Defining Islamophobia

The first definition of Islamophobia came from the Runnymede Trust in 1997. It was defined as a “dread or hatred of Islam and, therefore, the fear and dislike of all Muslims”. It also included any act of discrimination against Muslims. It could also involve the perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.

Why do people have a problem with Islamophobia?

Critics of Islamophobia either claim that it will be used to suppress their views or that there is no such thing since fear of Islam is perfectly justified and rational. The first group’s criticisms are unsubstantiated because Islamophobia is being misinterpreted if it is used to silence them. As long as a definition exists, they need not worry if they are not really Islamophobic. If they are Islamophobic, they also need not worry, since, like racism, Islamophobia is a perfectly legal opinion.

The second group believes that Islam is somehow uniquely evil, and always will be. It equates the religion with terror, or something to be feared, viewing it as a political ideology rather than a faith. Given the evidence that the majority of Muslims are not radical militants, it’s up to the outside observer to judge whether such a critic has an irrational fear or not.

A good way to judge Islamophobia is to compare it to the only other faith-based form of racism: anti-Semitism. For every criticism you have of Muslims and Islam, substitute ‘Muslim’ for ‘Jew’ and Islam for ’Judaism’ and see if you can get away with what you’re saying in polite society. If you have a problem with Islamophobia, you should also have a problem with anti-Semitism. If you don’t, you’re displaying precisely the type of discrimination called Islamophobia.

What if Islam is worse than other religions?

Comparing Islamophobia to anti-Semitism is pertinent because Judaism and Islam are very similar religions. They come from the same part of the world, and one religion’s tradition is based, in large part, on that of the other religion. But even if you believe that religions are so different as to jutify hatred of some and love of others, such a fear of Islam is still predicated on the idea that Islam is clearly defined and monolithic. To persist with such an idea, in the face of historical evidence, is therefore Islamophobic.

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