A Response to Rushdie

Speaking of free speech in a time of war, Shakira Hussein responds to Salman Rushdie’s take on the proposed anti-religous hate speech law in OpenDemocracy.

Racial hatred is increasingly being recoded in religious terms, and frankly I don’t think it is our ‘ideas’ that are at issue much of the time. Committed atheists are subjected to Islamophobia along with devout believers on the basis of their Arabic names or ‘middle-eastern appearance’.

Nor is religious identity simply about our ‘ideas’ in any abstract sense. It’s about the community to which we belong, our families, the significance of certain days, places, or events. People may associate us with a particular religion not only because of our beliefs, but also because of our names, style of dress, physical appearance, even our diet – signifiers as shallow as any racial marker. My young pink and white daughter is already highly aware of the anti-Islamic prejudice that confronts her, prejudice which has nothing to do with who she is or what she thinks. I want my daughter to be legally protected against religious hate, as I am protected against racial hate.