‘Prevent’ing Education: Anti-Muslim racism and the War on Terror

Since the events of the 2001 riots, 9/11 and the terrorist attacks in London in 2005, we have witnessed in Western Europe an ‘end of multiculturalism’ and a policy debate on integration of Muslim communities within a heightened security context. These policy debates on racialised minority groups have coincided with the emergence and popular appeal of a ‘new British fascism’ in the form of English Defence League and more recently a rise in popular right wing political parties such as UKIP. These trends paradoxically take place with a backdrop of a wider debate on post-racism in public discourse despite the fundamental disconnect between the racial rhetoric of the state and the experiences of many racialised minorities.
The increasing Muslim presence in Europe, together with the growing security concerns about Muslim communities, has given rise to this discursive framing of the Muslim problematic, often labelled as anti-Muslim racism and Islamophobia. The concept of anti-Muslim racism, which builds upon colonial and orientalist schemata, is best used to explain the phenomenon of ‘new racism’ in this current context, as a term that focuses less on the hostility against Islam and more on the aggression and prejudice against Muslims – that is to say, anti-Muslim prejudice focuses on the ‘lives of Muslims’ in the West. Anti-Muslim racism in its present form sees the current portrayal of the Muslim problematic arising from a transition from anti-Asian racism, revolving around the essentialised ‘Paki’, to anti-Muslim racism – with the objective of the hate being transferred from race to culture.
The national debate on the ‘War on Terror’ on the Muslim problematic has often been associated with the on-going military campaign led by the USA, the United Kingdom and their allies. The intense effects of these campaigns on the Muslim conditions in the West have direct consequences for racial experiences of schooling for Muslim pupils, where the rhetoric used to extend the war on terror is often used as a repertoire of abuse in the classroom. In fact interviews carried out with 15-year-old Muslim boys attending a secondary school in the North West of England, exemplify how international events shape the way in which Muslims are ‘treated’ and also ‘excluded’ from particular activities in schools. The following observation shows how micro-level racial aggression is a daily experience for some but a key feature of schooling for all minorities racial groups.
“The big stereotypical view of us Muslims in school put it plain and simple is that we’re terrorist. The white students think we’re terrorist, but I also think the teachers also think the same. We know that the white teachers and the kids don’t like us. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that you know… For example we’ll be in class, like the other day we were talking about something in history and this white guy said something and said something which I did not agree with him so I told him I think you wrong. And suddenly he jumped up and said OK you’re right otherwise YOUR GONNA BLOW ME UP’>. Or, I’ll give you another example, it will be like, you’ll be walking down the corridor in school, you know minding your own business, and a group of white students would say ‘tick tick tick tick’ – like a bomb going off.”

Shamim Miah


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