There has been a bit in the news over the last week or so about Islam. There was an incident in London recently where a planned meeting was cancelled due to threats by a Moslem with a camera phone, for example (I’m mobile, otherwise I would link that story). And today there is some talk about what Karen Armstrong has said about Islam, one example can be found at Jerry Coyne’s blog website.
A word which is often used in such conversations is Islamophobia. It has been a politically charged word for years now, especially after 9/11, and pops up again with the perpetuation of Islam in the news, especially in the context of violence, oppression of women, and issues surrounding sharia law and secular laws.
A few years ago, for example, the lovely man that is Rick Santorum (gag) came to speak at the University of Pennsylvania (at the Hillel building, if I remember correctly) during some “Islamophobia week” (or something like that) in order to speak about the horrors of Islam and the wonderful alternative of the truly peaceful and wonderful Christianity.
(I threw up a little in my mouth while I typed that)
During the Q&A, I challenged Santorum on this distinction by pointing out that Jeebus (I may have actually said “Jesus” as to not confuse him) and Allah were both the God of Abraham, and by pointing out that the god of Islam was so awful, he was ignoring not only that it is the same basic god concept as JHWH/Jesus, but much of the Bible demonstrates the equality of atrocity of his own god. How could he justify the harsh criticism of Islam given the relatedness to his own god and similar attrocities in his own scripture?
Let’s just say that this question was not received well by Mr. Santorum. He became visibly flustered and angry and both challenged me to argue such a “ridiculous” case while not really allowing me to do so nor answer the question at all. He rejected the premise of the question and called me an idiot or something similar It was pretty much what I expected.
So, back to Islamophobia.
See, I don’t think this is the right word, at least not from my point of view. I am not afraid of Islam. I am concerned what Islam may do if it is allowed to influence policy and law in the West (its influence in the Middle East and elsewhere is already problematic). But I am not afraid of the religion nor its adherents.
What I have is an extreme dislike of Islam, bordering on hate. I find it an ignorance-perpetuating, women-oppressing (men-oppressing, as well), violence-causing, and ultimately dangerous ideology. I hate what it has done to much of the world, creating a repressive and restrictive way of life for millions of people.
It is a faith, much like Christianity, which asks people in the age of technology and science to believe ancient superstition on pain of not mere death, which is infinitely more humane than that which it does offer, but on pain of eternal torture. It is a disgusting and anti-human (anti-life!) ideology not worthy of our reverence nor our tolerance.
Yes, people have the right to be Moslems. And rather than hate them I feel pity for them. It too often makes women into cattle, men into misogynists, and all of us into slaves–Islam means ‘submission’ after all.
So no, Islamophobia is not the right word. We should not fear Islam, we should see it as our enemy. Not in the way that we make war with Moslems (the Ummah), but in the way that we don’t allow its doctrines, superstitions, or laws creep any closer to the rest of the world. The people under Allah’s metaphorical thumb are victims, and those who seek to expand Islam are the most affected by this virus.
I am anti-Islam. I fear it not, so I am no Islamophobe.