| Inventing "The Other"|
|Fear And Loathing|
“”I think Islam hates us.
Islamophobia is the term used to describe "dislike or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force" (O.E.D.). Some Islamophobes also suffer from xenophobia, a generalised dislike of foreigners. Often, however, the term Islamophobia is 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 1920s, 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.
Islamophobia is, on the outside, not racism, as Islam is a religion, not a race, and is commonly practiced among many ethnicities.[note 1] However, it may be fueled by racism, as the Western perception of Islam often associates it almost exclusively with the Arab ethnicity and Middle Eastern culture ("brown people in turbans"). 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".
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|
In 2016, the European Islamophobia Report (EIR) presented the "European Islamophobia Report 2015" at European Parliament which analyzes the "trends in the spread of Islamophobia" in 25 European states in 2015. The EIR defines Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism. While not every criticism of Muslims or Islam is necessarily Islamophobic, anti-Muslim sentiments expressed through the dominant group scapegoating and excluding Muslims for the sake of power is.
With the rise of Donald Trump, the importance of calling out Islamophobia is becoming even more important. Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi-born activist who works with the American Friends Service Committee says:
“”...many Muslim Americans, including myself, have been hearing these sentiments in the last few years, but now these concepts and ideas and hatred against Muslims is becoming way more mainstream than it used to be in the past. And the fact that Donald Trump can stand out there and bash Muslims and call for banning Muslims from coming from the country indicates a new—that we’ve crossed a new threshold with Islamophobia. I don’t think it’s Islamophobia anymore. It’s not fear of Muslims. It’s actively hating Muslims. It’s actively trying to keep them outside of the country or actively trying to discriminate against them when they are inside the U.S.
Characteristics of Islamophobia
In 1996, the Runnymede Trust established the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, chaired by Gordon Conway, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex. The Commission's report, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, was published in November 1997 by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw. In the Runnymede report, Islamophobia was defined in general as "an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination." It should be noted that this is not the common English meaning of "Islamophobia" in Britain which is, "dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force."
In detail, The Runnymede Trust defines Islamophobia as having the following characteristics:
- Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
- 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.
- Islamic ideology is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
- Muslims are 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 bigotry is seen as natural and normal.
The largest project monitoring Islamophobia was undertaken following 9/11 by the EU watchdog, European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). Their May 2002 report "Summary report on Islamophobia in the EU after 11 September 2001", written by Chris Allen and Jorgen S. Nielsen of the University of Birmingham, was based on 75 reports — 15 from each EU member nation. The report highlighted the regularity with which ordinary Muslims became targets for abusive and sometimes violent retaliatory attacks after 9/11. Despite localized differences within each member nation, the recurrence of attacks on recognizable and visible traits of Islam and Muslims was the report's most significant finding. Incidents consisted of verbal abuse, blaming all Muslims for terrorism, forcibly removing women's hijabs, spitting on Muslims, calling children "Osama", and random assaults. A number of Muslims were hospitalized and in one instance paralyzed. The report also discussed the portrayal of Muslims in the media. Inherent negativity, stereotypical images, fantastical representations, and exaggerated caricatures were all identified. The report concluded that "a greater receptivity towards anti-Muslim and other xenophobic ideas and sentiments has, and may well continue, to become more tolerated."
The EUMC has since released a number of publications related to Islamophobia, including The Fight against Antisemitism and Islamophobia: Bringing Communities together (European Round Tables Meetings) (2003) and Muslims in the European Union: Discrimination and Islamophobia (2006).
Islamaphobia can also appear in the following forms (not from Runnymede Trust):
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Examples of Islamophobia
- 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.
- 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[note 2])
- 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." 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.
- When a Muslim was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, his patriotism was questioned based on his religion. There were even calls for legislation to force him to be sworn into office on a Bible, despite the fact no congressperson takes the actual oath on any book. Like most Congress members, he later had a private ceremony where he reiterated the oath on a religious text, and took it on a copy of the Koran owned by Thomas Jefferson.
- 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?[note 3]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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 Syrian war refugees to be sheltered in the US, notwithstanding that the refugees are themselves fleeing Daesh. Additionally, 30 state governors declared that they will not accept the refugees in their states.
- In December of 2015, hate crimes against Muslims like arson, assault and shooting had tripled in the past month. A Connecticut man was arrested for shooting at a mosque after endless Facebook posts saying such reasonable things as "Kill all Muslims."
- In 2015, a man at a town hall meeting shouted "Every Muslim is a terrorist" at a Muslim man who was showing plans for a new mosque on land he already claimed ownership for. At least three members of the crowd cheered on the anti-Muslim man.
- Jan Morgan, an NRA advocate who banned Muslims from her gun range, also owns a website called "JanMorganMedia". In an article, she refers to Islam as a terrorist cult which is plotting world denomination, and says all Muslims want to destroy America.
- Anti-Muslim website Bare Naked Islam warns against making friendships with Muslims.
The 2016 presidential elections in the US have led to a dramatic increase in Islamophobia that deserves its own section. Khaled A Beydoun, an assistant professor of law, writes:
“”While 60 percent of Republican voters support Trump's Muslim ban, this number is presumptively higher for Trump supporters. Seventy-five percent of South Carolina voters, where Trump won handily, support the ban. Support for the ban was even higher in Alabama and Arkansas at 78 percent, where Trump won by roughly 22 percent and three percent, respectively. Trump has perfected [Islamophobia]. For his campaign, Islamophobia is political craft - every soundbite carefully assembled and strategically disseminated - designed to inspire the brazen hate spewed by his supporters, and embolden the racist hate unfolding at his pep rallies.
In 2015 and 2016 (since the start of Trump's campaign for president), Islamophobic attacks against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of 9/11. Hundreds of attacks such as arsons at mosques, assaults, shootings and threats of violence have been documented. New data from researchers at California State University, San Bernardino, found that hate crimes against American Muslims were up 78 percent over the course of 2015. Attacks on those perceived as Arab rose even more sharply, proving that Islamophobia continues to have a racist character. In fact, the frequency of anti-Muslim violence, often against victims wearing traditional Muslim garb or seen as Middle Eastern, appeared to have increased immediately after some of Mr. Trump’s most incendiary comments.
The increase in reports of apparent hate crimes has worried Justice Department officials.
"We saw it after 9/11, and we continue to see an uptick in allegations of hate-related incidents today following the tragic events over the past year," said Vanita Gupta, who leads the Justice Department’s civil rights division. "We see criminal threats against mosques; harassment in schools; and reports of violence targeting Muslim-Americans, Sikhs, people of Arab or South-Asian descent and people perceived to be members of these groups," Ms. Gupta said.
The Justice Department has moved to draw public attention to the problem and marshal resources to combat it as part of a broader effort against religious discrimination. A number of experts in hate crimes said they were concerned that Mr. Trump’s vitriol may have legitimized threatening or even violent conduct by a small fringe of his supporters.
In a few cases, people accused of hate crimes against Muslims and others have even cited Mr. Trump.The police in Washington released a videotape in May of a woman who reportedly poured liquid on a Muslim woman after berating Islam and declaring that she was going to vote for Mr. Trump so that he could "send you all back where you came from."
Misuse of the term
“”This is very urgent business, ladies and gentlemen, I beseech you: resist it while you still can and before the right to complain is taken away from you, which will be the next thing. You will be told, you can’t complain – because you’re Islamophobic. The term is already being introduced into the culture, as if it’s an accusation of race hatred for example or bigotry, whereas it’s only the objection to the preachings of a very extreme and absolutist religion.
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 (although an argument could be made that many Islamophobic people are irrationally afraid of Muslims bringing terrorism to their neighborhood). Despite the fact that it may not be an actual phobia, it is akin to the concept of homophobia.
Controversial New Atheists, such as Sam Harris and Bill Maher have endorsed Andrew Cummins' description of Islamophobia as “a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”, which Harris and Maher misattributed to Hitchens.
About Islamophobia, Harris writes:
“”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|
Stephane "Charb" Charbonnier, one of the cartoonists murdered by jihadists in the Charlie Hebdo terror 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."
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 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 two decades ago), as the fault of Muslims themselves;
- Inciting war against Islam as a whole.
At a 2009 symposium on "Islamophobia and Religious Discrimination", Robin Richardson, a former director of the Runnymede Trust and the editor of Islamophobia: a challenge for us all, said that "the disadvantages of the term Islamophobia are significant". Nonetheless, he argued that the term is here to stay, and that it is important to define it precisely, instead of completely abandoning it.
“”"Islamophobia" has been used wrongly against the critics of the faith. Even worse, it shuts down all conversation. If you're Sam Harris, and you've been accused of being islamophobic, saying "No, I'm not!" doesn't convince anyone. If you're the artist at Charlie Hebdo and you've been called islamophobic, saying that you're "only satirizing religion and bad ideas" won't get you anywere, either. That's why we need to stop using the "i" word. Not because it's wrong, per se, but because it has a different meaning to different people.
Criticism of Islam vs. Islamophobia
“”There's a difference between bad ideas, and the people who hold bad ideas. And we should all be allowed to rip apart bad ideas — it doesn't mean we're attacking the person having them. People conflate "criticism of Islam" with "bigotry against Muslims". Islam deserves to be criticized. Just like Christianity does, just like Scientology does. Religion and dogma are full of bad ideas. That doesn't mean I want Muslims treated badly, I mean — I oppose discrimination against Muslims!
|—Hemant Mehta, The Atheist Voice|
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, and Reza Aslan accused him of being a bigot for treating Islam as a special case. New Atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, who are very critical of all religions, are often accused of bigotry and Islamophobia. However, Harris has defended the profiling of Muslims and "anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim" in security contexts, although he himself has been accused of articulating "dangerous" and "divisive" beliefs by religionists and their defenders. Likewise, Dawkins has a very long and controversial history when it comes to his opinions about Islamic culture. In an interview with Bill Maher he said:
Dawkins: "Oh, that’s their culture, you have to respect it."
Maher: "That’s right! That’s what they say. It’s just insane."
Dawkins: "Liberal about everything else, but then this one exception, ‘It’s their culture.’ Well, to hell with their culture."
Dawkins also accused Ahmed Mohammed of being comparable to an ISIS child soldier, all of which lends some credence to the suggestion that their particular quest to prevent people from using the word "Islamophobia" in any context has ulterior motives.
In any case, while there are legitimate cases of bigotry towards Muslims,[note 4] 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. Stephen Fry has seen it applied against him too reflexively on Twitter. CAIR activist Imraan Siddiqi has founded a site — Hatehurts — dedicated to "tracking Islamophobia and the communities affected by it."
Noted Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek has also come out against conflating criticism of Islam with Islamophobia, refusing to accept (quote): "prohibiting any critique of Islam as a case of ‘Islamophobia’".
Muslim women are uniquely vulnerable to sexism and Islamophobia, and the subsequent denial from Islamophobes that criticism against them is sexist or Islamophobic. Muslim women are visible targets for harassment when they wear headscarves and are also often subjected to negative stereotypes and forced to respond to misconceptions that they are oppressed and silenced by their religion. The Islamophobes pretend that they are "liberating" women by advocating for bans on headscarves or "burkinis".
Donald Trump amplified those stereotypes when he claimed that Ghazala Khan, the Muslim American mother of a slain U.S. soldier, had not been permitted to speak due to Islamic doctrines. Ghazala clarified that she did not speak because she was "in pain" over the death of her son. Muslim American women denounced Trump’s comment on social media using the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow.
- A Current Affair producer's wet dream
- hatehurts.net "Tracking Islamophobia and the communities affected by it."
- Fear of a Muslim America, Reason
- The Phobia of Being Called Islamophobic article by Ali A. Rizvi in Huffington Post
- 5 Facts Islamophobia Deniers Just Don't Get article by Qasim Rashid in Huffington Post, in respond to previous Huffington Post article by Ali A. Rizvi
- SPLC's Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists
- The Grayzone Project - AlterNet's project covering rising Islamophobia in the West.
- Malcolm X abandoned anti-white racism after experiencing the ethnic diversity of the Hajj.
- To be fair, God didn't order Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter and he himself didn't have his daughter in mind when he made this vow
- Note also that any vegetarian non-alcoholic product is halal by definition, as all halal rules apply only to meat and alcohol.
- Such as the ethnic profiling conducted by the NYPD, or the spiking of hate crimes against Muslim Americans in the wake of 9/11
- Runnymede Trust - Publications - Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All (Wayback Machine copy)
- Official digital copy of the publication without the cartoons
- BBC NEWS | UK | 'Rise' in Muslim discrimination
- Big Jump in Hate Crimes Against Muslims Documented - NAM (Wayback Machine copy)
- Father and son turned away from "Muslim-free" Hot Springs gun range for being brown - Arkansas Times
- "Why are Sikhs targeted by anti-Muslim extremists?," Emine Saner, The Guardian, 8 August 2012
- Message to Richard Dawkins: 'Islam is not a race' is a cop out | Nesrine Malik | Comment is free | The Guardian
- BBC NEWS | Americas | US 9/11 revenge killer convicted
- "In U.S., fear and distrust of Muslims runs deep", Bernd Debusmann. Reuters, Feb 25, 2007
- America, Not Keith Ellison, decides what book a congressman takes his oath on - Dennis Prager
- Anti-Defamation League
- Erik Rush: Kill All Muslims in Response to Boston Marathon Attack, Right Wing Watch
- Texas official shared Facebook post calling for nuking Muslims - Eliza Collins - POLITICO
- New U.N. report says world’s refugee crisis is worse than anyone expected - Washington Post
- Europe’s fear of Muslim refugees echoes rhetoric of 1930s anti-Semitism
- Travis County GOP tweet: "Islam is a Satanic Cult of Murder Not a 'Religion'"
- FBI opens up hate crimes investigation in case of Indiana University student who attacked Muslim woman
- Minnesota woman smashes Muslim in face with beer mug for speaking Swahili at Applebee’s
- House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees
- Eric Lichtblau (December 17, 2015) "Crimes Against Muslim Americans and Mosques Rise Sharply"
- Lifting the Veil of “Islamophobia” : A Conversation with Ayaan Hirsi Ali : Sam Harris
- Maher: "Islamophobic Is A Word Created By Fascists, And Used By Cowards, To Manipulate Morons" | Video | RealClearPolitics
- Vodkaninja on Twitter: "Islamophobia. A word created by fascists, & used by cowards, to manipulate morons. @RichardDawkins @SamHarrisOrg http://t.co/zMuyPvC9lX"
- Dear Fellow Liberal - An Exchange with Glenn Greenwald
- In Posthumous Riposte, Editor Of 'Charlie Hebdo' Targets 'Islamophobia' : The Two-Way : NPR
- FrontPage Magazine - The "Islamophobes" That Aren't
- Would Park51, the "ground zero mosque" be a symbol of religious tolerance, and should that be an American goal?
- In Defense of Profiling : Sam Harris
- Stephen Fry — Am I an Islamophobe?