Tuesday, June 06, 2006

On "Islamophobia"

I was planning to write an extensive piece on the current state of the fight against radical jihadism, but for now I wanted to share a few thoughts about a great piece by Johann Hari, on Islamophobia. He argues, successfully, in my view, that many people speaking out against Islamophobia, are themselves enabling the same bigotry they claim to oppose. He talks about how the folks at Islamophobia Watch engage in open homophobia and the like, and dismiss any criticism of Muslim extremism as racist, and "objectively pro-Nazi." In his view, many so-called liberals are willfully empowering the very Fascism the profess to oppose.

People who believe in opposing hatred of gay people everywhere – in Teheran as much as Tunbridge Wells, in Kingston, Jamaica as much as Kingston-Upon-Thames – are being subjected to a bizarre counter-campaign. As so often, Peter Tatchell is facing the most abusive backlash on our behalf. Tatchell believes all people are equal, regardless of their pigmentation. He does not see a difference between the white far-right preacher Jerry Falwell calling gay people diseased, and the Muslim leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie doing the same. He does not see the difference between gay teenagers being lynched to death in Jamaica and murderous gay-bashings on Clapham Common. He reacts to them in exactly the same way – by fighting to stop them.

For this, he is being accused of racism. Look, for example, at the popular website ‘Islamophobia Watch’, set up by a man called Bob Pitt. Unlike Tatchell, he lacks courage and, fearing reprisals, uses a fake name for his writings – Martin Sullivan. His website obsessively snipes at Tatchell, responding to every criticism he makes of the Islamic fundamentalists who incite and perform the murder of gay people by calling him a bigot and even “pro-Nazi”. How does he back up this slander against a man who has fought fascism all his life? The website complains Tatchell uses “the term ‘Islamism’… without distinguishing between its reformist and violent wings.” Yes, it’s true - Tatchell fails to draw a distinction between the people who will lash and stone gays after winning at the ballot box, and the people who will lash and stone gays after seizing power in a coup. This is bigotry?

You'd think that if radical Islam doesn't represent mainstream moderate Islam (a view that has legitimate support, and one I basically agree with), and that those supposedly warring against Islamophobia aren't for radical jihad, then wouldn't defense of radical Islam, and the attack on moderate Muslims who condemn jihad itself be Islamophobia? In other words, how can you profess to believe in religious toleration, by supporting ideas that reject religious toleration? Could it be that these folks aren't really liberal at all, and are no different than the Fascists they claim to oppose?

Read the whole essay. Caveat lector: Hari himself is basically an agnostic. I'm a Christian, but I'm willing to overlook his atheism in this instance, (all while praying for the salvation of his soul), as the rest of the piece is spot on. He has a valid point about the use of religion to justify evil. You don't have to be a person of faith to know that religion can be twisted to justify things contrary to the laws of God and man.

Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan

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