Irish musician Sinead O’Connor is facing some backlash for her comments after announcing that she had converted to Islam and was changing her name to Shuhada’ Davitt, posting on Twitter that she was sorry:
“What I’m about to say is something so racist I never thought my soul could ever feel it. But truly I never wanna spend time with white people again (if that’s what non-muslims are called). Not for one moment, for any reason. They are disgusting.”
I'm terribly sorry. What I'm about to say is something so racist I never thought my soul could ever feel it. But truly I never wanna spend time with white people again (if that's what non-muslims are called). Not for one moment, for any reason. They are disgusting.
— Sinead O'Connor (AKA Shuhada Sadaqat) (@MagdaDavitt77) November 6, 2018
While some Twitter users were supportive or sympathetic with concern for her wellbeing, others were less than sympathetic. One person from Malaysia responded:
Miss Shuhada . Non muslim doesn't mean only white people. There is a lot non-muslim from other races, only they just not a muslim. Non-muslim also a human. Our religion also forbid racisme in islam. Islam teach respect other mankind and religion.
— lady syafinaz (@JamainSyafinaz) November 7, 2018
Before deleting her Twitter account, O’Connor then posted:
“Final word. If it’s ‘crazy’ to care. Then, by all means, spank my a** and call me fruity loops.”
The singer is known for her antics like announcing her support for the radical Irish Republican Army (only to retract the statement a year later), boycotting the Grammys and refusing her award in protest of commercialism, and tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul II during a performance on Saturday Night Live.
What’s problematic about her latest announcement is the way O’Connor decided to make it public and the fact that she seems to be forgetting she herself is still white. If O’Connor is trying to reject her “whiteness” she is forgetting that, no matter what, she is born with a privilege that she can’t just leave behind.
Converting to Islam and rejecting all other white people doesn’t change that.
She will never know the struggle and prejudice that people of color, especially Muslims, face.
If that is the route she is taking, much like Rachel Dolezal, the woman who pretended for years to be black, just because you feel comfortable in a culture doesn’t mean you can leave your past experiences behind. It ignores the fact that she lived a life where she has not had to struggle or be persecuted, as some Muslims have. Of course, she has fought her own inner battles with mental illness, abuse as a child, and the loss of her mother. But hating her own race doesn’t negate Sinead O’Connor’s whiteness.
While it’s true that upon their arrival, Irish people were discriminated in the same way that modern-day Trump supporters discuss immigrants – viewed as barbaric and forced to take the worst jobs – the Irish were able to assimilate into white culture by stepping on the backs of black people. Though they had to “earn their status” as white, they used their political power and enlisted in civil service jobs (like the police force) to get there.
What that meant politically is that many Irish immigrants joined the fight against abolition and civil rights.
O’Connor could have used her conversion as a chance to inform and bring about a positive discussion.
She might have used her celebrity status to educate non-Muslims about her new-found religion or highlight important Muslim voices who have helped her in her journey towards Islam. Instead, she has alienated herself by trying to take a stance that is not only ignorant but really doesn’t speak to what Islam is about in the first place.
Just days after deactivating her account, O’Connor was back on Twitter, posting a video of herself saying that she decided to come back to Twitter because she “loves annoying the white supremacists.” Because she is is whispering, the rest of the video is hard to make out.
— Sinead O'Connor (AKA Shuhada Sadaqat) (@MagdaDavitt77) November 10, 2018
What’s clear from her past and most recent actions is that Sinead O’Connor isn’t afraid to make a stand. What’s unclear is whether she is doing so to make waves or because she really believes that what she’s doing is important and valid. Judging from many of her past stances, it’s clear she enjoys making statements.
What would be most productive is if she used her political statements to unite people instead of trying to divide them.