The term “Islamophobia” conflates “the persecution of believers, which is a crime,” with “the critique of religion, which is a right,” argues the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner. As such, the word serves to “impose silence on Westerners” and as “a weapon of enforcement against liberal Muslims.” To make matters worse, Bruckner writes, leftists in Europe and America have subsumed “Islamophobia” into the broader rubric of racism, thus performing a “transubstantiation of religion into race.” And then there is the idea that Islamophobia has somehow supplanted anti-Semitism:
Already in 1994, in Grenoble, France, young Muslims, marching to protest the government ban of the Islamic headscarf, wore armbands featuring a yellow Islamic crescent—an allusion to the yellow star that French Jews were made to wear during the [German] occupation—against a black background and the line: “When will it be our turn?” . . . And it was the fundamentalist preacher Tarik Ramadan, for a time an adviser to the British prime minister Tony Blair, who explained that the situation of Muslims in Europe was like that of Jews in the 1930s. The implication is clear: to criticize Islam is to prepare nothing less than a new Holocaust.
Why this Islamic desire to be considered Jewish? The answer is clear: to achieve pariah status. But the analogy is doubly false. First, anti-Semitism was never about the Jewish religion as such but rather about the existence of Jews as a people. Even an unbelieving Jew was detested by anti-Semites, due to his family name and his group identity. And second, at the end of the 1940s, there were no groups of extremist Jews slitting the throats of priests in churches, as happened at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in France in July 2016, the deed of two young jihadists; there were no Jews throwing bombs in train stations, shopping malls, or airports, or driving trucks into crowds.
There is thus a third anti-Semitism that, since 1945, must be added to [anti-Semitism’s] two classic forms, Christian and nationalist: the envy of the Jew as victim, the paragon of the disaster of the Shoah. This Jew thus becomes both model and obstacle for the Islamist; he is seen as usurping a position that by right belongs to Africans, Palestinians, and Muslims. To make oneself the object of a new Holocaust, however imaginary, is to grab hold of the maximal misfortune and to put oneself in the most desirable place—that of the victim who escapes all criticism.