ISLAMOPHOBIA – Nonsense term & Political Hand Grenade

In modern newspeak an ‘Islamophobe’ is a bigot, a hater, probably racist and even, ludicrously, a white supremacist. According to the erratic ravings of C.J. Werleman, new atheists who critique Islam might well be white supremacists, an allegation which prominent atheist and critic of Islam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, might find highly amusing, if it were not apparently taken seriously by some.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

White Supremacist?

The nebulous term Islamophobia is employed as an umbrella term to capture any feeling of anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim sentiment. First gaining in media popularity after the Runnymede report (1997) in the UK, usage became more widespread following the September 11 2001 terror attacks, and it is now a household word similar to racism or sexism. 

Invoked due to a fear of prejudice and reprise attacks against Muslims, its psychological power reminds us what we have learned about making generalizations about large groups of people; to be very, very careful. Generalizations based on the gender, race, or nationality of any person or group is automatically regarded as prejudice.

Islamophobia (Oxford dictionary):

Intense dislike or fear of Islam, esp. as a political force; hostility or prejudice towards Muslims.

For secularists and critics of religion the term erects an effective shield for the ideas of Islam. It unites moderate and extremist forces by their common identity by confusing the religion of Islam with its Muslim practitioners, and by categorizing all criticisms as hate-speech. The shadow of bigotry is cast by the inseparability of Islam and Muslims. One who criticizes Islam is erroneously thought to be criticizing all Muslims.

Salman Rushdie has deemed it:

…an addition to the vocabulary of Humpty Dumpty Newspeak. It took the language of analysis, reason and dispute, and stood it on its head.

(Rushdie, Salman (2012). Joseph Anton: A Memoir, pp. 344–346, Jonathan Cape.)

Christopher Hitchens dubbed it:

A word invented by fascists, used by cowards to manipulate morons.

The word is often used in a calculated manner aimed at poisoning the well. Noted plagiarists, C.J. Werleman and Chris Hedges, both of whom were on the wrong side of  acrimonious spats with Sam Harris, have used it to impugn his character at every opportunity. Harris has also been accused of being “genocidal” by the likes of Reza Aslan and Glen Greenwald. S. Harris:

The term “Islamophobia” is now being used as a kind of intellectual blood libel to protect intrinsically harmful ideas from criticism.

Anti-Islamic neoconservative Douglas Murray:

the term ‘Islamophobia’ is so inexact that – in so far as there is a definition – it includes insult of and even inquiry into any aspect of Islam, including Muslim scripture.

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Secularists who criticize Islam suddenly find out how tribal and knee-jerk our political system has become. Critics of Islam are placed alongside arch conservatives and the culture war mongers without due consideration to their actual views. Islamophobia strangles sensible debate; just the perception of prejudice is enough. No-one is innocent until proven guilty on Twitter.

It’s nonsense to claim that a person hates or is prejudiced toward a set of ideas. This is a category mistake since, by definition, we do not owe competing ‘ideas’ any sense of fair play or equity. By logical necessity we are forced to choose one over the other, and this is as true of our metaphysical beliefs as it is of our political, social, or economic beliefs. We are not prejudiced if we argue that Capitalism is a superior form of political system than Communism. There is no implied bigotry to vote for one political party and to reject another. We are not a Red-phobe is we prefer the color blue. Equivocations like these have a name – relativism. All ideas are not equal.

Accordingly, relativism dictates all major religions are equal. They all come from the same regard for human life, the pursuit of spirituality and obtain to the same values. Not only is this a vacuous platitude, but one could only speculate on the accusations of prejudice that would be levelled at New Atheists promoting the same view. Yet this illusion is promoted by Presidents and apologists alike. It is a fallacy displayed in the Runnymede report itself which deems any negative opinion of Islam as a symptom of Islamophobia (see item 3).

Islamophobia is a rhetorical hand grenade used to invalidate the views of those who criticize Islam. The term implies that no legitimate criticism of Islam can be tolerated, acting like a vaccine to ward off its detractors, casting a slur of ‘Bigot!’ on its victim, and ascribing to him an unsaid set of racist and prejudicial attitudes towards Muslims.  Simultaneously, it implies an intimate understanding of his mental state that its user cannot have. Islamophobia is a nonsense term that should be replaced by clearer thinking and a more careful analysis of who is prejudiced and who is not.

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