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Focus on Islamism
Thursday 10th December 2009
The Cost of 'Islamophobia'

BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS

In a recent piece for Hudson, the organisation's president, Herbert London, has a very interesting take on the possibly fatal role played by political correctness in the recent Fort Hood shootings, where he suggests that the ever increasing use of the term ‘Islamophobia' may have hindered efforts to stop Major Hasan from killing 13 people.

Before I go any further, it is important to look at what, if anything, Islamophobia actually means.  In 2005, Ken Livingstone famously embraced Islamist preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi despite being repeatedly warned of the extreme homophobia and antisemitism that was regularly spewed out in his sermons.  Peter Tatchell led the chorus of voices against this meeting and because he dared to point out that Qaradawi wanted him dead just because he was gay, Livingstone's office and its Islamist partners reached instantly for the most disgraceful option available: accusing Tatchell and his allies of spreading "lies and Islamophobia".  Although there are older examples, this was the watershed moment after which anyone who criticised the ideology of Islamism or accused a preacher of being a bigoted, murderous psychopath met the criteria for being an Islamophobe.

The word is also used to describe those who are simply critical of the religion of Islam.  If one were to point out that, like all religions, many messages contained in the core Islamic texts are contradictory, unethical, intolerant and violent, they may find - as Sebastian Faulks did earlier this year - that not only will they face the Islamophobia accusation, but that it puts their very careers on the line.  Faulks had to retract his comments almost as soon his critique of Mohammed and the Koran passed his lips, and I would venture to guess that his publishers may have had something to do with that - no doubt terrified of the inevitable accusations they would otherwise have to deal with.  Having a negative view of a religion should not be considered an extremist or unacceptable position to hold, although at present the debate on the nature of Islam is being shut down.

Thus, the tactical use of this accusation has made it more difficult to expose the fascism of political Islam and socially unacceptable to criticise a world religion.  This does not mean that we should dismiss the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, which is manifested in groups like Stop the Islamisation of Europe and a post 7/7 rise in violent attacks on Muslims.  However, the general and sweeping connotations of the term ‘Islamophobia' do little justice to a real problem which is more appropriately defined as anti-Muslim bigotry, a term coined by the Harry's Place blog.   

For some, the stifling of free speech and criticism is disturbing enough, but we can now add a human cost to this latest symptom of political correctness.  After revelations that before the attack Major Hasan was known to have interpreted Islam in the same way as al-Qaeda, the first question was:  why was there no action taken against him?  His superiors at the Walter Reed Military Army Medical Centre - where he gave a PowerPoint presentation on the merits of suicide bombing - took no action and instead fretted about "how would it look if we kick out one of the few Muslim residents in our program?"  Indeed, it is likely that if Hasan was discharged before he went on a killing spree, US Islamist front groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America would have taken the lead in condemning such a despicable act of Islamophobia. 

Instead of immediately dismissing any criticism of Islam as Islamophobia, the status of this religion should be brought into line with that of all the other major religions, where people can criticise beliefs and texts without the fear of being branded bigoted or racist.

Similarly, Islamism should be considered alongside equally violent and intolerant ideologies which seek the global domination of a certain group of people, be they 'Aryan' or Muslim.  The cost of avoiding this should not be allowed to rise any further than the 13 lives already claimed by the fear of offending people.

For more on the hysteria of Islamophobia, see Harry's Place today.

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Oula Kadhum
December 12th, 2009
2:12 AM
You're right, political correctness has gone too far. It is actually hindering free speech and a real debate from taking place about Islam. However, let us replace the word islamophobia in your article with antisemitism and we possibly have the same or even more of an issue in allowing people to criticize Judaism or Zionism without being labelled anti-semitic.

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About Focus on Islamism

Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.

Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London.  He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon. 

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