On September 14, 2006, the Oxford English Dictionary included the term “Islamophobia” for the first time ever in its compendium of words. The word was defined as, “the irrational fear or hatred towards Islam”. This is the first time ever where we have associated a phobia with a religion. It is interesting that there has not been a term such as Judeophobia or Christianophobia to describe the ordeals that these religious minorities face throughout the Islamic world, or even the sectarian violence amongst different sects of Islam. In the West, it becomes a controversy to just say anything against the collective group-thinking, while in the Islamic world not even a blip is made to discuss the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities’.
The problem with this politically correct buzz word is that it is frequently charged at people who criticize Islam. These PC dissidents have actually expressed the opposite of what it means to be Islamophobic, considering that they showed that they were not afraid to criticize the religion. I think it should be noted that no one should be afraid of criticizing any religion in a free, well-functioning society. Rather, our own mainstream media has exemplified what it means to be Islamophobic.
In 2005, when worldwide protests responded to the Danish Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons, all of the mainstream media in Canada neglected to show the images because of the very real fear of reprisal. Yet there was no condemnation of the mainstream media for being Islamophobic because they were being “respectful of cultural sensitivities” (i.e. scared). Even in 2011, the offices of the French satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo were blown up that month because they were to feature images and jokes around Muhammad.
Freedom of speech is one of our fundamental freedoms and provides the cornerstone of Western civilization, if the West isn’t prepared to defend its fundamental freedoms then it is allowing centuries of efforts to establish a separation of church, mosque, synagogue and state to go to waste. Once you lose these fundamental freedoms, they are not as easy to get back.
A more appropriate word would be “Muslimphobia” (or “Muslimoffenseophobia”), considering that when the term is applied in that context, it shows that people are more scared of offending Muslims then they actually are of Islam itself. The real problem is the phobia aspect because phobia implies an irrational fear of something. There are bigots who paint Islam as one monolithic group but these people would be more aptly described as anti-Islam or anti-Muslim then they are Islamophobic or Muslimphobic. We are free to criticize and no one has the right to not be offended.
Islam is the fastest growing religion and while fundamentalists only account for a small percentage of adherents, the number is larger than the population of Canada. No distinction can be made between “fundamentalist Muslims” and “assimilated Muslims” if the label of Islamophobia is applied to anyone who dares to speak out against it. A distinction must be made between the two groups or else Muslims face being generalized or alienated for being associated with fundamentalism.
Fundamentalist Muslims have wanted to implement Sharia law tribunals in Ontario in 2005. Fortunately, McGuinty managed to do one good thing in his tenure and prevent that. However the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) did back the notion that Ontario should allow Sharia law tribunals. A draconian set of laws should see no light in the 21st century, even if it pertained to family disputes. Groups like the CIC do not argue in the interest of Canadians but in the interest of Islamists. We should embrace groups like the Muslim Canadian Congress which cherish the Canadian way of life and has looked to ban the niqab. Banning the niqab is a matter of legal consistency: If people are not allowed to wear a balaclava to a government building but a woman is allowed to wear a niqab on the basis of religion alone, there is legal inconsistency.
Since “Islamophobia” has entered the public sphere, it has been used to condemn and shame those who were brave enough to speak out against Islamism. The meaning of the term seek to challenge any criticism of the ideology of Islam itself rather than its stated goal of protecting “persecuted Muslims”. Many immigrants come to the West to get away from the tyrannical governments that limited many of their freedoms. Many Muslims are being persecuted throughout the Islamic world, but pro-Islamist lobby groups will insist that the West is intolerant. Groups like the Council on American-Islam Relations absolve terrorists (like Hamas) who commit crimes against their own people because it is easier for them to criticize our society than it is to condemn the real horrors that are faced by many minorities throughout the Islamic world. It is time to avoid these fluff words and focus on the plight of people around the world who actually suffer.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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