The threat of Islamophobia-ophobia

Our local Islamic Center is holding a 9/11 memorial program tomorrow. They’ve invited a woman whose sister-in-law was murdered on 9/11, who will speak about it from an anti-war point of view. They are certainly entitled to do this.

I’m sure she will bring up the subject of dislike and prejudice against American Muslims. She will suggest that there is a massive amount of it since 9/11, but she will actually be wrong. Here is a table of hate crime statistics from the FBI for 2009:

Of the 1,575 victims of an anti-religious hate crime:

71.9 percent were victims because of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
8.4 percent were victims because of an anti-Islamic bias.
3.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Catholic bias.
2.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Protestant bias.
0.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
8.3 percent were victims because of a bias against other religions (anti-other religion).
4.3 percent were victims because of a bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).

There are perhaps three times as many Jews as Muslims in the US. But a Jew is almost nine times as likely to be a victim of a hate crime than a Muslim (nevertheless the example of a hate crime victim on the FBI site is a Muslim). Keep in mind that the large Muslim organizations like CAIR have been aggressively encouraging Muslims to report ‘Islamophobic’ incidents as hate crimes.

Think about what happened to innocent Jews in Arab countries when those countries lost a war that they started against the new state of Israel. Talk about hate crimes! Comparatively, the US has done remarkably well in its treatment of American Muslims since 9/11.

‘Islamophobia’ is used quite loosely not only to mean prejudice against Muslims, but any criticism of Islam. For example, I recall a meeting with several Muslims when the name of Daniel Pipes came up. “Oh, he’s Islamophobic,” the Muslims agreed.

Pipes actually is neither prejudiced against Muslims nor anti-Islam: his position is that the religious texts can be — and are, by some — interpreted in an aggressive, expansionist or violent way, and that there is presently a struggle in the community of Muslims between traditional Muslims and the radicals. But because this implies that Islam is not perfect in all respects, he is considered ‘Islamophobic’.

In the UN, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) has been working with some success to criminalize ‘defamation of religion’, an effort which some see as legitimizing anti-blasphemy laws in Islamic countries. Lately, the effort appears to be receiving some support from the Obama Administration. Of course, the Western position until now has always been that individuals have rights which must be protected, not religions:

The administration is taking the lead in an international effort to “implement” a U.N. resolution against religious “stereotyping,” specifically as applied to Islam. To be sure, it argues that the effort should not result in free-speech curbs. However, its partners in the collaboration, the 56 member states of the OIC, have no such qualms. Many of them police private speech through Islamic blasphemy laws and the OIC has long worked to see such codes applied universally. Under Muslim pressure, Western Europe now has laws against religious hate speech that serve as proxies for Islamic blasphemy codes.

Last March, U.S. diplomats maneuvered the adoption of Resolution 16/18 within the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC). Non-binding, this resolution, inter alia, expresses concern about religious “stereotyping” and “negative profiling” but does not limit free speech. It was intended to — and did — replace the OIC’s decidedly dangerous resolution against “defamation of religions,” which protected religious institutions instead of individual freedoms.

But thanks to a puzzling U.S. diplomatic initiative that was unveiled in July, Resolution 16/18 is poised to become a springboard for a greatly reinvigorated international effort to criminalize speech against Islam, the very thing it was designed to quash.

Liberal Jewish leaders in the US also seem to be worried about the threat of Islamophobia:

“Ten years after 9/11, it has somehow become respectable to verbally attack Muslims and Islam in America,” Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union of Reform Judaism, said Thursday at the Washington event organized by Shoulder to Shoulder, a group founded a year ago during a period of intensified anti-Muslim rhetoric.

“There are very real consequences when entire populations are represented in the public imagination by their worst elements, when the sins of the few are applied to the group as a whole. I have watched in astonishment as prominent politicians, including candidates for president of the United States, have found it politically opportune to peddle divisive anti-Muslim bigotry.” — JTA

I am not sure which candidate(s) Rabbi Yoffie is talking about, or what “bigotry” they are peddling. But I think we are moving dangerously close to stifling free speech when we create a psychological no-go zone around critical discussion of Islam. After all, the 9/11 attacks were committed against us by Muslims in the name of Islam. As I wrote yesterday, it isn’t enough to just blame “al-Qaeda.”

The word ‘Islamophobia’ is a bad choice to describe anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic prejudice, because etymologically it should mean “fear of Islam” (a better word would be ‘misislamy’ or something similar, but it’s almost unpronounceable). It seems, though, that while Muslims are strongly opposed to criticism of Islam, the radical ones at least are quite happy to promote fear of Muslims. There is a reason that random attacks against civilians, like 9/11 or Hamas’ missile attacks on Israel, are called ‘terrorism’. They are intended to demoralize a population by creating fear.

Fear of terrorism is a very real thing. But especially in the culture of the West in the last 50 years or so, fear of being called a ‘bigot’ is also real. And just as we need to defend our people and civilization, we need to defend our ability to speak freely and openly about forces that threaten them.

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