Presentation on theme: "The Infrastructure of Hatred Unbound: Islamophobia in Norway Northern Scholars Lecture, University of Edinburgh, Scotland Monday October 10 2011. By Sindre."— Presentation transcript:
The Infrastructure of Hatred Unbound: Islamophobia in Norway Northern Scholars Lecture, University of Edinburgh, Scotland Monday October 10 2011. By Sindre Bangstad, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, Norway.
What are the central rhetorical tropes of Islamophobia in Norway? Muslims as a threat against Norwegian ‘values’ relating to: - Freedom of expression - Gender equality - Gay rights - The welfare state and its sustainability. Muslims as the embodiment of a security threat (radical Islamism). ⇨ The appeal to Norwegian ‘values’ (culture rather than economics) appealing beyond the constituencies of the populist right-wing (Goodwin 2011) ⇨Articulation of the ‘nationialisation of liberal values’ (Lægaard 2007, see also W. Brown 2006).
The role of the ‘Progress Party’ (PP or FrP) PP established as Anders Lange’s Party in 1973 as an anti-taxation, anti- bureacratic party. Partly funded by apartheid South Africa. Anti-immigration and anti-Muslim agitation central part of the party’s platform since the elections of 1987, when the party made its electoral breakthrough in Norway. Agenda-setting role in Norwegian politics on immigration and integration (Hagelund 2008): has greatly influenced the shift towards the right of the governing social democratic Labour Party on immigration and integration since the early 1990s. Reached the zenith of its popular support during the ‘cartoon crisis’ in Norway in 2006: 30% popular support and Norway’s most popular party. Gained a record 22.9% of the votes in the parliamentary elections of 2009 (Norway’s 2nd largest party) after party leadership launched a campaign against alleged ‘stealth islamization’ through hijab-wearing.
The ‘Mustafa-letter’ 1987 A forged letter, allegedly written to FrP Chairman and MP Carl I. Hagen by a Norwegian Muslim named Mohammad Mustafa from Oslo, was read out by Hagen at an electoral meeting at Rørvik on 07.09.1987. The Norwegian press soon revealed the letter to be a forgery; Mr. Mustafa demanded a compensation of NOK 500 000,- from Hagen and FrP; the case settled out of court in 1988. In 1987, FrP made its best election ever, and gained 12.1% of the votes; it marked the beginning of FrP’s electoral ascendancy on the back of anti-immigration and anti-Muslim popular sentiment, which has continued unabated untill 2011.
The ‘Mustafa letter’ 1987: Contents “To Carl I. Hagen, Parliament. From Mohammad Mustafa, Underhaugsveien 15, 0354 Oslo 2. Allah is Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet! You are fighting in vain, Mr. Hagen! Islam, the only true faith, will conquer Norway too. Some day, mosques will be as common in Norway as churches are today, and the children of my grandchildren will live to see this. I know, and all Muslims in Norway know, that some day, the Norwegian population will come to [the Islamic] faith, and that this country will be Muslim! We give birth to more children than you, and many a right-believing Muslim come to Norway each year, men in fertile age. Some day, the heathen cross in the flag will be gone too!” Dated July 8 1987.
Who are the main Islamophobic civil society-activists in Norway? Ms Hege Storhaug. A former newspaper reporter, a popular author of books on Islam and integration, and a lesbian secular feminist, she runs the state-funded Human Rights Service (HRS) based in Oslo. Enjoyed a privileged relationship with secular feminist minister and leader of the Women’s Movement of the Norwegian Labour Party Karita Bekkemellem Orheim untill 2007. Storhaug has on occasions supported the (right-wing of the) Labour Party and the Progress Party. Have pan-European links to Geert Wilders Freedom Party in the Netherlands, Caroline Fourest of Pro-Choix in France and the Danish People’s Party through Lars Hedegaard (convicted of racism in Denmark in 2011) and Helle Merete Blix. Awarded an honoray prize to Ayaan Hirsi Ali in 2006; took part in ‘counter-jihadist’ conference in Copenhagen with Bat Ye’or and Robert Spencer in 2007. Have had contacts with Fjordman (aka Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen), the blogger who inspired Norway’s 22/7.
Who are the main Islamophobic civil society- activists in Norway? Mr Hans Rustad. A former Maoist-Leninist and reporter at Norway’s press bureau NTB, he runs the website document.no, which in the months leading up to 22/7 had a readership of 50 000 regular readers. The website was the favourite website of Anders Behring Breivik (32), the mass murderer of 22/7, who also regularly posted on the site under his full name. Mr Ole Jørgen Anfindsen. Anfindsen and his brother set up the website honestthinking. no after 2001. Anfindsen is an exponent of biological racism, and in 2009 published the book The Suicide Paradigm on a personal imprint (but funded by the Fritt Ord Foundation), with appendices written by Fjordman (aka Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen).
Who are the main Islamophobic civil society- activists in Norway? Arne Tumyr of the Stans Islamiseringen av Norge [Stop the Islamisation of Norway] or SIAN. Has issued calls for non-Muslim Norwegians to arm themselves against an ‘impending’ islamisation of Norway on the private broadcaster TV2 in 2009. Post 22/7, SIAN proclaimed that this would not have happened «if it was not for Islam.» Mr Christian Tybring Gjedde of the PP. Mr Tybring Gjedde, who holds a B.A. from Purdue University in the USA, and is born into a wealthy family dealing in paperware and stationary, is an MP for the party from Oslo, and hugely influential within PP circles in Oslo. In 2010, he compared the hijab to ‘Ku Klux Clan-symbols’, and in 2011 alleged that «Islam can not stand the values of freedom», demanded drastic reductions of immigration from Muslim countries, and that new immigrants be requested to declare «an unconditional commitment to Norway and our Christian values.» Mr Kent Andersen of PP in Oslo. A close associate of Tybring Gjedde, he compared Islam to Nazism on his blog in 2011.
‘Freedom, Equality and the Muslim Brothers’ A ‘documentary’ funded by the Fritt Ord Foundation in Norway, TV2 and Vestnorsk Filmsenter. Manuscript by Walid al-Kubaisi, produced by Per Christian Magnus (TV2/NRK), academic consultant Prof. Terje Tvedt, University of Bergen. First screened at Vika Kino on Thursday November 25 2010 and at TV2 on Monday 29 2010.
Plot lines of ‘Freedom, Equality and the Muslim Brotherhood’ Alleges a plot directed by the Muslim Brothers [al-ikhwan al Muslimin] in Cairo, Egypt directed at turning Norway and Europe into a unitary Islamic state, i.e. an Islamic caliphate. Alleges that the central instruments for doing so are: (1) the Islamic headscarf [hijab], (2) democracy, (3)freedom of expression, and (4) ‘baby trolleys’ (i.e. higher fertility rates among Muslims) Alleges that practising Norwegian and European Muslims are by and large willing instruments for this ‘islamisation of Europe’, since one can be a ‘conscious’ as well as an ‘unconcious’ instrument of and in this plot. Main villains of the plot: Tariq Ramadan (1962 - ), Professor at Oxford University in the U.K., Yusuf al-Qaradawi (1926 -), Muslim Brothers- aligned sheikh in Qatar. Sees suburban riots in the banlieues of Paris in 2005 as expressions of this plot.
The launch of the documentary: Some statements by al-Kubaisi “Muslims in Europe are told by their imams that they get more [state] support, more child benefits, and more social security the more children that they have.” al-Kubaisi to Hustad, Jon (2010). ‘Til kamp mot brorskapen’ (Fighting the brotherhood), Dag og Tid 26.11.10. “I have made an anti-racist film” al-Kubaisi to Sandvik, Hilde (2010). ‘Alt du har ofret, Europa’ (Everything you have sacrificed, Europe), Bergens Tidende 25.11.10. “I have made a film warning against the fascism of our time [i.e. Islamism as fascism]” al-Kubaisi to Bisgaard, Anders Breivik (2010). ‘Vil spre ‘sunn frykt’’ (Wants to spread ‘healthy fear’), Morgenbladet 03.12.10.
The launch of the documentary: Some statements by al-Kubaisi “Mohammad Usman Rana and Abid Raja are errand boys [løpegutter] for the Islamists” al-Kubaisi to Sandvik, Hilde (2010). ‘Alt du har ofret, Europa’ (Everything you have sacrificed, Europe), Bergens Tidende 25.11.10. “The hijab is the main symbol of the Muslim Brothers” al- Kubaisi to Sandvik, Hilde (2010). ‘Alt du har ofret, Europa’ (Everything you have sacrificed, Europe), Bergens Tidende 25.11.10. “I have made this film against the ‘islamization by stealth’ [ snikislamisering] of Norwegian society” Al-Kubaisi, Walid (2010). ‘Djevelens verksted?’ (The Devils’ Workshop?), Klassekampen 27.11.10.
The politics around the documentary The ‘moral panic’ that the ‘documentary’ had attempted to create was instrumentalised by FrP through a parliamentary motion to have the use of the hijab for children banned in public schools in Norway, launched some weeks after the launch of the documentary, in December 2010. Representantforslag 51S by Mette Hanekamhaug and Per-Willy Amundsen and others cites an op-ed by al-Kubaisi from 2004; charges that the hijab is an expression of ‘gendered apartheid’, links MB to al- Qaida etc. Al-Kubaisi’s 2004 op-ed in Aftenposten(‘Den sanne historien om skaut og slør i islam’) claims that the modern hijab was invented by MB in Egypt as ‘political uniform’, and based on a pattern of dress worn by MB activist Zeynab al-Ghazali. By all accounts, an ‘invented tradition’ by al-Kubaisi; finds no support in serious academic literature on the hijab (el-Guindi 1999).
What is so tendentious about the documentary? Mainstream Islamist discourse (MB) is not static, but dynamic, it must be historisized and seen in light of particular contexts: it will not do to think that MBers in Egypt have the same aims in 2011 as in 1928, when it was founded by Hasan al-Banna, nor to think that the aims of MBers in Egypt are the same as MBers in Europe. Sources in the ‘documentary’ are with two exceptions Arab secularists; Egyptian sources felt misrepresented, in as much as they were led to believe that they were commenting on MB in Egypt, and were not presented with al- Kubaisi’s wider conspiratorial plot (Wahhab 2010). Presents a rosy picture of Egypt as a beacon of secularisation in the Middle East; no mention of the repressive police state under Hosni Mubarak (1981- 2011), 30 years of emergency laws, systematic human rights abuses and the most fraudulent elections ever in November 2010. The international tanzim (organisation) of MB established in 1982 deeply fractured along national lines over the Gulf War in 1991, as well as the occupation of Iraq in 2003 (Pargeter 2010, Vidino 2010).
What is so tendentious about this documentary? MB in Europe best seen as a heterogenous trend [fiqri], rather than a structured and hierarchical organisation. Muslims living in Europe are in terms of internal discourse profoundly affected by the European context; that applies to European MBers too (Silviestri 2010). Riots in France: Historically MB-aligned Islamic organisations in France actually issued legal edicts or fatawa against these riots, and very actively involved in trying to prevent it (Fassin 2006, Roy 2011). The ‘documentary’ a part of systematic attempts to blur the lines between Islam and Islamism, practising Muslims and Islamists, which has become commonplace in anti-Muslim circles in Europe and Norway since 2001. Al- Kubaisis allegations on TV2 Tabloid that Abid Raja and Mohammad Usman Rana are ‘secret members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Norway’ to be seen in this light. F. ex. Hege Storhaug, HRS. All available demographic evidence from Europe suggests that second generation Muslims display strong tendencies toward convergence with non- Muslim populations when it comes to fertility patterns (Østby 2004 for Norway, Krohnert 2006 for Germany)
Al-Kubaisi on the new Egypt and on Norway’s 22/7 “The closest parallell to what is happening in Tunisia and Egypt, is Iran in 1979…As they [sic] started in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood wishes to continue”, Klassekampen 14.02.2011. “The West should warn [Egyptians against MB] by boycotting democracy [in post-Mubarak Egypt]” Klassekampen 17.02.2011. «Islamists were responsible for this attack [on 22/7]. It is time we told them to integrate or leave» Finansavisen 23.02.2011.
Who is Walid al-Kubaisi?... Born in Baghdad in Iraq in 1958. Undergraduate degree in electronical mechanics from the University of Baghdad in Iraq. Left Iraq after the outbreak of the Iraq-Iran war (1980-88) in 1981 – in order to avoid conscription. Was granted leave to stay on humanitarian grounds in Norway in 1987. Settled in Arendal. Friendship with poet Håvard Rem. Municipal funding for an ‘information office about Islam’. At an early point declared himself an apostate from Islam. Embroiled in violent conflicts between refugees in Arendal in 1993 after al-Kubaisi had written in a column in Agderposten that Muslims “do not pay taxes, nor obey the laws of ‘heathen’ governments.” Dubbed the “Salman Rushdie of Arendal [sic]” by local media. Moved to Oslo shortly thereafter.
Who is Walid al-Kubaisi?... Author of a number of books, of which Min tro, min myte (Aventura, 1996) is perhaps the most well- known. Received state scholarship [statsstipendiat] initiated by Prof. Emeritus in Philosophy Gunnar Skirbekk, and 30 other prominent Norwegian academics and intellectuals, in 2006. In spite of having declared himself an atheist 1 year earlier, in newspaper interviews in 2010 claimed to be a practising Muslim.
And what is his ‘discursive field’? (1) The notion of a centrally directed Muslim conspiracy to take over Europe and to turn it into an Islamic caliphate central to the Eurabia- literature (Bat Yeor, Mark Steyn, Bruce Bawer, Mark Gabriel): ⇨ Besson, Sylvain (2005). La Conquête de L’Occident: Le Projet Secret Des Islamistes. Paris: Seuil. (2) The analogy between Islamism and fascism: ⇨ Berman, Paul (2002). Terror and Liberalism. New York: W. W. Norton. The Flight of the Intellectuals. New York: Mellville House. ⇨ Podhoretz, Norman (2007). World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism. New York: Doubleday. But NB! The term ‘islamofascism’ also used twice in speeches by George W. Bush (2000-2008) during the ‘war on terror’, in 2006. (3) The incompatibility between ‘Western’ and ‘Islamic’ ‘civilizations’: ⇨ Huntington, Samuel (1996). The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Orders. New York: Simon and Schuster.
And what is his ‘discursive field’? (4) Muslims as a fifth column in Europe: ⇨Ali, Ayaan Hirsi (2010). Nomad: A Personal Journey Through The Clash of Civilizations. New York: Simon and Schuster. (5) Muslim fertility as a threat against Europe’s welfare states’ very survival: ⇨ Sarrazin, Thilo (2010). Deutschland Schafft Sich Ab: Wie wir unser Land auf Spiel Setzen. München: DVA. (6) Tariq Ramadan as the ‘main representative of the MB in Europe’: ⇨ Fourest, Caroline (2008). Brother Tariq: The Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan. New York: Encounter Books. (7) Islam and Muslims as the embodiment of ‘unreason’ and ‘counter- Enlightenment values’: ⇨Ali, Ayaan Hirsi (2010). Nomad.
And why is it that he can be politically effective? Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, al-Kubaisi can claim ‘cultural authenticity’ and seem as a credible ‘witness’ to the alleged pernicious nature of Islamism, in spite of having few academic or scholarly credentials (see Mahmood 2011; Dabashi 2010). In web reception, he is often cast as a ‘refuge from Islamism’ (in spite of having fled an authoritarian secular regime). As a ‘culturally authentic witness’ he is able to make claims and allegations for which one would otherwise be accused of racism in mainstream discourse. By invoking Enlightenment and its critique of religion he pre- empts allegations of promoting racism and anti-Muslim sentiment (see Weaver 2009 on liquid racism).
What is Islamophobia?... “Socially reproduced prejudices and aversions against Islam and Muslims, including actions and practices which attacks, excludes or discriminate against humans on the basis that they are, or are presumed to be Muslims, and associated with Islam.” Mattias Gardell (2010). Islamofobi. Stockholm: Leopold Förlag. “At the heart of Islamophobic discourse is the question of civilization, the notion that Islam engenders a worldview which is fundamentally incompatible with and inferior to Western culture” Matti Bunzl (2005). ‘Between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the new Europe’, American Ethnologist 2005 32 (4). “The hard core of Islamophobia is racist. Nowadays, the antipathy towards foreigners or people who look different is often styled as criticism of religion because it makes it more digestible for the centre- right and left-wing liberals.” Prof. Heiner Bielefeldt to Qantara.de 2010.
And why should social anthropologists be concerned about it? Norwegian opinion surveys from 12/2010 suggest that 61 % of Norwegian surveyed feared ‘conflicts with Muslims more than anything else’ (Monitor 2010). “The subject for anthropology is human existence in all its diversity” (Nader 1992). ⇨Doesn’t imply an embrace of identity politics, but does imply something of a professional commitment to contribute to an unthinking of hegemonic binaries based on reductionistic culturalist assumptions, and to furthering knowledge and understanding of the choices human beings make in increasingly multicultural and multireligious contexts. Both the Bin Ladens and Hirsi Alis of the contemporary world promote a huntingtonesque clash of civilizations: Anthropology has a role to play in avoiding turning this into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
And finally… “David Hume was right: reason is a slave to the passions, especially our darker ones. The real driver [behind Islamophobia] is that otherwise polite people have given themselves permission to be racist. Now is the time to disturb the cosy rules of the dinner party and speak up against the bigots. There may well be a row. You might not get invited back. But so what?” Giles Fraser (Canon Chancellor, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, U.K.) (2010). ‘Islamophobia is the moral blind spot of modern Britain’, The Guardian 22.01.2011.