With the attacks in Paris on November 13, the feared result is increased Islamophobia and racism against peaceful and law abiding Muslim citizens.
Islamophobia can manifest itself in many ways, just like racism and sexism. There are the overt Islamophobes like the whole Republican voter base, and the candidates running for the Republican presidential nominee. And you have the quiet, discreet, ‘polite’ Islamophobes, the garden variety kind, the private sneers and mocking about Muslims and their customs.
This one scene on the show ‘Legends’, starring Sean Bean shown on TBS portrays this type of sneering and mocking type of Islamophobia perfectly.
Narrative: An English school girl Kate Crawford who emigrated from Russia with her mother when she was a toddler is living in Surrey, a pretty, upper middle-class part of England with her mother, step-father, who is a solicitor practicing law in London and her two younger half brothers. They seemingly live an ideal life of upper middle-class respectability with all trappings that come with it: a nice house, cars, private schools, etc.
But Kate and her mother Ilyana are not Russian, they are Chechen and Kate’s biological father was a Chechen warlord and part of the underground Chechen mob, he was mixed up with really bad people and died when Kate was very young. Her mother Ilyana fled the Chechnya region to England, pretended to be Russian, remarried to an Englishman and begun a new life. But Kate found found an old Soviet Union identification card of her mother’s and it said her ethnicity was Chechen and not Russian. So she begun to do some digging into her real family background with the help of the local Chechen-Muslim community and she was able to confirm her biological father was in fact a Chechen and a Muslim.
Her ‘friends’ in an attempt to convert her to her true faith and leave the infidel Christian faith behind, convinced her to begin wearing a hijab to show her devotion to God. Kate was hesitant at first because she knew her parents would not be happy with her, she was going to explore Islam on her own, in secret and in private. But one day she got bold enough to get dressed one morning and come down to breakfast in a hijab.
And the conversation with her family went like this:
Her two younger brothers were sitting at the breakfast table taking their breakfast before school, her mother and and step-father was trying to get to work and her mother was trying to get the children into the car and school on time.
Kate Crawford walks down the stairs in her hijab and says nonchalantly: ‘Is there any toast?’
Her step-father is on the phone, presumably with a client, sees his step-daughter in a hijab and says ‘l am going to have to call you back’ and abruptly ends his conversation.
Younger Brother 1: ‘What’s that on your head Katie?’
Kate Crawford: ‘It’s called a hijab.’
Younger Brother 2: ‘Why are you wearing it?’
Kate Crawford: ‘To show my devotion to God.’
Younger Brother 1: ‘I think it looks pretty on you.’
Kate Crawford: ‘Thanks, muffinhead.’
Kate Crawford looks over at her horrified mother and says ‘I don’t want to miss my bus’,
Her mother, Ilyana Crawford responds sternly: ‘Car, now.’
Kate Crawford defiantly throws the piece of toast she was eating on the kitchen counter and walks to the family car as her parents look on in horror.
Step-father: ‘Her devotion to God? What? Does she think she’s a bloody Muslim?’
Ilyana Crawford: ‘I don’t know what she thinks anymore.’
Step-father: (with a suspicious tone in his voice) ‘Where does she get an idea like that?’
Ilyana Crawford: ‘She’s a teenager, she’s just trying to get a reaction from us.’
Step-father: ‘She could try some normal form of rebellion, like drugs or sex.’
Ilyana Crawford rolls her eyes at her husband’s sarcasm, then tells her boys at the breakfast table ‘let’s go boys, let’s go, in the car,’ and off they go about their day.
When I first watched this, I laughed. I appreciate the dry sarcastic humor as espoused by the British, it makes life easier and more bearable. But after I was done laughing, I thought about what her step-father was trying to say. It’s more ‘respectable’ to have his daughter get high on drugs or have sex and risk getting a STD or worse, fall pregnant, than her come down to breakfast in a hijab. It’s his way of saying anything is better than any of his family members becoming a Muslim, including doing drugs and having underage sex.
This is pretty heavy. This goes way deep in the psyche of Islamophobia. Robert, the step-father, has no problem seeing Muslims in London everyday, dealing with Muslim clients, working with Muslims, but God forbid, should anyone in his family become a Muslim, that would ruin the facade of British respectability.
The actor playing the step-father got the British sneer down to a tee and he was effective in getting his point across.
This is the sort of garden variety Islamophobia and racism that Muslims living in the West face. Behind a facade of middle-class respectability, lies a sneering and mocking attitude towards those who aren’t like them.
The young girl Kate Crawford hasn’t become a committed Muslim, she’s doing this to get a rise out of her mother for lying to her about her true heritage. At this point, she’s only curious about Islam and wants to try it on for size, but even that was too much for her parents to bear. Her mother’s fear is she’s hiding a secret from her husband and the step-father’s worry is losing respectability. But to suggest that doing drugs and having sex is preferable to her putting on a hijab, goes beyond the pale.