Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Islamophobia-What is it?

Cross-posted by gary Fouse

Since I have been periodically accused of being Islamophobic, I thought it might be a good idea to examine the term and try to define it while engaging in a little self-introspection myself. I am fully aware that as much as I decry anti-Semitism-largely by Muslim voices-that I lose credibility if I engage in a similar sentiment against Muslims in general.

The dictionary term for phobia ranges from a fear of something to a strong dislike of something. In everyday English, we use the two definitions pretty much interchangeably, but there is a strong difference when we are talking about fellow human beings. For example, I have a phobia for high places and sharks. Yet, I don't feel hatred in my heart for sharks.

So what exactly does it mean if a person is Islamophobic, and is it a damning label to put on a person considering the situation in the world today and the undeniable behavior of many (but not all) Muslims?

First, let's take the issue of fear. When I was a kid, I had a healthy fear of the schoolyard bullies. It didn't mean I was a hateful person. Similarly, are there places in the world where non-Muslims live in fear of Muslims? Undoubtedly, there are. Take the Ba'hai believers in Iran, who are truly persecuted by the Muslim majority. How about Jews, what few are left in the Middle East (that were not driven out)? What about Europeans, Jew or non-Jew who fear wandering into a Muslim precinct in a major European city, like Malmo, London or Paris? Are they to be condemned for being racist or Islamophobic because they have a genuine fear of Muslim militants? What about Americans after 9-11? I think some degree of fear is justified given the things that are going on in the world today. I choose not to be afraid here in America or when I go to Europe, but that's just me.

This leads to the next question: Are we here in the West anti-Muslim per se? Or how about in India in the wake of Mumbai? Are we afflicted with the curse of racism, in this case a dislike or hatred of Muslims due to world events? Let's not forget that until about 1970, we in America never gave the Muslim world a thought, did we?

This takes us to one central question: Do we have a problem with the Islamic religion-as a religion- or only as a political ideology? I do maintain that aside from being a religion, Islam is also a political ideology. It is a faith that by its own definition is designed to govern every aspect of a person's life. It is a faith that seems to believe in a political system of theocracy-though countries like Turkey have been able to resist that idea. This is what the whole idea of Shariah law is about.

As a religion per se, I think most people have split thinking on that point. On the one point, Americans traditionally believe in freedom of religion. Historically, we have pretty much gotten it right in that regard. Today, there are Islamic mosques all over the country. When it comes to the religion itself, few of us have any problem with people praying to the same God we do-if it's five times a day, all the more reason to respect it. If Muslims are devout to the point that their religion is the central point of their lives, that is to be respected as well. Islamic standards of modesty and chastity applied to their women including the hijab are no problem as long as the women choose to follow those rules. We can respect that.

Yet, there are certain aspects of the religion that we see in the Koran, the life of the Prophet Mohammed, and references to non-Muslims that we find disturbing. Yet, if a Muslim is willing to live peacefully side by side with non-Muslims in mutual respect-as millions are-then we can deal with that as long as they don't encroach on our own free societies. When it comes to issues of stoning women for adultery, real or perceived, or violent jihad, then we need to stand firm and defend our values and our freedoms in our own countries.

I think a good analogy would be to go back to when we were fighting World War II against the Germans. We did not feel we were fighting against the German people, rather we were fighting against the Nazi ideology. Anyone who has met and dealt with a number of Muslims knows that there are many who want to live in peace with other peoples. They must be encouraged, welcomed and supported.

When it comes to Islam itself, the real danger that we perceive is Islam as a political ideology that many of its adherents feel they need to impose on the rest of the world. The imposition of Islam-or any religion as a theocracy-is antithetical to the values of American and Western freedom and must be resisted at all costs. Today, there is no attempt by any religion-except Islam-to impose itself as a theocracy. Even in the Jewish state of Israel, other religions, including Islam, enjoy complete freedom of practice.

Aside from the obvious problem of Islamic terrorism and other related violence, it is undeniable that many Muslims in the West-especially in Western Europe- are not behaving in a manner befitting immigrants. That is not to say that all Muslim immigrants to the West are guilty of this. I have lived 8 years in Europe and go back every couple of years. I know that not all Muslims in the West are behaving badly. Yet, there is a significant element-especially in the UK-that is behaving atrociously. They are completely alienating themselves from the native populations. When I see images of British Muslims rioting in the streets, advocating violence, hurling insults at British troops returning from Iraq, I feel a sense of outrage. When I see American Muslims whether native born or immigrants, using anti-Semitic language directed at American Jews, I feel outraged. When I see the Muslim Student Associations on American universities bringing in speakers who not only condemn Israel, but America as well, I ask myself whose side they are on. And on that topic, let's be brutally frank. It is undeniable that many Muslims are driven by hatred toward those who are different from them.

Which begs the question: Are we suspicious of Muslims in the West? Let's be honest. Most of us are to a great extent. Many Americans have come to the conclusion that Islam is anything but a religion of peace. But does that mean that we are to reject and hate every Muslim we come into contact with? No. I interact with Muslims every day. I have no reason to feel negatively about them. I still believe that most Muslims can put aside teachings in the Koran that would put them at odds with Western values in the interest of living in harmony. For those who cannot, there is no place for them in our society.

Muslims and non-Muslims in the West must come to an understanding. Our tradition is to respect other religions and allow them to be practiced freely. Yet, it must be clearly understood that we in the West are rightfully concerned about terrorism and militant Islam. We will never give up our freedoms in the name of placating a minority religion-or a majority religion for that matter. Those that envision Shariah law in America will never achieve their goal. We will never tolerate so-called "honor killings" or any other practice that goes against our laws and constitutional rights. On that, there can be no compromise. If the Europeans choose to compromise their freedoms, shame on them. We will not.

For Muslims living in the West, the choice is theirs. They can become part of our society and accept our values, or they can live isolated and alienated from the mainstream, which clearly is not in their interest. I think they can do the former without giving up their religion or accepting our obvious vices. For those who choose to live in harmony and mutual respect, I would hope they are not subjected to "Islamophobia", if that is the correct term. However, for those who choose to spit in our eye, so to speak, Islamophobia is what they will encounter. As long as that Islamophobia is restricted to the haters, the militants, the terrorists, the Jihadists or whatever term you care to use, and not applied to decent, peaceful Muslims, I see no need to apologize for it.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. Only part I could take exception with is this part, "We will never give up our freedoms in the name of placating a minority religion-or a majority religion for that matter." Unfortunately, we have the equivalent of Chamberlain in office right now. Appeasement, is the go word for many on the left, and has been since 2 weeks after 9/11. "We need to understand them and what we've done to make them hate us." That kind of tripe is what made us vulnerable in the first place and will make us more vulnerable over the next 4 or 8 years.

    Other than that, keep preachin'.