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GRM Monthly Documentary Film Event - June

研究活動・その他

2018/7/4

A documentary film event was held on Thursday, 28 June.
We watched a film, titled
“ Islamophobia Inc.
Islamophobia Inc - Al Jazeera English

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Date: 
Thursday 28 June 2018
Time: 17:30 P.M. - 19:30 P.M.
Venue: Meeting Room, Shikokan Building (1F), Karasuma Campus
Doshisha University
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Report:
The documentary film, Islamophobia Inc., produced as recently as May 2018, depicts an ascending trend of populist political discourse in the United States where Muslims are singled out and portraying Islam as a threat to America. Organizations and certain groups appear to proliferate in the past couple of years, emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. It is estimated that the number of such groups has tripled in those two years, resulting of what is to be known as the Islamophobia industry. This investigative film goes undercover to find out how these groups employ different tactics to spread the “fear of Islam” across America, utilizing social media outlets as well as constructing a narrative that Muslims are about to take over the country.  For example, followers of these groups across the country stage public demonstrations hailing insults and slanders against Islamic centers in various cities and communities. The demonstrators appear to use typical slogans, particularly signaling out the term Sharia and that Muslims intend to replace America’s law with “Sharia law.” This has been a sustained campaign since the year 2009, according to the investigation of the film.

After the Republican Party lost the presidential election of 2009, the Republicans shifted towards right wing politics, away from mainstream. The film explained how the Republican center is no longer the case and such extreme groups are capitalizing on this shift, benefiting from certain donor money and the support of similar interest groups. The emerging shift would certainly present an impact on public life.

Voices in the film expressed a genuine worry that such smear campaigns intend to prevent Muslims from participating in public space and public life in America. These interest groups fear the growth of Muslims and their political voice, knowing that “fear kills freedom.” They do not want Muslims to become politically strong or have “a strong American voice.” 

In the discussion following the film, a group of diversified participants, Japanese, American, Afghan, Chinese, Russian, etc., shared impressions and views on the different issues raised during the film. One participant, thought that the “film is not helpful.” He elaborated the film does not really reflect the whole of American society or the situation in the United States as of now. Many people still choose America and wish to live there, according to the participant. In reply, one participant explained that since the film was an investigative journalism, the goal was to present the result of the investigation. Another participant, an American, further commented such groups and organizations do exist. It is not that the film is advocating a conspiracy theory but rather it sheds a light on a real and serious practice since the current presidency encourages anti-Muslim sentiment through main stream politics. As example, the new direction of the supreme court in the U.S. is a significant case in point where newly appointed justices will influence America’s political discourse, moving it conservatively to the right for years to come. One Japanese student, who lived in American before and is a student of American society and politics, explained that she observed Islamophobia in the U.S. in the past. She said Islamophobia is not new and it has been there for some time, however, in the past two years, it has soared.

American politics of late tend to have become “tribalistic politics” as one participant pointed out. He mentioned the 2018-published book entitled, “Political Tribes: Group Instincts and the Fate of nations.,” authored by Yale academic Amy Chua. Donald Trump election is a reflection of a social reality within American society where “white nationalism” aims to assert its “identity” at the national level. In an atmosphere of contesting sub-identity politics, the price could not be costlier in the long run.

In this newly emerging social and political context in America and certainly globally, the stakes and risk could not be higher.  Rising Islamophobia does not only represent the risk of injustice against a certain segment of U.S society such as the American-Muslim community in this case, but it is also about the underlining societal pillar and principle of pluralistic, free and democratic society in America and global society at large. In other words, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination, no matter what type it targets, pose a challenge to the very foundation of civilized, free society and social peace.

(Reported by Dr. Iyas Salim, Advanced Research and Education, Doshisha University)