Danish court upholds White Supremacist definition of racism

Last week, Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan was convicted in a Danish court for racism. In her blog, she wrote that she was “convinced that Muslim men around the world rape, abuse and kill their daughters”. She was convicted by the Eastern High Court for violating section 266b of the Danish criminal code, which specifies racism as a crime, and she was fined 5,000 kroner (roughly 670 Euros). From The Copenhagen Post:

According to the law, it is illegal to “spread messages that threaten, taunt or degrade a group because of their race, skin colour, national or ethnic extraction, belief or sexual orientation”.

The court argued that Bazrafkan in her blog had generalized about Muslims men being criminals, and that because her statement “derided and degraded a group simply based on their faith”, she was guilty.

Of course I find her statements gross and untrue. I don’t think I need to clarify that. My disgust of her statements, though, doesn’t mean I can overlook the obvious: she is Iranian and living in Denmark. As much as I find her statements odious, she is making observations about her own culture. These observations about one’s own culture or heritage precludes racism as one cannot be racist against one’s own. Prejudiced or ethnocentric, yes, but not racist. Racism requires a power deferential that is just not present in this case. This Iranian Danish woman simply doesn’t have the institutionalized backing to turn her prejudice into systemic discrimination or legal frameworks to exclude people based on them being Muslim.

From an interview with Firoozeh Bazrafkan also at The Copenhagen Post:

I have also been critical of Judaism and Christianity but I was born in Iran as a Muslim. I have family members in Iran who don’t have the same democratic rights and freedom to express their anger as I do. I do my best to get the point out in my artwork and installations because I want to criticise the Iranian regime my way. If I want to be angry, I should have the right to be angry and call the Islamic regime anything I want. The state shouldn’t go in and take my rights.

Her opinions might be repulsive, one might even argue that they incite hate speech but this misuse of anti racism laws has one very concrete and grave consequence: it opens the door for convictions based on “anti white racism” as well. If a person of color makes a generalization about white people, theoretically speaking, they can now be measured by the standard set by this court ruling. European anti racism laws were enacted post World War II to protect minorities from White Supremacy. Convicting an Iranian woman making misguided and prejudiced observations about a culture that is hers are contrary to the spirit of this laws. This is a White Supremacist interpretation of racism as it dilutes and erases institutional and political power from the equation. In this flawed interpretation of the law, we all stand on equal grounds: white people, people of color, ethnic minorities, immigrants, etc… all equally represented and equally liable for the systematic oppression that might afflict us. Needless to say, this is a sure way to exonerate White Supremacy from any responsibility in “the state of things”. An Iranian woman criticizing her culture, however misguided, has the same weight than a right wing politician trying to pass a law to limit the rights of Muslims. When every prejudiced action is viewed equally under the law, we lose a fundamental tool to level the playing field, the one little piece of legislation that offers some degree of leverage against centuries of racist history.

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