There is an interesting story receiving a modest amount of attention in the regular sources of media in the world; but if things were as they should be, this story would receive a great deal of attention. In the European Union, there is a system by which European countries have a revolving system of presidency over the European Union (EU). So, in six month periods, different countries have the opportunity to assume the official role of being the president of the European Union. Currently, France is next in line, getting ready to assume the role of President of the EU for the next six months.
The country acting as president has certain privileges and powers, such as a substantial amount of influence over scheduling, and a direct opportunity to influence the priorities and certain policies in the EU. As France gets ready to assume this role, certain venues of the European media have started talking about how France is going to have a greater opportunity to implement policies that further solidify its racism against Muslims. Now, of course, this is a rather curious point, because any person that looks at the affairs of the EU these days cannot fail to notice the overwhelming amount of Islamophobia, not just in France, but in a large number of European countries. These toxic racist discourses that pervade the countries of the EU are only going to serve as an excuse to further escalate and refine the instrumentalities of racism in France's presidency of the EU. It is already a highly-racist, highly-bigoted, highly-prejudiced atmosphere.
France's presidency will only serve as an excuse to escalate an already endemic and widespread problem. It was not too long ago that individuals like Marine Le Pen represented the extreme right in countries like France. Not too long ago, individuals like Marine Le Pen were seen as a hearkening Europe back to the type of racism that was amply displayed in the unfolding events of World War II, as an example of the extent to which fascism and its closely associated ideologies of racial superiority and racial difference found fertile grounds in Europe. People like Marine Le Pen were seen as a hearkening back to these types of cultural paradigms, and the often made point was that right wing parties like that of Marine Le Pen were on the European fringe.
What is most distinctive about people like Le Pen was her unapologetic disdain for everything Muslim or Islamic. Although France has a very large Muslim minority, in the millions, people like Marine Le Pen advocated racial purity in France and did not hesitate to suggest that the entire Muslim population of France should be displaced and simply ejected.
As we brace for the French presidency of the EU, we also brace for an upcoming French election. Part of this process, of course, is French politicians debating one another with media pundits, people like Eric Zemmour, who is a well-known figure in France and a rabid Islamophobe. It was a rather historical moment when the Minister of Interior in France, an Islamophobic fellow named Gerald Darmanin, in a recent debate accused the rabidly Islamophobic, racist, fascist Marine Le Pen of going soft on Islam. The incumbent Minister of Interior in Macron's government is now outdoing what, just a few years ago, used to be considered a fringe racist movement by competing in bigotry and prejudice, by telling the representative of the fascist right wing in France that her party is not hard enough on Islam - that they are not tough enough and that they do not sufficiently demonize and target Muslims.
This is simply a recognition of something that has become a reality. With parties like that of Marine Le Pen, although their ideology remains the same, right wing fascists and racist ideologies are no longer fringe in countries like France. In fact, it is fair to say that the rabidly anti-Muslim discourse has become mainstream. It has become the civil discourse in society. It has become the accepted discourse in society. No one, except perhaps Muslims, seriously takes the idea that the fascist party of someone like Marine Le Pen remains a fringe phenomena in a country like France. In fact, what the current French government has been doing is astounding in terms of its level of racism, prejudice and bigotry.
As I mentioned in a previous khutbah, there is an organization called The Collective Against Islamophobia in France. The Collective Against Islamophobia did what everyone thought was a fairly straightforward job: they kept a record of racially-motivated assaults against Muslims in Europe, as well as a record of Muslim complaints of being discriminated against or otherwise harassed or assaulted. They kept a record of Islamophobic, racist, bigoted discourses, statements, lectures, speeches, books and articles uttered by European politicians.
Macron's government accused The Collective Against Islamophobia in France of being an Islamist organization and shut them down. Macron's government, just in the last few months, has not just shut down Islamic organizations, but has even targeted Islamic businesses. It shut down Islamic mosques, Islamic schools, and every imaginable Islamic civic organization that engages in any level of advocacy. On top of that, it has even been shutting down Muslim businesses and Muslim street vendors, accusing them of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Macron's government has been acting in the way that we would expect a third-world dictatorial government to act; accusing normal business people of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and shutting them down without offering any proof or even any legal process. It is all claims of secret evidence, used to invoke state privilege and anti-terrorism laws to close down Muslim vendors, Muslim-owned businesses, Muslim mosques, and Muslim schools. Even Muslim organizations that organize Hajj, or that work to provide psychological counseling, or that work with the families of Muslim prisoners have all been targeted and shut down.
There is a fairly modest post in the European Union. The EU has created these official jobs of commissioners that focus on social problems, such as harassment against women in the workplace. One of these commissioners is Helena Dalli, currently the Commissioner for Equality. Ths poor woman has come under rabid, bigoted, neurotic attacks by the French government and the French media; no longer only by the French fascist right wing on the fringe, but by the French official government and all levels of the French media.
Why? Because Dalli committed the unforgivable sin of meeting with an organization called The Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations to discuss the problem of rising racially-motivated attacks against Muslims all over Europe: physical assaults, harassment in the workplace, and harassment in various levels of social and civil engagements. France successfully not only demonized Helena Dalli for daring to meet with this Muslim organization, who, according to the French government is an Islamist organization, but it has actually succeeded in forcing Dalli to terminate all relations with The Forum of European Muslim organizations.
So when France is going to become the president of the European Union, it is clear what they plan on doing. Currently, Macron's government competes with and outperforms what, just a few years ago, was considered the racist fringe in France. The problem is that France, because of its sizable Muslim minority, its colonial past and present, and its influence in Muslim countries, is simply in the media more often than other European countries that are no less, if not even more racist and bigoted than the French government.
Europe is home to many countries like Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland, which are countries with young democracies; countries where democracy is poorly-anchored and which are significantly more religious than France. In these countries, the amount of bigotry, prejudice and rabid hate against Islam and Muslims is beyond shocking. The problem is that in the European imagination, especially in countries like Poland and Hungary, the idea of a Christian Europe is conflated and interlinked with the idea of a secular, civilized Europe.
If we take a look at the discourses often heard in Italian, Greek, Polish and Hungarian media, and compare them to what was said and written about Islam at the height of the colonial age, the solemn conclusion is what is said today about Islam is even worse than what was written and said about Islam at the zenith of the colonial age. The colonial age, at least in a significant part of Europe, had the attitude of benevolence or the myth of benevolence of the White Man's Burden: "These people are not evil, the religion perhaps is not evil, they just need our civilizational values to prosper. And we are here to educate them."
Now, the discourse is unapologetically hateful, and of course there are buzzwords that everyone uses, even if no one is sure what they mean, like “political Islam.” Not too long ago, polite society would say, "We are not attacking Islam, we are attacking extremists in Islam." But that argument has become unsustainable, as it was clear that anyone that even practiced the faith of Islam was immediately accused of being an extremist. So no one talks about “extremist Islam” anymore, everyone just simply talks about “Islamists” and “political Islam,” whatever that means.
Under the guise of resisting “political Islam,” the French Minister of Interior can accuse Le Pen of going soft on Islam. Islamic schools are shut down. Islamic mosques are shut down. Islamic businesses are, without evidence or due process, accused of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood and are shut down. Hijab is banned. Assaults against Muslims are regularly uninvestigated and simply described as crimes of passion, rather than as crimes of bigotry. Every organization that emerges in countries like Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and France that attempt to keep track of the assaults and harassments of Muslims is shut down under the guise of fighting political Islam and Islamism. At the same time that countries like Saudi Arabia are spending millions of dollars on celebrating the new year and holding record-setting parties and celebrations, and as Muslim countries are setting new records on wasting money on entertaining themselves, a record number of Muslim organizations are shut down all over Europe, including Islamic centers and mosques.
As we face a time of rampant Islamophobia, and there is much obsession and confusion about “political Islam,” remember that the Prophet was a political man. So if we are condemning political Islam, and the Prophet was a political man, it does not take a genius to put two and two together: that the problem is with the Prophet of Islam, who was a political man. Christianity is a blank page. Because Jesus died very young, the opportunity to do much is not there. There is a special exception for Moses and Judaism. Yes, Moses was a political man. Yes, Zionism is a political theology. Yes, political Judaism is active, healthy, vibrant and lively; but that gets an automatic pass. When it comes to Islam, the very prophet of that religion was a political man, the companions were political men, the family of the Prophet were political people.
We can all pretend and condemn political Islam, but in reality, it is a judgment against the very father heads and mother heads of Islam itself. With the vague label of political Islam, it is not just Europe that can engage in an unprecedented amount of Islam bashing, but that very same prejudiced, bigoted, ignorant and confused attitude about Islam is reflected in the very Muslim psyche itself.
We have Muslims all over the world repeating the condemnation against political Islam, but at the same time, pretending that they can possibly reconcile between that condemnation and any type of reverence for the Prophet or for the Qur'an. It is irreconcilable, it cannot work. So we use another trope, very much like Europe. "Well, what we mean by political Islam is the Muslim Brotherhood. It does not matter where the Muslim Brotherhood is, what we mean by the Muslim Brotherhood, or whether in fact there is a Muslim Brotherhood, it is another bigoted prejudicial trope that we can use to express our prejudice, unease and sense of dread.”
But here is the thing, what many Muslims are oblivious to is that there is an enormous amount of scholarship produced in English about the institutions of Islamophobia and the effect of Islamophobia. The titles are numerous, but among the things that this scholarship documents is our schizophrenic attitude towards our own religion, our complacent silence as we face the racism, prejudice and bigotry that pervades Europe and many other countries in the world about Islam, and our own schizophrenic discomfort with our own faith and prophet. It documents the role of our leaders, figures like Hamza Yusuf and Bin Bayyah, who tell us, "Do not worry about anything. It is wonderful being a Muslim in today’s world. Do not believe anyone that tells you that you as a Muslim are discriminated against, hated or despised." These Muslim leaders further adding to the confusion by supporting and praising Islamophobes like Donald Trump has led to a truly incredible and shocking reality documented in books that Muslims are so good at ignoring. Among the components of this reality is that among Muslims in the United States and Europe, suicide rates and attempted suicide rates are double the average number in society. So if you are born Muslim, you are twice as likely to either attempt or successfully carry out a suicide.
For years, especially in the last five years, those who care have been carefully documenting a reality in which Muslim youth have double the normal rate of attempted suicides and successful suicides. Drug addiction is rampant among Muslims, higher than any other religious community. You are more likely to have a drug addict in your family if you are Muslim than if you belonged to a Jewish family, a Christian family, a Hindu family, a Buddhist family, or a Bahai family. Drug addiction, attempted suicides, and successful suicides are all rampant in Muslim families.
What these sociologists and anthropologists have been writing about for the past five years is that all the contradictions, pathologies and illnesses of the modern Muslim condition - all the contradictions that we so easily pretend we can coexist and cohabitate with, all the un-coolness of being Muslim, all the reality that for a Muslim youth saying, "I am Muslim" - puts them immediately in a defensive posture. The reality is all the inconsistent and unanswered questions that Muslims grow up with, "Oh, political Islam is bad," "Well, how about the Prophet?" "Oh, but he is good," "But he was a political man," "It does not matter. Do not be part of the Muslim Brotherhood."
As Muslims, we must perform an act of Islamic catharsis. We have to defend against the accusation of being Islamic by performing “non-Islamicity.” The contradictions, the pathologies, the inconsistencies, the hypocrisies, the racism all adds up to create a deeply-fractured Muslim psyche. It is not just the reality in the United States, but for Muslims all over the West, if you are Muslim, you are twice as likely than any other religious group to either attempt suicide or become a drug addict.
The same scholarship that Muslims are so good at ignoring also documents the fact that of all the religious groups, the taboo among Muslims against speaking about drug addiction or suicide as an endemic, persistent problem is 10 times worse than any other religious group. The ostracism, the taboo.
I still remember an event in which I was spilling my soul, talking about the danger and the impact of Islamophobia, and this smug, high-class, rich Egyptian woman with all the arrogance in the world looked at me like she would look at hired help at her home and said, "Tell me, how does any of the stuff that you are talking about help my children?" Well, I have news for you, ma'am, your child is 10 times more likely than their co-religionists to grow up non-religious, and twice as likely to become a drug addict, and twice as likely to attempt suicide or to actually successfully carry out a suicide. And if they are an addict or plagued by thoughts of suicide, they are 10 times more likely not to find a supportive community, supportive space or any opportunity for help because of the taboo that exists among Muslims.
When are Muslims going to wake up and realize it is not political Islam, and it is not the Muslim Brotherhood, but it is simply prejudice, bigotry and racism? Just because France goes around babbling on about civil society and civic values does not mean they successfully cover up for the very vulgar reality of racism and bigotry. When are Muslims going to wake up and realize that as they continue living selfish lives, competing with one another over irrelevancies in existence, the reality of living in a world that has become increasingly bigoted, prejudice and racist when it comes to Muslims is an overwhelming impending danger against your children? Your children will escape to drugs, will escape to suicide, or will simply do everything possible to disassociate themselves from your contradictions and your pathologies.
There are no less than 40 books and hundreds of articles about Islamophobia. The documentation of prejudice and bigotry is overwhelming. I turn to see what Muslims are talking about, and there is not a single khutbah about Islamophobia. Muslim discourses live in an Alice in Wonderland style world. What are Muslims talking about? They are still talking about the Sira, Taqwa, and marginalities and irrelevancies. Places like Zaytuna, and scholars like Hamza Yusuf still go around telling Muslims, "Do not dare think that you are discriminated against. Do not even dare recognize that reality. Instead, live in a make-believe world."
Islam has become not just a drug. The truly disastrous situation is that it has become a drug without potency. At least a potent drug allows you to escape for a short while before reality comes crashing down upon you again. Islam has become a drug without potency. You cannot even escape reality for a short while. You take it and the impact is so short-lived, so weak that all you have done is confronted yourself with the reality of illness, of addiction, psychosis and mental illness. As those Muslims in the world who can make a difference - because nothing changes without investment - those Muslims whom God has entrusted with wealth, who could fund the type of institutions that would start responding to Islamophobia go around doing nothing but enjoying their material indulges.
Muslims in Europe are bracing for a French presidency of the European Union, but the reality is there is already a very grim picture, a picture that reaches right into the most intimate part of our private lives. May God forgive our sins, guide us to the straight path, help us become better Muslims and hold on tight to your rope and to your message.