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Sunday, 31 July 2011

The reality of Islamophobia

I agree with large parts of this article by Melanie Phillips. But I do not agree with her when she writes: "While some people of course have a baseless and hateful prejudice against Muslims, most of what is labelled "Islamophobia" is instead an all-too-rational concern about Islamist extremists." It is the word "most" from which I demur; had she replaced "most" with "much", I might not be demurring. It reminds me of those people who, quite mistakenly, would write: "While some people of course have a baseless and hateful prejudice against Jews, most of what is labelled "antisemitism" is instead an all-too-rational concern about Israeli government policy." It is, of course, not Islamophobic to express a rational concern about Islamist extremists, just as it is not antisemitic to express a rational concern about Israeli government policy. However, when I talk about Islamophobia or antisemitism, I am not talking about rational criticism of Islamist extremists or of Israeli government policy, I am talking about hatred of Muslims or hatred of Jews. 

I'm talking about the friend of mine who once said to me, quite casually, "I just think there are now too many of these mosques and synagogues and things." I'm talking about the London-based Israeli who told me: "England has been taken over by Arabs." I'm talking about the drunk yobs who think that it's funny to spit and throw beer cans at people who dress differently from them, including people who are visibly Jewish or Muslim. I'm even talking about people who have desecrated Jewish and Muslim cemeteries and set fire to mosques and synagogues. So, no, Melanie, I don't think that "most of what is labelled "Islamophobia" is instead an all-too-rational concern about Islamist extremists". I think that most of what is labelled Islamophobia actually is Islamophobia, and that, quite separately from that, there is a rational debate about Islamist extremists.

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