Uncle Tom and House Muslim are not racist labels – they are political ones

In the light of journalist Assed Baig’s targeting by the right-wing media MPACUK’s Raza Nadim says that the terms “House Muslim” and “coconut” are political slurs not racial insults and we should never let non-Muslims dictate to us what language we can or cannot use.

Recently, Channel 4 News’ reporter Assed Baig was targeted by Guido Fawkes. Guido Fawkes is the pseudonym for right-wing blogger Paul Staines, who doesn’t like dissenting opinion, especially that of Muslims, and especially when it comes to Israel.

He has accused Assed of using “racial epithets”, such as “House Muslims” and “Uncle Tom” against other Muslims.

Even the Daily Mail felt compelled to cover this story, because you know how anti-racist they are; while shamefully, Tell Mama’s Fiyaz Mughal gave credence to the character assassination of a Muslim journalist.

Political statement

Calling another Muslim an “Uncle Tom” is not racist, it is a political statement, but to paint it as a racist title is a classic “Uncle Tom” tactic.

In short, “Uncle Tom” refers to an individual who is slavishly and excessively subservient to authority figures, particularly a black or brown person who behaves in a subservient manner to white people; or any person perceived to be complicit in the oppression of their own group.

In this day and age, for Muslims, it means somebody who actively supports the ruling supremacist white power structure, especially in their propaganda narrative about Muslims, terrorism, ethnic minorities etc.

Raza Nadim of MPACUK
Raza Nadim of MPACUK

The drivers and motivation might be different, some may be doing it for government funding, others because they genuinely think their co-religionists are to blame for everything, but overall the effect is the same, in that it is about preserving what the status-quo says and does with regards to Muslims.

The term used to be considered a compliment, owing to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” but since 1919 has it been used as an insult. It isn’t for people who do not come from an ethnic minority to dictate and pontificate to us who can and who can’t use such terms in describing elements within our own community.

Uncle Toms in the Muslim community like to paint those that criticise them as being “non-violent extremists” and/or against “moderate” Muslims .Thus proving that they are Uncle Toms because they use the loaded, propaganda language of the state when talking about Muslims who have the temerity to demand equality.

Even the term “House Muslim”, which is a play on the term “House Negro”, is about politics.

The term is well known from this Malcolm X speech, where he explains that the term is for those in the community who work against the calls for equality and justice.

British Uncle Toms

Groups & individuals like TellMAMA, considered by many in the community to be Uncle Toms, who Guido Fawkes and the Daily Mail cite, would have you believe that these terms are used by Muslims to clamp down on “contrary views”, but that is not true for a number of reasons:

1. “Contrary views” assumes that everyone has agreement on all the other issues. Muslims are not a monolithic body, there are differing views on a variety of topics.

2. Just because someone has a different view doesn’t mean they are instantly labeled an “Uncle Tom”, the political label is reserved for those who are purposely echoing the white power structure’s comments about our community. They choose to use their propaganda terms and only speak on issues when it is politically expedient for them to do so.

We’re often told to “play the ball and not the man” but yet again, it is clear to see that this story is only about trying to smear Assed Baig. The right wing media can’t go after his excellent news reports, so they’re trying to discredit him in this way instead.

Any notion of providing a counter narrative to the way Muslims are portrayed in the mass media, by providing a critically balanced and contextualised reporting, and that by a Muslim journalist, simply cannot be tolerated.

Journalists like Assed Baig are needed in today’s society, his consistent body of work about the suffering of Rohingya Muslims and recent Channel 4 News reports are sorely needed to address the severe unbalance in ethnic minorities having a voice in today’s British society.

We need to support the likes of Assed Baig, otherwise we’ll only be left with House Muslims and Uncle Toms to represent us.

House Muslims, Uncle Toms and sell outs are not racist labels, they’re political ones. Only an Uncle Tom would say otherwise.

This article first appeared on the MPACUK website.

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