Islamophobia is a fiction to shut down debate
Legitimate criticism of Muslim teaching can’t be compared to antisemitic demonisation and lies
Remarks I made on BBC TV’s Sunday Politics seem to have caused some controversy. Even before the credits started to roll, Twitter was going into meltdown. I had said there was no equivalence between antisemitism and Islamophobia. The former was a deranged demonisation of a people; the latter was used to shut down debate. Cue foaming outrage. No matter that I acknowledged the existence of prejudice against Muslims, just as against Sikhs, Hindus and others. In denying Islamophobia, I was an Islamophobic bigot. And of course out poured the antisemitic comments. I was a “Zionazi” and “Mossad agent”, antisemitism claims were “bullshit”, and so predictably on. I had been asked whether, in view of the Conservative council candidate in Pendle being suspended but then readmitted after sharing an anti-Asian joke, Islamophobia pervaded the party. Racist prejudice existed throughout society, I said, but antisemitism was endemic among political progressives well beyond the Labour Party. Unlike the claim of Islamophobia, which was used to silence legitimate criticism of the Muslim world, antisemitism was based entirely on lies and demonisation. On social media, I was accused of seeking to silence legitimate criticism of Israel and the Jewish world. Not at all. Criticism is legitimate because it is rational and grounded in evidence. Antisemitism is not criticism. It is instead a unique form of bigotry. Irrationally, it holds that both Israel and the Jewish people possess a demonic power to control the world. It accuses both of crimes of which they are not only innocent but are themselves the victims. It treats them in ways which it applies to no other people, nation or cause. Now consider Islamophobia. Anyone who calls out Islamist extremism as a fanatical or primitive interpretation of Islam currently dominant in the Muslim world is called an Islamophobe. Anyone who says the Muslim Brotherhood is a conspiracy to Islamise the world is called an IsIamophobe. Yet evidence abounds to support such observations. Numerous Islamic religious authorities have upheld the uncompromising precepts behind Islamic fundamentalism and holy war. Muslim Brotherhood documents relating to Britain, Europe and America talk about changing `the very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order, and its creed from ignorance to Islam” and “eliminating and destroying the western civilisation from within”. Yet anyone sounding the alarm about this is called Islamophobic. These include the former Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian victim of genital mutilation and prominent critic of Islam who lives under police guard because of Islamist threats to her life. Or there’s the Iranian human rights activist Maryann Namazie, whose meeting at Goldsmiths College, London about the rights of ex-Muslims was broken up by the Islamic Society on grounds that any such discussion was “Islamophobic”. Where the equation between antisemitism and Islamophobia really goes belly-up, though, is over Muslim antisemitism. According to statistics published by the Jewish Community Security Trust about last year’s record number of antisemitic attacks, the ethnic appearance of the attacker was described in about one third of cases. Of those, about 25 per cent were of Asian, Arab or north African appearance. Many if not most of those are likely to have been Muslims, grossly disproportionate to the community’s estimated 4 per cent of the population. Of course not all Muslims are antisemites, just as many Muslims have nothing to do with Islamist extremism and are committed to western norms. And all attacks on Muslims are deplorable. Nevertheless, medieval and Nazistyle antisemitic texts and images pour out of the Muslim world. Some Muslims are now calling this out. In an article in the Israeli paper Haaretz, the director of the British antiextremism group Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal, draws urgent attention to the way in which parts of the left are seeking to “build a bridge based on antisemitism” with “some sections of Muslim communities where it is entrenched and mixed up with 9/11, 7/7 and other geopolitical conspiracy theories”. Yet such evidence is generally suppressed because to admit it would invalidate the very basis of the term Islamophobia. A phobia is not a prejudice but a mental disorder. An irrational terror, it debilitates the victim for whom we feel sympathy. Yet Islamophobia is used to turn people into social pariahs. This is why. A mental disorder has no rational basis. A prejudice is merely a hateful viewpoint. Unlike a phobia, prejudice does not lie outside reason altogether — which makes a phobia literally unthinkable. Antisemitism is in fact the only prejudice which can be viewed as a derangement of reason. IsIamophobia seeks to arrogate that status to itself. That’s why the Muslim world invented the term: to turn criticism of the Islamic world into a pathology. Not only would this silence debate but it would serve a deeper project. For the cause dating back to the Muslim wars against the Jews in the seventh century, now heard again from Islamists and their supporters, is to turn the Muslims into “the new Jews”. But they are not. The new Jews are still the old Jews. IsIamophobia is a mind-bending attempt at thought control. Equating it with antisemitism isn’t merely itself an attack on the Jewish people. Through its rebranding of totalitarian ideology as conscience, promoted by cowards, ideologues and imbeciles, it endangers us all.