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Bronze-level articleIslamophobia

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Exposing the fear and loathing of Muslims


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Islamophobia is the irrational fear or hatred of Islam or Muslims. It is usually, though not always, connected with xenophobia in general. The term is also sometimes used as a snarl word to dismiss valid criticisms of Islamic doctrines and ideology.

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,[1][2] and even more so to describe the backlash against Muslims following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.[3][4]


[edit] Racism?

Islamophobia is not racism; Islam is a religion and has nothing to do with race. The practice of Islam is common among many ethnicities and nationalities, including Indonesians, Indians, Nigerians, Turks and Kazakhs, though the Western perception of Islam often associates it almost exclusively with the Arab ethnicity and Middle Eastern culture. Islam is a collection of ideas and beliefs, and, like all religions, should be criticized by rational people. When dislike of Islam takes the form of mindless irrational hatred based on cultural stereotypes, however, it becomes Islamophobia, and has many parallels with racism. For instance, Sikhs are often targeted by Islamophobes because they resemble common notions of what Muslims "look like".[5]

Some who protest that they cannot be racist because they are only ranting and obsessing about a religion, do so too loudly: "I did not have racist relations with that religion," as Nesrine Malik puts it.

Racism is behaviour, not an informed academic position. I doubt that anyone abusing Muslims in the street, or defacing a mosque, or snatching a veil off a woman's face, has paused to examine their premise beforehand. The argument that Islam is not a race is a cop out. It's time that we dispensed with it once and for all, because it prevents us from identifying acts motivated by hatred for what they really are. Islam might not be a race, but using that as a fig leaf for your unthinking prejudice is almost certainly racist.
—Nesrine Malik, writer and commentator for The Guardian[6]

[edit] Characteristics of Islamophobia

The Runnymede Trust defines Islamophobia as having the following characteristics:

  1. Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
  2. Islamic culture 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.
  3. Islamic ideology is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
  4. Muslims are seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a Clash of Civilizations.
  5. Islam is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
  6. Criticisms made of the West by Islam are rejected out of hand.
  7. Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
  8. Anti-Muslim bigotry is seen as natural and normal.

Islamaphobia can also appear in the following forms (not from Runnymede Trust):

[edit] Islamophobia as xenophobia or nativism

  • Muslim immigrants to Christian countries in the West are seen as part of a much greater plot by the "Muslim world" to conquer the rest of the world, or at least the West.
  • Muslim immigrants as a whole are seen as unwilling to become part of their host country's culture and society.
  • Opposing such immigration for the above reasons, aka denying people the right to immigrate on account of their political views.
  • Deporting them on account of the above reasons.

[edit] Pseudo-historical Islamophobia

  • Muslims are blamed for the crusades.
  • Fabricating past crimes against humanity that Muslims, in the fabrication, perpetrated against non-Muslims, as in Anders Behring Breivik's manifesto, when he claims that there were attacks Muslim Albanians made on Christian countries.
  • Claiming that it was the Bosniaks who attempted genocide and conquest against the Serbs and Croats (it was the other way around), as Breivik also does.
  • Denying or minimizing the extent of the Srebrenica massacre.
  • Claims that Jefferson despised Muslims during the Barbary Wars or some other Appeal to authority that isn't even true

[edit] Other

  • Grossly exaggerating the number of Muslims who are terrorists or who hate the West.
  • Opposing religious freedom for Muslims.
  • Actual attacks of violence against people for being Muslims or looking like they might be Muslims.
  • Endorsing ethnic profiling of Muslims on grounds that they're easily prone to radicalization and/or violence.

[edit] 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 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 UK 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."

Many well known atheists, including Sam Harris[7] and Bill Maher[8], have endorsed Andrew Cummins' description of Islamophobia as “a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”[9]

Charb, one of the cartoonists murdered in the Charlie Hebdo attacks, attacked the concept of Islamophobia in a posthumously published article. According to Charb, most right-wing islamophobes are actually just racists. By calling their racism Islamophobia these people get an intellectual veneer they don't deserve. "If one day all Muslims in France converted to Catholicism ... these foreigners or French of foreign origin would still be seen as responsible for all ills."[10]

Stephen Schwartz, an American writer and critic of Wahhabism, has stated that although the charge of Islamophobia is sometimes leveled too quickly against an opponent, that it is still a real phenomenon,[11] which he defines as:

  1. Attacking the entire religion of Islam as a problem for the world;
  2. Condemning all of Islam and its history as extremist;
  3. Denying the active existence, in the contemporary world, of a moderate Muslim majority;
  4. Insisting that Muslims accede to the demands of non-Muslims (based on ignorance and arrogance) for various theological changes, in their religion;
  5. Treating all conflicts involving Muslims (including, for example, that in Bosnia-Herzegovina a decade ago), as the fault of Muslims themselves;
  6. Inciting war against Islam as a whole.

[edit] Islamophobia versus criticism of Islam

In a radio discussion on public radio between Reza Aslan and Sam Harris, Harris suggested 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 Harris of being a bigot for treating Islam as a special case.[12] 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,

Needless to say, there are people who hate Arabs, Somalis, and other immigrants from predominantly Muslim societies for racist reasons. But if you can’t distinguish that sort of blind bigotry from a hatred and concern for dangerous, divisive, and irrational ideas—like a belief in martyrdom, or a notion of male “honor” that entails the virtual enslavement of women and girls—you are doing real harm to our public conversation. Everything I have ever said about Islam refers to the content and consequences of its doctrine. And, again, I have always emphasized that its primary victims are innocent Muslims—especially women and girls. There is no such thing as “Islamophobia.” This is a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia. And it is doing its job, because people like you have been taken in by it.
Sam Harris, in a letter to Glenn Greenwald[13]

Harris has gone on to call for the profiling of Muslims and "anybody who looks like they could conceivably be Muslim" in security contexts,[14] and he is perhaps not the best person to be accusing others of articulating "dangerous" and "divisive" beliefs.

In any case, while there are legitimate cases of bigotry towards Muslims,[15]the term "Islamophobia" can be used to disparage valid criticisms of Islam and the culture that arises because of following Islam and Sharia law to its literal phrasing. One British comic has seen it applied against him too reflexively on Twitter.[16]

Pakistani-Canadian writer Ali A. Rizvi has claimed, emphasis added:

Many liberals and moderates — as well-intentioned as they may be — end up providing cover for fundamentalists and terrorists without even realizing it...Foreigners — especially Muslims — know the trick to shielding their ideas from criticism by Westerners: simply call them racist, bigoted, or Islamophobic. Now, nobody's saying anti-Muslim bigotry doesn't exist — but just like in Pakistan where they use blasphemy laws to shut you up, here they accuse you of bigotry, racism, and Islamophobia to achieve the same purpose — never mind the fact that Islam isn't a race, and attacking ideas is not bigotry.
—Ali A. Rizvi, in conversation with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar[17]

However, the difference between government censorship and mere criticism seemed to escape Rizvi when he wrote that.

[edit] 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."[18]
  • In a September 2001 column, following 9/11, Ann Coulter (known member of the American Taliban) espoused the view that "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."[19]
  • On September 15, 2001 a Sikh man (Sikhs being known for wearing distinctive beards and turbans, and also for not being Muslims) 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.[20]
  • 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." Unless your name is Abraham (just kidding!) or Jephthah (for realz)
  • One of the more amusing incidences of Islamophobia was when wingnut Frank Gaffney shrieked that the Obama Administration had made the Missile Defense Agency (part of the Department of Defense) adopt a logo suspiciously resembling a crescent moon. From this Gaffney concluded that something "nefarious is afoot," to wit: that Obama "is all about accommodating that 'Islamic Republic' [Iran]," and the new MDA logo constituted evidence of "clear-cut acts of submission to Shariah by President Obama and his team."[21] The problem with this theory -- well, other than the manifest inanity -- is it turns out that said logo was developed and approved during the administration of George W. Bush.[22]
  • In November 2006, Jerry Klein, a 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."[23] 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. And then, in 2015, it became a part of the platform of one of the biggest Republican candidates, Donald Trump.
  • The 2010 Halal soup controversy erupted when Campbell's introduced a line of canned soups that met with Halal dietary restrictions. The hysteria went as far as "Your kids might be eating halal food without you even realizing it!" (as though eating something that passes the halal restrictions would turn you into a Muslim?)[24]
  • After the 2013 Boston bombings, frequent Fox News talking head Erik Rush tweeted that Muslims are evil and that the obvious thing to do was kill them all. This was sent out despite the fact that no group - Islamist or otherwise - had taken responsibility for the bombings at the time.[25]
  • In 2012, 2013 and 2014, extremist Buddhists in Burma are killing Muslims for being Muslims by the tens and hundreds, and displacing Muslims by the tens of thousands. Some of the violence is connected to the 969 Movement.
  • In August of 2015 Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller posted a graphic on Facebook calling for nuclear bombs to be dropped on Muslim countries.[26]
  • By 2014 the UN found that 60 million people were displaced and seeking refugee status, or otherwise fleeing, with the Syrian civil war being the largest driver.[27] Refugees, many or most of them Muslims, are being refused asylum in other countries at a level unprecedented since Jews were turned away during WWII. A large part of the reason is the anti-Muslim animus pervasive in Europe. [28]
  • Pegida[wp] is an anti-Islam "movement" of intellectually challenged citizens of Germany - mostly the East - who claim to be "not a Nazi, but...". Thankfully their heyday was in the winter of 2014/2015 and is mostly over.
  • Obama is frequently accused of being a Muslim, as if that would somehow make him less fit to be President.
  • "Islam is a Satanic cult of murder, not a 'religion,'" tweeted the Travis County, Texas GOP on September 21, 2015. The tweet was deleted after media attention.[29]
  • An Indiana University student was arrested for allegedly slamming a Muslim woman's head into a cafe table and trying to rip off her head scarf while shouting "white power" and "kill them all."[30]
  • An angry Minnesota woman smashed a beer mug across the face of a Muslim woman who was wearing a hijab and speaking Swahili in an Applebee’s restaurant.[31]
  • In November of 2015 in the wake of the Daesh terror attacks in Paris, the United States Congress passed a bill to limit the ability of Syrians war refugees to be sheltered in the U.S.[32], notwithstanding that the refugees are themselves fleeing Daesh. Additionally, 30 governors declared that they will not accept the refugees in their states,[33] a move that was opposed by some Christian groups.[34] Most appalling was Roanoke, Virginia, Mayor David Bowers who suggested that the US handle settlement of Syrian refugees as it did Japanese American internment during World War II, a statment for which he apologized,[35] but only after being lambasted by internment camp survivor George Takei.[36]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Runnymede Trust - Publications - Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All (Wayback Machine copy)
  2. Official digital copy of the publication without the cartoons
  3. BBC NEWS | UK | 'Rise' in Muslim discrimination
  4. Big Jump in Hate Crimes Against Muslims Documented - NAM (Wayback Machine copy)
  5. "Why are Sikhs targeted by anti-Muslim extremists?," Emine Saner, The Guardian, 8 August 2012
  6. Message to Richard Dawkins: 'Islam is not a race' is a cop out | Nesrine Malik | Comment is free | The Guardian
  7. Lifting the Veil of “Islamophobia” : A Conversation with Ayaan Hirsi Ali : Sam Harris
  8. Maher: "Islamophobic Is A Word Created By Fascists, And Used By Cowards, To Manipulate Morons" | Video | RealClearPolitics
  9. Vodkaninja on Twitter: "Islamophobia. A word created by fascists, & used by cowards, to manipulate morons. @RichardDawkins @SamHarrisOrg http://t.co/zMuyPvC9lX"
  10. In Posthumous Riposte, Editor Of 'Charlie Hebdo' Targets 'Islamophobia' : The Two-Way : NPR
  11. FrontPage Magazine - The "Islamophobes" That Aren't
  12. Would Park51, the "ground zero mosque" be a symbol of religious tolerance, and should that be an American goal?
  13. [1]
  14. In Defense of Profiling : Sam Harris
  15. Such as the ethnic profiling conducted by the NYPD, or the spiking of hate crimes against Muslim Americans in the wake of 9/11
  16. Stephen Fry — Am I an Islamophobe?
  17. A Conversation Between Two Atheists From Muslim Backgrounds (Part 1) | Ali A. Rizvi
  18. ‘Far right aims to gain foothold in Oldham’, Jeevan Vasagar, May 30, 2001. The Guardian
  19. Ann Coulter on Barbara Olson on National Review Online (Wayback Machine copy)
  20. BBC NEWS | Americas | US 9/11 revenge killer convicted
  21. » Raw Story: Frank Gaffney & co. scared by missile agency’s ‘crescent moon’ logo
  22. Frank Gaffney Posits That Missile Defense Logo Is Evidence of Obama’s ‘Submission To Shariah’ | ThinkProgress
  23. "In U.S., fear and distrust of Muslims runs deep", Bernd Debusmann. Reuters, Feb 25, 2007
  24. Note also that any vegetarian non-alcoholic product is halal by definition, as all halal rules apply only to meat and alcohol.
  25. Erik Rush: Kill All Muslims in Response to Boston Marathon Attack, Right Wing Watch
  26. Texas official shared Facebook post calling for nuking Muslims - Eliza Collins - POLITICO
  27. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/new-un-report-says-worlds-refugee-crisis-is-worse-than-anyone-expected/2015/06/17/a49c3fc0-14ff-11e5-8457-4b431bf7ed4c_story.html
  28. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/09/02/europes-current-anti-migrant-rhetoric-carries-echoes-of-1930s-anti-semitism/?postshare=7291441200927964
  29. http://www.kvue.com/story/news/politics/2015/09/23/travis-county-gop-tweet-islam-satanic-cult-murder-not-religion/72676340/
  30. http://cbs4indy.com/2015/10/18/police-indiana-university-student-attacked-muslim-woman-bit-officer/
  31. http://www.rawstory.com/2015/11/minnesota-woman-smashes-muslim-in-face-with-beer-mug-for-speaking-swahili-at-applebees/
  32. http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/19/politics/house-democrats-refugee-hearings-obama/
  33. http://www.vox.com/2015/11/16/9746456/map-syrian-refugees-governors
  34. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/11/18/religious-groups-counter-gop-on-syrian-refugees.html
  35. http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/20/politics/roanoke-mayor-apology-japanese-camps/index.html
  36. http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/20/entertainment/george-takei-syrian-refugees-japanese-american-internment/index.html
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