Arun Kundnani on Islamophobia and the US War on Terror

Hbs media fellow Dawid Krawczyk talked to Arun Kundnani, author of The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain and The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, about terrorism, ISIS, and Islamophobia in the US.


Dawid Krawczyk: Do you remember your initial reaction to the news about the Paris attacks on November 13?

Arun Kundnani: Sadness. And fear. The usual sadness that you feel for the victims. And the fear of ratcheting up islamophobia, militarization, and far-right politics in Europe once again. And the other thing is how the attacks have been mobilized on social media. Suddenly you see the tricolor flag on everyone’s profiles and you see Amazon doing that on their homepage. What was distressing to me about that was that it dirties or corrupts what should be an organic emotional reaction to this event. Suddenly, it became a spectacle of Western victimhood. I wanted to straightforwardly learn the story of what people went through, but instead I had to also think about this spectacle.

And what kind of reactions prevailed in the US?

We took it and owned it as if it were an attack on America.

What do you mean?

Conservatives have a narrative in the United States that what happens in Europe are warning signs for the future of the US in relation to Islam. That was significant in the way the Paris attacks were interpreted here. The same thing happened with Charlie Hebdo. It was the biggest news story in January here in the United States. All that my students wanted to talk about was the attack on Charlie Hebdo. We don’t pay so much attention to other places in the world as victims of terrorism. It’s only Europe, or France in particular.


To read the full article as it appeared on Political Critique on January 18, 2016 click here.

Research was made possible by the Transatlantic Media Fellowship Program.  

Please note that the views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of the Heinrich Boell Foundation.