"Islamophobia" is an idea recently invented and defused by advocates and apologists for Islam for the purpose of silencing criticism of Islam. The term "phobia" indicates an irrational fear, which is how users of the term hope criticism of Islam will be understood.
As is well-known, criticism of Islam, of Allah, of Mohammed, or of the Koran is forbidden by Sharia law; violators (or even those unjustly accused) are subject per Sharia law to summary execution. Where execution for this offense is rarer due to its extra legality, such as in America and Canada, defenders of Islam have tried to avoid criticism by presenting themselves as unjust victims of persecution and by using moral suasion through the concept of Islamophobia.
Islamophobia has become a standard topic in Middle East Studies and Islamic Studies courses, often presented in conferences and publications as a great threat to the well-being of Muslims in North America. In reality, government statistics on religion-oriented hate crimes indicate that Jews are by far the most targeted group -- and many of these cases are perpetrated by Muslims. Muslims are targets in a small minority of cases.
Some Middle East and Islamic Studies professors appear to believe it is their job to present Islam in the best possible light. While daily Islamist militias and proto-states fight to conquer land and populations in the name of jihad for the caliphate, professors and media commentators claim that jihad actually means "inner struggle to submit to God." Most of the West's most prominent political leaders announce that Islam is a religion of peace, even as they contemplate going to war against jihadis. They claim that the Islamic State "has nothing to do with Islam," even as the Islamic State justifies its policies and actions with detailed references to Islam's foundational texts.
The Islamic State has distinguished models to follow: Did not Mohammed spur the military thrusts of the great Arab Muslim Empire, which soon conquered land between India and Iberia for Allah? Does not the Koran divide the world into the Dar al-Islam, the land of peace, and the Dar al-harb, the land of infidels and war?
From the Koran to present-day Muslim imams and ayatollahs (read the word-for-word translations published by the Middle East Media Research Institute), a prominent theme is the commanded killing of infidels and the conquest of the world. This theme is repeated in the charters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the writings of bin Laden and myriad others, and by preachers of Middle Eastern origin and funding in mosques throughout America and Canada.
Attempts to monitor mosques for hate speech and threats to the public order -- such as were tried in New York -- are denounced by politicians such as New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio. Fear of Islamophobia accusations has now become a serious inhibition to those charged with public safety, just as fear of racism accusations has long inhibited government authorities from dealing with serious breaches of the law throughout the West. Abductions, forced marriages, gang rapes, and even "honor killings" committed by Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants to Western countries often go unpunished by government agencies.
North American feminists dare not speak of abuse of women in the Muslim world, from the Koran and Sharia law to daily family life, lest they be accused of Islamophobia. Members of the National Women's Studies Association recently voted to boycott Israel, but cannot bring themselves to comment on child marriages, forced marriages, female seclusion, honor killings, gang rapes of infidel women, or the enslavement and sale of females for sex slavery.
Western opinion leaders have even advocated for Islamic supremacists by forbidding criticism of Islam. The Canadian Parliament recently condemned "Islamophobia," and a Parliamentary committee is now crafting measures to implement this motion. Christine Douglass-Williams was fired from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation board for criticizing political Islam, showing that the government is willing to terminate appointed employees -- even of so-called independent institutions -- for alleged Islamophobia. Just as in the Canadian "Human Rights" Commissions and Tribunals, truth is not allowed as a defense.
For many years, students in Canada and the United States have been taught "cultural relativism," which brands criticism of other cultures and religions as racism, bigotry, and even a crime against humanity.
Even Muslim critics of Islam are dismissed; students reject former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her critiques. Any consideration of her work is considered Islamophobia.
The West spent several centuries criticizing Christianity and removing it from the realm of government. Yet totalitarian Islam, practiced by some adherents in a brutal fashion, is defended in the West today. Officials and apologists insist Islam is inherently benign despite this not being reflected in the historical or contemporary record. It appears that the inventors and purveyors of "Islamophobia" have succeeded beyond their dreams in silencing criticism of Islam.
Philip Carl Salzman is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.