The Socio-political Context of Islamophobic Prejudices

of Islamophobic Prejudices

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of Islamophobic Prejudices.”
Un article publié dans la revue ISLAMOPHOBIA STUDIES JOURNAL, vol. 2, no 2, automne 2014, pp. 143-156.


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When discussing minorities in the social sciences, we want to signify that a given population lacks decisive influence on the power structures in place — whether political (parliamentary majority, repressive forces), symbolic (medias), or economic (capital, jobs reserved to the native-born) — that they lack the influence required to end the ostracism of which they are the victim. The term 'minority' in sociology has no demographic meaning, i.e., of not being numerous in a society. The white minority in South Africa illustrates this point. Although small in number, it possessed between 1948 and 1994 the political, economic and symbolic powers.

In the past decade, some mentalities in Western societies have represented Muslims as populations whose behavior and customs are abnormal, deplorable, archaic, irrational, and even vicious. The representations of entire populations as cultural "aberrations" that develop bi2arre, immoral, archaic, barbaric lifestyles, is common in modern Western history. Discourses on the superiority of the White civilization over other civilizations — of Anglo-Saxon over Southern European cultures, or again, of the national culture of the native-born, the so-called "old-stock" (as in the French expression "Québécois de souche") over the cultures of immigrants — have had deadly repercussions on countless Native Americans and Africans, many thousands of Chinese and Indians, and more recently, during the Second World War, on millions of Jews and thousands of Gypsies and homosexuals. Such racist ideologies have remained powerful and unchecked up until the 20th century, given the near-impossibility for its victims 1 to organize collectively and to contest the ostracism or overt repression which they endured, and given the absence of public debates on these matters. Besides, the notion of "public opinion" is recent in history, and appears with the diffusion of written media in the 19 century. The rare defenders of minorities at that time were English abolitionists who mobilized both in the name of human equality and of the protestant ideology of Christian charity. They were also the defenders of national minorities in Central Europe in the name of democracy and cultural specificity.



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The status of non-right of cultural minorities changed at the end of the Second World War as a result of two events :

The reaffirmation of the liberal ideology after 1945. The legal protection of cultural, ethnic or national minorities had been a subject of international negotiations between the years 1918 and 1922, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and of Austria-Hungary, two empires that contained numerous ostracised minorities. The question was settled through treaties — ordering, for instance, the displacement of populations to ensure their protection. Such was the case with the displacement of more than two hundred thousand Pontic Greeks (North of Turkey) to Greece. But the abuses of the Nazi regime and of Italian, Spanish, French and other instances of fascism have been genuinely traumatic for the ideologues of political liberalism : how could a liberal democracy founded on the equality of individual rights, the respect of fundamental liberties, and the belief in the progress of humanity bring about such authoritarian (fascism) and deadly (holocaust and assassination of minorities by the Nazi regime 2) phenomena ? What is more, the Cold War, i.e. the ideological and geo-political conflict that began in the 1950s between the two Post-War powers, demanded a reaffirmation of the basic principles of political liberalism.

The supporters of political liberalism established the rights of national, ethnic and racial minorities, just as they established the rights of political exiles by means of the Geneva Convention in 1951. International dispositions that oppose discrimination against minorities were adopted : the Charter of the United Nations of 1945 (art. 1 and 55) ; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 (art. 2) ; the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 2) ; 3 the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Often, these documents, along with others, also created cultural rights for the members of minorities.

Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 4 concluded in 1966 but approved by the UN in 1991, is considered the most effective. It grants the right both to preserve one's cultural life and to use one's language : "In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language." This article [146] applies even if the State has not officially recognized the presence of such minorities on its territory. As for the States that have ratified the Covenant, they may introduce specific measures to end the inequalities of which minorities are the victim.

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