I have long thought that Islamophobia is a word in search of a thing, merely a thought-paralysing device to discourage people from criticising or even investigating Islam. That being so this is an apt definition:
“Islamophobia is the state of knowing more than one should about Islam”.
The word should have died of embarrassment long ago, but it hasn’t. In fact it has gone from strength to strength and now the great and good of the land have taken the trouble to produce a new substantive definition:
“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of
Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
It appeared in the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims (APPG) Nov 2018 report
One important question not addressed in it is why does Islam need its own special word when Hinduism and Sikhism do not?
Since the major populations in Britain of adherents of the three faiths originate from the same region (India/Pakistan) would it not be reasonable to ask whether the undoubted ill feeling which exists towards Islam and Muslims, but not towards Hinduism and Hindus or Sikhism and Sikhs, has something to do with Islam and Muslims?
Another question is if Islamophobia really exists and deserves examining then why not its obvious counterpart Kafirphobia?
Considering the many hateful sentiments about non-Muslims expressed by Mohammed himself in the Koran, and how seriously devout Muslims take his example, perhaps it might have been worth considering the possibility that prejudice is far from a one way street. For one example, in 2012 Lord Nazir Ahmed, a member of the APPG himself, blamed a Jewish conspiracy for a driving conviction in Britain. For another, here is the account of the racism encountered in the Muslim community of Glasgow by a half Scottish half Pakistani girl, and the racism she did not encounter after she left and lived among indigenous Glaswegians.
The really shocking thing about the report though is that after publication it soon became clear that it had been heavily influenced, even largely taken over, by Islamist activists and their allies seeking always to put Muslims in the position of victims of a hostile British society. As we shall see, the parliamentarians of the APPG were either duped or complicit in the process.
But to start at the beginning:
The APPG introduce themselves (p4)
“The Group was established to highlight the aspirations and challenges facing British
Muslims; to celebrate the contributions of Muslim communities to Britain and to
investigate prejudice, discrimination and hatred against Muslims in the UK.”
So they declare their position at the outset. The existence of prejudice and hatred against Muslims is accepted uncritically with no thought given to the possibility of prejudice and hatred on the part of Muslims against non-Muslims. Some people are of the opinion that the former is largely a response to the latter.
Executive Summary (p9)
The group reassure us that:
“…the aim of establishing a working definition of Islamophobia has neither been
motivated by, nor is intended to curtail, free speech or criticism of Islam as a religion.
Evidence read and heard by the group clearly delineated between the desirability of
criticism, debate and free discussion of Islam as a religion – by Muslims and
non-Muslim participants in the inquiry – and the victimisation of Muslims through the
targeting of expressions of Muslimness to deny or impair their fundamental freedoms
and human rights.”
Here we run straight into a major problem with the APPG’s definition, the concept of Muslimness. The problem of defining one abstraction, Islamophobia, is solved by referring it to another, novel, abstraction. But Muslimness is defined nowhere in the report, only supposed examples of it are given such as skin colour, clothing, dietary rules and the “radical otherness of so-called Muslim practices” including FGM, forced marriage, veiling, electoral fraud, the imposition of shariah law and child sexual exploitation (p46).
This is a sorry list which does nothing to clarify matters. Where are the main objections to Islam, its supremacism and jihad? Clearly a new consultation process and report will be necessary sometime in the future to define Muslimness.
Even if we accept a common-sense idea of Muslimness, like those we use for Englishness or Jewishness – adequate for everyday but not for legal or educational purposes – there is still the massive problem of Islamic duality. Islam comes in two distinct forms, the Islam of Mecca and the Islam of Medina, shown graphically here.
In Mecca Mohammed, while not exactly friendly to non-Muslims, left the violent retribution for unbelief up to Allah. In Medina he became a political and military figure who took matters into his own hands and imposed Allah’s will on his neighbours by warfare. Both were expressions of Muslimness in their time and both find their supporters today. Most people couldn’t care less what Muslims eat or wear but do care about jihad which they see on their streets every few weeks in some new atrocity or other. So, can the APPG tell us, is jihad an expression of Muslimness or not? To do that they would need to go deeply into the theology of Islam and even then would not be able to agree, echoing the arguments raging within and without Islam around the globe.
Chapter 2 Arriving At A Working Definition (p23)
Chapter 2 takes us through the evolving definitions of Islamophobia from the famous 1997 version of the Runnymede Trust through to the APPG one.
Before we visit some of them I have to ask, do MP’s use terms like “intersectional” or “essentialist tropes” or “othering” or “Orientalism” which are scattered throughout the heart of the report, chapters 2 and 3? No they do not. These terms are almost exclusively used by postmodernist whatever-studies zealots and professional Islamophobia hunters such as Dr Chris Allen of Leicester University’s Center for Hate Studies.
This made me wonder, did the APPG members actually write those chapters or did they outsource them to someone “more suitable”? That is how they read both in the language used and the contributors chosen. We will see later how my suspicions were confirmed.
Here is a selection, from the report, of past definitions, starting with the Runnymede Trust one from their Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All (1997):
”…a useful shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore, to fear
or dislike all or most Muslims.”
A fairly modest start, confining itself just to Islam and Muslims.
The Council of Europe report, Islamophobia and its consequences on Young People (2005) added racism, discrimination and human rights to the mix:
”…the fear of or prejudiced viewpoint towards Islam, Muslims and matters pertaining to
them…[taking] the shape of daily forms of racism and discrimination or more violent
forms, Islamophobia is a violation of human rights.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (2007) added baseless hostility, unequal treatment, victimhood and exclusion:
”…a baseless hostility and fear vis-à-vis Islam, and as a result, a fear of, and aversion
towards, all Muslims or the majority of them. [Islamophobia] also refers to the practical
consequences of this hostility in terms of discrimination, prejudices, and unequal
treatment of which Muslims (individuals and communities) are victims and their exclusion
from major political and social spheres”.
The 2008 report from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Observatory on Islamophobia went with most of the above plus intolerance and stereotyping:
”…an irrational or very powerful fear or dislike of Islam and the feeling as if the Muslims
are under siege and attack. Islamophobia however goes much beyond this and
incorporates racial hatred, intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping. The
phenomenon of Islamophobia in its essence is a religion-based resentment.”
The writer of Chapter 2 commented:
“This definition introduces the intersectional nature of Islamophobia by incorporating
‘racial hatred’ as a defining feature of anti-Muslim hostility.”
From our point of view it is worth noting that in 1990 the OIC produced the Cairo Declaration which effectively reduces Human Rights to Sharia Rights (see Article 24, “All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari’ah”). It is well known that Sharia epitomises intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and religion-based resentment…but only of non-Muslims so that’s ok.
In 2017 The Runnymede Trust revisited the issue with their “Islamophobia: Still A Challenge for Us All” report and baldly stated:
“Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism.”
And, to remind ourselves, in 2018 the APPG added the novel term Muslimness:
“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of
Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
How has something about Islam and Muslims morphed into something about racism and Muslimness? Why does this definition make no mention of either Islam or fear of any kind, let alone the irrational kind, that the word “phobia” usually refers to?
What we have here is definition inflation, and it is possible because the word has no real meaning beyond what the definer wishes it to mean. The stripes on a tiger are limited by reality. The stripes on a unicorn are limited only by the imagination of the believer in unicorns. One thing we can be sure of is that this is not the end of the story. No doubt some Hate Studies scholar or Islamist activist will be tacking something new and unpleasant onto it within a year or two. How about fascism? No one likes fascism do they? Be my guest. I don’t even ask for a credit.
Here is one last point about the definition. Islamophobia “is a type of racism”. That’s a bit vague isn’t it? What type of racism do they mean? In fact they are talking about cultural racism. It crops up throughout the report like essentialist tropes but I suspect the APPG are a bit coy about presenting such an obvious oxymoron to the general public. They might start wondering whether the Emperor is fully clothed.
In the wonderful world of postmodernism, where words can mean whatever you want them to mean, the term makes perfect sense. Most ordinary people think racism has to involve race but that is just because they are too thick to appreciate the higher understanding. Here you go…all explained on p41:
”Race is not about phenotype, race exists first and foremost in the eyes of the racist.
Race is a group that is defined by the person that makes a generalisation.”
That is why thinking poorly of scholars of Islamophobia is racist.
Chapter 3 Our Findings (p27)
I will refrain from going into the contents of chapter 3 in detail. It is there in the link above for those with a taste for the intellectual equivalent of bog snorkelling. Suffice it to say that it consists of wall to wall grievance-airing by Muslim activist groups and their academic supporters. The only counterview comes in the form of a quote by Douglas Murray, an example of what not to think, to the effect that “the fear of Islam is not irrational but in fact, ‘supremely rational’, because Islam can be both violent and extremist”.
At this point I asked myself, who set the agenda here, who selected the contributors and actually wrote the report, in particular chapters 2 and 3? Checking the Acknowledgements section I found that the group gave thanks to the secretariat with particular mention of Dr Antonio Perra. Who he? This article shows him to be one of those hard left academics who hate everything about Britain, a clear Britophobe in fact.
Not only that but he was until recently a member of MEND, a group described by the Henry Jackson Society as “Islamists posing as civil Libertarians”. He is just the kind of person who adds fuel to my Islamophobic fantasy of an alliance between the Left and Islam designed to undermine Western civilisation.
Andrew Gilligan adds details both about Dr Perra and about a particular member of the secretariat:
“One of the APPG’s secretariat, Muhbeen Hussain, is from Rotherham, where in 2015 he
organised the local Muslim community to boycott the police for their ‘Islamophobic’
behaviour after the child-sex grooming scandal.”
At this point I thought it no longer necessary to engage with the report on its own terms. It is clearly discredited by its associations. We now know who set the agenda but who put Perra and Hussain in place? Could it have been Baroness Warsi who has always got along fine with MEND? Just asking.
The APPG group have clearly been duped at best by a determined and underhand attempt to portray British Muslims as eternal victims of their host country, thereby driving a wedge between the two. That is an Islamist goal and the APPG have aided it with their nonsensical new definition of Islamophobia.