Is the cart before the horse here?

Doudou Diene, UN Special Rapporteur on RacismIs Islamophobia a serious threat to world peace? Here’s one who thinks so:

A UN expert on racism on Friday branded the defamation of religions – in particular critical portrayals of Islam in the West – a threat to world peace.

“Islamophobia today is the most serious form of religious defamation,” Doudou Diene told the UN Human Rights Council, which is currently holding a three-week session in Geneva.

Diene cited a caricature of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad in a Swedish newspaper, a protest by far-right groups in Belgium Tuesday against the “Islamization of Europe,” and campaigns against the construction of mosques in Germany and Switzerland as evidence of an “ever increasing trend” toward anti-Islamic actions in Europe.

“We see the initiatives and activities of many groups and organizations which are working hard to bring about a war of civilizations,” he said, adding that right-wing groups were trying to equate Islam with violence and terrorism. — Jerusalem Post

It’s interesting that he sees Islamophobia as dangerous to world peace. All forms of religious prejudice are pernicious, of course, but they are not usually characterized as threats to world peace.

There is no doubt that the massive terrorist attacks in the West in this century — 9/11, the bombings in Madrid and London, etc. — were threats to world peace, and were indeed calculated to bring about a war of civilizations. And they were carried out in the name of Islam, no matter how marginal the conception of Islam held by the terrorists is.

And surveys have shown that in some places (e.g., the UK) the idea that terrorism in ‘defense’ of Islam is justified, while still a minority opinion, is not marginal at all — and it doesn’t take much to convince some people that Islam is under attack.

So what we have is this:

  • Some Muslims have committed horrendous terrorist attacks against the West in the name of Islam.
  • A significant minority of Muslims supports them.
  • As a result, there has been a reaction against Islam in general (although only rarely a violent one), and the nativist right wing in Europe is taking advantage of it.

It seems strange to me that Dr. Diene sees this last as the threat to peace. It seems to me that the bombs and hijacked aircraft of the terrorists have already broken the peace. But this is the perspective of the UN.

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2 Responses to “Is the cart before the horse here?”

  1. Vic Rosenthal says:

    I think there’s room for a word to name ‘unreasonable prejudice against Muslims’, although I hate the word ‘Islamophobia’ which literally should mean ‘irrational fear of Islam’.

    However, I agree with gsdmorris that accusations of Islamophobia (or whatever it should be called) are being made quite improperly against anyone who criticizes the behavior of any Muslims, or who favors increased scrutiny of Muslims flying, taking trains, etc.

    It’s interesting to compare this to the claim that the word ‘antisemite’ is applied reflexively to anyone who criticizes Israel — and that therefore, no-one who criticizes Israel can possibly be antisemitic!