Maha Shbaita: Power Struggle and Dr. Amir Mufti’s Talk on the Migrant Crisis in Europe

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In his talk, Dr. Mufti gave a brief overview on the content and research of his new book discussing the implications of the influx of Middle Eastern refugees in Europe, or migrants as they are now widely called, and how understanding the interactions between colonialism, Islamophobia, perceived fascism, and political and cultural discourses can allow us to unravel why this is determined as a crisis in the first place. Dr. Mufti specifically drew lines between the countries that many European nations tried to colonize and this idea of “European-ness” (as he put it). There is this idea the refugees cannot become European enough to permeate modern society, even though these very same refugees come from failed acts of colonization by European efforts. With this inability to permeate society, there comes a rallying sense of patriotism and an innate sense of what it means to be European and that definition falls outside of the terrorist, the refugee, and by extension, the Muslim. Specifically fear of the Muslim refugee deals with the association of new fascism with Islam and the idea that a tyrannical government the world so fought to destroy is coming in the disguise of Muslim refugees. Furthermore, these refugees are not described as such, but rather are characterized with the word “migrant” to make them seem less pitiable, as if they have come to try and Europeanize themselves of their own volition.

The use of the Muslim refugee in a political context can be interpreted, in one sense, as a way of exerting dominance in an invisible power struggle between the large influx of refugees and the resident European population. This very idea of European-ness being outside of the reach of Arab-Muslim refugees is a display of knowledge that gives a perceived power to the people and the government and takes away any possible power that the refugees could even hope to attain. Foucault’s idea that power is deployed through a particular discourse is valid here and this specific discourse of Muslim refugees being unable to secure a place in the society of any European country relies on the woven truth that every refugee is a Muslim, every refugee is a migrant, and that the Muslim migrant can be automatically associated with the “Islamic” terrorist. This, for the time being, leaves the refugee and terrorist inseparable in the eyes of European governments and societies and disallows any possible way for the refugee group as a whole, regardless of actual religion, any authority over their own livelihoods. Furthermore, the use of the phrase “refugees are welcome here” amongst groups wishing to allow refugees into European society is a push against this power struggle in an attempt to allow a people shunned from their homes a respite in the dominance of an unyielding, perhaps hateful, society.

 

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