For real. Don’t use it.
The statement is technically true. So what? Almost every time I’ve seen it used, it’s been by someone who is just making an excuse to dismiss brown-skinned people.
So yeah… Islam is not a race, but paradoxically the phrase “Islam is not a race” often is racist.
If you mean to criticize the religion of Islam, then by all means, do so. (I do.) But every single time I’ve seen someone make the conversation about race, it’s been because that someone is a racist. The pattern often goes like this:
- Make some generalizations about immigrants who happen to be Muslims. Some hateful immigrant denigrating rhetoric.
- Get called out for it.
- Respond with “Islam is not a race”.
Obviously there are valid cases for making the mentioned statement, and if the context you’re thinking of isn’t the one described above, this isn’t about you. I generated the meme above after seeing the statement online yet again, and posted it to Facebook before writing this… and within ten seconds had to defend my meme. (Hours later I see someone called me retarded. I stand by my words.)
There’s a fine line between criticizing a religion and hating on people who practice that religion. Sometimes I cross it too. It’s an easy mistake to make. Even worse, religious beliefs can be so strongly held that when we question the beliefs (and not the believers), some people take offense anyway, because the belief is held strongly enough to be conflated with the person’s sense of identity.
So let’s not make things worse by hating on the people themselves, OK? You can criticize a religion like Islam without hating Muslims, and if they then accuse you of racism, you can still point out effectively that they are wrong and that you criticized the religion and not the people who believe in it, and you can do so without even stating “Islam is not a race”. In today’s post, Islam was the religion featured, in part because the phrase applies to that one, and it has become trendy to hate asylum seekers who mostly are Muslim. But the principle applies to other religions too.