By Haroon Siddiqui
September 18, 2011
What’s said and tolerated about Muslims and Islam is not about other people and their religions. Self-restraint is also missing when violating the privacy and dignity of Muslims, disproportionately. Their every move and word is parsed, to nail them for some real or imagined radicalism.
Our public discourse has been allowed to be hijacked by those whipping up fear of Muslims and Islam.
Islamophobia cannot be censored out. But it should be subject to the critical scrutiny of a democracy. Often it is not. So it feasts on wild accusations, double standards and being happily disconnected from reality, even logic. Here’s how.
• Collective guilt
Islamophobes hold that all Muslims are responsible for the actions of some. Told that this is absurd, they take another tack: Yes, not all Muslims are terrorists but most terrorists these days are Muslims, so all Muslims must answer for Muslim terrorists anywhere.
It is also said that Muslims do bad deeds because of their religion, while others do so for other reasons.
It follows that Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik and Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber, are not representative of Christianity but Major Nadal Hasan, who killed 13 fellow Americans, is of Islam. Pastor Terry Jones of Florida, the Qur’an burner, is not representative of 311 million Americans, but every ignorant mullah is symptomatic of 1.3 billion Muslims.
• Double standards
In the book of Islamophobes, the Qur’an is “violent” but the Bible is not. And Islam is not a religion but rather an ideology, a “fascist” one, whose followers are “Islamo-fascists.”
Even if it can be proven that their ideas are similar to fascism – a very European construct – they would be Muslim fascists, not Islamic ones.
Anti-Muslim demagoguery is free speech but anti-Western nonsense is hate-mongering.
The minority of Muslims who believed that 9/11 was an American-Israeli inside job were conspiracy theorists, but the 70 per cent of Americans who believed that Saddam Hussein had a hand in 9/11 were patriots.
Critics of Islam, such as Geert Wilders from Holland, should be welcomed in Canada but those who dare question Western policies, such as British MP George Galloway, must be denied visas.
All or most mosques are controlled by hateful imams brainwashing the faithful to be “fundamentalists” “radicals,” and “jihadists.” No proof is offered.
It is also said that many Muslim institutions are funded by Saudi money. The premise of the allegation is that while it is good for America to take billions of dollars from the Saudis for armaments, it is bad for Muslim institutions to get a fraction of that – if they are indeed getting it.
It is said that Muslims cannot integrate. But studies show otherwise, especially in the U.S. where they are among the most educated and are among the top earners. The ones not doing well are in countries where they face the most discrimination, such as France and Germany. Polls in Europe, U.S. and Canada also show that Muslim values are no different than those of other groups.
Twenty-three American states have taken legislative steps to stop the sharia, Muslim personal law, that’s not coming.
Lest we snicker at Americans, Ontarians in 2006 stopped the sharia that wasn’t coming, either. In 2007, the Quebec village of Herouxville banned the stoning of women that had a zero chance of happening there.
In 2009, the Swiss banned minarets when there are only four in their country and many more are unlikely to be erected.
All such measures are not to be taken literally but rather symbolically, a reflection of mass hysteria.
• Clever tactics
Islamophobes claim victimhood — that their courageous truth-telling is hindered by political correctness, even as they command increasing media coverage.
They say they are not against Muslims or Islam, only against “Islamists” and “Islamism,” “Islamicism” and “political Islam” – terms that can mean anything their users want them to mean.
“Like anti-Semites and racists, who protest they are not against Jews or blacks, Islamophobes are the first to protest that they’re not Islamophobic,” says John Esposito, professor of religion at Georgetown University and co-editor of Islamophobia (Oxford Press, 2011).
Islamophobes also enlist Muslims who are highly critical of fellow Muslims and Islam. These few individuals are used to discredit the religious beliefs and practices of a majority of Muslims. This is akin to citing a handful of oddball Catholics or Jews to rationalize discrimination against all Catholics and Jews.