Islamophobia: What’s in a Name?

Analysing the Discourses of Stopp Islamiseringen av Norge (Stop The Islamisation of Norway, sian)

In: Journal of Muslims in Europe

The term Islamophobia is not of recent vintage. However, while its origins date back to the 1910s, its current usage is relatively new, and dates back to the 1990s. It is also a heavily contested term, not only in far-right circles in the West, but also among liberal elites, and even within academia itself. In its current usage, it has a genealogy dating to the emergence of scholarly literature on ‘cultural’ and/or ‘neo-racism’ in the 1980s and 1990s. In the legal arena in Norway, the term itself consequently carries no weight whatsoever, and the very meanings of the term ‘racism’ have, until recently, been limited to classical ‘biological racism’ in a strict and narrow sense. In a landmark case before the Kristiansand Magistrate’s Court in March 2015, the court acquitted a local imam of charges of alleged ‘defamation’ of the erstwhile leader of the far-right and Islamophobic organisation Stopp Islamiseringen av Norge (Stop The Islamisation of Norway, sian), Arne Tumyr. The accused had alleged in a media interview that Tumyr and his organisation “based their activities on racism.” Thus, a Norwegian lower court had for the first accepted arguments based on ‘cultural’ or ‘new racism.’ The author of this article was an expert witness in this civil lawsuit, and this essay analyses the rhetorical representation of Islam and Muslims in the far-right and Islamophobic discourse of sian.

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