Earlier this week, MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid made some blatantly Islamophobic remarks when she compared white supremacists to Muslims who get radicalized in war-torn Muslim-majority countries.
“When leaders, let’s say in the Muslim world, talk a lot of violent talk and encourage their supporters to be willing to commit violence including on their own bodies in order to win against whoever they decide is the enemy, we in the U.S. media describe that as they are ‘radicalizing’ these people, particularly when they’re radicalizing young people,” she said. “That’s how we talk about the way Muslims act. When you see what Donald Trump is doing, is that any different from what we describe as radicalizing people?”
Unfortunately, Reid’s comments aren’t new to the Muslim community. They perpetuate a dangerous Islamophobic myth that oversimplifies how terrorism came to be in our communities, and quite frankly, exonerates the role of the United States and other Western countries in those crises.
The radicalization of Muslims in war-torn countries has absolutely nothing to do with how the white supremacists’ motivation to kill. Comparing the nuanced situations in the Middle East, North Africa, and other Muslim-majority countries is an insult to how white supremacy, invasion, and colonialism led to this radicalization.
But before I get ahead of myself, although what’s happening in Kenosha, Wisconsin (and all around the country), isn’t new to Donald Trump’s America, it doesn’t help to have a racist president who’s an apologist for their cause. Whether it’s defending white supremacist terrorists or saying that there are good people “on both sides,” Trump exacerbates violence in this country.
First thing first: White people have never endured systemic injustice in America. They have always had the power, institutionally and socially, to implement modern forms of slavery and genocide on Black people and communities of color to continue the white supremacist legacy in which the United States was built on. And they continue to get away with it through mass incarnation, police brutality, and more.
Secondly, unlike white supremacists, who have their ever-changing white supremacist cult leaders and presidents like Trump to give them the green light, Muslims don’t subscribe to any cult, president, prime minister, king, queen to tell them how to follow their religion. (Before you object: No, the terrorist groups you hear about don’t count, because no terrorist group could ever be Muslim since what they do is forbidden by Islam.)
White supremacists are motivated by one thing: Their hatred for other people who don’t look like them, think like them or live like them. Whether they’re targeting Black people, indigenous people, or religious minorities, their hatred is their motivator.
White supremacists in the United States have access to education, health care services, and a life without threat of violence from outside countries. They still choose ignorance and power despite having the resources not to follow their ancestors’ footsteps.
Terrorism in Muslim-majority countries is impacted by and often born from the violence that comes from illegal invasions, colonization, drone strikes, and economic terrorism such as sanctions that oppress other countries’ economic ability to excel without being under the control of Western powers, i.e., the United States’ sanctions on Iran.
Muslims in war-torn countries don’t have the luxury of accessibility, and most importantly: choice. Terrorism in Muslim-majority countries is impacted by and often born from the violence that comes from illegal invasions, colonization, drone strikes, and economic terrorism such as sanctions that oppress other countries’ economic ability to excel without being under the control of Western powers, i.e., the United States’ sanctions on Iran.
Their schools get bombed; their hospitals get bombed; their homes get demolished; they’re forced to walk within their own country seeing troops from another country strapped with weapons oppress them and claim it’s “liberation”; their families get killed and/or separated; they’re forced to seek refuge, oftentimes in countries that displaced them with war only to get rejected by those countries, and the list goes on.
With so-called “Islamic terrorism,” the small percentage of “Muslims” who turn away from their religion of peace to a life of terrorism are plagued by these issues.
Let’s be clear: There will never be an excuse for terrorism of any form. However, we cannot oversimplify its roots or compare the factors that lead up to them to white supremacists in the U.S. That would be playing right into the hands of white supremacists who want to be exonerated for all the war crimes they committed in these countries.
And therein lies the issue with Reid’s comments. It absolves white supremacy of its role in these situations, and implies that Muslims, like white supremacists, are inherently susceptible to violence.
So, yes, what we’re seeing in the U.S. is entirely different than what you assume you’re seeing happening in Muslim-majority countries.
I hope Reid apologizes for her comments. Ignorance isn’t an attack on her character. We’re all ignorant about something, but we need to take responsibility, apologize, and do better moving forward once we get called out on it.