Leaving Islam



What is "Islamophobia," anyway?


Robert Spencer 

In an article yesterday, the journalist and Islamic apologist Stephen Schwartz defined "Islamophobia" this way:

Notwithstanding the arguments of some Westerners, Islamophobia exists; it is not a myth. Islamophobia consists of:
• attacking the entire religion of Islam as a problem for the world;

• condemning all of Islam and its history as extremist;

• denying the active existence, in the contemporary world, of a moderate Muslim majority;

• insisting that Muslims accede to the demands of non-Muslims (based on ignorance and arrogance) for various theological changes, in their religion;

• treating all conflicts involving Muslims (including, for example, that in Bosnia-Hercegovina a decade ago), as the fault of Muslims themselves;

• inciting war against Islam as a whole.


While there may be by this definition some Islamophobes in the world, the definition actually obscures more than it reveals. Does the labeling as “Islamophobic” the practice of “attacking the entire religion of Islam as a problem for the world” mean that it is Islamophobic to focus attention on the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet as motivations for terrorist activity? If so, then jihad terrorists worldwide are themselves “Islamophobic,” for as we have seen, they routinely point to jihad passages from the Qur’an and Hadith to justify their actions. Nor is a frank discussion of the doctrine of Islamic jihad equivalent to saying that the “entire religion of Islam” is a “problem for the world: no one is saying that tayammum (ablution with sand instead of water) or dhikr (a dervish religious devotion) or other elements of Islam pose a problem for the world.

Defining as “Islamophobic” the condemnation of “all of Islam and its history as extremist” is similarly problematic — and not just because of the sloppy imprecision of the word “extremist.” Jihad and dhimmitude are and always have been part of Islam. Yet no religious commandment of any religion has ever been uniformly observed by its adherents, and no law has ever been universally enforced. Jews and Christians in Islamic lands were able at various times and places to live with a great deal of freedom; however, this does not contradict the fact that the laws of the dhimma always remained on the books, able to be enforced anew by any Muslim ruler with the will to do so.

Likewise, it may be “Islamophobic” to deny “the active existence, in the contemporary world, of a moderate Muslim majority,” but this also is beside the point. The existence of a moderate Muslim majority is not a question of “Islamophobia” or lack thereof, but of fact. But it is a fact that is very hard to ascertain with certainty -- not least because of the problem of definition: it’s useless to affirm that there is a “moderate Muslim majority” without clearing up the meaning of the word “moderate.” What makes a moderate Muslim? One who does not and never will engage in terrorist acts? That would make moderates an overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide. Or is a moderate one who sincerely disapproves of those terrorist acts? That would reduce the number of moderates. Or is a moderate Muslim one who actively speaks out and works against the jihadists? That would lower the number yet again. Or finally, is a moderate Muslim one who actively engages the jihadists in a theological battle, trying to convince Muslims on Islamic grounds that jihad terrorism is wrong? That would leave us with a tiny handful.

Notwithstanding that fact, however, it would be silly for anyone to treat “all conflicts involving Muslims…as the fault of Muslims themselves,” or to incite “war against Islam as a whole.” To go to war with Islam as a whole — grizzled sheepherders in Kazakhstan and giggly secretaries in Jakarta as well as bin Laden and Zarqawi — would be absurd and unnecessary. But what does Schwartz really mean by saying that those who would advocate “war against Islam as a whole” are “Islamophobic”? Would that include among the Islamophobes those who recognize that Islamic jihad has been declared against us and advocate resistance to that jihad?

All this indicates that “Islamophobia” is virtually useless as an analytical tool. To adopt it would be to allow oneself to submit to the most virulent form of theological equivalence, and to affirm, against all the evidence, that every religious tradition is equally capable of inspiring violence. It would be to deny the very sensible observation of the eminent atheist (and, late in life, theist, but not Christian) philosopher Antony Flew (thanks to Daniel): “Jesus is an enormously attractive charismatic figure, which the Prophet of Islam most emphatically is not.” To recognize this is not base theological one-upmanship, but a step toward the recovery of realism in the analysis of Islamic jihad, and of a sense that in Western civilization there is something worth defending.

Even worse than all this, however, is the way the charge of “Islamophobia” is used to silence opponents of the jihad ideology -- as has been illustrated abundantly at Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch.







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