What is Islamophobia, and why should it be taken seriously?

by Tom Miller

This was a question I felt was raised by a post from a respected Facebook friend ( know, get new subjects…) who seemed to be in agreement with the attitude taken by some liberals that ‘Islamophobia’ is a term used unfairly for those with a problem with Islamic religious beliefs.

It isn’t, and that’s why it’s controversial. My friend used the argument that:

‘Islamphobia’ is a dangerous concept – not a valid one.

So I asked him:

1) How can a concept possibly be dangerous? 2) What do you even understand the concept to be? I understand it to be discrimination against people who are Muslims, rather than criticism of Islam.

He responded:

“The idea that criticising or challenging a belief – or even the possibility of circumscribing the activities of people who believe something for perfectly sensible reasons – is an ‘ophobia – that is a very illiberal position.”

A lot of liberals would disagree with that statement on the basis that it ignores discriminatory prejudice. Most socialists would too, because it ignores the concrete scenario, which includes physical attacks against Muslims and the like, as part of the main ‘prejudice narrative’ of the modern right.

He continues:

I detest the idea that women are urged to dress in all-covering tarpaulins. I think that people who urge women to dress in this way are stupid vicious thugs. I think people who make the argument that its a cultural choice need to go away and consider just how wrong they are. Does that make me an ‘Islamophobe’?

I don’t understand it to be discrimination against people who are Muslims any more,than I’d claim to be a victim of Socialistophobia (even though It explains very clearly why I’m not in charge of the CBI). What you’re referring to, I understand as ‘discrimination’. This is a summary of what the article says.

So I thought it was right to challenge my friend.

“It’s not the challenging of belief that’s Islamophobic though, you’re ignoring my point. It’s discrimination against those who hold it, in both hard and soft forms.

Hard example, ‘fuck off Muslims, go back home‘, or using it as a proxy for brown-ness (since when was ‘brown’ a ‘race’ anyway, it’s simply a common appearance aspect between a number of minorities – not unlike faith). Would you honestly not have a problem with the statement above?

In softer forms, disproportionately targeting Muslims but not other faiths, generalising with the intent of demonising a group of people ‘they’re all terrorists‘, or even more common, ‘Islam is a backward faith‘ (as if faith doesn’t include individuals with different viewpoints).

What about deliberate offence? Is it anti-Semitic to deliberately feed a Muslim (or a Jew) bacon, or is it ‘legitimate criticism’?

It’s evident to anyone that the attitudes above are prejudiced ones, and ones that either deliberately attack or discriminate either because of faith, or using faith as a proxy for race or barbarism.

“I don’t understand it to be discrimination against people who are Muslims any more,than I’d claim to be a victim of Socialistophobia”

Get a lot of people spitting at you or ripping your clothes off in the street do you?

This is a serious problem which in my view therefore merits being taken seriously. The narrative that ‘Islamaphobia=simply criticising religion‘ is a massive red herring thrown by bigots to get liberals running the other way – away from confronting said bigots.”

That’s all I really have to say about that.

I won’t bother with the tarpaulins point.

People get to decide what to wear in this society, and they also get the legal right to speak about it one way or the other, including their view on the appearance of others. Whilst we’re defending liberalism, let’s remember these things, eh…