- Can Islam Be Satirized?Celeb Jihad's "Explosive Celebrity Gossip" and the Divide between Islam and Mainstream American Culture
The Selena Gomez nipple parade continues as she once again walks the streets of New York City in a sheer top with no bra on in the photos below. What the hell does this Mexican skank have against bras? While us Muslims would certainly prefer to see women like Selena in thick black wool burkas (or better yet on the ground crumbled in a heap after a lapidation), we can at least tolerate ones (for now) that wear undergarments and do not just allow their sex organs to be out flapping in the breeze like Selena is doing in these picsMohammed1
The above epigraph exemplifies the crass satirical commentary of celebrity gossip website Celebjihad.com, which reports its news as if written by Islamist fundamentalist extremists. Celeb Jihad's rendition of Islam is excessive, transgressing mainstream American allowances for misogynistic, racist, and homophobic violent discourse. Posting since 2009, Celeb Jihad's author(s) exemplify U.S. thought on Islam post-9/11. As Razack writes, mainstream U.S. discourse makes an explicit division between the United States and Islam, where "the West's distinctive attribute is freedom, in contrast to the Islamic world's fidelity to a world of culture, religion, and community."2 While the website is over the top, it at the same time portrays hegemonic American understandings of Islamic [End Page 69] fundamentalists. The pop culture bent of the website and the tension between whether the fundamentalism represented by Celeb Jihad is real or performed marks Celeb Jihad as satire, "a broad category of political humo[r] and lampooning."3
Despite the discursive division between the United States and Islam, the dominant way of viewing race in the United States is through a postracial lens. As Silva notes, dominant white supremacist ideologies insist that racism no longer exists. Material effects of racism are explained away with other reasonings. Bonilla-Silva discusses this idea in detail, labeling the phenomenon "color blindness."4 Goldberg relatedly discusses his own theory of antiracialism. As opposed to antiracism, antiracialism encourages an erasure of race and histories of racism. Race becomes a benign category; its material effects are ignored through a call to color blindness.5 Both Bonilla-Silva and Goldberg are marking processes of postracialism where dominant frameworks assert that the United States is in an ideological space where race is no longer relevant.
However, discrimination continues to affect racial minorities' lives, and Muslims hold a particularly ambivalent position in the discourses of postracialism. While the Muslim population in the United States differs widely in terms of race, U.S. popular discourse recognizes "Muslim" as a unified, identity-based label. Muslims are thus "racialized": while they are incredibly diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, nation of origin, sect, class, immigration status, and so on, Muslimness is considered their primary identity.6 Seeing religion as the primary identity marker of Muslims allows for the discursive rendering of "the Muslim World," "they versus us," "the Muslim terrorist," and "the oppressed Muslim woman" without a full understanding of cultural, sect-related, or national differences. Racialization also provides the "evidence" for a binary between the free, tolerant United States and oppressive, regressive Islam. Post-9/11, U.S. political discourse did provide Muslims with another option: the good Muslim. As Mamdani states,
"Bad Muslims" were clearly responsible for terrorism. At the same time … "good Muslim" were anxious to clear their names and consciences of this horrible crime [9/11] and would undoubtedly support "us" in a war against "them." But this could not hide the central message of such discourse: unless proved to be "good," every Muslim was presumed to be "bad." All Muslims were now under obligation to prove their credentials by joining in a war against "bad Muslims."7
Mamdani thus goes on to say that good Muslims cannot truly exist. When racialized and constructed as a monolith, good Muslims cannot divide themselves from bad Muslims. This is an integral component of racialization and the U.S./Islam binary. [End Page 70]
This also allows Muslims to serve as the...