We have detailed a lot of anti-Muslim bigotry on the religious right-wing, but lest anyone think the religious right has a monopoly on Islamophobia, rest assured that some people on the left-wing have their own reasons for stereotyping and scapegoating Muslims. This is what we find in the latest hit piece by Pascal Bruckner, one of the nouveaux (“new”) French philosophers who defends loons like Ayan Hirsi Ali.
A common talking-point ceaselessly echoed in the Islamophobic blogosphere is that the term “Islamophobia” is part of a draconian conspiracy to silence anti-Muslim whistle-blowing. For example, the vitriolic hate site BareNakedIslam has a catch phrase, “It isn’t Islamophobia when they really ARE trying to kill you!” by which they imply that Islam and every Muslim wants to kill you. In this fashion, Bruckner begins with an incredibly sweeping claim:
Islamophobia was invented to silence those Muslims who question the Koran and who demand equality of the sexes.
At the end of the 1970s, Iranian fundamentalists invented the term “Islamophobia” formed in analogy to “xenophobia”. The aim of this word was to declare Islam inviolate. Whoever crosses this border is deemed a racist. This term, which is worthy of totalitarian propaganda, is deliberately unspecific about whether it refers to a religion, a belief system or its faithful adherents around the world.
We imagine a dim room full of bearded Iranian clerics sinisterly plotting to introduce Islamophobia into the Western lexicon to advance their insidious totalitarian agenda. In reality, far from being “deliberately unspecific,” Islamophobia has been defined by Runnymede Trust as “an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination.” It has been accepted by the United Nations and numerous government officials. Countless manifestations of Islamophobia are documented and recognized. But Bruckner dismisses all the stereotypes, prejudice, and hostility being thrown at Muslims as figments of our imagination. That is certainly shocking news to Columbia University Press and victims of the Bosnian Genocide.
Islamophobia was an important driving force behind the latest legally recognized genocide in Europe. According to Dr. Norman Cigar at the Strategic Studies Institute, the Serbians’ Islamophobic propaganda was necessary to justify the genocide:
In particular, these [Serbian] intellectuals have been instrumental in establishing and cementing an in-group/out-group dichotomy between the Muslims and the Serbs based on stereotypes, a fact which has been central to forming the environment and establishing the legitimacy for much of the violence that occurred.
[Qureshi, E., & Sells, M. A. (2003). The new crusades: Constructing the Muslim enemy. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 314]
It is precisely this “in-group/out-group” dichotomy promoted by Islamophobes, anti-Semites, racists, and other bigots that leads to so much civil strife and violence, including genocide. But despite this recent ugly European history, nowhere in his article does Bruckner acknowledge that bigotry against Muslims is a real issue. This is a classic example of Runnymede’s sixth point in their comprehensive definition of Islamophobia: criticism of the West made by Muslims is rejected out of hand.
Nevertheless, Bruckner wants us to believe that everyone who uses the term Islamophobia is simply an agent in the service of Ayatollah Khomeini. Perhaps Bruckner believes former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was secretly working for the Mullahs when he concisely summarized the issue:
When a new word enters the language, it is often the result of a scientific advance or a diverting fad. But when the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia.
In any case, Bruckner hinges his argument on the false premise that Islamophobia targets normal criticism of Islam rather than prejudice and hostility towards Islam. In fact, Muslims largely accept normal criticism of Islam as part of religious freedom. The Quran says:
There is no compulsion in religion. (2:256)
If it had been your Lord’s will, they would all have believed – all who are on earth. Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe? (10:99)
Certainly, people who choose not to practice Islam are not Islamophobic. Normal criticism of Islam is acceptable in a modern pluralistic society, as is normal criticism of any religion or ideology. Muslims, like Jews and Christians, have likewise debated and reformed traditional laws on apostasy. However, what is unacceptable in our pluralistic society is spreading hate, intolerance, discrimination, stereotypes, and prejudice. Ignoring this important point, Bruckner pretends the term “Islamophobia” has nothing to do with anti-Muslim hate, anti-Muslim violence, or religious discrimination. He sums up his beef:
The term “Islamophobia” serves a number of functions: it denies the reality of an Islamic offensive in Europe all the better to justify it; it attacks secularism by equating it with fundamentalism. Above all, however, it wants to silence all those Muslims who question the Koran, who demand equality of the sexes, who claim the right to renounce religion, and who want to practice their faith freely and without submitting to the dictates of the bearded and doctrinaire. It follows that young girls are stigmatised for not wearing the veil, as are French, German or English citizens of Maghribi, Turkish, African or Algerian origin who demand the right to religious indifference, the right not to believe in God, the right not to fast during Ramadan. Fingers are pointed at these renegades, they are delivered up to the wrath of their religions communities in order to quash all hope of change among the followers of the Prophet.
Let me get the conspiracy theory straight: Islamophobia was invented by Iranian fundamentalists to wage the Eurabia stealth jihad (“Islamic offensive”) and attack secularism, but “above all,” wants to silence any criticism of Islam and prevent any Islamic reform. As we’ve already pointed out, this is completely fabricated nonsense; long on confident presumptuous claims, short on supporting evidence.
Furthermore, Bruckner cares so much about Muslim women being stigmatized for not wearing the veil, but this so-called liberal democrat curiously has no concern for the religious rights of Muslim women who choose to veil out of modesty. It seems the right of people to reject religion is very important to Bruckner, but the right of people to practice religion, not so much. Liberal democracy for you but not for them?
Even the French President has somehow been fooled by the treacherous hidden hand of the Mullahs. He says:
Did not the French president himself, never one to miss a blunder – not compare Islamophobia with Antisemitism? A tragic error.
Of course, the comparison between Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism is perfectly valid. Yet strangely Bruckner, allegedly an enlightened freedom-loving liberal democrat and champion of reason, believes dehumanization of Jews is wrong (and it definitely is) but dehumanization of Muslims is… well, nothing to be concerned about. Rather, we are told Islamophobia is a term meant to “quash all hope of change” instead of protect innocent people from the majority’s bigotry. He concludes:
“Islamophobia” is one of the words that we urgently need to delete from our vocabulary.
Mr. Bruckner, the enlightened liberal democracy I know stands by the human and religious rights of all people with the goal of building a tolerant, pluralistic, fair, and peaceful open society. However, the “enlightenment” you peddle is a poor intellectual articulation of nativist tribalistic (us-versus-them) in-group/out-group populism which thoroughly, and ironically, mirrors the rigid fundamentalism you claim to be against.
In my estimation, you belong in the category of self-serving pseudo-liberal loons like Bill Maher.