The word “Islamophobia” is defined as a prejudice against, hatred towards, or irrational fear of Muslims, and as a definition that is fine. The problem however is that is not how the term is actually deployed. Instead of being a word used to criticise an irrational emotional bias, akin to say racism or xenophobia, it is instead being deployed as a means to try and gag fact-based and quite valid criticism of bad ideas.
First the Basics
- Islam is not a unified belief. Like most belief systems it is highly fragmented, and is essentially an umbrella that shelters a vast diversity of human thinking. This ranges from the very strict Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, all the way through to complete re-inventions of Islam such as the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. Externally a unified front is often claimed, but internally Islam is just as splintered as all other belief systems. The Wahhabies are so extreme that most other variations of Islam (about 99% of the Islamic world) consider them to be complete nuts. The Ahmadiyya, are so radically different that most other Muslims consider them not to be Muslim at all hence the high degree of violence, discrimination and even murders inflicted upon the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan (Now that is true Islamophobia as practised by some Muslims)
- The word “Muslim” describes individuals who adhere to a specific culture and not a belief. It can be demonstrated that as many as 25% of Muslims do not actually believe any of the religious stuff at all. Do not assume that Criticism of Islam, a belief, is also criticism of Muslims. Most humans, with or without belief, strive to be decent and honourable, and that includes all those who would identify as Muslim.
Acceptable Criticism or Hate Speech?
People do indeed cross the line and say some truly outrageous things, here are some actual examples:
“Muslims are the vilest of animals”
“Be ruthless against Muslims”
“How perverse are the Muslims”
“strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”
“Attack Muslims who are near to you”
“Those Muslim mischief makers should be murdered or crucified”
Is any of the above acceptable? No, none of it is, all of it clearly falls within the domain of hate speech, because we do not see any factually based criticism of an idea being deployed, instead we see some rather blatant discrimination, unsubstantiated claims, and an outrageous degree of incitement to violence. Hopefully you can discern the line here, ideas may indeed be criticised, but such obnoxious rhetoric should be robustly rejected.
Who deployed such vile hate speech, was it some lunatic in a Facebook group? Actually no, I’ve deployed a well-known trick here, the above are all quotes lifted directly from the Quran, I simply replaced the word ‘Christian’, ‘Jew’ or ‘unbeliever’ with the word ‘Muslim.’. Here are the original quotes along with the references:
- Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve” – 8:55
- Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves” – 48:29
- And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah… Allah (Himself) fights against them. How perverse are they!” – 9:30
- I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” – 8:12
- you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness” – 9:123
- The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement” – 5:33
My point is obvious, if you deploy the above against Muslims, it stands out for what it is … hate speech, and is obviously morally unacceptable, yet when dressed up as a religious text it suddenly becomes acceptable, why is that?
Am I being Islamophibic for pointing out these facts?
The observation I am making is that the Quran is not just a collection of harmless religious poetry, it contains some really bad ideas, and so anybody drinking a constant stream of such rhetoric as literal truth would indeed begin to accept the thought that intolerance, and actual acts of violence deployed against those who reject their belief would be a jolly good idea – that is why the deployment of criticism of such ideas truly does matter – bad beliefs lead to bad behaviour.
People should of course be free to believe whatever they wish, and should never ever face any discrimination even if it is obvious to everybody else that the belief is not actually true at all. However, it is also vital to recognise that beliefs do not have rights, only people do, and so the rest of us should also be free to criticise bad ideas, not simply under the banner of “Freedom of Expression”, but because there is also a moral imperative here. Bad ideas, when truly embraced as literal truth and not simply as a symbolic religious metaphor, will yield of harvest of bad consequences. The literal embrace of the words within the quran will lead to intolerance, misogyney, homophobia, violence and even murder, and at the same time fool believers into thinking that such actions are moral. Silence in the face of such bad ideas is simply not an ethical option.
- On “Islamophobia” and Other Libels – Sam Harris (Also lots More on that here … if you read nothing else, read this link)