Before I begin I would like to state that the purpose of this article is not to enable people of competing belief systems (namely Christianity and Judaism) to assume that their convictions are somehow at a higher standing, vindicated of their destructive elements or otherwise victimized. This piece is not meant to score one for the good guys and lay one on the brown baddies.
Islamophobia is real and it is the byproduct of the post 9/11 world in which we live in. I recently came across this video while procrastinating on YouTube so I thought I would share with you. The clip is from the ABC show What Would You Do?
You will notice that while some of the costumers in the experiment sided with the Muslim girl the majority remained silent or even joined in the abuse. You might feel sympathetic, you might even feel angry and you have every right to. But should we react in a similar fashion when Islam as a religion is criticized by public intellectuals? Should we simply label anyone who criticizes Islam a racist Islamophobe?
Islamophobia can also be imagined and it is a byproduct of the knee-jerk politically hyper-sensitive atmosphere surrounding Islam. In this clip, famous atheist Sam Harris is speaking about the violent fundamentals of Islam.
Is Islam a religion of peace? This is not a question that should automatically result in scorn. It is a perfectly legitimate question which every single freethinking humanist should be entitled to ask. Is it racist for one to merely state the fact that the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death?
The point is that our reaction to Islamophobia should be more nuanced.
Clearly there exists a fine line between Islamophobia and critical analysis of Islam. But most often the critical analysis is lost in the language of hyper-sensitivity. For me this is a lazy reaction which scarifies critical thinking for the sanctimonious feeling one gets when proudly proclaiming support of multiculturalism. “they have their ways and I have mine” “oh don’t say that!!!! That’s Racist/Islamophobic etc.” If you fancy yourself a free and rational thinker these responses should not be convincing, you must have the courage to acknowledge the fact that much like any other religion, Islam is subject to criticism.
More importantly however there are many Muslims as well as ex-Muslim voices in the Muslim world and abroad, that wish to engage in the critique. I once asked one of my TAs who identified herself as a feminist to give me her opinion on Ayaan Hirshi Ali. She said that while she liked her works she did not particularly appreciate the” vitriolic tone” she uses to critique Islam. But how could a white middle aged feminist living in the west possibly understand the hatred that Ali feels? She has certainly not lived the life of a Muslim woman and yet she felt vindicated in her claim that Ali was not using nice words in relation to Islam. Indeed the western observer that is exposed to the Islamophobia debate must understand that Islamophobia can also work as a weapon to censor descent from within and should not be so easily accepted.
I leave you with this clip of Hirshi Ali debating Avis Lewis on the nuances of Islamophobia: