Friday, March 11, 2016

By Mehammed Amadeus Mack: who was my student at UC, Berkeley and now is a professor at Smith

"The sexual demonization Daoud has reinforced has a still longer history. Borrowing from lingering Orientalist ideas about the Islamic sexual menace, this portrayal usually targets young male Arabs and Muslims and emphasizes a lack of civilization rooted in an inability to contain one’s primal urges. Medical historian Richard Keller amply documented this racialist view in his book on the Algiers school, a group of psychiatrists in colonial French Algeria that made the first “scientific” links between Islam and sexual delinquency. This portrayal is highly ambivalent in the way it presents Muslim men as both sexually conservative in their views of women and sexually aggressive in their frustrations about them. In contemporary times, researchers like Nacira Guénif-Souilamas have explained how this portrait of the young Arab as sexually unassimilated has given new life to what should by now have been a moot question: that of the integration of Muslims born in Europe, already several generations removed from their immigrant ancestors. In this way, the figure of the brown sexual menace has provoked feelings of sexual nationalism, and caused politicians who previously had sought to curtail the rights of women and homosexuals to suddenly come to their defense in the face of a common “foreign” enemy. The “black sexual menace” and the “black peril” are American tropes that we have, one hopes, critiqued to the point of their unacceptability: such rhetoric about black men’s violent designs upon white women have been exposed for their obvious racism. However, similar rhetoric appears about European Muslims today in a different form, not yet politically incorrect.These tropes shape women as well: the Arab woman mute and hidden away, and the white woman taught to be careful.
In response to fear-mongering about this menace, the Netherlands and the German state of Baden-Württemberg decided in the 2000s to create what Daoud euphemistically called “guides to good conduct” in his New York Times article. In reality, these were nothing other than citizenship tests designed to highlight Muslims’ supposed incompatibility with European sexual values; Germany’s test for instance was divided between questions about national security and questions of a sexual nature, implicitly asking whether it is appropriate to, for example, beat one’s wife, kick out one’s gay son, or oppose a daughter’s mixed marriage. These European sexual values find little consensus among European nations, who cannot agree on them even within EU frameworks."