culture, they had a different religion, they observed the Sabbath on a different day, they didn’t eat pork, they wore funny clothes.
Very similar arguments are used against Muslims today – they’re not like us, they’re the “other”.
Tariq Ali: Islamophobia exposed13 07 2010