November 10, 2012
Robin Richardson is a director of the Insted consultancy, and is the editor with Julian Petley of Pointing the Finger: Islam and Muslims in the British media, published in 2011.
On the evening of Monday 5 November I returned to London from an international conference in Paris. As the plane made its descent towards Heathrow, the city landscape beneath me was alive with the sparkle of fireworks. The conference had been at UNESCO’s headquarters and had been about addressing racisms, particularly the form of racism known as Islamophobia, in and through European and North American education systems. The fireworks across London were a sparkling reminder, anyway potentially and anyway in principle, that racisms containing a religious component have been alive and kicking in Europe for many centuries.
‘Remember, remember,’ we have said annually to children in Britain over the years, ‘the fifth of November.’ And we have added, sternly if ungrammatically, that we ‘see no reason/ why gunpowder treason/ should ever be forgot.’
We have too rarely, though, remembered to tell our children that there was a strong religious element in the mutual hostility that existed between King James on the one hand and the Gunpowder Plot ‘traitors’ on the other. And we have not remembered to refer, even obliquely, to present-day prejudices and intolerance which similarly are imbued with a religious component, for example Islamphobia. Nor have we remembered to point to the similarities and differences between Islamophobia and colour-based racisms. Read more of this post