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Law's Preoccupation with the Muslim Psyche

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
12:00 AM
North Quad Space 2435

Asked to offer an opinion of Omar Khadr’s “risk of dangerousness as a violent jihadist,” state appointed psychiatrist Welner conducted a seven hour interview with Khadr at Guantanamo. Having no prior experience in assessing “jihadists,” Welner consulted with Danish psychologist Nicolai Sennels. Well known in Europe for his racist views of Muslims, Sennels believes that “massive inbreeding within the Muslim culture during the last 1,400 years may have done catastrophic damage to their gene pool.” Muslims are genetically unable to integrate into European society and they possess an in born capacity to be violent. As I have shown in Casting Out, this biological view of Muslim degeneracy has gained currency in European and North American courts and parliaments, often in as openly racist a form as in Sennels’ opinions, but also disguised as moderate arguments about Muslim cultural incapacity to integrate. Such arguments have all been central tot he case about Muslim men who are violent towards Muslim women. In this paper I consider how law’s contemporary preoccupation with the Muslim psyche renders all Muslims as less than human. I explore the logic of this eviction both from law and from humanity and discuss the relationship between a biological view of Muslim degeneracy and the culturalization of violence.

Sherene Razack is a full professor in the Department of Social Justice Education, at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. She has published At the Limits of Justice: Women of Colour On Terror (2014, ed. With Suvendrini Perera); States of Race (2011, co-editor with Malinda Smith and Sunera Thobani); (2008) Casting Out: Race and the Eviction of Muslims From Western Law and Politics; (2004) Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism. (2002, Editor) Race, Space and the Law: Unmapping a white settler society. Toronto: Between the Lines;(1998) Looking white people in the eye: gender, race and culture in courtrooms and classrooms; (1991) Canadian feminism and the law: The women's legal education and action fund and the pursuit of equality. She is a founding member of Researchers and Academics of Colour for Equality.

Presented by the Department of American Culture with cosponsorship from Arab and Muslim American Studies, Program in International and Comparative Studies, the Islamic Studies Program, the Women's Studies Department and the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies.

Sherene Razack, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto