#NiceAttack & the racialization of violence: Muslims invisible as victims and hypervisible as perpetrators


One of the recurring themes in the contemporary racialization of Muslims revolves around how Muslims are reduced to intolerant, violent perpetrators. With every attack there is both a lot of debate about the role of Islam or IS ideology (most accounts distinguishing between both, but certainly not all) as well as many complaints about how Islam has to be mentioned and how mainstream press and politicians are neglecting to do so. Although many politicians are careful not to scapegoat all Muslims and all of Islam, it is simply not true that Islam is not part of the debates. In fact, what is happening is a hypervisibility of Islam and Muslims in a particular way: intensely visible as objects of the state (to police and intelligence services etc.,) and as targets of (amongst other things) fear.

Yet, at the same time the visibility of Muslims as victims of violence and hatred is a problem. The difficulties the anti-Islamophobia activists had to get some attention to the verbal and physical abuse is a case in point but we also tend to ignore that most of the victims of the war in Syria and Iraq are Muslims. And that among the victims in Nice many were Muslim. To be fair there have been two articles in WaPo NYT about this: see HERE and HERE. Also the videos used here show that the media does have attention for the position of Muslims as victims of violent attacks and objects of racialization. The point I’m making here mainly refers to politicians and opinion makers.

The AJ+ video below show how this invisibility and hypervisibility of Muslims come together when people pay tribute to the victims of the Nice attack. Whereas an individual woman is targeted as belonging to the hypervisible Muslim perpetrator, the people attending the tribute apparently did not realize Muslims were among the victims as well.

People often say that IS and others intend to divide Western societies and to cause a rift between Muslims and non-Muslims. Perhaps so, but it is important to realize that they can do this because this mechanism of invisibility and hypervisibility in the racialization of Muslims is already in place.

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