As faculty members in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGS), we want to respond to an Op-ed in the Washington Blade by our colleague Shannon Gilreath titled, “Europe’s Islam problem and U.S immigration policy.”
We support the free exchange of ideas and, in that spirit, we wish to dispute the arguments made by our colleague.
Professor Gilreath argues that because terrorism and anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-women policies have been propagated in the name of Islam, we should limit the immigration of Muslims.
Yet, major religions, like Islam, are not monolithic entities. All major religions have produced terrorists and have been used to justify anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-women policies. And yet, all major religions have also produced peace activists and supporters of LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. The causes of “Islamic” terrorism and opposition to LGBTQ+ and women’s rights in some Muslim communities are complex, and include social, economic and political factors and the history of Western colonialism.
Engaging in the religious profiling of Muslims makes no sense and is contrary to our values. In addition, equating Islam with terrorism, sexism and homophobia contributes to the harmful vilification of Muslims and people perceived to be Muslim, who already face high levels of discrimination.
This narrow view of Islam also empowers right-wing conservatives in the U.S. According to feminist and queer studies scholars, sexism and, more recently, homophobia in non-Western countries have been used as justifications for Western imperialism (“colonial feminism” and “homonationalism”). Right-wing and populist politicians in the U.S. today (including Trump) are using anti-Islamic sentiment to bolster their power and advance their anti-women and anti-LGBTQ+ agendas.
Anti-Islamic diatribes are also used by fundamentalist Muslims to garner support for their conservative agendas. Rather than making generalizations about Islam, we should stand in solidarity with Muslim feminists and LGBTQ+ activists who are making space for themselves as Muslim women and queer Muslims.
Professor Gilreath suggests that gays and women who are facing oppression at the “hands of Islamic families[?] and governments,” should be allowed to immigrate to the U.S., presumably leaving behind their ties to Islam.
This is not a view of liberation that we support. People should be free to express all aspects of their identity, including their sexual and religious identities.
The gay rights movement has historically excluded the concerns of people of color and women. Feminism also has a history of excluding women of color and of attempting to “rescue brown women from brown men.” Feminists and queer people of color have worked hard to make the gay rights and feminist movements more inclusive and more attentive to class, racial and religious differences. We are committed to continuing this work of supporting intersectional queer and feminist scholarship and activism.
We want students, faculty and staff to know that regardless of their race, sexuality, gender identity, or religion they are welcome in WGS and at Wake Forest. We stand with the Intercultural, LGBTQ+ and Women’s Centers in rejecting Islamophobia and affirming our support for the Muslim members of our community.
Kristina Gupta, WGS Assistant Professor
Tanisha Ramachandran, WGS Core Faculty member and department of religions Associate Teaching Professor