Critical race theorist Khaled A. Beydoun tackles topic of Islamophobia

Sept. 11, 2001 saw the hijacking of American planes striking the World Trade Center, killing thousands. Nov. 8, 2016 saw the election of the United States’ 45th President Donald Trump. Although these were two separate events in the United States, both occasions brought about the same result — the normalization of Islamophobia.

Critical race theorist Khaled A. Beydoun noted the importance of these two dates during the first Social Justice and Equity Committee-sponsored discussion on race Monday in the Beach Auditorium at Cal State Long Beach.

Beydoun described Islamophobia as “the idea that Islam as a religion is alien, foreign, unassimilable, cannot be reconciled with American identity, [and is] violent and tied to the presumption that Muslim identity is terroristic or gives rise to homegrown radicalization.”

The theorist is also a law professor at Detroit Mercy School of Law with works and commentaries featured in the Columbia Law Review, The New York Times and Al-Jazeera.

The two-hour event mostly discussed Islamophobia and its implications in American politics, along with a series of questions from the audience, Yousef Baker, an international studies professor and Leen Almahdi, Associated Students Inc. vice president-elect.

During the talk, the law professor emphasized white supremacists’ strategy in oppressing other racial groups to further the idea that the U.S. is a “white nation.”

“All the forms of bigotry have a common source,” Beydoun said. “The common crux is white supremacy.”

Beydoun also criticized neoliberalism, a political ideology which encourages liberal social views and a free-market system. He specifically criticized neoliberals’ tendencies to define how a Muslim should act and integrate to American society.

“The moderate Muslim construction that Obama and [Hillary] Clinton capitalized on effectively states that if you don’t apologize, you don’t condemn, you don’t waive the American flag, you don’t keep your beard short, you don’t wear a thobe on Friday, then you might be the bad Muslim we have to surveil and keep tabs on,” Beydoun said.

He praised ASI student government for its work on a resolution that broadly defines white supremacy and stands against it.

“White supremacy is far more than a racial enterprise and a racist project,” Beydoun said. “By virtue of defining white supremacy broadly, I think it enables you to see how it’s far more than just race.”

He encouraged audience members to look past the marginal descriptions of white supremacists as neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

“If we defeat them, guess what?” Beydoun sarcastically said. “We defeat white supremacy, the same way that electing a black president made this country post racial. To hell with that, we know that ain’t the truth!”

Kativon Makary, a third year psychology major and sociology minor, thought that the discussion was a good first event from the Social Justice and Equity Committee and is excited to take part in the organization’s future events.

“I’m Middle Eastern, so seeing that this event tied into the racialization of Middle Eastern Americans really interested me,” Makary said. “Seeing myself represented isn’t something that I often see.”

Although the audience gave applause and marks of agreement during Beydoun’s talk, not all members were content with what the Detroit native had to say.

University alumnus James Abed said Beydoun was very one-sided.

“It doesn’t tap into the bigger concerns that I have personally,” Abed said. “It talks about terrorism and extreme mentalities that do not affect us directly.”

Abed argued he doesn’t see Muslims as people who integrate into the customs of nations, which they emigrate to, but instead as people who bring their culture to the new country. He doesn’t believe Muslims should receive both the benefits of their home culture and Western culture.

“Muslims are people who bring their cultures with them to the country and make a culture within the country,” Abed said. “Do not become a part of a closed society within a bigger society to get the best of both worlds.”

Beydoun argued that the idea of integration is problematic to all minority groups.

“Fuck the idea that integration is something that we people of color have to align ourselves to, and fuck the idea that integration is something synonymous with whiteness,” Beydoun said.  “Read the Constitution. Read the letter of the law, which says that every individual has the right to freely exercise their faith. That to me is the real marker to American citizenship, not these racist and racialized ideas of assimilation and integration.”

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