On being accused of Islamophobia
If your belief is indefensible, your ignominious last resort is to accuse your critics of “-phobia”. I have long criticised all religions as irrational, and faiths as dangerous. Most of my attacks have been against Christianity, because I know it best. In spite of this I have never been accused of Christophobia. But I am regularly berated for Islamophobia, and I even had a radio broadcast in California (about a totally unrelated subject) cancelled because of my reputation for “Islamophobia”. Cancelled, mark you, not by Muslims but by American so-called “liberals”.
Phobia is defined as irrational fear, as in arachnophobia, agoraphobia etc. If Salman Rushdie fears Islam, it would not be an irrational fear, it would be eminently rational. At the whim of a nasty, bigoted old man in Iran (in character strongly resembling the Abrahamic God), Rushdie has lived much of his life with a massive bounty on his head. He has recently suffered a religiously motivated stabbing, which has left him blind in one eye. Rational fear is not phobia. In fact, Sir Salman has shown exemplary courage. The British system of awarding knighthoods, though often criticised, was vindicated with a vengeance when he was honoured by the late Queen.
The Rushdie fatwa tempts journalists to ask interviewees whether they get death threats. Interviewers possessing a modicum of intelligence can work out for themselves why it is an irresponsible question, which should obviously not be put. Unfortunately not all interviewers are intelligent.
I am not Islamophobic. I am certainly not Muslimophobic. Indeed I regard Muslims as Islam’s main victims, badly in need of defence against their own religion. If we temporarily redefine “phobic” not as irrational fear but as rational detestation, then I am phobic about the following:
Throwing gay people off tall buildings or crushing them under a collapsed wall.
Or publicly caning them (note the laughing glee of the audience, including children (VICE News)
Stoning women accused of adultery to death. (THE WEEK)
Female genital mutilation. (Nursery World)
Compelling women to cover their hair and faces, leaving only a slit for the eyes.
Compelling girls to stay indoors, while boys roam free.
Schools in which boys are taught nothing except memorising the Koran, and girls even less.
Condemning novelists to death for the crime of doing what novelist do, writing a novel.
Killing cartoonists for the crime of doing what cartoonists do, drawing a cartoon.
Death penalty for apostasy. A religion so bereft of positive arguments that it needs to resort to death threats to keep its members, is ignominiously pathetic. Even Christianity no longer stoops so humiliatingly low.
You can probably continue the list yourself.
If all, or even any, of that list could be laid at the door of any religion, then a profound dislike of that religion could be defended. It certainly is not the case that most individual Muslims would endorse the list – although it has to be admitted that more than a quarter of British Muslims (Harris poll 1989) wanted Salman Rushdie to be killed, and nearly two thirds thought The Satanic Verses should be burned.
It is often pointed out that Christianity used to be just as bad, and it still is just as irrational. But the worst excesses of Christianity now thankfully lie in the past. If only the same could be said of Islam. What is especially galling is those Western “liberals” who think Islam is a race, and are so terrified of being thought racist that they refrain from criticising the above horrors, even those perpetrated against women and gays.
“Islamophobia” is a deeply silly and pernicious abuse of language. And it’s not the only fashionable word ending in “-phobia” that condemns itself as a last-resort substitute for rational discussion. In all such cases, I recommend the Hitchens Riposte: “I’m still waiting to hear your argument.”
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