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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known use of the term was in 1976, though it has become more frequently used since the 1997 publication of Islamophobia: A Challenge For Us All by the Runnymede Trust, and even more so to describe the backlash against Muslims following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Some notable critics, such as Sam Harris, have rejected the validity of the term.
Characteristics of Islamophobia
The Runnymede Trust defines Islamophobia as having the following characteristics:
- Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
- Islam is seen as separate and “other”. It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
- Islam is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
- Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a Clash of Civilizations.
- Islam is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
- Criticisms made of 'the West' by Islam are rejected out of hand.
- Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
- Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal.
Examples of Islamophobia
In a May 2001 interview, far-right British politician Nick Griffin stated "Muslims are the biggest problem at present, for several reasons, because they have the highest birth rate, which means their communities need living space - that's what the ethnic cleansing is about. They have political corruption in their own countries, and when they have a chance to get council places they are there for graft. Most important of all is that Islam is an aggressive religion."
On September 15, 2001 a Sikh man (known for wearing distinctive beards and turbans) was murdered at a gas station in Mesa, Arizona, "In revenge for the 11 september attacks". His murderer, Frank Silva Roque, was convicted and initially sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole by the Arizona Supreme Court.
In a February 2002 interview with the LA times, John Ashcroft stated "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for Him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends His son to die for you."
In November 2006, Jerry Klein, a Washington DC area radio talk show host suggested, in parody of Islamophobic views, that "identifying markers. ... I'm thinking either it should be an arm band, a crescent moon arm band, or it should be a crescent moon tattoo. ...If it means that we have to round them up and do a tattoo in a place where everybody knows where to find it, then that's what we'll have to do." Although some callers believed that Klein was "off his rocker" for suggesting such a thing, other callers believed Klein had not gone far enough, and suggested that Muslims should be placed in concentration camps, or deported en-masse. Klein exposed the parody at the close of his show, and chastised those who had called in to support what amounted to, in essence, a new Holocaust against Muslims.
Criticism of the concept of Islamophobia
Islamophobia is a controversial term for a number of reasons. Despite the implication of the term, those accused of Islamophobia are not actually afraid of Islam, but instead are highly (often disproportiantely) critical of it. Despite the fact that it may not be an actual phobia, it is akin to the concept of homophobia.
Kenan Malik, a British writer, has criticized the concept of Islamophobia, calling it a myth. He argues that the charge of Islamophobia is leveled against those who criticize Islam or Muslims in any way (even when those criticisms may be legitimate) to serve as a "chilling effect."
Rowan Atkinson, a British comic-actor has likewise stated that although criticizing another person based on their race is ridiculous and irrational, criticizing another's religion, which is a voluntary belief, is a right. He further stated that laws should not be created which protect certain types of ideas from criticism and not others.
Stephen Schwartz, an American writer and critic of Wahabbism, has stated that although the charge of Islamophobia is sometimes leveled too quickly against an opponent, that it is still a real phenomenon, which he defines as:
- Attacking the entire religion of Islam as a problem for the world;
- Condemning all of Islam and its history as extremist;
- Denying the active existence, in the contemporary world, of a moderate Muslim majority;
- Insisting that Muslims accede to the demands of non-Muslims (based on ignorance and arrogance) for various theological changes, in their religion;
- Treating all conflicts involving Muslims (including, for example, that in Bosnia-Herzegovina a decade ago), as the fault of Muslims themselves;
- Inciting war against Islam as a whole.
Islamophobia versus criticism of Islam
Islamophobia has also been used as a term to disparage those who would make valid criticisms of Islam and the culture that arises because of following Islam and Sharia law. In a radio discussion on public radio between Reza Aslan and Sam Harris, Sam Harris mentions that Islam is different from many other religions at this moment in its history because of its doctrines and the results of them, but Reza Aslan accuses Sam of being a bigot for treating Islam as a special case. Writers and public figures such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, who are very critical of specific violent passages in all religions because of those who take them literally, are often accused of bigotry and Islamophobia when they criticize the text of Islam.
Harris writes that,
“”There is no such thing as Islamophobia. Bigotry and racism exist, of course-and they are evils that all well-intentioned people must oppose. And prejudice against Muslims or Arabs, purely because of the accident of their birth, is despicable. But like all religions, Islam is a system of ideas and practices. And it is not a form of bigotry or racism to observe that the specific tenets of the faith pose a special threat to civil society. Nor is it a sign of intolerance to notice when people are simply not being honest about what they and their co-religionists believe.
|—Sam Harris, The Daily Beast|
- Islamophobia Watch
- Know Nothing Party, the anti-Catholicism of this historical movement has drawn comparisons to current anti-Islam sentiment.
- ↑ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4102389.stm
- ↑ http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=127fe2880e48951b564ac2f3e171242e
- ↑ ‘Far right aims to gain foothold in Oldham’, Jeevan Vasagar, May 30, 2001 The Guardian"
- ↑ http://www.nationalreview.com/coulter/coulter.shtml
- ↑ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3154170.stm
- ↑ Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2002
- ↑ http://cair.com/default.asp?Page=articleView&id=2415&theType=NR
- ↑ http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=17874
- ↑ Would Park51, the "ground zero mosque" be a symbol of religious tolerance, and should that be an American goal?
- ↑ What Obama Got Wrong About the Mosque