Jul 242012
 

Here is a nasty article by Owen Jones in the Independent:

“Islamophobia – for Muslims, read Jews…. Imagine our alarm if nearly half the UK population said they believed that ‘there are too many Jews’”.

What is nasty about this argument is that it (probably deliberately) conflates “race” and “religion”. And then it uses the race-related experiences of Jews to try to defend the indefensible use of the charge of Islamophobia.

Let’s remind ourselves of some reasons why racism is wrong:

  • A person’s race, if determined by ancestry and/or genetics, says nothing about the values of that person. Without further information, all that can be said is that they are a human being.
  • You can’t change your race.

Leading to obvious statements about religion:

  • One thing common to most religions, and certainly Islam, is that it dictates some of a person’s values, not necessarily for the good.
  • You can change your religion, and/or you can avoid indoctrinating your children with bad features of your religion.
  • This means that it is reasonable, and often important, to criticise someone’s religion, with the implication that they should change it, avoid acting on it in full, and avoid contaminating others with it.

The Holocaust wasn’t primarily about Judaism, the religion of many Jews. You didn’t escape the gas chambers if you had Jewish ancestry but claimed not to practice Judaism. Persecution was primarily about race. (And persecution, rather than criticism, is anyway wrong even for religions).

Sikhs and Jews have a close linkage between race and religion. (They are ethnoreligious groups, not proselytizing religions). Care must always be taken to be clear whether a criticism relates to the religion or the race, and typically there are no valid criticisms of their respective races. Neither of them should be compared in discussion with Muslims or Christians, because neither Islam nor Christianity has a link to race. (They are proselytizing religions). There are Muslims and Christians among nearly all racial groups however those are defined.

So it would be more plausible to say:

“Islamophobia – for Muslims, read Christians…. Imagine our alarm if nearly half the UK population said they believed that ‘there are too many Christians’”.

But even that has obvious faults! The starting point is “Religions are hobbies“. If everyone concerned treated religions as the hobbies they really are, much of  the fuss about Islam and Christianity (and for that matter Judaism and Sikhism) would go away. Now see what the above statement becomes:

“Imagine our alarm if nearly half the UK population said they believed that ‘there are too many Christians claiming privileges that other hobbies don’t have’”.

But lots of people in the UK believe precisely that! As well as believing:

“There are too many Muslims claiming privileges that other hobbies don’t have”.

Use of the word “Islamophobia” is typically a way of censoring criticism of the unenlightened nature of Islam. Islam “in its natural state” is at best medieval and at worst intolerant and barbaric. It is incompatible with human rights and with the 21st century. An attack on Sharia Law is typically justified, however much some people favour it. But some people don’t want the evidence and analysis of this to be pointed out.

Further reading

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