Kamel Daoud: Islam-Inspired Racism in Algeria and Elsewhere Is “Unprecedented In Its Violence” May 4, 2016

Kamel Daoud: Islam-Inspired Racism in Algeria and Elsewhere Is “Unprecedented In Its Violence”

In the Qur’an, chapter 30 verse 22, Allah is credited with color-blindness when it comes to shades of skin.

“And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colors; most surely there are signs in this for the learned.”

Many Muslims take from this that all men are truly created equal. It’s a smug truism in Islam that racism has never gotten much of a toehold within the Muslim faith. In fact, racism is often considered to exist only in the West.

Recently, Allah’s purported anti-discrimination message hasn’t exactly resonated in the Maghreb and Arab countries, though, writes the Algerian novelist and essayist Kamel Daoud (below, at right) in the New York Times. He sees pervasive racism, and “a wave of xenophobia” that is “unprecedented in its violence.”


On the occasion of a soccer match between Algeria and Mali in November 2014, the Islamist daily Echourouk published a photograph of some of the Malian club’s black fans under the caption, “No greetings, no welcome. AIDS behind you, Ebola ahead of you.”

The situation wasn’t always like this. For decades Algerians mostly treated blacks with discreet aloofness; only recently has that turned into violent rejection. … In Europe, migrants can try to play on the humanitarianism and guilty consciences of their hosts, but in Algeria these days, the Other is visible only through the prism of faith.

Religion, then, must take its usual outsized share of the blame. For instance,

The punitive expeditions in Bechar [where black migrants were violently attacked and targeted for deportation, TF] erupted on a Friday, the day of Muslims’ main weekly prayer, after sermons calling for purification in response to migrants’ mores, which are seen as loose. For religious conservatives, culture diverts black migrants from strict religious orthodoxy — even sub-Saharans who are Muslim aren’t really Muslim.

The cognitive dissonance is headsplitting to ponder:

[A]s in other Arab countries, discourse in the media and among intellectuals is compartmentalized. On the one hand, there are virulent articles about racism in Europe describing the “Jungle,” a migrant detention center in Calais, France, as something of a concentration camp. … On the other hand, there is no shortage of Ku Klux Klan-worthy arguments about the threat posed by blacks, their perceived lack of civic-mindedness and the crimes and diseases they purportedly bring with them.

This duplicity is odd, but above all it’s convenient, and devastating. After a Nigerien migrant killed an Algerian in Ouargla, one of the main cities of the country’s Sahara region, in early March, clashes broke out between locals and sub-Saharans. News of the killing quickly escalated into a popular vendetta, complete with a hunt for migrants through the streets (leading to dozens wounded) and an attack on a refugee camp.

And the double standard persists.

Denunciations of racism are reserved for the crimes of the West. What counts as abuse there seems like a necessity here.

Daoud has been on a roll of late. Two months ago, he published a harsh but on-point philippic pointing out that “one of the great miseries plaguing much of the so-called Arab world, and the Muslim world more generally, is its sick relationship with women.”

It’s the kind of criticism that, in the playbook of the regressive left, would soon be doused in vitriol if the messenger were Bill Maher or Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Sam Harris.

Maybe Daoud stands a better chance of finally getting through?

(Photo of Kamel Daoud by Claude Truong-Ngoc, via Wikipedia)

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