Dog-whistle politics is a term that is used to refer to a political tactic in which racism is masked by the use of certain code words. For example, instead of calling President Barack Obama a “nigger”, certain elements of the opposition have taken to calling him “uppity” or even “Muslim.” In fact, it is a worrying state of affairs that far-right politicians have started to use “Muslim” as a thinly veiled disguise for racist ideas. Much like a dog whistle, this kind of rhetoric allows politicians to make racist, bigoted statements that are not heard explicitly but are only heard by a portion of the audience. These tactics also allow politicians to easily disavow themselves from any racist statements they may have made, by feigning ignorance about the use of these hidden insinuations.
Politicians in Europe also use certain code words to mask a blatant anti-Muslim sentiment. They talk extensively about how Muslims (mostly referring to people of Pakistani or Indian origin) do not understand the European “way of life.” That Muslims come from a “different background,” or that they have been “raised with different values.” While the politician in question is not explicitly saying that Muslim immigrants are an alien, unwanted presence, the use of these kinds of terms immediately provokes a subconscious response in those who hear them. To hear a politician say these words makes listeners immediately remember every negative stereotype they have ever associated with Muslims.
The terms that Europeans use to refer to Muslim immigrants can be quite offensive, if they are understood within the right context. Explicitly calling out these politicians for their offensive speech should be a priority of every Muslim organization. However, the situation in the United States is far more worrying. The situation there has reached a point where the word “Muslim” is an actual insult, much like “Jew” was used in 1930s Weimar. As the word “Muslim” is associated with more negative stereotypes, it is no wonder that eventually people will believe that action is required to be rid of those “filthy Muslims,” turning to those immigrant families that are simply trying to live their lives in dignity and freedom.
Much of the 2008 election, and the years that followed, was focused on Barack Obama trying to disprove that he was not a Muslim, but rather a decent family man (implying that Muslims are not.) Meanwhile, opponents centered much of their rhetoric in trying to prove that Barack Obama was a “secret Muslim.” In the midst of this ridiculousness, true Muslims wonder when their faith and cultural background became something to be ashamed of, a word that instead of defining more than a billion people around the world, is used as an insult that one hurls at an opponent.
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