I always cringe whenever I hear this quote by Hitchens because it’s the stupidest thing he’s ever said. He spent a good deal of ink and thought on criticizing religion (organized and otherwise), but this statement essentially forgives world religions for one of the worst things they actually do: making stuff up about people that’s completely not true. When it gets applied against Muslims and the religion of Islam, it’s most often referred to as Islamophobia.
The problems with this term.
As the Wikipedia article notes, this word has been in existence since at least 1923, way before the proliferation of international terrorism. For many years, it existed without much criticism, referring to the irrational and unjustified fear or hatred of Muslims or Islam. Unfortunately, dictionaries and some uses of the word leave out the “irrational” and “unjustified” parts, so some people are trying to use the word for any criticism of Muslims or Islam.
Of course, this is just a discussion about one word. Islamophobia doesn’t inherently have to be used to describe unjustified criticism alone, because words only have meaning to the people that use them. What I’m getting at is that the debate on what Islamophobia should mean – if anything – is a necessary debate to have. Because religions historically make stuff up about other faiths which might lead to violence (here is a map of recent crimes against Muslims; here is a video describing peaceful claims of religion), it is critical to separate justified reasons from religious (and sometimes non-religious) fear-mongering.
Pretending Islamophobia – or any prejudice against religious people – doesn’t exist is turning a blind eye to a strong criticism of religion.
I linked to a video above which goes into the false claims that some religions make about being peaceful. Islamophobia is manifested in many of those religions, from Christianity to Buddhism. In short, it’s a symptom of how other faiths are trying to compete with Islam. While it might start there, it can expand to the point where major political candidates are threatening to discriminate against Muslim refugees. Practically speaking, it’s rendered some U.S. citizens afraid of children under the age of five.
Sadly, I’m not making that up. I’ve heard people claim that Muslims in general are trying to take over the country, that they worship the devil, and that they’re going to bring about the apocalypse. I’ve heard Muslims criticize Jews in Israel by saying they think of themselves as superior to everyone else, and that they’d give their dogs water before they’d give a non-Jew water. All of these claims are designed to keep people distrustful of those outside the faith, and distrustful of specific faiths regardless.
That violence and prejudice often results from such religiously inspired rumors is a rightful criticism of all faiths. To claim that a religion is peaceful and true while lying about others is pure hypocrisy. Indeed, one of the reasons why I can’t go back to faith is because of this hypocrisy. I cannot and will not turn a blind eye to it.
Finally, this does not mean that all criticism of religion (and Islam in particular) is unjustified.
What I’m talking about here is being precise in one’s criticism rather than heavy-handed. It’s not enough to say that I think the Quran allows for violence, I should also provide context with what I mean. Similarly, it’s not enough to say that some Christians are spreading ignorance about Islam, so I provide some examples of what I’ve been told. This isn’t unfair; it’s part of being a responsible person.
In fact, that’s what this entire post is really about. Some people are going to be irresponsible and just create false impressions of something, excusing it with divine fiat. Other people are going to be irresponsible and claim that saying anything critical should be silenced. Both have their places in the human condition, and they are things we need to overcome if we are to improve our lives.
7 thoughts on “Islamophobia, Revisited”
Well I will admit it, I am very concerned about Islam. In those countries where Islam is in the majority, non Muslims invariably are subject to state sanctioned discrimination. So non Muslims need countries of refuge from Islam.
But allowing large scale islamic migration to non Muslims countries might eventually lead to there being little places of refuge for anyone from Islam.
The thing is I don’t have the same fear in regard to other religions. Perhaps my fear is irrational, but whenever I try to overcome it I come across another story of a Muslim terrorist seeking to kill people for the crime of being non Muslim.
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With regards to Muslim nations and human rights violations, those concerns are grounded in documented policy and actions following that policy. Muslim nations can’t complain about that criticism because the grounds are open and obvious for all to see.
Compare that with hearing about terrorist attacks. It’s normal to feel apprehensive and to ask questions about it. It’s normal to ask what is contributing to its existence. I feel apprehension, anger, hurt, and a whole other mess of things when I hear about a new terror attack of any stripe.
What it doesn’t mean is that my mess of emotions gets to determine public policy on things. As an atheist, I’m demanding that religion doesn’t get to do that to me, and so I cannot do any less for other people.
You should not fear the islam. Im muslim you are jewish or christian i have any problem with you i looked at you at a human at first islam is peace we are not terorist
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tbh, the media only reports on incidents to do with Muslims being the problem and not with non Muslims. We don’t hear much at all about state-endorsed hate against Muslims simply for being Muslims, or by other religions etc, so perhaps instead of blaming Islam and some lunatics, blame society and the media’s subliminal messages 🙂
(you might be interested in my biased rant on my page lols)
I think dialog is the key here and that is what you have in your way begun, we need to talk to each other.
Secondly, every idea, belief, or way of life must be fully criticised with scientific precision, and asked, does this belief bring the human race forward, is this real love and compassion, and do we all or just a small portion of us benefit from this belief? The moment we are called nazis or right wing or left wing bleeding liberals, we know there is a problem. This problem is that this group believes themselves to be above criticism, and unfortunately Islam is today a group who loathes to look deeply at their faith and its results or the fruit it is bearing in this world. It is therefore our job as concerned citizens of all nations of the earth to ask the tough questions for them, but to do so in a way that is beneficial, wise and compassionate. Let us never forget that people have rights, and that ideas do not.
Thank you for your forum and for reading.
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Hello S.B. I have told this story before. I am disabled and when I lived in W.P.B. Florida, I was in a wheelchair. I couldn’t get into my back yard due to a drop in the concrete of about 18 inches. Around me lived many religious people, mostly Christians and next door was a Muslim man. He was always nice and helpful, often checking on me. If I needed something done he would volunteer to do it. One day he had a concrete truck come to his house. He was adding on to his driveway. However the first two wheelbarrow loads of concrete came up my driveway and he built me a ramp down to my back yard. Everyone around our home knew of my problem, but he was the one who took steps to fix it and help me.
So I do take offence when I hear people say that every Muslim is a crazy person who wants to kill us. Yes there are some who do . Yet as a gay man I can tell you that there are extreme Christians who do want to harm me and people like me. I have been threatened by religious people at places where I worked, and assaulted by Christian fundamentalist who felt that their god wanted me dead. I remember the news articles about the government officials who refused to follow the law to give gay people their legal rights. The Kim Davis and her like in the U.S.A. that are supported by Christian legal groups. There was a lot of news about extreme fundamentalist Christian preachers who praised the shooting in a gay night club. These preachers lamented that more were not killed and one claimed the government needed to kill gay people.
So some Islamic countries do target some groups for death and they do deny rights to some people. They even try to attack people and groups in other countries. However there are groups of religious people from the U.S.A. who go to other countries and try their hardest to get laws passed to criminalize gay people, and to deny rights to them. One such law even called for the death penalty for gay people. The restrictive laws against gay people, now to even have gay web sites is illegal, laws against even showing gay people in a positive light are a direct result of the efforts by several christian groups in Russia. The abuse and assaults gay people have faced are the direct results of the efforts of religious people. Thanks. Hugs
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Words have always been used to manipulate people.
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