Islamophobia and Surveillance Directed at Muslims in the West

Zeynep Serap TEKTEN AKSÜRMELİ, Arş. Gör., Gazi Üniversitesi Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi

Islamophobia and Surveillance Directed at Muslims in the West

Zeynep Serap TEKTEN AKSÜRMELİ, Arş. Gör., Gazi Üniversitesi Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi

Sayfa: 183-196

Increasing surveillance directed at Muslims after 9/11 is among the mostly studied issues in the surveillance literature. Many studies show that surveillance directed at Muslims is intensified in the name of national security measures. Increasing surveillance makes the Muslims in the West live more anxiously and causes negative discrimination against Muslims. The Islamophobic practices affect the Muslims living in the West and Muslims who travel to West for various reasons.
Muslims are seen as the most “suspected” individuals especially in crowded places such as airports, shopping malls, entertainment centers. Muslims who carry Islamic symbols are searched more carefully or paid more attention in crowded places. The surveillance directed at Muslims is justified for the so-called national security necessities. Security forces and media claim that the surveillance directed at Muslims stems from “objective” reasons, however, the biased assumptions regarding religion and culture shape the sphere of surveillance. The discriminatory and accusatory “surveillance discourse” is also reinforced by the media images and populist politicians.
This study aims to figure out the intersection points of Islamophobia and surveillance practices. For this purpose, the surveillance practices directed at Muslims in the West are mentioned briefly in the article. The main axis of the study is the Islamophobic assumptions underlying the increasing surveillance of Muslims in the West. In this article, gender aspects of Islamophobia are also addressed. “Gendered Islamophobia” concept is elaborated in this context. The intensity and type of surveillance changes according to gender because of the different dressing styles. The Muslim women, who prefer to veil, become more easily identifiable because of the headscarf, hijab, turban etc. Moreover, in gendered Islamophobic discourses, Muslim women are usually portrayed as “oppressed”, while Muslim men are presented as “oppressors”.
Surveillance includes unequal power relations between the surveillant and the surveilled. Being the object of the surveillance reflects a power relation in which the person who surveils can exercise power on the surveilled. This article points out the role of Islamophobia in portraying Muslims as “threat” as well as attracting attention to hierarchical power relations embedded in surveillance practices directed at Muslims.