Islamophobia

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In modern usage, Islamophobia is a prejudice against all Muslims, often associated all with Jihadist thinking. It has been used as a rough equivalent of antisemitism. Specific criticism of violent radicals, however, is not as general.

Certain interest groups raise the specter of any Muslim presence, and definitely any Islamist thinking whether legal or violent, as a harbinger of terrorism and theocracy. While there are unquestionably dangerous militants, overgeneralizing can be a form of demagoguery for political advantage.

Concerns over hypersensitivity

Bernard Lewis, an authoritative scholar of Islam, said, at the 2008 meeting of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa
“a degree of thought control and limitations of freedom of expression without parallel in the Western world since the 18th century, and in some areas longer than that.[1]

"Due to post-modernist thought, the current, combined orthodoxies of multiculturalism and political correctness, and a 'clash of disciplines,' primarily between historians and Arabic linguists, which have undermined the serious, objective study of Islam." [1]

Lewis continued,
It seems to me it’s a very dangerous situation, because it makes any kind of scholarly discussion of Islam, to say the least, dangerous. “Islam and Islamic values now have a level of immunity from comment and criticism in the Western world that Christianity has lost and Judaism has never had.

Specific objections to Islam and Islamic culture

Some differences are seen in Europe and in North America, in part because national culture and identity is important in Europe, while the "melting pot" of an open civilization still appeals to many Americans.

Europe

It has been suggested that some of the opposition in Europe is more to immigrants who do not conform to prevailing culture, and the immigrants are principally Muslim. In this model, the immigrants were originally seen as guest workers who had no need to assimilate.[2] Once, however, they took up permanent residence and asserted their culture, this was a much deeper threat than in the U.S.
The Islamic challenge that Europe faces today is twofold. Internally, Europe must integrate a ghettoized but rapidly

growing Muslim minority that many Europeans view as encroaching upon the collective identity and public values of European society. Externally, Europe needs to devise a viable approach to the primarily Muslim-populated

volatile states, [3]

France

At a Stanford University conference, Vincent Geisser, Researcher in the Institute of Researches and Studies on the Arabic and Muslim World (National Center for Scientific Research) and Professor in the Institute of Political Studies of Aix-en-Provence, has written
It will be shown that "Islamophobia" (the fear of Islam) has now become a global phenomenon throughout Europe. Yet, this phenomenon of collective fear indeed covers issues that differ depending on the socio-political context. With this regard, the "French specificity" can be explained by the weight of intellectual and ideological traditions. In the French public space, debates on Islam are nearly always emotive and the passion displayed whenever the issue of its integration is discussed which contrasts with the relative serenity that can be observed elsewhere in Europe.[4]

Germany

Netherlands

In the Netherlands, right-wing politician Geert Wilders has been vocal in his criticism of Islam. Although defining his objections as against radical Islam and "Islamisation" Wilders has been critical of the Qur'an, likening it to Hitler's Mein Kampf and calling for it to be banned. Capitalizing on wider anti-immigrant fears in the Netherlands, Wilders and his Freedom Party (Partij voor de Vrijheid or PVV) became in 2010 the third largest political party in the Netherlands and subsequently an influence on the Dutch coalition government.

In addition to advocating the banning of the Qur'an, Wilders has proposed a tax on headscarves, which transformed into a nationwide ban against public wearing of the burka, the full Islamic veil, a concession granted Wilders and the PVV by the ruling Dutch coalition in return for parliamentary support. A frequent visitor to Israel, Wilders has described the "war on Israel" as an attack against Western society, and his views have generated financial support for the PVV in both Israel and the United States.

In his 2008 short film, Fitna, Wilders presented some of his views on Islam, linking passages of religious text to alleged acts of Muslim violence. Despite much opposition to the film, both in the Netherlands and abroad, Wilders has attended presentations of Fitna around the world, including in the United States Congress and, after an initial travel ban was overturned, in the House of Lords.[5] As of November 2010 Wilders is still involved in legal action over comments made both in the film and elsewhere, and faces charges of inciting hatred against Muslims.[6]

Despite limited political support and much negative opinion, growing popular support for Wilders could see further anti-Islamic reforms in the Netherlands, as Wilders has proposed severe restrictions on the rights of non-Westerners to practice religion, as well as restrictive anti-immigration policies.

United Kingdom

In 2004, the BBC reported that the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, a think tank first set up by anti-racism organization the Runnymede Trust, said institutional Islamophobia had worsened. Chairman Richard Stone said "Government has not taken on board, in a deep way, the anti-Muslim prejudice in this country...There is now renewed talk of a clash of civilizations and mounting concern that the already fragile foothold gained by Muslim communities in Britain is threatened by ignorance and intolerance."[7]

A website called Islamophobia Watch has taken on a mission of documenting Islamophobia, although it does not appear itself to be politically neutral.

A far-right group, the English Defence League, according to CNN, has been allying with sympathetic European groups such as that of Geert Wilders. "It pushes an anti-Islamic message with provocative marches through neighborhoods with large Muslim populations." Recently, its leader, Stephen Lennon has spoken of contacts with Tea Party movement activists in the U.S. "Individuals from their movement have contacted individuals from our movement supporting what we're doing, in the same way members from our group are supporting what they're doing," Lennon told CNN. "Freedom is worth fighting for. And you'll see people fight back for freedom," he said. "That's what you're seeing in the U.S., you're seeing in Britain, you're seeing in Europe; the more Islam we have the less freedom we have, we're opposed to it."[8]

North America

Canada

United States

Some parts of the American right consider Islam to be an existential threat, while others still hold to religious freedom as a high traditional value. A focus of this debate is the Park51 project, formerly Cordoba House, and the "Ground Zero Mosque" to its opponents. A number of public figures have said that building the mosque demonstrates American principles.

Robert Spencer, one of those prominent in ideological criticism, had his book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, reviewed by The Financial Times. They described him as "...a hero of the American right...Like any book written in hatred, his new work is a depressing read."[9]

Conservative blogger Pamela Geller said "I believe in the idea of a moderate Muslim. I do not believe in the idea of a moderate Islam... I think a moderate Muslim is a secular Muslim." New York Times reporter Anne Bernard, Geller asked, "so you’re saying if someone is a devout Muslim, meaning if he or she is practicing and believing in the tenets of Islam, they cannot in your view be a political moderate?" Geller responded with a simple "no". [10]

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips attacked Rep. Keith Ellison (R-Minnesota) for being Muslim. According to the Washington Post, "Phillips came under fire Wednesday [29 October] after publishing a column through Tea Party Nation's Web site in which he urged voters in Minnesota's 5th Congressional District to support independent candidate Lynne Torgerson over Ellison. Phillips said in the column that Ellison's Muslim faith as well as his liberal voting record and his support for sending federal funds to "terrorists in Gaza" were reasons to vote him out of office." Ellision was quoted as writing (spelling corrected and emphasis added)
There are a lot of liberals who need to be retired this year, but there are few I can think of more deserving than Keith Ellison. Ellison is one of the most radical members of congress. He has a ZERO rating from the American Conservative Union. He is the only Muslim member of Congress. He supports the Council on American Islamic Relations, Hamas and has helped congress send millions of tax dollars to terrorists in Gaza." [11]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Matt Korade (26 April 2008), Lack of Openness Makes Scholarly Discussion of Islam Dangerous, Says Bernard Lewis, Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa
  2. Robert Marquand (5 September 2010), "Why 'Islamophobia' is less thinly veiled in Europe", Christian Science Monitor
  3. Timothy M. Savage (Summer 2004), "Europe and Islam: Crescent Waxing, Cultures Clashing", Washington Quarterly (Center for Strategic and International Studies and Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  4. Vincent Geisser (2005), Intellectual and Ideological Debates on Islamophobia : A "French Specificity" in Europe ?, Stanford University
  5. BBC - Dutch MP Geert Wilders' anti-Islam film sparks protests
  6. BBC - Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders goes on trial
  7. Dominic Casciani (2 June 2004), BBC News
  8. Dan Rivers and Simon Hooper, CNN (2 November 2010), UK far-right group boasts Tea Party links, CNN
  9. Karen Armstrong (27 April 2007), "Balancing the Prophet", Financial Times
  10. Anne Barnard and Alan Feuer (8 October 2010), "Pamela Geller: in her own words", New York Times
  11. Amy Gardner (28 October 2010), "Tea party's Judson Phillips defends essay attacking congressman for being Muslim", Washington Post