“Whilst We Debate Whether Islamophobia or Anti-Muslim Bigotry Is Most Appropriate – Racists And Bigots Continue Their Campaign Of Hate”, by Wasiq @wasiquk
The Jewish Chronicle published an article by the journalist and public commentator Melanie Phillips titled; Don’t fall for bogus claims of ‘Islamophobia’. In the article, Phillips claims “Islamophobia is used to silence any criticism of the Islamic world, including Islamic extremism.” Furthermore, she advances her position in that “Islamophobia” was invented by the Muslim Brotherhood to mimic antisemitism” and then finally adds the following “The concept of “Islamophobia” is thus profoundly anti-Jew.”
The article naturally gained a lot of publicity. Miqdaad Versi Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain in response to the article stated in a tweet “The Jewish Chronicle’s editors know Muslims are fearful, as many in the Islamophobic far right [SIC] feel emboldened. Yet they choose now to publish this vile piece from the awful Melanie Phillips – as Islamophobia is on the rise. Shameful.”
David Toube Director of Policy at Quilliam in his critique of the article points out that “If we pretend that, because the term Islamophobia is sometimes misused by rotters, it doesn’t exist at all – as Melanie Phillips appears to have done – [then] we are indistinguishable from the likes of the Labour Against the Witch-hunt mob”.
There is little the MCB and Quilliam see eye to eye, but what appears to be the case here is that they’re both in agreement, in that, if anything, the article emboldens the very people we are all meant to be fighting against which are racists and bigots.
Phillips has form in this area, but it is not an argument that I wish to rehearse here. My concern is, that whilst we debate which term, be it Islamophobia or anti-Muslim bigotry, is most appropriate, the racists and bigots will continue their campaign of hate and prejudice nonetheless. The primary victims of hate and bigotry will always be the human victims, in this case, Muslims. It matters little whether one considers Muslims as a race or not, or a cultural community tied by the bonds of their faith. What matters is, how we ensure that we protect them against this hate?
In an article I wrote for Barfi Culture on the issue of the Saatchi Gallery covering up an art piece because some of its Muslim visitors felt offended; I argued the point that “Islam doesn’t need protection, it doesn’t feel pain, it does not share the human emotions we have, so let’s stop treating it like it is a living being.” I consider this to be an important and correct position to hold, one which few would disagree with, because the more we feel offended by those attacking Islam, the more we appear to be concerned about it, than Muslims as a whole.
The fact that Islamophobia has the word, Islam and phobia just invites racists and bigots to shift the debate to their side. Scour any racist or bigots social media and you will see the same arguments from them: “Islam is an ideology, it should be criticised” and then they attribute anti-Muslim tropes as a cover for their “right to free speech.” This is what Muslim communities are dealing with whilst we debate amongst ourselves.
My position on the which term is most appropriate lies in what takes ammunition away from racists and bigots. With this in mind, I prefer the term anti-Muslim bigotry. I prefer it because it firmly places the emphasis on the individual. It provides the human element that is much needed and denies racists and bigots the opportunity to disguise their hatred of Muslims through criticism of Islam.
Using the term anti-Muslim bigotry exposes racists and bigots in a way racism does also, for example, “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” and so, in the same way, “I’m not anti-Muslim, I just hate Islam”. To be clear, I am not arguing that Muslims are a race, they are not, and they are not like Jews who are. What I am arguing is, if we focus on Muslims and not Islam, then we focus our attention on what really matters and that is Muslims as people, particularly in Law. If we do the reverse and add in the Islamic element, then by default, either consciously or unconsciously, we are creating a blasphemy taboo. This is where we shoot ourselves in the foot and keep shooting.
To conclude, yes Melanie Phillips appears to be on the wrong side of the debate on this issue and her contribution is not helpful, but unless we challenge her nonsense as well as others in an intelligent way, then the racists and bigots need to do little in their campaign of hate and bigotry when we are arguing between ourselves.
These views do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Faith Matters.