"One thing that I think could really bring meaningful impact [is] if Islamophobia starts to become seen in the same legal light as antisemitism," stated Muslim-American commentator Arsalan Iftikhar during a recent webinar. Hosted by the anti-"Islamophobia" Bridge Initiative of Georgetown University's Saudi-founded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU), it was a natural fit for Iftikhar. This senior research fellow at Bridge was the former national legal director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an Islamist group masquerading as a civil rights organization.
With ACMCU's founding director, Georgetown professor John Esposito, moderating, the Islamist Iftikhar discussed his new book, Fear of a Muslim Planet: Global Islamophobia in the New World Order. He explained the title to his employer and "mentor" as alluding to the 1990 Public Enemy rap album Fear of a Black Planet, as "Islamophobia" is a "form of global racism in the world today," as if Islamic faith formed a race. He discussed several notorious mass shootings, including Anders Breivik's 2011 rampage in Norway, the 2018 assault on Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, and the 2019 slaughter at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The perpetrators of all these massacres shared a belief in the "great replacement conspiracy theory," Iftikhar said, a "grand unification theory for racists worldwide." This conspiracy theory posits that nefarious forces are orchestrating a replacement of European-ancestry populations in various countries by nonwhite immigrant groups. The leading theoretician of this conspiracy theory worldwide is the Frenchman Renaud Camus. A "true and true race hustler that really hates everyone" including blacks and Jews, Camus's prior fame was "writing gay pornography," Iftikhar said.
Iftikhar asserted that Camus's "views are metastasizing across the world" among right-wing politicians such as Donald Trump, as if only bigotry motivates concern about Islam. Trump's 2015 "Islam hates us" statement "personifies Islam. It makes Islam sound like an eighth-grade bully that used to steal Donald Trump's lunch money in the cafeteria" and "solidifies Islam as a monolithic entity," Iftikhar claimed. He did not entertain the possibility that dangerous Islamic doctrines towards non-Muslims underlay Trump's comments and even dismissed the serious concerns motivating his carefully crafted "ridiculous travel bans."
Trump exemplified for Iftikhar how "Islamophobia has become part and parcel of the Republican political ideological platform today," although his factual errors, coupled with his Islamist credentials, hardly inspired confidence in his analysis. He described the former Arkansas governor and popular political commentator Mike Huckabee as a "former Arizona governor." Iftikhar's "Islamophobic zealots" also included conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, a former "belligerent editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller" who in fact founded the Daily Wire.
Iftikhar fretted that another GOP presidency could provoke "a great unraveling."
While worrying that "another Republican presidency" might provoke a "great unraveling," Iftikhar also took aim at popular newscaster Tucker Carlson for ostensibly "pretty much on a nightly basis" promoting "great replacement." Yet in Carlson's comments on Leftists promoting mass immigration in order to alter political electorates, he has specifically disavowed any racist intent. Carlson, moreover, reflects longstanding conservative concerns about unchecked immigration, as expressed by popular Jewish American conservative commentator Dennis Prager.
Iftikhar claimed that Germany had banned ritual halal and kosher slaughter for Muslims and Jews, respectively, as well as their common male circumcision practices. Yet German legal disputes over ritual slaughter without first stunning the animal, which he argued can be "much more humane" than industrial slaughterhouses, have apparently not harmed Berlin's fine halal cuisine. Circumcision rites likewise remain legal in Germany.
Faulty logic characterized Iftikhar's comments on Stephen Paddock, the lone shooter who gunned down fifty-eight people at a Las Vegas concert on October 1, 2017, a massacre "never once called terrorism in our media." For Iftikhar this manifested "double standards" in comparison to supposedly disproportionate media coverage of Islamic terrorist attacks, yet no terrorist political motive has emerged in Paddock's mysterious case. Similarly, Esposito regurgitated falsehoods about how Breivik in his manifesto drew inspiration from "Western Islamophobic authors" such as Jihad Watch director Robert Spencer and Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes.
Iftikhar's own statements revealed a world more complicated than his Manichean claims on racism.
Even Iftikhar's own statements revealed a world more complicated than his Manichean claims on racism. He noted accurately that China's totalitarian regime has "been essentially able to buy off the loyalties of even Muslim-majority nations" with economic influence while brutally repressing its Muslim Uighur population. Yet he failed to note that as Turkish and Saudi leaders have "whitewashed the genocide of Uighur Muslims," American white evangelicals have raised alarms.
In the context of such erroneous judgments, Iftikhar's promotion of censorship become even more ominous. The "French government has taken it upon themselves to clamp down on the free exercise of Muslim religion and belief," he stated, cited various hijab and burkini bans. "But the grandfather of white supremacist ideology," Camus, "gets to live freely in a fourteenth-century castle in the south of France and gets to spew his hatred and venom with impunity."
Iftikhar's false equation of antisemitism with "Islamophobia" further muddled his argument, particularly given his praise of European laws that include hate speech proscriptions. While antisemitism originated as a pseudoscientific term for unvarnished Jew-hatred, "Islamophobia" is a propagandistic neologism that besmirches all criticism of Islam as irrational fear. For evaluating such terms, he would apparently seek advice from his "good friend Peter Beinart," a far-left journalist best-known for advocating Israel's dissolution.
Georgetown sacrifices its credibility by substituting Islamist propaganda for serious scholarship.
The complex controversies that Iftikhar attempts to suppress under the false moniker "Islamophobia" indicate precisely why, as Esposito said, "this is not going to go away, it's going to last for quite a few decades, unfortunately." No amount of smooth-talking sophistry from Islamists can transform the debatable content of Islamic beliefs and behaviors into a race or obviate the need for their practice in accord with reason. As Iftikhar and Esposito demonstrate, Georgetown and the wider world of Middle East Studies continue to sacrifice credibility by working to silence academic debate while substituting Islamist propaganda for serious scholarship.