Fahad Syed is a graduate from the University of Manchester in Marketing with a keen interest in the War on Terror. You can follow him on Twitter @FahadMSyed
Muslims living in the West have many sociopolitical similarities with the mutants from Marvel’s X-men, writes Fahad Syed.
The discrimination of Muslims in Western and European countries seems to show no sign of softening. The recent European Court of Justice ruling on allowing employers to ban the hijab in the workplace comes as the latest legislation that denies Muslims their right to express their religious identity publicly.
Strangely enough, the policies of governments in these countries and the discrimination felt by Muslims themselves have enormous parallels with Marvel Comics’ The X-Men, both from an individualistic and sociological perspective. The X-Men showcases a mutant population living amongst humans that are a distinct species with abilities or superpowers, making them different to humans either physically, physiologically, or both.
Due to these abilities and differences, mutants face substantial discrimination and persecution at the hands of those humans in power, and are on a constant struggle to find acceptance in a society that is marred with hate and prejudice.
While Muslims certainly do not have any superpowers of unique abilities, they are categorically perceived to be a “threat” and linked with terrorism amid rising immigration.
More importantly, they are seen as culturally and ideologically different to those in the West, prompting considerable unrest and discord at a societal level.
In X-Men, angry protests calling for the expulsion of mutants from society and the rise of the far-right, and the indiscriminate attacks on mutants, owing to the slightest indication of their identity, are all examples that can be referenced to Muslims today.
State sponsored fear
State sponsored propaganda and scaremongering tactics is another area that is of relevance. The onus of depicting mutants as foreign and dangerous to a society rests upon those in power among humans (something that is true for Western governments), and done to achieve their own political objectives. These are usually:
- Politicians who want to use mutants as a scapegoat to seek political power, such as Senator Kelly, who proposes and implements anti-mutants acts and initiatives, or
- Military figures, such as Colonel William Stryker, who wishes to detain and lock up mutants and conduct experiments to further his militaristic and imperial objectives.
It is safe to say that there are many Senator Kelly’s across both Europe and North America that use their political connections to cultivate an anti-Muslim movement, and introduce legislation that alienates and discriminates Muslims.
Some among them include Dutch politician Geert Wilders who calls for the ban on the Qur’an, US Senator John Bennett who coins Muslim groups like CAIR with ISIS, and UK MP Eric Pickles who demands Muslims living in UK to prove their “Britishness”.
As for the William Strykers of this world, there may not be any direct reference to certain military generals or other figureheads. However, the detention camps of Guantanamo Bay and Belmarsh prison, along with the draconian nature of the UK’s Prevent strategy and the proposed Muslim database by President Donald Trump instills an inhospitable and toxic environment of fear and xenophobia, something which resonates deeply with the actions of the character of William Stryker.
More importantly, influential humans utilise an entire state infrastructure that is established to create an “us and them” divide between humans (non-Muslim masses) and mutants (Muslims) through the use of mass reporting and media channels. This helps shape a narrative that only benefits those in power.
Extremist and non-extremist mutants
Mutants such as Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), who have suffered oppression, torture and injustice at the hands of humans, results in the formation of a “Brotherhood” of fellow mutants, all of whom are united on a single cause: to use violence and terrorism to exterminate the human kind. Groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram reflect these sentiments.
Politicians and the media, being the opportunists they are, use the unjust actions of a minority of mutants to depict the entire mutant specie as a national security threat who want to overthrown the social and political order for their own ulterior motives. This leads to “normal” law-abiding mutants to experience a host of identity crises, isolation, low self-esteem, and dissatisfaction with their specie that only pushes them to join these radical groups.
Fortunately, there are other mutants, such as Professor Charles Xavier (Professor X), who are more optimistic and just in their approach. They wish to see humans and mutants co-exist by recognising and respecting the differences of each species, and the importance of providing a safe haven for mutants by offering guidance and counselling with the sole objective of troubled mutants embracing their mutant identities.
They oppose the unjust and violent tactics of Magneto and his Brotherhood, as well as the opportunistic methods and aims of influential humans.
However, the powerful state infrastructure fails to acknowledge and shed light on the activism of peaceful mutants, who are then forced to engage in an ideological war of ideas to confront the injustices of both their fellow mutants and humans, and fight for a future where mutants can co-exist in harmony.
Mutants are no different to Muslims in that they live in societies where their very existence and values are seen as extreme and a threat. As a result of Western government’s domestic draconian CVE (countering violent extremism) policies and imperialistic foreign policies, as well as the Orwellian state infrastructure designed to profile and alienate Muslims, it will only reinforce greater Islamophobia among the non-Muslims masses, and potentially corner some Muslims to adopt the Magneto approach of violence to claim their rights.
In this growing anti-Muslim world, it is crucial for Muslims to follow the approach of Professor X by recognising the Muslim identity as unique, empowering, and striving to preserve it through active engagement and community involvement for a more cohesive future.