Thursday, 9 June 2016

On Muslims and Fearing Them

In an attempt to learn more about the issues surrounding the Brexit vote, I thought I’d dive into my bookcases to see if I could find anything to help me. To be honest, I didn’t find too much that was appropriate. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, perhaps? No—that’s fiction, apparently. Mr. Uppity by Roger Hargreaves gave me an insight into how the richly privileged might deal with international relations. And Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park is surely a satire on economics, substituting velociraptors for CEOs and politicians. All worthy stuff, for sure, but not quite what I was looking for. However, my literary diving did allow me to rediscover The History of Eastern Europe for Beginners, which I bought way back in the late 1990s. As I skim-read the book once more (it’s easy to skim-read a book when eighty per cent of each page is a cartoon), I came across this quotation:

Since the fall of world communism has deprived Western countries of their convenient scapegoat/demon/enemy, many people in the U.S. and Europe have redirected their unreasoned prejudice towards Muslims, accepting the stereotypical fiction that all Muslims are religious extremists and proto-terrorists.

Paul Beck, Edward Mast, and Perry Tapper, The History of Eastern Europe for Beginners (New York: Writers and Readers, 1997) p. 154

Let me draw attention to the fact that this quotation, which could have been taken from any book or magazine article written today, comes from a volume that’s almost twenty years old. Now I know the prejudices of individuals are persistent and die hard, but still—it’s difficult to read a two-decade old quotation such as this and suspect current politicians of perpetuating the idea that Muslims are scary and need somehow to be limited in their movements and actions.


  1. I love the Mr. Men books. Mr. Hot Air is a good one. And Mr. Posh Twit UKIP. If we end up out of the EU and Donald Trump becomes US president, my best bet is we're all actually inside The Matrix. Because it makes no sense. In the way that WWII made no sense. Seriously, the man's name is a synonym for 'fart'. Someone must have forgotten to turn off the Infinite Improbability Drive.

    1. We're probably all inside the Matrix, anyway. (It would explain the hole in the back of my head.)