There was a time during the Iraq invasion when I agreed with every word Gary Younge wrote in protest against that vile and illegal war. But I parted company with Gary after he started writing articles like this one on Islam and Muslim identity.
In it, Younge uses the rhetorical device of the ‘mythical Muslim’, which in his view is just that: myth. What is revealing is that if you bother to deconstruct what Younge’s views of Muslims are in this society, we arrive at his view of the “actual Muslim”. For if you are to believe Younge, an ‘actual Muslim’ is the only type that actually lives, breathes and eats as opposed to the “mythical Muslim” which is simply a figment of the government’s imagination.
Gary Younge’s ‘actual Muslim’ complies to this list of behaviours and attitudes:
- He does not support gay rights, racial equality or women’s rights.
- He does not support tolerance or parliamentary government.
- He is ambivalent about the murder of civilians unless they are in Palestine, Afghanistan or Iraq only.
- He does not want to be treated as a regular British citizen.
- He raises his daughters to be meek and unassertive; they must wear a headscarf.
- He does not believe in free speech nor the right to cause offence.
- He feels he has the right to be offended but the believes he has no right to speak out.
- Whatever an extremist is, on any given day, he is it.
- He does not regard himself as British first, foremost and for ever.
- He will retaliate violently against Britain’s right to bomb and invade by interpreting violent jihad as the true and only interpretation of Islam.
- He will never condemn other Muslims no matter what their actions are.
- He will never support the government on any issue whatsoever.
- He must gain credibility with other Muslims only by representing their interests to the government.
- His credibility is based on preaching against restraint and good behaviour.
- Whatever a moderate is, on any given day, he is not it.
Is that list an accurate synopsis of your average Muslim in our society? Gary Younge, by being critical of the government’s attempts to draw out the antithesis of this stereotype, must certainly think so.
But then Younge contradicts his own rhetoric by redeeming himself with this:
Instead the government continues to approach Muslims as though their religion defines them. It rarely speaks to them as tenants, parents, students or workers; it does not dwell on problems that they share with everyone else; it does not convene high profile task forces to look at how to improve their daily lives. It summons them as Muslims, talks to them as Muslims and refers to them as Muslims – as though they could not possibly be understood as anything else.
Spot on Gary. Just as it is becoming increasingly common for journalists and opinion makers to encapsulate Muslim identity with the use of a shopping list of stereotypes. Which is why it is vitally important that Gary YoungeÂ understands that the “mythical Muslim” is not as mythical as he thinks he is.
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Filed in: British Identity,Muslim