by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
An Islamist group named Hizb ut-Tahrir seeks to bring the world under Islamic law and advocates suicide attacks against Israelis. Facing proscription in Great Britain, it opened a clandestine front operation at British universities called "Stop Islamophobia," the Sunday Times has disclosed.
Stop what, you ask?
Coined in Great Britain a decade ago, the neologism Islamophobia was launched in 1996 by a self-proclaimed "Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia." The word literally means "undue fear of Islam" but it is used to mean "prejudice against Muslims" and joins over 500 other phobias spanning virtually every aspect of life.
The term has achieved a degree of linguistic and political acceptance, to the point that the secretary-general of the United Nations presided over a December 2004 conference titled "Confronting Islamophobia" and in May a Council of Europe summit condemned "Islamophobia."
The term presents several problems, however. First, what exactly constitutes an "undue fear of Islam" when Muslims acting in the name of Islam today make up the premier source of worldwide aggression, both verbal and physical, versus non-Muslims and Muslims alike? What, one wonders, is the proper amount of fear?
Second, while prejudice against Muslims certainly exists, "Islamophobia" deceptively conflates two distinct phenomena: fear of Islam and fear of radical Islam. I personally experience this problem: Despite writing again and again against radical Islam the ideology, not Islam the religion, I have been made the runner-up for a mock "Islamophobia Award" in Great Britain, deemed America's "leading Islamophobe," and even called an "Islamophobe Incarnate." (What I really am is an "Islamism-ophobe.")
Third, promoters of the "Islamophobia" concept habitually exaggerate the problem:
Fourth, Hizb ut-Tahrir's manipulation of "Stop Islamophobia" betrays the fraudulence of this word. As the Sunday Times article explains, "Ostensibly the campaign's goal is to fight anti-Muslim prejudice in the wake of the London bombings," but it quotes Anthony Glees of London's Brunel University to the effect that the real agenda is to spread anti-Semitic, anti-Hindu, anti-Sikh, anti-homosexual, and anti-female attitudes, as well as to foment resentment of Western influence.
Finally, calling moderate Muslims (such as Irshad Manji) Islamophobes betrays this term's aggressiveness. As Charles Moore writes in the Daily Telegraph, moderate Muslims, "frightened of what the Islamists are turning their faith into," are the ones who most fear Islam. (Think of Algeria, Darfur, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.) "They cannot find the courage and the words to get to grips with the huge problem that confronts Islam in the modern world." Accusations of Islamophobia, Mr. Malik adds, are intended "to silence critics of Islam, or even Muslims fighting for reform of their communities." Another British Muslim, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, discerns an even more ambitious goal: "all too often Islamophobia is used to blackmail society."
Muslims should dispense with this discredited term and instead engage in some earnest introspection. Rather than blame the potential victim for fearing his would-be executioner, they would do better to ponder how Islamists have transformed their faith into an ideology celebrating murder (Al-Qaeda: "You love life, we love death") and develop strategies to redeem their religion by combating this morbid totalitarianism.
Nov. 10, 2005 update: A report released in Brussels yesterday by the "European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia" (EUMC), an organization belonging to the European Union, found that there was virtually no anti-Muslim backlash in Europe in the period July 7-October 5, or just immediately following the London bombings. It's another indication that "Islamophobia" is exaggerated.
Dec. 4, 2006 update: In a more complete review of statistics, the UK Director of Public Prosecutions found no post-7/7 backlash. In the month after the suicide bombings, only 12 offenders motivated by religious hatred were prosecuted in the whole of England and Wales, of which only six cases involved attackers who acknowledged that they acted in connection to the bombs on underground trains and a bus. DPP Kenneth Macdonald QC noted that
Writing in the Daily Mail,
Mar. 30, 2009 update: Paul Sheehan does a fine job of debunking this concept at "Islamophobia is a fabrication."
Nov. 26, 2012 update: Politico reports that the Associated Press has dropped the term "Islamophobia" from its Style Book. Dylan Byers explains:
Jan. 16, 2015 update: Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said in the aftermath of the Paris attacks: "I refuse to use this term Islamophobia, because those who use this word are trying to invalidate any criticism at all of Islamist ideology. The charge of Islamophobia is used to silence people."
Feb. 20, 2015 update: Curious that the English neologism "Islamophobia" (which, as noted above, dates back only to 1996) has become current in Arabic (Islamufubiya), as shown by a picture of a woman from Al-'Arabi al-Jadid demonstrating against the murder of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, N.C. or a headline from the Watan newspaper.
The need for this word loan meaning anti-Islamic sentiment points to the absence of such a term through 1,400 years of Islamic history. Although anti-Islamic sentiments very much existed (and in the West were far more widespread than today), Muslims paid them no attention. Only with the advent of the modern era and the celebration of victimhood did this concept become useful.
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