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Islamophobia is a stupid word

For quite some while now, I have been meaning either to write this myself or to come across someone else writing this. Since the Australian blogger Russell Blackford beat me to it and I read him saying it this afternoon, here it now is:

Unfortunately, the impression has been created by many Muslim leaders that Islam seeks to control all aspects of individuals’ lives and does not shrink from using secular power to achieve its aim. We are all well aware of extreme examples in recent history, such as Afghanistan under the benighted Taliban regime. Until that fear is laid to rest, it is quite rational for the rest of us to fear Islam’s political ambitions – which is one reason why the word “Islamophobia” is so stupid. A phobia is an irrational fear, but secular Westerners actually have perfectly rational reasons to be at least wary of Islam …

In my experience there is nothing quite like the best sort of Australian academic or intellectual for calling bullshit bullshit.

Forgive me if someone has already said this exact thing here already. What many writers and commenters here have definitely said many times is that much of the art of the propagandist lies in the inventing of and the destruction of words. The bad guys invent bad words and destroy good ones. We good guys invent good words and destroy bad ones. And “islamophobia” is a very bad word indeed.

40 comments to Islamophobia is a stupid word

  • J

    Humph. No possible sophistry in the naming of beliefs can ever approach the ridiculous ‘pro-choice / pro-life’ debacle, so to be honest I don’t really care one way or the other at this point. Such wordsmithing is the fashion of our age, no more or less.

  • Nick M

    Whilst I agree to a certain extent with J and quite simply have no idea why it isn’t “pro-abortion/anti-abortion” I have to say that the x-phobia thing truly takes the biscuit.

    It makes no sense. I am by the conventional standard “Islamophobic” yet I do not recognize this in myself. I don’t like heights and I recognize that as an irrational fear but muslims? Hardly! I dislike Islam intensely but not irrationally. I have read the Qu’ran and studied Islamic texts critically (though admittedly from my own agnostic, empirically-based, rational, scientific viewpoint) and that’s why I can’t stick Islam. It isn’t a “phobia” – it is a rational conclusion made by a bright and educated individual.

    Now let’s look at another odd “phobia” – homophobia. This routinely gets cited as the cause of some gay bloke getting a kicking. This makes no sense either. Someone who is genuinely afraid of gay people would be the last person to start fights with them. Clearly, it is hatred and violence and not fear that drives such idiots.

    So my Islamophobia isn’t irrational and the queer-basher’s homophobia isn’t fear. So, let’s call time on this ludicrous linguistic construction.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Is Islamomisia any better?

  • Nick M

    Pa,
    Yes, that’s about right. I quite like that. I Googled the word and found Foehammer’s gaff. Is that where you got it Pa?

  • A bunch better term than Islamophobia: self-preservation.

    Lets face it not being too terribly keen on a religion that wants to forcibly convert, enslave and/or kill you is just that…self-preservation.

  • I would suggest that it qualifies as a phobia only if one meets two conditions:

    1) Actually fears some damage being done to him by muslims

    2) Does not live in an American prison (where there are black Muslims) nor in a heavily Islamic country

    The question is not whether or not there are Muslims that would like to harm us. Clearly, there are some who are dying to … literally.

    What strikes me as phobia is when people express the belief that our culture somehow faces an existential risk from theirs. That is when one knows that he is talking to somebody wrestling with an irrational fear.

    That thought that their third world nations are somehow going to establish a “global caliphate” by occasionally tricking some sucker into putting on a duct-tape and dynamite suit and wander into a building is, frankly, delusional to the extreme.

    Of course, you in England are in more danger than we Americans. This is mostly because there is not a single navy of note in the Middle East, but it is possible to make the trip to England (almost) overland. As I plot the route, the most direct way for Iran to get to you is as follows:
    Take over:
    * Turkey
    * Bulgaria
    * Serbia
    * Croatia
    * Austria
    * Germany
    * Belgium
    * England

    Now they could just as easily, I suppose, stop in Germany, and use her industrial plant to build themselves a navy, and then come after America, but I rather suspect that they would have a hard time, and will stick with the Iranian master plan of invading England.

    I know that the absolute barking madness of this scenario will not put the true Islamophobes at ease, since their fear is irrational, but I hope that those of you who have just been listening to Bush instead of thinking for yourselves will at least question what you’ve been told.

  • Paul Marks

    Sadly, for all the blunt truth speaking reputation of Australians, there is a P.C. movement (i.e. a censorship movement) alive and well in Austalia.

    For example, stories that depict a future threat from radical Islam (or as Brian and others might argue, mainstream Islam) are removed from the shelves of books stores after protests. But stories that show future oppression of Muslims in Australia (oppression by a Prime Minister who is made to look and sound rather like John Howard) are pushed at children in school (at the expense of the taxpayers).

    Even popular slang has to be P.C.

    For example, Australians talk of the “Lebs” when they refer to the rape gangs in Australian cities. But it is not Christian Lebanese immigrants (or rather children or grandchildren of immigrants) who make up these gangs.

  • manuel II paleologos

    Hmmm – you beat me to the “homophobia” comment. BBC4′s recent documentary about Jacques Brel accused him of this thoughtcrime, as if mild mockery of pretentious blokes with long hair were some kind of mental illness.

    I consider myself more of a moonbat-o-phobe myself; perhaps a lunachiropteraphobe? That’ll do.

  • Pa Annoyed

    Nick,

    No, from looking up the Greek word for hate, but yes, I’d vaguely recalled there was such an alternative word from sites like that one.

    But whether or not the word is etymologically accurate, the point of inventing any word for it is that labelling something makes it a lot easier to deceive people about it. The word concentrates on the hatred and draws attention away from the reasons for it. Saying it’s “Islamomisia” is a neat way of briefly derailing someone’s prepared Islamophobia spiel, but we don’t really want one word simply replacing the other. I prefer words like anti-dhimmitude, because it leads people to ask what the word means, which leads straight into a discussion of ahl al dhimma. I’ve occasionally used “kafir” or “kuffar” when talking to non-Muslims particularly for much the same reason. Explaining Islamomisia doesn’t lead so naturally into the reasons for the hatred, and people think they already know what Islamophobia means.

    In propaganda, labels and names for things are powerful. The idea is to restrict the language so that opposing ideas become unexpressible, even unthinkable, as language moulds thought. A commonly used word like that has all sorts of context that gets dragged in when you use it, so you can subtly convey an entire debate’s worth of nasty insinuation with a minimum of effort, which your opponent then has to spend ten minutes explaining why it isn’t applicable or accurate or why the word doesn’t mean what people think it means.

    In some ways it’s quite a clever word, so long as you understand its real purpose.

  • Nick, I found it too, and Islamotedium sounds almost as good.

  • Humph. No possible sophistry in the naming of beliefs can ever approach the ridiculous ‘pro-choice / pro-life’ debacle, so to be honest I don’t really care one way or the other at this point. Such wordsmithing is the fashion of our age, no more or less.

    Actually, I happen to think that that’s one of the few issues where the so-called “spin” is honest. Pro-choice is an accurate label for what that camp stands for: they want women to retain their right to choose whether or not to carry a child to term. Pro-life is an accurate label for the other camp as well: their primary concern is preventing murder. The terms can’t be “pro-abortion/anti-abortion” because the pro-abortion crowd isn’t so much in favor of women having abortions as they are of women retaining the right to have an abortion if they so choose. The real debate is about whether it should be legal (not really whether it should be done), but “pro-legal-abortion” is too much of a mouthful to use as a label. So I have no quarrel there. It’s terms like “welfare” and “affirmative action” and “social security” that get me worked up. The British have refreshingly honest terms for these things.

  • michael farris

    A student newspaper I was once associated with used the unwieldly but basically accurate “pro abortion rights” and “anti abortion rights”…

  • Eamon Brennan

    The suffix -phobia doesn’t necessarily mean either fear or irrational fear either. The dictionary defintion of the suffix points to either, fear or dislike, and makes no mention of it being irrational.

    The word “Phobia”, on the other hand is a specific medical term referring to an abnormal and irrational fear and/or aversion to something.

    So it is entirely correct to be described as Islamophobic if one has an intense dislike of Islam brought about by a rational process.

    All this courtesy of the Oxford dictionary. Viva vegetable matter and ink.

  • The medical term is the originalliteral one , and I always prefer those.

  • Eamon Brennan

    Alisa

    That doesn’t negate the fact that the word phobia and the suffix -phobia mean two different things.

  • That is true only if one takes the Oxford, or indeed any other dictionary, as gospel. I am not really arguing with you, just suggesting a certain interpretation that I happen to prefer:-)

  • I thought the new word of the day was ‘Islamocataphronesis‘…

  • Nick M

    Pa,
    You have given me much food for thought. Here’s the partially digested version…

    I think you’re right. “Anti-Dhimmitude” is what it’s really about. I am about to get blogging off my own bat and I already have a “Kufr (in Arabic) and proud” design for a T-shirt to go via cafe-press. Drop me a line and get it at cost.

    But that’s what it really is about. I was watching a show this evening about Orthodox Jews in Manchester (near enough my neck of the woods). Clearly they were somewhat odd but at no point did they suggest that any of their laws applied to anyone else.

    And that makes a big difference to me.

  • Paul Marks

    Quite so Nick M.

    And nor do the Orthodox hold that only Jews go to Heaven – any righteous gentile can go there (even an athiest – although an athiest might spend his first million years arguing everthing was an hallucination).

    “But then why do we obey the laws” as every Orthodox child asks sooner or later.

    “You do not think we keep the law for a REWARD do you?”

    “It is an HONOUR to keep the laws given to Moses……”

  • So it is entirely correct to be described as Islamophobic if one has an intense dislike of Islam brought about by a rational process.

    So, Eamon, if it is as you suggest, then how come it is being used pejoratively? It always is, so the speaker of the term appears not to be using your definition!

  • Eamon Brennan

    As I have pointed out Roger. It’s not “my definition”.

    The answer to your question should be obvious. Those using it perjoratively are merely making the same mistake.

  • So, Eamon, if it is as you suggest, then how come it is being used pejoratively? It always is, so the speaker of the term appears not to be using your definition!

    Yes, I agree. The suffix -phobia is meant to be pejorative. It implies an irrational fear. It is meant specifically to stack the deck against the idea that the alleged “sufferer”might have a good reason to oppose whatever it’s attached to. That, in fact, is why it has been created: to allow the user to avoid a rational debate on the issue he knows he would lose.

    I think “homophobia” is also an example of cardstacking, but to a different purpose. The focus there is much more on the psychological aspect of “phobia.” We’ve all had our Freud 101 and know that people are sometimes irrationally confrontational about things they secretly desire. So I’ve always wondered if the original intent there wasn’t to imply that the people who scream the loudest against homosexuals may be repressed homosexuals themselves. That’s certainly a tactic the gay rights people take in their jokes, anyway. The reason it’s cardstacking is because I think lots of gay rights activists use it to sidestep something they’d rather not talk about. Namely – if homosexuality is completely “natural,” as they often claim, then it might also be the case that disgust at homosexuality on the part of heterosexuals is “natural” in the same way, and should, by their logic, be tolerated as an “unchangeable” fact of life, part of a person’s genetic heritage. But they can’t allow that, for obvious reasons, hence the cardstacking.

  • nick g.

    How about a new word like ‘Fanatophobia’, a fear of fanatics of any kind? ‘Jihadophobia’?
    Anti-dhimmitude could be shortened to Dhimmiphobia, fear of being relegated to 2nd class status.

  • Nick M

    nick g,
    No! Dhimmiphobia suggests a fear of dhimmis who are quite clearly complete pussycats. It is, I would say, completely rational to fear jihad – indeed any religiously motivated war – so it can’t be a “phobia”. I was scrupulous about that one earlier. I appreciate that I suffer from acrophobia and get quite iffy up a ladder* but my fear of Islam is based on quite a different thing…

    Alisa,
    I also noticed Islamotedium. I rather like it. There is something remarkably tedious about Islam. Yesterday, whilst waiting to go buy my spade I saw a bit of a documentary about the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and it was old back then. Fortunately, Europe had hard lads back then (and thanks to the Poles for the relief of Vienna 1683, and Charles Martel’s Franks in 732).

    Paul,
    There was something else though. The orthodox Jews in the documentary were all very personable and had a sense of humour about all their “strange” laws. They had a capacity to see themselves as general society saw them and that is something I utterly fail to detect in Islam. It is though something that I have noted in every Jew I have ever met. It’s not the same with muslims – they do odd things but don’t appreciate that the rest of society might think them odd – instead they think everyone else ought to do it aswell. But there was something further as well. These orthodox Jews were happy and I fail to see that amongst muslims who are eternally annoyed about something.

    We Brits are told all the time by our media that we give Israel an easy ride yet we don’t. Instead we give King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia a fine welcome as a State Visit. I thought UKGov objected to the death penalty? It would appear that only applies if the client isn’t signing a deal for three wings of Typhoons. It would appear we’re not happy with extraditing folk to the USA on capital charges but we”re perfectly happy to deal with a regime that executed people last year for the crime of “sorcery” – be warned Mr Potter! We’re fine with the idea of Israel being an “apartheid” state but you seen the road sign to Mecca? You know the one that says “muslims only”?

    *I was absolutely fine paragliding and have never had a problem with planes, mind. When the laws of fluid dynamics (my erstwhile field) are obeyed I’m happy as a sand-boy. Whether this is due to my knowledge of compressible flow or due to the fact that my absolute love of flight (in every form – from paper darts to SR-71s) cancels everything else I don’t know. I just find words like “Boeing”, “Airbus” and “Embraer” reassuring because it means that I’m elevated by people who know advanced calculus and that’s a nice thought to have. When I heard about the Taliban the thing that outraged me most was that they banned the flying of kites. I know they were beastly on so many levels but kites? Isn’t that every kid’s birthright? Isn’t that something that no one can object to?

  • Joshua: that is an interesting thought (I was reminded of American Beauty).

    Nick: didn’t one of your ministers refuse to meet Abdullah on the grounds of him being a medieval tyrant?

  • Nick M

    Alisa,
    No, that was Vince Cable, acting leader of the Lib-Dems. It was about the only praiseworthy thing they’ve done for ages.

    King Abdullah’s visit is all over the news here. He’s accused of being head of a state that “violates human rights”. That sounds somewhat abstract until you appreciate the true horror of what that means on the ground. And quite frankly, it ought to be stated exactly what that means. It means the hang queers. It means they jailed for fifty days a Nigerian immigrant who drove a female neighbour who collapsed to hospital for being a non-mehram male in a car with her.

    We even had some apologist on the BBC saying that King Abdullah was a reformist (apparently he backed the introduction of radio into the Magic Kingdom and wants women to be allowed to drive, eventually).

    Oh, well, whatever. If that’s the case they’ve got a hell of a lot of catch-up to play. Saudi has a lot of mentalist wahabbi clerics who are (according to the BBC) “conservative” (i.e. they think DVDs are the work of Satan himself). Well, sorry folks, Winston Churchill was a conservative – these people are just nuts. Nihilistic fuckwits of the first water.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick M.

    The B.B.C. always says “conservative” or “right wing” when it means evil or nasty.

    O.B.L., and most of the Sunni and Shia radicals strongly believe in Social Justice (and, unlike some members of the British Conservative party, they know what the term means – i.e. the stealing of income and wealth and its “distribution” according to some rule supposed to be “fair”) – but it would never occur to the B.B.C. to call them “left wing” or even “radical”.

    “left wing” or “radical” can, at worst, mean good hearted but a bit misguided you see.

    Happy Jews:

    Yes there are a lot of happy and self mocking Jews (my Orthodox Aunt light heartedly mocks the rules that she also strictly obeys – it would never occur to her to think that people go to Hell for, say, mixing meat and milk because no Orthodix Jew believes that).

    The happyness thing must have passed my father by – I remember him as being almost as grim as me. But I am told that he was a happy soul before he was betrayed and his life destroyed.

  • Cynic

    The Saudis have us by the balls. They know at the end of the day the west will back them, despite all the outrage about the regime. All they have to do to point out that (1) the only real opposition in Saudi Arabia are Al Qaeda, and (2) those big bad Iranians are a threat, and we will back them. The experiments of ‘democracy’ in Iraq and Palestine have also strengthened their hand immensely. Iraq has hardly become a beacon of hope for democracy like the Neocons hallucinated about. And all that prodding by the Bush administration for elections in Palestine brought about Hamas victory. The Saudis can just protest that democracy would lead to civil war and/or a more extreme government than that already exists. So we are stuck in this position of having to support the Saudi Monarchy. Obviously, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth, and it makes us look like hypocrites when we blast Iran for lynching gays and China for supporting Burma and so on, but the realities of our foreign policy seems to requires it.

  • Nick M

    Cynic,
    You live up to your name. We gain zilch long-term from supporting the Saudis. I would hazard that very few Sunni muslims like the house of Saud. They see them as corrupt despots befowling the sacred lands of Islam. They’re right but their solution ain’t to pretty either. By supporting the Saudis we are not winning any friends in the Islamic world so why bother? To be honest I seriously doubt we’ll ever win any friends in the Islamic World.

    I would prefer A-Q to takeover Saudi Arabia because then we could stop pussy-footing around the buggers and start bombing them. It would be one less pseudo ally and one more legitimate target.

    We cannot be friends with such a demented regime and we should not even pretend. They execute people for “sorcery” for God’s sake! I know a lot of folk who think that capital punishment in the US for murder is an abomination but “sorcery”? “Sorcery”! And seeing as it has recently been revealed that Dumbledore was gay, fuck knows what they’d do to the erstwhile, dead, fictional principal of a school of witchcraft and wizardry that doesn’t exist.

    Iran, yeah right! A raving nutcase in a cheap suit doesn’t scare me. He’s a pathetic, sad, embarrassment. 6000 years of Persian culture and they produce that sad, pathetic twerp and then dress him in C&A clothes from 1985. And we’re scared of him? Mahmoud Aminneedofadinnerjacket could cause us problems with shipping in the Gulf but we could squish his regime in an afternoon if we really wanted. I would prefer though just to mock him, patronize him and belittle him (though he’s a shortarse already). Are we really engaged in “dialogue” with a regime that beats up women in the street for not wearing their hijab right?

    It is the eternal shame of much of the left that they gloss over such outrages to support Asmadasadaftfucker’s malignancy purely because like them he hates America.

    The best thing we can do is give the bugger the biggest platform possible for him to spew his bile. Death to America! Death to Israel! The USAF or IAF could frag his pyro-accelerant polyester clad ass back to the fucking paleolithic in an afternoon. But let’s not go there yet. Let’s give him enough rope and see if he hangs himself with it first. If that doesn’t work then we can go about kicking the Shi’ite out of Iran.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick M.

    Cynic and I do not see eye to eye (I am poet and I did not know it), but he has a point.

    Many of the House of Saud are corrupt so called followers of Wahabbi Islam – but that is what is GOOD (at least less bad) about them.

    The fall of the House of Saud might bring honest and devoted Wahabbi people to power – and that would be a nightmare from Hell.

    Some hypocrite who comes in from a hard day watching homosexuals being hanged, and then buggers someone. Is better than someone who really believes in all this stuff – and is working to spread it all over the world.

    “But the House of Saud spends lots of money spreading Wahabbi ideas” – now that is a good point, and they need to stop doing that, for their own sake (for all the allaince with this version of Islam helped the House of Saud rise above being just another bunch of desert bandits – indeed allowed them to take over the country).

    For the honest and dedicated Wahabbi folk they help to create want the House of Saud exterminated.

    The old policy of “give the nutters lots of money and they will leave us alone to get drunk and fuck people in private” will not work anymore.

    Iran:

    If only it was just President what-is-his-name.

    The Supreme Leader and the Council Guardians also support the interpretation of Shia Islam that holds that the 12 (or hidden) Iman will appear and lead them to world conquest – IF they kill enough infidels to impress him.

    “But that is barking mad”

    Yes – but they believe. It is a “closed belief system” in that reason is not allowed inside – but that does not mean that they are not sincere.

    At least no one could ever correctly accuse the House of Saud of sincerity.

  • Nick M

    Paul,
    Point taken but… I was suggesting though that A-Q or whatever replacing the Saudis would at least allow us to quit this dismal faux-alliance.

    You do appreciate that the Saudis wouldn’t regard buggering some kid as being homosexual. It’s only queer if you’re the catcher rather than the batter so to speak. Quite what that says about “informed consent” is probably quite interesting if despicable.

    In that and in so many other ways the Mid-East is very far from normal.

  • I do not like the term Islamophobia either… I prefer the term ‘Well Armed non-Dhimmi’

  • Nick M

    Or WAND Perry?

    Which sort of brings us back to executions for sorcery.

  • Gabriel

    my Orthodox Aunt light heartedly mocks the rules that she also strictly obeys – it would never occur to her to think that people go to Hell for, say, mixing meat and milk because no Orthodix Jew believes that).

    So Moses is up Mount Sinai listing down the laws and G-d says “Moses, don’t cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk it’s cruel.”
    Moses falls upon his face and says “Absolutely father, the children of Israel shall never eat meat with milk.”
    So G-d says “No, Moses. Just don’t cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk, it’s a weirdo pagan thing.”
    Moses rents his garments and says “Forgive me father for my obstinancy, we shall of course wait 6 hours between meat and milk to be holy to you.”
    G-d’s voice thunders down “No Moses, listen very close to me! Don’t. Cook. A. Kid. In. It’s Mother’s. Milk. It’s gross, don’t do it. Full Stop.”
    Moses weeps and calls out to heaven “Forgive me god of mercy and lovingkindess. I see it now so clearly. We shall have seperate plates, cultlery and pans, for milk and meat and a seperate sink for washing them. We shall have different meat and milk restaurants. We shall certify certain foods as containing not a drop of either meat nor milk to be safe and pay double for it. We shall…”

    G-d sighs and says “You know what Moses, just do whatever you want.”

  • Gabriel

    but I hope that those of you who have just been listening to Bush instead of thinking for yourselves will at least question what you’ve been told.

    Of course if they had really been listening to Bush uncritically they would believe Islam was a religion of Peace that had literally nothing to do whatsoever with Al Queda et al.

    Maybe if you Paulbots stopped reading Lewrockwell.com in your mother’s basements for five minutes in order to pick up a newspaper you’d know this (and maybe your attempts to patronise others would hit home a bit better).

  • I would like to take Rich Paul and be throwing him out of a car into any one of several neighborhoods here in France one evening, forcing him to walk out alone. Either he would emerge with useful education or he would get his head kicked in, either way the world will be a better place.

  • Perry/Nick M: nice, WAND is a term we need to get into wider circulation!!!

  • Paul Marks

    Now, now Nicolette – just because someone is mistaken does not justify throwing them out of a car (non aggression principle).

    “But I did not mean it to be taken literally” – of course not, but people often do take things literally.

    Gabriel – very good.

    As for these people who think we all follow President Bush.

    I can not remember saying anything nice about George Walker Bush in my life. I normally call him a “fool” (and a lot of worse names), and would never take his judgement on a matter as being good evidence.

    But this does not mean that I will always oppose him.

    For example, if President Bush says “the world is not flat” I am not going to argue that it is flat.

    And if President Bush says “we should resist AQ and the other radicals” I am not going to argue that we should not resist them.

    The point is that I (and the rest of us) do not need President Bush to tell us these things – we certainly do not believe them because of his “authority” (so there is no argument from authority going on).

    But “President Bush said it, so it must be wrong” could lead to some very odd beliefs and actions.

    As for the Ludwig Von Mises institute and Lew Rockwell.

    The source of the best economics in the world – but sadly Lew Rockwell and others follow Murry Rothbard, NOT Ludwig Von Mises, on defence, national security, and all disputes (present and past) between the United States and any other power.

    “Uncle Sam can not run a Post Office well” makes sense.

    But “Uncle Sam is always in the wrong in any war” is nonsense.

    At is ANY war – World War II, the Slave Power revolt, and way (at least over the last one and half centuries) – the enemy is always the victim or misunderstood, and America is allways the bad guy.

    This is nothing to do with Ludwig Von Mises.

  • Paul Marks

    Wow there were a lot of typing mistakes in the above.

    I seem to be more tired than normal. Still you can “work it out” or not.