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:
Law enforcement: British Muslims are said to suffer from persistent police discrimination but an actual review of the statistics by Kenan Malik makes mincemeat of this "Islamophobia myth."
Cultural: Muslims "are faced with an extreme flow of anti-Islamic literature that preaches hatred against Islam," claims the president of the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences in Virginia, Taha Jabir Al-'Alwani: "novels, movies, books and researches. Just among the best selling novels alone there are almost 1000 novels of this type." One thousand bestsellers vilify Islam? Hardly. In fact, barely a handful do so (for example, The Haj, by Leon Uris).
Linguistic: A professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, falsely reported (in his keynote speech at a U.N. event, "Confronting Islamophobia," reports Alexander Joffe) attempts to hide the Arabic origins of English words such as adobe – which derives in fact from ancient Egyptian, not from Arabic.
Historical: The term anti-Semitism was originally used to describe sentiment against Arabs living in Spain, Mr. Nasr also stated in his speech, and was not linked to Jews until after World War II. Nonsense: anti-Semitism dates back only to 1879, when it was coined by Wilhelm Marr, and has always referred specifically to hatred of Jews.
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 the bombs on underground trains and a bus. DPP Kenneth Macdonald QC noted that
After the 7 July bombings it was feared that there would be a significant backlash against the Muslim community and that we would see a large rise in religiously aggravated offences. The fears of a large rise in offences appear to be unfounded.
Writing in the Daily Mail,
At the time of the July 7 bombings one senior Islamic cleric warned women to stop wearing headscarves because of the danger of attack and the Guardian newspaper reported that two in every three Muslims were considering leaving the country because of the intensity of abuse.... The figures suggest that fears about high numbers of 'Islamophobic' attacks and high levels of abuse may be misplaced. Worries were at their height in the aftermath of the 7 July bombings but warnings about an anti-Muslim backlash have been revived regularly since whenever an incident related to Islamist terrorism happens.
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:
The online Style Book now says that "-phobia," "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness" should not be used "in political or social contexts," including "homophobia" and "Islamophobia." … The changes made to the online Style Book will appear in next year's printed edition.