Over the past years, months, and weeks, we have seen a rising tide of Islamophobic and anti-Arab sentiment that has threatened the safety of our communities and led to violent attacks across the country. Armed groups have stood post outside of masjids with the goal of intimidation. People have set fire to mosques, attacked Arab and Muslim workers, and harassed women wearing hijab. Here, in New York City, often falsely celebrated as a beacon of open-mindedness and tolerance, just a few weeks ago a Muslim store owner in Astoria was beaten up in his own shop in a blatant Islamophobic crime. His attacker yelled racist and Islamophobic slurs as he brought him down. Along with these outbursts of violence, law enforcement and the federal government are continuing their targeted surveillance and repression tactics aimed at Muslim communities. This is all amid a backdrop of national dialogue that relentlessly centers the “problem” of Islam, a position that is unchallenged and agitated by politicians and candidates regardless of their party affiliation.
As students and community members in New York City working in solidarity with the Palestinian cause for self-determination and liberation, we understand why Islamophobia and anti-Arab ideas are promoted by leaders and enacted by state structures. Fomenting hate and suspicion against our communities is an ideological tool that garners support for imperialist wars waged in our communities, our homelands, and around the world. It is a tool of the ruling class, which focuses attention on supposed security threats from our communities and away from the real issues that are threatening the working class and oppressed nationality people.
Combating Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism is central to the cause of NYC SJP, since it is perpetuated and utilized by Zionists in order to delegitimize the Palestinian struggle and gain support from Western allies. It is also an essential part of our work in New York City, since the state apparatus has used these ideas to prolong and expand the so-called “War on Terror” to spy on members of our communities and repress political organizing of all types.
We reiterate our belief that Islamophobia is not only sectarianism, but also racism. Islamophobia takes on a racialized form because of the association of different brown people with Islam. We see this in attacks on American sikhs and non-Muslim Arabs. Thus, to resist Islamophobia is to resist something a lot bigger than just religious intolerance and bigotry.
Whether here in Bay Ridge, anywhere else in New York, or across the country, NYC SJP calls for a swift defeat of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, as well as of those who enable these ideas. We call for a rapid elimination of the imperialism that perpetuates itself through the growth of such reactionary ideas. We cannot depend on the State or law enforcement to defend the Arab and Muslim community here as long as it is the same State bombing Arabs and Muslims around the world, the same law enforcement shooting dead black men and women every 28 hours, and the same legal system protecting and sanctioning these attacks.
With this understanding we take up the call from Martin Luther King, Jr., when he said: “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”