Of Islamophobia and white man’s myth: A book that deconstructs world order

Author with the book.

In Tangled in Terror, Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan seeks to divorce Islamophobia from Islam and Muslims.

In the face of racial or Islamophobic violence, majority of the news coverage focuses on penalising the individuals who carry out these acts. The blame settles on one police officer or one perpetrator who is considered bigoted. On the other hand, a systemic outlook makes the nature of oppression clearer. Islamophobia doesn’t exist in a vacuum outside the categories of race and racialisation.

The over-policing of black folks in the West is inseparable from surveillance structures that target and ‘discipline’ Uyghurs or Kashmiris.

Like the prison industrial complex carries on the legacy of slavery, the Islamophobic machinery is one way that colonialism continues to dictate the world order.

In Tangled in Terror, Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan seeks to divorce Islamophobia from Islam and Muslims.

The text theorizes Islamophobia as a global world order and argues that the focus on hate crimes and representation takes away from the structural and historical processes funding it. The book was published by Pluto Press in March 2022.

Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan.


Suhaiymah roots Islamophobia in the colonial history of race-making and global capitalism that constructs Muslims as threats, barbarians and misogynists. 

There is a movement away from a post 9/11 rhetoric surrounding the rise of Islamophobia into one that places it at an intersection of capital and orientalisation.

The project of race-making was central to European colonialism and looting of colonies. The invention of the Muslim threat is grounded in the same process. 

White supremacy claims all civilisation to be a monopoly of the West, the benevolent culture that works tirelessly to guide the barbaric other towards civilization. Even if whiteness is not actively privileged, making the practice of Islam answerable to western thought harkens back to the latter’s false superiority.

Moreover, by making clear the desperate contingency of the European self on this cultural opposition, Suhaimyah reveals Europe and the West to be unstable categories constructed only through centuries of orientalisation and race-making.

There is a distinct understanding of secularism as a part of the Islamophobic machine. The author argues that by devising what exactly religion is and where it should be practiced, secularism was a tool used to invest European Christianity with adaptability and ‘other’ religions with inflexibility, such that a justification for colonial intervention could be devised.

Instead of being the equalizer that it is portrayed as, secularism is merely another category that upholds the language of colonialism.

Attempts at ‘inclusion’ and ‘tolerance’ must fundamentally make us question the requirement of such concepts in the first place? Inclusion to what? A predetermined racist idea of what a human is? An exclusionary vision?

In a similar vein of argumentation, Mawlana Saaleh Baseer, Hafiz-e-Quran and Master’s candidate at the University of Chicago states that “liberal secular morality defines the worth of a human without an objective divine argument, that means it is up to humans to decide what is human/moral or not.”

Thus, the human rights approach to colonialism and Islamophobia ultimately plays into a racist construction of the human.

The book Tangled in Terror.


Suhaiymah invites us to depart from the language of the Islamophobic world order: instead of labelling someone a terrorist, name them a Muslim perpetrator of a violent act.

This then allows us to ask why that act occurred. The false mythos constructed by empire has made white supremacy the language of communities that may not have had any material interactions with the west. Once language begins to pick holes in the world order, it begins to expose its necrophilic politics.

This book is not a project that seeks to make Islam palatable. The author roots her attempt at changing injustice by word and deed in worship.

“Above all else,” Suhaiymah writes in Acknowledgements, “all praise and thanks are ultimately to Allah, whom I owe every single thing to and whom I pray accepts this book and its intentions.”

In academic spaces, religion is often divorced from knowledge production. Western modes of thinking are privileged, even in classrooms that seek to revisit indigenous or non-western modes of knowledge production. 

This book’s intention, then, is a brilliant reclamation of Islam’s own functioning as a worldview and system of change-making.

The questions we ask of Islam are at most times the ones we use to defend it. Does Islam really oppress women? Does the Quran advocate violence against non-Muslims?

In trying to learn more about the religion of peace, these seem to be both the point of departure and arrival. The author asks what our questions of the Quran would have been if we were not entrenched in this practice designed to be answerable to a secular-liberal world. 

“What would it be like if we approached Islam on its own terms?” the author asks. “What questions would we ask of it?”

In providing a vocabulary for Islamophobic structures and history, Suhaiymah invites us all to step into and stand in the possibility of a world that is radically opposed to the one we inhabit.

In understanding the origins of what might be just microaggressions in our daily lives, we arrive at an understanding of a world order that is designed to fuel the engines of colonial exploitation. 

This may take the form of border security, surveillance and anti-immigration thought and practice, but it also makes itself felt in the disconnect between our knowledge production and our religion, and in our complicity in upholding a language that trains us to never ask why.

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