A Muddled Definition of Islamophobia Undermines Real Efforts to Combat Bigotry

Yesterday, the British parliament debated a proposed definition of Islamophobia, one that would have potential legal ramifications. To the British Muslim writer Ed Husain, the term is itself a flawed one, often employed in such a way as to detract from serious efforts to counter the very real problem of anti-Muslim bigotry in the UK. He argues, in a brief submitted to the House of Commons, against adopting the definition:

[B]y officially [recognizing] the offense of “Islamophobia,” we open the door to the worst consequences. The German judge who refused to grant a Muslim woman a divorce from her abusive husband in 2007 did so on the grounds that [his behavior] was culturally acceptable and sanctioned by the Quran. Many more such incidents will become normal for fear of accusations of racism and Islamophobia. . . . As a Muslim, I could be branded an “Islamophobe” and prosecuted, possibly jailed, for questioning interpretations of the Quran that continue to discriminate against women in regard to violence, divorce, custody, or inheritance.

Among the muddled thinking behind the creation of the term “Islamophobia,” writes Husain, is a flawed parallel with anti-Semitism:

[While] anti-Semitism [is] based on untruths and . . . directed against a specific people, Islamophobia is about ideas, beliefs, and attitudes. [Furthermore], the Jewish population in Britain is around 280,000, while the Muslim population is around three million. Jews are not an evangelical or proselytizing community, while an increasingly visible number of Muslim activists in Britain are hell-bent on mass conversions to their brand of hardline Islam. To shield this phenomenon from scrutiny for fear of insult or consequence is to lose the battle of ideas before we even begin.

Anti-Semitism, [moreover], is based on outright fabrications that have haunted Europe for centuries: the historical specter of blood libels, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the lie of Jewish conspiracies. However, the “phobia” of Islam is based on real acts of violence that have been committed and justified in the name of the religion in opposition to the moderate Islam practiced by hundreds of millions around the globe. In 2015, nearly three- quarters of terrorist attacks were perpetrated by the global Islamist movements. . . .

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Read more at Spectator

More about: Anti-Semitism, Islamism, Islamophobia, United Kingdom

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy