The Price of the Islamophobia Phobia

This was published in The Propagandist, by the indispensable Hadar Sela

Standing way behind the sidelines and observing  the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ controversy develop in recent weeks, I was struck by the often intemperate use of the term ‘Islamophobia’ to describe criticism of the project. FromCAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper to Georgetown University’s John Esposito, through the Muslim Public Affairs Council and even across the Atlantic at MPAC UKand in the Guardian, there appeared to be a concerted effort to convince the general public that we are living in times of a ‘heightened climate of Islamophobia’ to quote MPAC’s communications director Edina Lekovic.

Of course anti-Muslim bigotry exists in any country one could care to mention and it must be fought, along with many other kinds of bigotry, racism and discrimination, but in the current climate it is prudent to think back to Kenan Malik’s 2005 essay in which he warned that “The charge of ‘Islamophobia’ is all too often used not to highlight racism but to stifle criticism” and to consider who is promoting the concept of Islamophobia and why.

It is hard to believe that the worthy cause of fighting anti-Muslim bigotry can be advanced by individuals and organisations who themselves engage in racism and bigotry of other kinds. Selective anti-racism is a chimera which simply cannot withstand scrutiny; either one embraces the concept of universal human rights or one doesn’t. It is therefore both significant and disturbing to realise that some of the main players in the campaign against Islamophobia are deeply mired in other forms of bigotry.

Thus CAIR – an organisation with links to Hamas (one of the most anti-Semitic set ups on the planet), an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in the Holy Land Trial and a body which recently presented an award to Helen Thomas who only weeks before lost her job because of anti-Semitic comments, states on its web page about Islamophobia that (emphasis mine):

“ When 9-11 happened, the people already predisposed to viewing Islam with suspicion jumped on this bandwagon and through a multitude of primarily right-wing outlets have been successful in creating a climate of extreme prejudice, suspicion and fear against Muslims. This sentiment has also been aided by many pro-Israeli commentators such as Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, Judith Miller, and Bernard Lewis among many others.”

Eric Margolis says with righteous indignation that “Islamophobia has become the mantra of the right, not only in the US, but across Europe” on the pages of the Huffington Post whilst promoting bizarre 9/11 conspiracy theories on his own blog, designed to attribute the rise in Islamophobia to deliberate engineering by Israel and the Bush administration.

The Guardian prints a letter entitled “Islamophobia is a threat to Democracy” signed by assorted British public figures including Hamas supporter and funder George Gallowayand spokesman for the Hamas front known as the British Muslim Initiative, Anas Altikriti. Another signatory, Ismail Patel, is also a member of the BMI in addition to his activities at the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Islam Expo, the Conflicts Forum and the so-called human rights organization Friends of Al Aqsa, which promotes on its website the works of assorted fanatics and Holocaust deniers. Mr Patel was also a passenger on the Mavi Marmara, alongside the Muslim Brotherhood-linked IHH thugs. Another notable signatory is former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, best remembered for his warm welcoming of anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi. When challenged about his association with Qaradawi, Livingstone accused critics of being guilty of “lies and Islamophobia”.

One could go on and on, mentioning for example that the Muslim Council of Britain and Dr. Abdul Bari its Secretary General have repeatedly boycotted Holocaust Memorial Dayin Britain, that Caroline Lucas’ Green Party has a far from exemplary reputation on the subject of anti-Semitism or that Brendan Barber’s TUC sees fit to run a boycotting campaign (on the pretext of human rights abuses) against one country alone in the entire world and in collaboration with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign which openly supports those seeking the annihilation of that country and the patrons of which include prominent Union members.

The general state of affairs though is perfectly clear and eloquently described byEdmund Standing in an article entitled “ ‘Islamophobia’ and the Abuse of the Discourse of Anti-Racism”.

“While anti-Muslim bigotry is undoubtedly a problem that needs to be confronted, the elasticity of the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ is dangerous, for it is open to abuse by those who seek to silence legitimate criticism of Islamism and Islamic beliefs and practices. Arguably, for many who push the idea that the West is in the grip of rampant ‘Islamophobia’, silencing criticism of Islamist politics or Islam itself is their true intention. “

Edmund Standing correctly identifies one pernicious aspect of the misuse of the term Islamophobia – its employment as a deflection of opposition to radical Islamism. It is not by chance that some of the main promoters of the concept of an ever-rising wave of Islamophobia are also some of the key players on the Islamist scene. There is, however, an additional aspect to the situation and that is the fear of career-killing accusations of Islamophobia which paralyses broad swathes of the establishment in Western countries.

Rightly and justifiably, we will no longer tolerate racism, discrimination and bigotry in our democratic Western societies, but ironically, our failure to properly define anti-Muslim bigotry and the fact that the subject has been neglected and allowed to become the sole preserve of often ideologically motivated agents has led to our silent toleration of a growing number of human rights abuses within the developed world.

Female Genital Mutilation was outlawed in the UK in 1985. Despite the fact that some 500 girls a year are subjected to this horrific crime, there have been no prosecutions whatsoever.

Read the rest of the essay, here.

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