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


What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy