‘Islamophobia’ is being used by Islamists to control debate

It is entirely right to call out anti-Muslim hatred, but the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ was created in Iran to silence any critique as racist


Kemi Badenoch: Entirely right to reject 'Islamophobia' (Photo by Henry Nicholls - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

March 06, 2024 16:56

Three years ago this month, the head of RE at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire showed pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson.

As a result, he and his entire family — his partner and four young children — were forced to flee and go into hiding. The scenes outside the school shamed not just Batley but the entire country. The family remain in hiding today, their lives upended and destroyed by the protests of religious bigots and the inability, or, to be more accurate, refusal, of the authorities to stand up to them.

It would be a perverse reaction to what happened in Batley to regard it as a model for future communal relations, you might think. It was quite the opposite, showing bigotry of the worst kind directed at the teacher and anyone who supported him against the mob, and a shameful intolerance that has always been — or should always be — the very opposite of what we think of as British values.

Yet for many, the scenes outside the school are indeed a model of how communal relations should be conducted. By “many” I am not just referring to those Muslims who believe the teacher to have been guilty of blasphemy and thus deserving of… well, let’s just say opprobrium. I am referring, rather, to the Labour Party, to the members of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on British Muslims, to the Lib Dems, to the Scottish Conservatives and to all the other organisations and people who have adopted the APPG’s 2019 definition of Islamophobia: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

They would regard my summation of their position as an appalling smear. How could I dare suggest they see Batley as a model? But in the real world, that would be the effect of their desire to see the concept of Islamophobia adopted universally. The very purpose of the term Islamophobia is to introduce the idea of blasphemy into all discussions of Islam and Islamist extremism, to make it unacceptable to critique any aspect of Islam, let alone to focus on the ideology of Islamism and its consequences for the West.

This is not some hidden agenda that only those of us who have looked into the subject are aware of. It’s never been hidden. One of the most frustrating aspects of this whole area — of Islamism and the words of extremists — is that they almost always say exactly what they mean, but well-meaning, credulous liberals and progressives all too often refuse to see what is in front of their own eyes.

You only need look online at the stream of sermons since October 7 proudly published by mosques on their sites. In one, an imam praises those responsible: “Dying in battle, dying whilst defending the holy land is martyrdom. It’s a win-win situation for the Palestinian people.” In another, a preacher says: “Give victory to our mujahideen brothers in Palestine, give them victory against the occupying Jews.” They are not hiding what they think. They are telling us in plain and clear language. But just as the police have refused to acknowledge that calls on the post-October 7 hate marches for jihad and intifada are indeed calls for jihad and intifada, rather than a request for a theological debate, so these sermons are treated as somehow irrelevant.

This is especially true with the concept of Islamophobia, the purpose of which was made clear from its very creation.

As the brilliant French philosopher Pascal Bruckner has observed, the word Islamophobia was invented by Iranian mullahs in the 1970s to be analogous to xenophobia, with the express purpose of declaring Islam inviolate. Criticise Islam and you are therefore a racist. As Bruckner writes: “This term, which is worthy of totalitarian propaganda, is deliberately unspecific about whether it refers to a religion, a belief system or its faithful adherents around the world.”

But Islam is not a race; it is a religion. It is not an ethnicity; it is a belief system. And it is no more racist to critique Islam as it is to critique Buddhism, or, as an intellectual exercise, socialism or capitalism. Likewise it cannot be racist to examine and, if one wants to, reject different strands within Islam or any religion. Bruckner is again spot on: “In a democracy, no-one is obliged to like religion, and until proved otherwise, they have the right to regard it as retrograde and deceptive. Whether you find it legitimate or absurd that some people regard Islam with suspicion — as they once did Catholicism — and reject its aggressive proselytism and claim to total truth — this has nothing to do with racism.”

But the word “democracy” there is key, because those who created the concept of Islamophobia have no truck with democracy. Their modus operandi is theocracy, which is what they aim at for the rest of us. They know it is a process — initially — of marginal gains. So while, for example, there is no prospect of any government introducing a blasphemy law as such, they also know, because they see how weak and unable to stand up for its values the West is, that there is every prospect of finding other means to make Islam inviolate.

Which brings us back to Islamophobia.

The concept is already being used against journalists who write about Islamism and grooming gangs — and indeed against Ofsted for not bowing to conservative religious pressure and enforcing gender segregation, exactly as those who created it intended. What is “Muslimness”, after all, if it is not Muslim practices and beliefs? Which means, in a deliberately circular point, that any criticism of those practices and beliefs is by definition Islamophobic.

It is not religion and religious practices that should be protected from criticism, or even insult, but the people who observe a religion, a point made two weeks ago by Kemi Badenoch, the minister for women and equalities. Her opposite number, Anneliese Dodds, had written, “Why are senior Conservatives finding it so hard to call out Islamophobia? Perhaps because the Conservatives still refuse to adopt the definition used by every other major political party in Britain. To tackle the scourge of Islamophobia, we must name it.”

Badenoch replied: “We use the term ‘Anti-Muslim hatred’. It makes clear the law protects Muslims. In this country, we have a proud tradition of religious freedom AND the freedom to criticise religion. The definition of ‘Islamophobia’ she uses creates a blasphemy law via the back door if adopted.”

She is, of course, correct.

March 06, 2024 16:56

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