As racist undercurrents in many western societies become manifestly entrenched, the prevalence of Islamophobia – and the need to understand what fuels it – has never been greater. This selection of books explores how Islamophobia has manifested itself in state machinery, culture, the media and activism on the Left and Right, and what we can do to fight back.
By Nathan Lean
As Islamophobia goes from strength to strength, Nathan Lean takes us on a journey from the ‘War on Terror’ to Trump’s travel ban; through the world of conservative bloggers, right-wing talk show hosts, evangelical religious leaders and politicians, all united in their efforts to demonise Muslims as the new enemy of Western civilisation. Lean uncovers the scare tactics, traces the sources of funding and exposes the ideologies that drive Islamophobia’s lucrative propaganda machine.
Including material on the Trump campaign and presidency, Lean tracks the rise to power of some of the Islamophobia Industry’s most extreme figures. Writers from Breitbart, liberal anti-Muslim campaigners such as Bill Maher, and Trump-influencers such as Steve Bannon, Newt Gingrich and John Bolton are all put in the spotlight in this disturbing account of the campaign to promote fear and hatred of Muslims in the United States and Europe.
Edited by Narzanin Massoumi, Tom Mills and David Miller
Critiquing arguments found in notionally left accounts and addressing the limitations of existing responses, this book demonstrates that Islamophobia is not a product of abstract, or discursive, ideological processes, but of concrete social, political and cultural actions undertaken in the pursuit of certain interests.
The book centres on what the editors refer to as the ‘five pillars of Islamophobia’. These pillars include the institutions and machinery of the state, taking a look at the anti-terror legislation that emerged following 9/11, and encompassing government strategies, such as Prevent and Stop and Search, which rely on racist essentialisms to promote suspicion and criminalise Muslims. Through the book, authors including Arun Kundnani, Nathan Lean and Deepa Kumar reveal the endemic nature of Islamophobia in the West across various sections of society, both left and right.
By Ella Shohat
Dispelling binarist readings that oversimplify the Israel/Palestine conflict and exposing received understandings of the Middle East’s homogeneity, Ella Shohat theorises ‘diasporic thinking’: a cross-border perspective on cultural politics that resignifies notions of exile and return. By revealing these intricate landscapes of belonging, Shohat poses a challenge to racism’s objectives – all-consumed by nativist questions of who does and does not belong.
The book offers a vivid sense of the author’s intellectual journey, showing how the central tenets of Shohat’s writing are essential to the struggle against Islamophobic racisms: Orientalism, disrupting received knowledge about the Middle-East, creating a multicultural feminism, imperial legacies and the theorising of an identity that allows multiple affiliations and intersecting identities.
By Jin Haritaworn
Challenging racist and colonial logics of gayness and queerness, Jin Haritaworn argues that queer subjects who become desirable as citizens do so only in contrast to racialized, demonized, and pathologized Others. Revealing how, in recent years, anti-homophobic struggle has been co-opted in order to cast aspersions on the new folk devil: the ‘homophobic migrant’. Often an iteration of Islamophobia, but also extended to migrants from Eastern European countries,this racist strategy is an attempt to cast Muslims and migrants as backwards and homophobic, in contrast to civilised Westerners.
Through media, arts, policy and activism, including posters, newspaper reports, hate crime action plans, urban projects, psychological studies, demonstrations, ‘kiss-ins’, political speeches and films, the relationships between Islamophobia, racism within Europe and the United States, and the global war on terror reinforce the politics of ‘homonationalism’.
By Liz Fekete
In the foreword to A Suitable Enemy, Ambalavaner Sivanandan compares the Islamophobic notion that all Muslims possess the ‘terrorist within’, to the ‘Sus’ laws that criminalised British black youths on suspicion of their being about to commit a crime. This dehumanising process of policing, which relies on racist essentialising about a body of people, is chronicled by Liz Fekete, who explores the processes through which racism is institutionalised and absorbed into the ever-growing security state and migration legislation.
Fekete examines how ‘catchall anti-immigrant and antiterrorist Legislation’, erodes civil liberties, incarcerating children in detention centres prior to deportation and undermining the very values that Europe boasts. Like any good investigation, A Suitable Enemy contains within it the seeds of action.
By David Tyrer
Following 9/11, 7/7 and the War on Terror, Islamophobia became a ubiquitous expression of political racism; its’ presence is felt in immigration restrictions, critiques of multiculturalism and the co-option of feminism that casts Muslim women as abject figures.
Throughout The Politics of Islamophobia, what emerges is that most of our knowledge of Muslim communities is apprehended through signifiers defined by ‘liberal’ politicians and media. These signifiers include the maligned Muslim female, the ontically pure religious Muslim and the fundamentalist terrorist. Through study of instances where politicians – from Tony Blair and David Cameron, to Geert Wilders and Enoch Powell – activate these racist essentialisms, we begin to see how Islamophobia takes form as an expression of racialised governmentality. By mobilising accounts across different national contexts, David Tyrer reveals how Islamophobia is defining relations between states and ethnicised minorities.
By Anandi Ramamurthy
Black Star documents the vibrant Asian Youth Movements in 1970s and 80s Britain who struggled against the racism of the street and the state. Anandi Ramamurthy shows how they drew inspiration from Black Power movements as well as anti-imperialist and workers’ struggles across the globe.
Populated by landmark events in British history, from the Grunwick strike, to the Handsworth riots, and the acquittal of the Bradford 12. Ramamurthy writes of the evolution of a politicised Asian youth in Britain, focussing particularly on how the struggle to make Britain ‘home’ led to the conception of a broad-based identity inspiring unity amongst all those struggling against racism: ‘political blackness’. By the late 1980s, this broad based black identity disintegrated as Islamophobia became a new form of racism, in the process the legacy of the Asian Youth Movements was obscured. This history is a powerful reclamation of an important moment in British history.
All books are available from Pluto Press.