The Terror of Voice(lessness): Hate Speech, Silencing and the Culture of Fear Experienced By British Muslims

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 09:00
Oral Presentation
Madeline-Sophie ABBAS, University of Manchester, United Kingdom, United Kingdom
The attacks on Charlie Hebdo called attention to the racialising practices that designate what is (un)sayable for certain bodies, where the ability to occupy the position of ‘civilised’ can transcend restrictions of what constitutes injurious speech for racialised Others. This paper is concerned with examining the politics of representation involved in setting the terms of Islamophobia for British Muslims within the ‘war on terror’ context and the challenges they face to name practices of terrorisation experienced by them following from the precarious position in which they find themselves within two interconnected set of circumstances relating to freedom of speech: firstly, the increased threat from hate speech, particularly Islamophobia; and secondly, developments to statutory offences in the 2006 UK Terrorism Act on communications that indirectly encourage terrorism. Significantly, these legislative developments contribute to the conditions under which perpetrators of hate speech are afforded greater freedom to espouse Islamophobia unchallenged. This is because this legislation not only in part contributes to the legitimation of Islamophobia by re-iterating Muslims as potential terrorists that require greater securitisation than the rest of the populace, but it places restrictions on Muslims to be able to challenge the speaker of hate due to fear that their actions will be interpreted as evidence of extremist behaviours. This has meant that words come to mean different things when uttered by Muslims which has encouraged practices of self-surveillance to be undertaken by them. These practices provide evidence of the reproductive effects of racial terror which comprise not only self-silencing, but decisions not to present a ‘visibly’ Muslim identity through Islamic dress or the beard. These strategies suggest that voice must be understood as bodily and relational that is mediated not only by the body that speaks, but by the body that interprets what has been said.