ISLAMOPHOBIA: A trap called Islamophobia
If ‘islamophobia’ really meant ‘discrimination of muslims’, there would be no real cause for concern in spite of the misleading terminology. But it doesn’t. In reality, ‘Islamophobia’ is mainly used to deaden anyone criticizing or simply questioning Islam, its believers and their religious practises, accusing these ‘islamophobes’ of discrimination, racism and blasphemy. ‘Islamophobia’ is a trap that disguises the real issue: discrimination of a growing number of people regardless of their belief. Let me point out from the why I think discrimination is reprehensible regardless of religion: no person should be discriminated against because of a particular characteristic, a particular characteristic by definition representing only one part of a person, a part that is, therefore, unimportant compared to the entire individual.
At first sight, the meaning of ‘islamophobia’ seems to be clear. A closer look, however, reveals two problems.
The first problem is the word ‘phobia’.
‘Phobia’ means an excessive, unnatural and unreasonable fear, dislike or aversion – as in ‘arachnophobia’. No matter the amount of evidence you show your arachnophobe friend in trying to convince him that the occasional spider dwelling in his flat is harmless, he will continue to panic at the sight of any spider. Similarly, the term ‘islamophobia’ suggests there is no point in reasoning with ‘islamophobes’: not because they lack arguments, but simply because something is wrong with them – period.
It is one thing to shrug your shoulders and give up discussing harmless spiders with arachnophobes, since the facts will prove them wrong anyway. To dismiss a different view on religion as a ‘phobia’ is something else altogether, especially since ‘islamophobes’ are accused of attitudes and acts punishable by law, viz. racism and discrimination. The accusation of blasphemy shouldn’t be taken too lightly either, as it is punishable in an impressive range of countries all over the world.
We are not talking facts and figures here, we are discussing the inherent variety of opinions regarding religion and linked fields such as ethics, morality, world views and convictions of life.
Using a word like “phobia” in this context is indicative of a trend to discuss societal topics using medical terminology rather than political, ideological or ethical categories. Typically, disagreement is spoken of as a disease, a psychiatric category, a sign of abnormality: a mental condition called ‘phobia’ instead of a stance, a conviction, a choice.
On Thursday 23 March 2017, French daily Le Monde published a two-page special introduced by the statement that the vote for Brexit is a victory for the ‘europhobes’. The term ‘europhobe’ allows the newspaper to put Boris Johnson, Beppe Grillo and Victor Orban in one and the same sack, simplifying the debate and conveniently blotting out all ideological differences.
Not being content with all the international laws, rules and regulations to prevent and punish anti-Semitism, French historian and philosopher Pierre-André Taguieff uses ‘judeophobia’ to denounce… the leftists that have supported Palestine since the Six-Day War.
This medical terminology serves a purpose: just like medicine distinguishes between good health and disease, opinions or convictions of life can now be classified as either ’good = right = healthy’’or ‘bad = wrong = sick’, rendering all debate superfluous.
There is a second problem with ‘islamophobia’: islam. The word suggest one Islam, a unified, monolithic belief system. Discuss terrorism or misogyny related to ‘Islam’, however, and the first counter-argument will be that Islam consists of many factions or ‘traditions’ as they are called. Now, it’s one thing or the other. With Islamic factions accusing each other of apostasy and even waging war to prove their point, the conclusion is clear: there is no such thing as one Islam and since there is no such thing, ‘islamophobia’ is a useless, misleading and demagogic term.
While pretending to defend the equal treatment of muslims and to fight the discrimination, racism and blasphemy that are the work of ‘islamopohobes’, the real outcome is not less discrimination but something entirely different: the immunization of a religion, its believers and all of their practises. Discrimination in reverse.
A double amalgamation is at work here.
Amalgamation 1: belief and the believer
The first amalgamation consists of mixing up ‘Islam’ and ‘muslim’, that’s to say the belief system and the believer. The examples of ‘islamophobia’ make it clear that ‘islamophobes’ are, in fact, accused of racism and discrimination against muslims.
It should be reminded that the basic concept of rights is that they pertain to people, not to organizations, nations or structures. I simply cannot be accused of racism or discrimination because I disagree with the teachings if Islam.
As for ‘blasphemy’, this is a matter between the supreme being and the believer. It would be highly arrogant of the humble human being to even consider that god could be the subject – let alone the victim – of a human act or declaration.
This is how the amalgamation works. By exchanging the religion (Islam) for its believers (muslims) and an ethical stance (no discrimination or racism) for a mental condition (phobia), ‘islamophobia’ has come to replace the clear and legally grounded term ‘discrimination’. As a result of this amalgamation, anyone speaking out against Islam finds himself criticizing the muslims and vice versa... A trap, indeed.
By using this specific terminology, the discrimination of muslims is disconnected and put ‘hors catégorie’, in a class of its own. By suggesting discrimination is primarily or even exclusively related to religion, the discrimination of muslims is disconnected a second time – from social or gender issues for instance.
It is not clear how this strategy can be to the muslims’ advantage, especially since many muslims suffer from their gender or social status in the first place.
Strangely, linguists see no problem in mingling “islam” and “muslim”. According to the Oxford online dictionary, “islamophobia” is ‘dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims’. Collins goes even further by forgetting about Islam altogether: islamophobia is “hatred or fear of Muslims or of their politics or culture’.
Amalgamation 2: Racism and Discrimination
‘Islamophobia’ comprises a second amalgamation through mixing up ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’.
Racism is a restrictive, particular type of discrimination referring to a limited range of physical features, how someone looks - like the colour of one’s skin. ‘Racism’ is to deny someone access to a restaurant because he ‘looks like’ a Jew, an Arab or a gypsy. Moreover, ‘racism’ isn’t a very useful category because the existence of ‘races’ is questioned scientifically. One thing is sure though: ‘racism’ is about people and cannot be used for a religion. I cannot be called a ‘racist’ because I have my doubts about Islam, not even when expressed by a satirical song, a critical novel or a cartoon in Charlie Hebdo.
The correct terminology would be discrimination. Discrimination refers to one or a few particular characteristics blown up to disproportion and used - misused, actually - to treat a person differently, that’s to say in a worse way than you would treat others. Discrimination covers the entire person: apart from physical features as in racism, discrimination also refers to social status, gender, a handicap, world views, ideology, etcetera – in fact, any characteristic used to treat someone unequally.
Discrimination is being used indiscriminately and I would, therefore, like to point out exactly why I think discrimination is reprehensible: no person should be discriminated against because of a particular characteristic, a particular characteristic by definition representing only one part of a person, a part that is, therefore, unimportant compared to the entire individual. A man with a black skin has many other characteristics: he can be a father, a lover, a neighbour and an admired colleague – or maybe a junk and a thief, just like any other man, regardless of the colour of his skin. To be lesbian is unimportant when considering the entire person: she can also be a mother, an accomplished artist, a respected member of her local community, maybe a cheat – like any other woman, regardless of her sexuality.
Apart from one or two distinctive characteristics, we are all human beings and equal as such.
‘Racism’ and ‘Islam’ do not match, but ‘discrimination’ and ‘muslim’ do: of course, discrimination against muslims exists. In fact, religions, belief systems and convictions of life are among the most widespread targets of discrimination. Witches were burned, protestants beheaded in catholic countries, catholics prosecuted by protestants, American communists blacklisted as un-American, dissidents of communist regimes put away in camps as pro-Western... The list is endless.
Discrimination against muslims surely exists but isn’t any different from discrimination against other beliefs and convictions: it is Ahmed being refused a flat because he is of Arabian origin, Mrs. Jones because she is in a wheel-chair and Sue because she’s married to Harriet. Discrimination is opposed to equal treatment as human beings and knows no hierarchy or privileges.
THE REAL PURPOSE OF "ISLAMOPHOBIA"
Amalgamating racism, discrimination, Islam and the muslim, the terminology of ‘islamophobia’ and ‘islamophobes’ mainly serves to treat a religion differently and to ask for privileges. As such, it is self-inflicted discrimination.
The real purpose is to libel, prevent and eventually to prohibit any criticism regarding Islam, that’s to say the supreme being and the prophets; the belief system with its holy book, leaders, prayers, and mosques; a world view, e.g. regarding science (creationism) and last but not least a wide range of regulations and practises regarding food, dress, sexuality, the relation between men and women, the law, and so on. It is to immunize an entire conviction of life.
This is where we need to start worrying.
If I accept a religion to be so special as to be beyond comment and criticism, I must remain silent and close the debate – which is contrary to basic democracy.
If I accept criticism of a religion being labelled as an ‘offence’, I must accept laws on blasphemy and its consequences, such as prosecuting in the name of divine instead of human criteria.
If to question muslims and their practises is discrimination, I must not only refrain from doing so but also accept these attitudes, acts and practises, including the sharia which is contrary to the equality inherent to the rule of law for all as based on the equality of all citizens before the law.
Now, why is every possible school of thought and every conceivable conviction of life subject to criticism, but not religion or a particular religion? Communists have been prosecuted, sacked, jailed and tortured for decades, but no-one ever blamed ‘communismophobes’. At the time, hippies were frequently ridiculed (‘Is it a boy or a girl’?), denied jobs, harassed by the police for just being somewhere, called filth and degenerates - still, a movement against “hippiephobia” never saw the light of day. Fortunately. The same is true for feminism, atheism, pacifism, or freemasonry – to name just a few examples that come to mind.
There is no reason to think or act otherwise in the case of a religion. On the contrary, there are a few very good reasons why a religion like Islam should be put to the test more often and even more thoroughly, One such reason is the belief in unquestionable Revelation rather than free thinking and free enquiry. Another reason is that a religion like Islam holds the Truth, the ensuing problem being that several religions pretend to do so, even factions within one and the same belief. The one and only Truth renders any exchange of views superfluous. How could one oppose the Truth? What else is a different view but dissention? To question those who believe in the omniscient god and his prophets is offensive in se, etcetera. But not only Islam, as you will have understood.
Such premises are not useful in a heterogeneous society, which can only endure and thrive on condition the variety of views co-exists to everyone’s benefit. History – and most surely even recent history – teaches us what becomes of a society built on The Truth and a pensée unique, whether of a religious or profane nature.
Belief and believers - revisited.
One more problem remains: if ‘islamophobia’ so easily cross-references a religion and its followers, it is because Islam and the Muslim overlap to the extent that no clear line can be drawn between them. Religion steers and thus covers everything: not just prayers and rituals, but also dress, food and drink codes, relation between the sexes (marriage, children, the status of sex and the position of woman), knowledge and education, art, the law (sharia) - and so forth. Islam is the community and vice-versa. What should be regarded as one characteristic of a person – to be a Muslim – is the entire person and nothing but that person.
This two-way identification prevents the muslim from minimizing his particular characteristic and to look for common factors. Instead, they stress their peculiarities.
To see the part as the whole is the essence of the fanatic.
It is the Black Panther ready to exterminate all whiteys, including those who support his cause. It is the freedom fighter who shoots his own ‘deviant’ brother who dared question the sacrosanct strategy to beat the enemy (as in ‘The Wind That Shakes the Barley’). It is the British colonizer who cannot see any humanity other than his own and lists Australian aboriginals as animals. It is the Serb or the Israeli who limit a person to a static view of ‘blood and soil’ (‘Blut und Boden’) reserved for superior people, thereby dismissing history, evolution, mobility and the very existence of other humans - except as an inferior stock.
To advocate the part as the whole is to self-inflict discrimination (unequal treatment) through privileges.
It is to demand female medical staff because the husband refuses his wife to be examined by a male doctor. His wife is a muslim first and a person in need of treatment next.
It is to demand exceptions that are of the same nature as privileges, e.g. to allow a muslim schoolboy not to wipe the blackboard when a female teacher requests him so, thus discriminating between teachers (male and female), pupils (boys and girls) and male boys (muslim and non-muslim).
This one-dimensional type of community explains why Muslims do not fight discrimination alongside other discriminated groups, thus actually weakening the fight against discrimination. They are concerned with ‘islamophobia’ only. By constantly placing themselves in the picture without making allies, muslims simply call down even more discrimination on themselves.
For all these reasons, the term ‘islamophobia’ should be dumped immediately: it is a trap.
It is a trap because of a double amalgamation and a demagogic terminology, allowing to accuse anyone with a differing opinion of racism, discrimination and blasphemy, thus triggering silence and censorship.
It is a trap because if you don’t want to be called an ‘islamophobe’, you are left with no choice but to accept a religion that puts itself above and beyond society, brushing aside basic rules of democracy and equality.
It is a trap as the only party profiting from the ‘islamophobe’ strategy is a most reactionary ideology.
It is a trap because this ideology is mainly concerned with itself; it does not and will not further the cause it pretends to serve: to fight discrimination, that’s to say all types of discrimination
© Eddy Bonte 28 April 2017 reviewed 60CT17 onsite 15Oct2017. Sublitted to The New Humanist (UK) twice without any feedbback at all.