Monday, March 15, 2010

Religion is not race

This expands a comment I made here.

On his blog, philosopher of ethics Udo Schuklenk commented (via) on a report issued by Ryerson University about about racism on campus. He objected to conflating of race and religion in the report:
It is deeply offensive to conflate in a report on racism racism with discrimination against people who make the choice to believe such stuff, and who then go out of their way to let the world know that they do (eg by putting black cloth over their heads, or wearing any number of religious knickknack around their necks etc).
He also quoted approvingly from an Op Ed piece in the Globe and Mail by Margaret Wenke which, among other things, said of the report:
Mr. Al-Solaylee is a brown-skinned Muslim who is openly gay. He thinks the entire exercise is a frivolous diversion. “There are things that I need from the university, but this isn't one of them,” he says. “I need computers that don't crash all the time. I want students who don't have to hold bake sales to raise money for their graduate projects. There should be money for these things, not equity officers.” …
The most bizarre revelation can be found in the report's fine print. Among the students, racism and discrimination scarcely register at all. Only 315 students (out of 28,000) bothered to respond to a task force questionnaire. Half the respondents were white, and half non-white. On the question of whether Ryerson treats students fairly regardless of race, the vast majority of both groups – more than 90 per cent – believed it did. Fewer than 30 of the non-white students said they had ever experienced discrimination. That's a 10th of 1 per cent of the student body.
Naturally, the task force has an explanation for this: People are too scared to speak out! That's the great thing about systemic racism. You don't need any evidence. Every negative proves a positive, and the absence of evidence just proves how bad things really are.
How do you say “pathetic wanker” in Canadian English? Apparently “Ryerson ethics officer”.

All of which led to my comment on Udo Schuklenk’s post agreeing with him and noting that the Ryerson report tells us that:
Islamophobia is a form of anti-Muslim racism that involves expressions and acts of hostility towards those of the Muslim faith and people from what is referred to as the Muslim world.
A claim that is stupid and offensive.
(1) The term 'Islamophobia' is a rip-off of 'homophobia', which is truly offensive since Islam is the prime source of the most brutal oppression of gays and lesbians in the world today.
(2) The term 'homophobia' itself is silly, since the problem is hatred, not fear.
(3) As Udo Schuklenk and Margaret Wente so eloquently point out, religion is not race.

'Islamophobia' is just a term to de-legitimise criticism of Islam by pandering to the desire to display "conspicuous virtue".

Racism is noxious, but not all bigotry is racism. Nor is all contempt, dislike or disagreement bigotry. This desperate hunting for mislabeled needles in haystacks is a sad pathology of our time and matters would be greatly improved—particularly the intelligence and honesty of public discourse—if it stopped. Failing that, a certain amount of pointing and laughing seems to be in order.