Monday, 11 February 2013

Courageous Islamic Social Research

Cites from a Jadaliyya interview with Junaid Rana in April 2011, about his book Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora. Durham: Duke University Press, 2011.

Comments by Igor Slamoff

Junaid Rana: “In the … United States … Pakistani immigrants are located as people of color in relationship to their place of origin and religion. … because of their religion they are often understood as linked to or are mistakenly combined with Arab Americans. In this way, forms of racializing Muslims take Arab and South Asian Americans as a singular group, which confuses complex histories and geographies.”

Igor Slamoff : Oh, I see. So being a Muslim is irrelevant. Is ALL that stuff about the Umma just meaningless hogwash?

Junaid Rana: "…. an under-researched aspect of the scholarship on the South Asian diaspora, [namely migrants from]   … Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh … I was … working on the dynamics of labor exploitation under globalization, of which racism is a part, the role of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism became especially relevant.”

Igor Slamoff: Junaid Rana, that courageous researcher on the Muslim South Asian Diaspora and on the dynamics of labor exploitation under globalization, has inexplicably neglected to research that portion of the Muslim South Asian diaspora whose labor is exploited in Arab countries.

According to  Sharq el Awsat, “Half [a] million Bangladeshi laborers in the Gulf are swindled and exploited. Must pay to sponsor $200 out of their $300 monthly pay. Many resort to theft, increasing insecurity of society.”
Living Off One Hundred Dollars, Sharq el Awsat, 18/09/2008

... The United Arab Emirates, 80% of whose population are migrant workers, most of them rice eaters from Asia ...

Why are brave defenders of Islam like Junaid Rana silent about this exploitation of South Asian Muslims by Arab Muslims? 

Junaid Rana: “… the role of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism became especially relevant. My focus on racialization made it important to traverse some tricky ground that scholars are just beginning to cover concerning … the pressing need to study racism against Muslims.”

Igor Slamoff: "Racism against Islam” is like sexism against penguins. When you say “tricky ground”, who is being tricked?  

Junaid Rana: “… popular forms of racism that consistently target Muslims based on their religious comportment, including dress and physical appearance. The recent murder of Shaima Alawadi in her home in San Diego, California, and the accompanying note that expressed xenophobic hatred, is an example of this.”

Igor Slamoff:  It now transpires that Shaima was not murdered by an Islamophobe, but by a Muslim, namely her husband. I estimate that 180 times more Muslims are murdered by other Muslims than are murdered by Islamophobes.

It is interesting to note that during  the interview by Jadaliyya, Junaid Rana speaks about his research in general terms like:

·         “My focus on racialization made it important to traverse some tricky ground that scholars are just beginning to cover concerning the relationship of race to Muslims and Islam.“
·         “In terms of academic genealogy, this research follows the legacy of Edward Said and his critique of Orientalism as a form of knowledge and power as it is tethered to the practices of imperialism and the machines of war.“
·         “ … racism and domination is a tool of twenty-first century imperialism in which an American empire has been created … “

All these aspects are doubtless of the greatest importance. However they don't sound like empirical social research to me. Rather they sound like ideological assertions with no connection to any actual observation made by Junaid Rana.  

Moreover, his methodological focus on Western imperialism led him to ignore the plight of Bangladeshi laborers in Arabia, i.e. Muslims on the brink of starvation in an thoroughly Islamic society, and forced to resort to crime against other Muslims in order to survive.

As a matter of fact throughout the interview Junaid Rama mentions only one specific fact, namely the murder of Shaima Alawadi. However her murder was not part of the subject matter of his research project. It was just a convenient handle onto which  he could hang his denunciations of the West.

Furthermore, as I noted above, Junaid Rama not only tells us that Shaima Alawadi was murdered, but his brilliant forensic mind at once identifies the murderer: some evil Western Islamophobe. It now proves that this claim is false. He introduced the subject merely as another pretext to prolong his ideological rant. She was actually murdered by her jealous husband, thus confirming the hoary Orientalist cliché of Arab male chauvinism.  

Conclusion   The reader may draw her/his own concludion about the real purpose of Mr. Rana's research.

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