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There are other critics of the word “Islamophobia”

There was that statement by 12 writers in Charlie Hebdo in 2006 for instance. It includes this:

Islamism is a reactionary ideology that kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present.

Its victory can only lead to a world of injustice and domination: men over women, fundamentalists over others.

On the contrary, we must ensure access to universal rights for the oppressed or those discriminated against.

We reject the “cultural relativism” which implies an acceptance that men and women of Muslim culture are deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secularism in the name of the respect for certain cultures and traditions.

We refuse to renounce our critical spirit out of fear of being accused of “Islamophobia”, a wretched concept that confuses criticism of Islam as a religion and stigmatisation of those who believe in it.

We defend the universality of the freedom of expression, so that a critical spirit can exist in every continent, towards each and every maltreatment and dogma.

The signatories are:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Chahla Chafiq

Caroline Fourest

Bernard-Henri Levy

Irshad Manji

Mehdi Mozaffari

Maryam Namazie

Taslima Nasreen

Salman Rushdie

Antoine Sfeir

Philippe Val

Ibn Warraq

There’s also Piers Benn in the New Humanist in 2002, a whole article on the subject.

‘Islamophobia’ is a negatively loaded word. Not many people would admit to being Islamophobic, any more than they would admit to being homophobic. [Indeed, there is an interesting parallel between the two concepts. Although ‘homophobia’ really means fear of homosexuals, it is now widely used to refer to any criticism of homosexuality. Many who use the word appear oblivious to the distinction between the fear (or hatred) of homosexual individuals, and disapproval of homosexual behaviour. Of course, one might argue that language evolves and words change their meaning. But this misses the point. There is a real distinction to be made here, which needs to be reflected in language. With Islamophobia, the same applies.]* It is essential to distinguish criticism of Islam both from fear of Islam, and from fear, hatred or contempt for Muslims. But all too often, moral criticism of Muslim practices, or scepticism about doctrines, is dismissed as Islamophobic.

This is what I’m saying. What I’m saying is not particularly crazy.

*An unfortunate side point which I strongly doubt Benn meant the way a number of readers are taking it – but which certainly can be read that way, so it was indeed an unfortunate side point – and which has led to a tedious side dispute along with irritating demands for confession and prostration. I should have replaced it with an elipse. I didn’t, because that would have made his argument a little too abrupt, in the sense that he wouldn’t have written it that way. Mea culpa. Take the brackets as a disavowal. I do not, as some ungracious pastors do, love teh gayz but hate the behavior. I don’t think Benn does either and I don’t think that’s what he meant to say – but I know it reads that way, which is why I thought about replacing it with an elipse when I posted. I do hope that clears things up.

Comments

  1. says

    So, Ophelia do you think there are legitimate cases worth calling Islamophobic? I do. I don’t think all criticism of Islamism or all criticisms targeted at specific wicked Islamic teachings or implemented practices or influences on government should be stigmatized as Islamophobic but I think there are people who over-inflate the evils of the average Muslim in a way that bespeaks irrational hatred.

  2. Ramel says

    Although ‘homophobia’ really means fear of homosexuals, it is now widely used to refer to any criticism of homosexuality.

    And that right there is the point where I stopped caring what Piers Benn thinks..

  3. Tony says

    Ophelia:
    Thank you.
    Thinking about it in terms of other religions, would a critic of Scientology be “scientophobic”? If you’re critical of Wicca, are you “Wiccaphobic”? Are you “Mormophobic” if you’re critical of Mormonism? No. The criticism is aimed at the belief system, not the believer. For some reason, Islam is treated differently. Perhaps due to the identity of some Muslims being intertwined with their beliefs. I hold no ill will or any other negative beliefs towards anyone who is a Muslim. I do however, think the belief system that is Islam is a vile one.

  4. MrPeach says

    I have no problem declaring myself as Islamismphobic.
    It’s quite clear I’m afraid of these regressive loons.

  5. platyhelminthe says

    Daniel – are you saying we should pretend that “Islamophobia”, as used by the people who invented the term, refers not to criticism of the despicable doctrines of Islam, but instead unjustified bigotry towards innocent people who happen to be muslim? If so, then you are playing into the hands of every single islamist bigot who has tried to shout down valid criticism of his (and it always IS his) drivel with the “islamophobia” card. The word is a calculated misnomer, never forget that.

  6. says

    I’m troubled with the way xenophobia and racism are conflated with criticism of Islam. Which seems to happen on both sides of the religious and political fences.

    Where I live, the racism is more of a problem than the Islam, so “Islamophobia” is more or less code for “racism”. But in other places this isn’t so. IMO, it’s probably best to call things what they are – racism and xenophobia are so much more *accurate* terms than Islamophobia.

  7. Bruce Gorton says

    I think there is yet another element to this: Read that list of names.

    I would hypothesise that the term Islamophobe also makes things more difficult for atheists with an Islamic background to come out and criticise their former religion the way we criticise ours.

    Of course as I am in a position of privilege with regards to this – it might do well to see if we can’t get a former Muslim to comment on the issue.

    We need to recognise that most of us arguing here – do not have that necessary experience.

  8. StevoR says

    @3. Tony says:

    Ophelia: Thank you.
    Thinking about it in terms of other religions, would a critic of Scientology be “scientophobic”? If you’re critical of Wicca, are you “Wiccaphobic”? Are you “Mormophobic” if you’re critical of Mormonism? No. The criticism is aimed at the belief system, not the believer. For some reason, Islam is treated differently. Perhaps due to the identity of some Muslims being intertwined with their beliefs. I hold no ill will or any other negative beliefs towards anyone who is a Muslim. I do however, think the belief system that is Islam is a vile one.

    Well said & seconded by me. My thanks to Ophelia for that too.

  9. says

    Daniel – are you saying we should pretend that “Islamophobia”, as used by the people who invented the term, refers not to criticism of the despicable doctrines of Islam, but instead unjustified bigotry towards innocent people who happen to be muslim? If so, then you are playing into the hands of every single islamist bigot who has tried to shout down valid criticism of his (and it always IS his) drivel with the “islamophobia” card. The word is a calculated misnomer, never forget that.

    I don’t know who invented the word or why but I do know that too many people have bigoted views such that all Muslims are terrorists or all strands of Islam are violent reactionary Wahabiist or that all instantiations of Islam are monolithically the same and awful in the same irredeemable ways.

    Islam is an enormous religion with hundreds of millions of followers and a wide range of interpretations and instantiations throughout history and around the globe. What the numerous, truly disgusting passages of the Koran say or not, in practice Islam is many different things. Insofar as in practice it leads to authoritarianism, misogyny, patriarchy, homophobia, oppression of conscience, regressive cultural and intellectual practices, etc., it should be challenged. Insofar as it functions successfully for various good purposes in individual Muslim lives and in cultures where it has deep influences, this must be a part of our understanding of what it is too. And in understanding evil expressions of Islam we need to take into account the complex geopolitical factors—some of which are the fault of the West—which have enabled reactionary Islam to gain power where there is a vacuum of constructive, stable institutions. And that involves figuring out what we can do to make a more humane and progressive Islam appealing to Muslims as opposed to reactionary and violent kinds.

    Thinking in dualistic good and evil terms is false, destructive, and childish. Nothing is all evil and nothing is all good. When looking at the many evils of prevalent Islamic interpretations and instantiations we need to avoid excesses of fearful demonization which underestimates the total picture of Muslim people and cultures infused with Islamic influences. If we don’t do that, we become indistinguishable from the right wing bigots with their propensities towards scapegoating.

  10. lm says

    IMO, it’s probably best to call things what they are – racism and xenophobia are so much more *accurate* terms than Islamophobia.

    Except when they aren’t.

    Geert Wilders is bigoted about Muslims, not just about immigrants. When visiting Florida he said “Islam is not a religion” and “the right to religious freedom should not apply”.

    He is thus bigoted against not only immigrants, but against Muslims per se, and against some of their cultural practices, including Islam itself. That’s Islamophobia when he says Islam is not a religion; it’s not just Muslim-phobia, let alone xenophobia or racism.

    So xenophobia doesn’t cover everything that’s wrong with his statement. But Islamophobia does.

  11. lm says

    Ophelia,

    Please tell us, why do you believe disapproval of homosexual behavior is not homophobia?

    And what exactly constitutes a legitimate disapproval of homosexual behaviour per se?

  12. lm says

    Of course as I am in a position of privilege with regards to this – it might do well to see if we can’t get a former Muslim to comment on the issue.

    If I remember correctly, Ramel (commenter #2) is an ex-Muslim.

  13. lm says

    Et tu, Josh?

    In what sense do you believe disapproval of homosexual behavior is not homophobia?

    And what exactly constitutes a legitimate disapproval of homosexual behaviour per se?

  14. Irreverend Bastard says

    I am islamophobic. Actually, I am theophobic, but I believe islam is currently more dangerous than the other religions.

    My biggest problem with islam is the crazy fundamentalists, those violent terrorists that we all know and love hate. They are real, they actively take offense over any perceived slight, and they use murderous violence to suppress any opposition. We should all fear them.

    But the moderate, peace-loving muslims are not any better. They do not criticize the extremists, they do not defend the victims, they just quietly support the violence by doing nothing at all. Their continued silence is tacit approval of religious terrorism.

  15. Chris says

    Irreverend,

    This is the problem. Your claim is simply incorrect – moderate Muslims frequently criticise violence by radicals. In fact globally they are more often the target of it than the rest of us. The fact that you aren’t listening doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

  16. lm says

    But the moderate, peace-loving muslims are not any better. They do not criticize the extremists, they do not defend the victims, they just quietly support the violence by doing nothing at all.

    This is just a lie.

    I hopped over to AltMuslim, and here was the very first headline: Mind over jihad

    Fahad Faruqui (a Muslim!) writes:

    I wish we could rely on John Stewart to spread the counter-extremist message, like we’re depending on him to counter Islamophobia, but we really need to mobilize the entire Muslim community in order to counter extremist ideology. […]

    Sultan Mehmood Gujar, 46, a property dealer by profession, is reported to be one of the many staunch supporters of the “holy war.” But his views changed after listening to a 40-day lecture series offering a counter narrative to jihad. Hopefully, this measure will prevent the youth from joining radical groups and deradicalize militants — if the message seeps in! […]

    If the al Qaeda poster boy, Dr. Fadl, can take a U-turn in the jail and write a book titled “Rationalizing Jihad in Egypt and the World” that shattered the extremist ideology, it gives cause to believe that rehabilitation is possible no matter how brainwashed the person is. […]

    With the growing difficulty to prevent radicalization and rehabilitate militants, there is a lot more that needs to be done by parents, imams, scholars, teachers and the entire society to promote the message of mercy and compassion.

    “With the growth of new media, it is important for prominent and trusted voices to get on television, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to help counter narratives which might promote extremism,” writes Arsalan Iftikhar, author of Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era. “Since many youth are quite impressionable,” he adds, “it is important to get to them [at] an early age…”

    Imams and religious scholars, across the globe, tweet and update their Facebook statuses and fan pages regularly, often with a thought-provoking line or a religious quote. There is a dire need to counter extremist ideology on networking sites, regardless of how unpalatable it may be to the followers.

  17. Chris says

    I know this argument has been made before but I think it still stands – the fact that a word is sometimes (even often) used in an illegitimate way does not make the word itself illegitimate. This same argument has been used regarding racism, sexism, homophobia (see above), anti-semtiism and many others, with varying degrees of relationship to reality. That the Piers Benn quote explicitly uses homophobia as another example should set off alarm bells.

    I can see the logic that muslimphobia might be a better term, but that is not the argument being used above. In any case, these battles must be fought and won early, as once a term passes into common usage it is too late.

    The argument comes down to legitimate criticism of a religion versus fear and bigotry. Islamophobia is not a valid accusation for the former, and anyone using it for that should be called out, but is not an unreasonable term for that latter. Even if we ditched the word altogether, we would still have the debate about rational concerns (eg regarding thugs threatening people at a talk about sharia) versus irrational fears (eg that every Muslim is a secret jihadist).

  18. grung0r says

    Thinking in dualistic good and evil terms is false, destructive, and childish. Nothing is all evil and nothing is all good.

    Book title:Why We should ban CX gas, by Gas m. Bag

    Daniel Fincke’s response: Thinking in dualistic good and evil terms is false, destructive, and childish. Nothing is all evil and nothing is all good.

    Book title:Let’s end rape!, by Some w. Lady

    Daniel Fincke’s response: Thinking in dualistic good and evil terms is false, destructive, and childish. Nothing is all evil and nothing is all good.

    Book title:Fascism is a bad idea, By Mike Goodwin

    Daniel Fincke’s response: Thinking in dualistic good and evil terms is false, destructive, and childish. Nothing is all evil and nothing is all good.

    Just to make it crystal fucking clear Daniel, because someone thinks something isn’t worth saving does not mean one is thinking dualisticly. In my examples above, surly one could think of shades of grey in each one(CX gas advanced our knowledge of biochemistry, Rape survivors meet other rape survivors who become great friends and whom they otherwise would not have met, Fascism gave the western world a moral cause to join together and fight)but none of those things are reasons to keep CX Gas, rape or fascism around.

    This is all so obvious, I can’t believe I have to point it out. You can’t possibly be this obtuse. Can you?

  19. says

    It is essential to distinguish criticism of Islam both from fear of Islam, and from fear, hatred or contempt for Muslims.

    The thing is that “fear, hatred or contempt for Muslims” tends to be the product of fear, hatred and contempt for Islam. “Islamophobia” is a meaningful term if it’s applied to people who are so disgusted by the faith and the actions of its believers that they’re unreasonably hostile to its every appearance. This is different from “xenophobia” – which I think was suggested in another thread – because they’re often very tolerant of Hindus, Buddhists and the like. Indeed – it’s plausible that they’ll be Hindus, Buddhists and the like. One obvious manifestation of genuine bigotry against Muslims is the massacre in Gujarat in 2002.

    The next question, though, is whether it’s a helpful term and considering how promiscuously it’s used – including, at one time, by me (mea culpa for that) – I’m not sure that it is. The point of using terms like “Islamophobia” is surely that it saves one from laying out their underlying implications. Yet if no one’s sure of what those implications are, using the term seems a bit futile. One may as well be wordier and bypass the argument.

  20. Chris says

    BenSix,

    Well put. It’s sometimes difficult to disentangle the two. If someone were to say that the central message of Islam was to kill infidels, but that they had nothing against individual Muslims, it would be a bit hard to believe. This happens in other contexts as well – some (by no means all) anti-semtiism uses misrepresentations of Judaism.

    As for usefulness, while I will sometimes defend the word I rarely use it. The type of arguments I think it accurately describes tend to be made by the sort of people who don’t care anyway, and because it does get overused it tends to put people off.

  21. Chris says

    BTW, hi everyone. Not quite sure why I decided to de-lurk now, except that the thread looked interesting.

  22. says

    I have to say, I’m kind of worried about the comparision to homophobia too… people who say there is legitimate criticism of homosexuality don’t seem particularly trustworhty to me.

    Regarding the rest of the conversation, I think it’s just important to keep the distinction between ideas and people, i.e. “Islam is stupid” instead of “Muslims are stupid”. This is also why it is okay to critize religion and not race, gender, sexual orientation, etc – because a) religion is not inborn and b) religion is almost always influencing other people (negatively): racism doesn’t exist because people with white skin are born assholes, but because of the ideology of white supremacism; however, religious bigotry exists because of the religion itself.
    I hope that makes sense ^^

  23. says

    I think Benn meant to single out one particular parallel with the word, not to agree with it. Still, I agree that the parallel isn’t really parallel, because (to use his phrase) “homosexual behaviour” isn’t an ideology or a religion or a set of ideas, and it is very difficult if not impossible to disagree with it or dissent from it on rational grounds. That makes it not a real parallel with any religion.

    I almost omitted that passage, but left it because it sort of clarified what he was getting at. But no, I don’t think it makes much sense to think of hb as parallel to religion.

  24. says

    Still, I agree that the parallel isn’t really parallel, because (to use his phrase) “homosexual behaviour” isn’t an ideology or a religion or a set of ideas, and it is very difficult if not impossible to disagree with it or dissent from it on rational grounds. That makes it not a real parallel with any religion.

    Homosexuality is a key part of people’s identities and religions are key parts of people’s identities. Whether or not religions should be so, they are.

  25. says

    I know, but that’s far from all they are, so we need to be free to criticize them. I don’t think we have the same need to be free to criticize “homosexual behavior” as such. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be free to do so, but the urgency is a good deal less.

  26. says

    But, Daniel, for instance pacifism is a key part of my identity too, but I don’t want to silence all people who criticize that idea. So even if people are very attached to their religions and ideologies doesn’t mean that they have a right to object to criticism of their ideology/religion. I understand that many people identify very much with their religion/ideology and want to silence all criticism of it because they think it is criticism of them, personally. But that doesn’t make me stop criticizing their religion/ideology. It just makes me speak out louder.

    Thanks for the clarification, Ophelia :)

  27. lm says

    I think Benn meant to single out one particular parallel with the word, not to agree with it.

    On what evidential basis could you possibly infer that?

    Because when your chosen allies say something that’s inconvenient for you, they must not have meant what they said?

    He very clearly states what he believes:

    Although ‘homophobia’ really means fear of homosexuals, it is now widely used to refer to any criticism of homosexuality.

    He believes that criticism of homosexuality is not homophobia.

    Many who use the word appear oblivious to the distinction between the fear (or hatred) of homosexual individuals, and disapproval of homosexual behaviour.

    He believes that disapproval of homosexual behavior is not homophobia.

    Of course, one might argue that language evolves and words change their meaning. But this misses the point. There is a real distinction to be made here, which needs to be reflected in language.

    He believes there is an important distinction between homophobia and dispproval or criticism of homosexuality.

    This is a homophobic statement from Benn, and now from you. You should apologize to your queer readers. You are spreading a hurtful message by relaying Benn’s homophobic rhetoric here.

  28. lm says

    and it is very difficult if not impossible to disagree with it or dissent from it on rational grounds.

    Why not just say it’s completely impossible?

    It is homophobic of you to say that there might be any way to “disagree” or “dissent from” homosexuality on rational grounds.

  29. says

    It is homophobic of you to say that there might be any way to “disagree” or “dissent from” homosexuality on rational grounds.

    But that isn’t what I said: citing Benn, I said not “homosexuality” but “homosexual behavior.” I don’t think there is any way, but it would be too dogmatic just to assert that there isn’t (though not too dogmatic to argue it).

    Why I think what I think about what Benn said: one, because he’s a philosopher, and being very careful about distinctions is something that philosophers do. Two because from what I know of him he’s not the type to think “homosexual behavior” is wicked.

    He’s not my “chosen ally,” by the way.

    You too need to make much more of an effort to be civil. You’re “lm” – it’s a good deal too easy for you to be as rude as you like. I’m trying to contain my rage at being called homophobic. I’m not trying to contain my dislike for “lm” who called me that.

  30. l says

    You too need to make much more of an effort to be civil. You’re “lm” – it’s a good deal too easy for you to be as rude as you like.

    It is not incivil to call someone homophobic when they are saying homophobic things. I would hope that you of all people to understand that. (Hope, not expect, since I have very low expectations that any individual will live up to their ideals.)

    Anyway, point of order: while it would not be rude or incivil to call you homophobic, I did not call you homophobic.

    I said that your words and behaviors here are homophobic, because they are.

    I’m trying to contain my rage at being called homophobic.

    No, you don’t get to play the victim here. You made homophobic statements. Sometimes LGBT allies make homophobic statements; we all know that. But you need to be accountable for it. Get over your rage as quickly as possible, because you’re in the wrong, and you owe your queer readers an apology.

    But that isn’t what I said: citing Benn, I said not “homosexuality” but “homosexual behavior.”

    Good Christian reasoning there!

    Okay, so let me rephrase.

    It is homophobic of you to say that there might be any way to “disagree” or “dissent from” homosexual behavior on rational grounds.

    I don’t think there is any way, but it would be too dogmatic just to assert that there isn’t (though not too dogmatic to argue it).

    Rubbish. Millions of people have tried and failed to present some argument that there’s something wrong with homosexual behavior. After all this data has been collected, it is no more dogmatic to say it can’t be done than to say the sun will rise tomorrow.

    You are aiding homophobes by pretending that this could really be at issue in the 21st century.

    Why I think what I think about what Benn said: one, because he’s a philosopher, and being very careful about distinctions is something that philosophers do. Two because from what I know of him he’s not the type to think “homosexual behavior” is wicked.

    I didn’t say he thinks homosexual behavior is wicked. But look at the distinctions he makes! It means something that he makes these distinctions and not others. What does it mean? This:

    Although ‘homophobia’ really means fear of homosexuals, it is now widely used to refer to any criticism of homosexuality.

    He believes that criticism of homosexuality is not homophobia.

    Many who use the word appear oblivious to the distinction between the fear (or hatred) of homosexual individuals, and disapproval of homosexual behaviour.

    He believes that disapproval of homosexual behavior is not homophobia.

    Of course, one might argue that language evolves and words change their meaning. But this misses the point. There is a real distinction to be made here, which needs to be reflected in language.

    He believes there is an important distinction between homophobia and dispproval or criticism of homosexuality.

    Don’t you see what’s wrong with those statements, precisely? Not just what you think is in his head. I’ve shown exactly what is wrong with all three of those statements.

    It’s homophobic for him to say these things, and it’s homophobic for you to repeat them. These are homophobic statements. Again, LGBT allies can and do make homophobic statements. But they need to be accountable for these errors.

  31. Tony says

    Daniel:

    Homosexuality is a key part of people’s identities and religions are key parts of people’s identities. Whether or not religions should be so, they are.

    -Sure, but homosexuality is an innate aspect of someone. Religion isn’t. The religious part of an individual has to be developed. While I can’t speak for any gay man other than myself, my homosexuality seems innate to me. The best way to describe it (as I’ve done many times…some people ‘get’ it) is that when I hit puberty, my hormones went —> (that way). Heterosexuals who enter puberty have hormones that go <—-(that way). I'm aware this is a simplistic explanation, but it works to display to the layman that I had no control over the direction my sexuality would turn out. Nor does anyone else.
    Religious views, on the other hand, are developed. Yes, they seem to become innate, but that's likely due to indoctrination since early childhood. I don't have enough of a background in biology or psychology to know if homosexuality is largely genetic or not, but I also don't believe it's a learned behavior (perhaps it's some combination of the two; maybe there's a third or fourth unknown variable) in the way that religious beliefs are.

  32. says

    One thing I think people should keep in mind is that the word islamophobic is often used against people who tries to demonize other people because of perceived islamism.

    Danish politicians on the (far) right often do this – they refer to all immigrants from outside the western world as “muslims”, and say that they cannot become proper members of a western culture because of their “barbaric” background. This is even the case when they talk about non-religious people, whose parents were born in Denmark.

    So, in other words, Islamophobic people are people who are bigotred against any person with even the smallest taint of Islam (never mind that many of those people come from Christian minorities etc.).

  33. says

    Ok, “l”, nobody elected you Ideological Cop around here. No, my words and behaviors are not homophobic. I think you’re misreading what Benn wrote, and you’re certainly misreading what I wrote. And no I don’t owe anybody an apology.

    What you’re misunderstanding is the difference between saying “I don’t think there’s any rational argument against ‘homosexual behavior'” and saying “I think there are rational arguments against ‘homosexual behavior.'” Think black swans. I can’t be certain that there are no such rational arguments, because I’m not omniscient. That doesn’t mean I affirmatively think there are any – I affirmatively think there aren’t.

    This is just a standard kind of epistemic caution. It’s not a covert form of homophobia. Your insistence that it is and demands for an apology are just bullying, aka ideological policing.

    Much the same applies to what Benn said. He was making a point about precision and distinctions, not expressing stealth homophobia.

    You don’t agree, fine; but cut the policing.

  34. F says

    I would say that Benn made a bad analogy. I don’t agree with it as far as I understand his meaning from the text. I may or may not be able to contrive a meaning acceptable to me depending on what might fit under the idea of homosexual behaviors, yet I think this is unlikely, especially since I would narrowly construe (as I believe others before me have done) what constitutes homosexual behavior. So I’d have to look at the example as stupid or homophobic or both.

    Everything else in the blog post further illustrated, for me, the problem with the meaning of Islamophobic.

  35. says

    Well he wasn’t quite making an analogy – he said there’s a parallel, which I think is more limited. But still…they’re not really parallel, although it’s true that the word “homophobic” is blurred in the same way.

  36. says

    The problem with this whole “there *might* be a logical argument against homosexual behaviour” argument is that this is what religious people are using against us. Of course we can split hairs and say “nothing is certain yadda yadda” but then religious people say “see, even they themselves say they don’t know what they are talking about”. I think especially regarding controversial cases we don’t have to mention *all* possibilities and just go with what is the most probable.

  37. says

    Sigh. It’s not yadda yadda and it’s not splitting hairs. It is something I learned partly by writing (co-writing) books – but also writing here, and reading, and just generally not liking sloppy claims and trying not to make them. I try not to claim more than I know.

    Cue cries of “but you do it all the time!!!” Nevertheless.

    And I really don’t think anything I said here is going to be ammunition to religious zealots.

    And don’t be misled by the malice of “l” – I didn’t say anything homophobic.

    To repeat, just in case anyone is misled by the malice of “l” – I don’t think there are any reasonable arguments against “homosexual behavior.” I’ve listened to people trying for many years, and I really don’t think there are any. But that’s not the same as knowing that there aren’t.

  38. walton says

    Regarding the rest of the conversation, I think it’s just important to keep the distinction between ideas and people, i.e. “Islam is stupid” instead of “Muslims are stupid”.

    In practice it’s not so simple as that. Geert Wilders, undoubtedly an anti-Muslim hatemonger and a bigot by any reasonable standard, has used this very defence, claiming “I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam.” The trouble is that unrealistic, prejudiced fears about Islam as a religion – such as the belief that Islamic culture is uniformly “barbaric” and violent towards women, that Islam is “a totalitarian political ideology rather than a religion” (a favourite trope both of Wilders and of Tea Party bigots), and that Western countries are being “Islamified” by Muslim immigration – are used to stoke hatred and fear towards Muslims as people, and to justify anti-immigration laws and depriving Muslims of civil rights and freedoms. The far-right Muslim-haters can and do use the defence that their animosity is directed against Islam as a religion rather than against Muslims as people, but it’s dishonest.

    What we do need to do is to separate out legitimate criticism of Islam from wildly exaggerated scaremongering about Islam. Whether you want to label the latter “Islamophobia” or not, it’s a real phenomenon and an extremely dangerous one.

  39. says

    walton, I think the difference that you see between legitimate criticism of Islam and scaremongering is exactly the difference between criticizing the belief and criticizing the believer – because if you say “the beliefs of Islam, based on the koran, are barbaric” you are neither saying “Muslims are barbaric”, nor are you saying “Islamic culture is barbaric”, nor are you saying “therefore all Muslims have to be prevented from living in Europe (since the common religion Christianity is not barbaric at all… haha)”. If these politicians go from the one to the other (and I know they do, we have the same people here in Germany), than they *are* criticizing people who happen to be Muslims, whether they deny it or not.
    Of course my argument can be used by people do justify their hateful ends, but so can probably every argument in some way.

    Ophelia, my point is just that since we can’t know *anything* for certain, but are a lot more certain of some things than other things, it can be misleading and unhelpful over all to state that one can’t be certain in some situations. If I say “there is a possibility that I am just dreaming the whole world” it sounds like an interesting philosophical idea, but if I say “there is a possibility that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery” it sounds like I am a racist, because this is said so often by racists.

    I just think that sometimes it is not necessary to make the point that something is not certain, since I guess we all know already that nothing is certain.

  40. Midnight Rambler says

    In practice it’s not so simple as that. Geert Wilders, undoubtedly an anti-Muslim hatemonger and a bigot by any reasonable standard, has used this very defence, claiming “I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam.”

    There are two (somewhat opposing) problems with this. First is that Wilders’ claim is belied by his other words and actions. But even if he was sincere, it exposes the hypocrisy that all believers have. Their ideology (in its orthodox, standard form) does actually contain all the barbaric bullshit, and a significant proportion of them do believe it (even if it’s a minority). So claiming that one doesn’t really believe in the evil crap still requires admitting that they pick and choose which parts they follow.

  41. ml says

    You do owe your queer readers an apology, Ophelia. What you said was homophobic. Ramel, another gay man, noticed it too.

    It is homophobic to say “Although ‘homophobia’ really means fear of homosexuals, it is now widely used to refer to any criticism of homosexuality.”

    It is homophobic to say “Many who use the word appear oblivious to the distinction between the fear (or hatred) of homosexual individuals, and disapproval of homosexual behaviour” while holding that homophobia does not describe the latter.

    These are homophobic statements, and it’s really disappointing how you can’t look self-critically at how hurtful it is to say these things.

    Oh I get it – “l” and “lm” are “love moderately” – who has already been an ill-mannered nuisance here.

    Someone started a fight with me on another thread over my politics which had nothing to do with the topic of that thread. I responded. That’s the entirety of it. I understand you wanting that fight to happen elsewhere, but please remember exactly how it happened.

  42. ml says

    You do owe your queer readers an apology, Ophelia. What you said was homophobic. Ramel, another gay man, noticed it too.

    It’s unfortunate that you can’t recognize simply asking for an apology over homophobic statements, and you have to blow it up into something else so you can reject the request. I’m really not asking for much. I’m asking you to recognize the harm you’re causing with these homophobic statements.

    It is homophobic to say “Although ‘homophobia’ really means fear of homosexuals, it is now widely used to refer to any criticism of homosexuality.”

    It is homophobic to say “Many who use the word appear oblivious to the distinction between the fear (or hatred) of homosexual individuals, and disapproval of homosexual behaviour” while holding that homophobia does not describe the latter.

    These are homophobic statements, and it’s really disappointing how you can’t look self-critically at how hurtful it is to say these things.

    Oh I get it – “l” and “lm” are “love moderately” – who has already been an ill-mannered nuisance here.

    Someone started a fight with me on another thread over my politics which had nothing to do with the topic of that thread. I responded. That’s the entirety of it. I understand you wanting that fight to happen elsewhere, but please remember exactly how it happened.

  43. ml says

    Please, tell me how you prefer a request for an apology, from someone who has been harmed by homophobia, such that you can read it as only being a request for an apology, and not ideological policing.

    For surely, you must allow that there can be such a request.

    Tell me how I should conform to your expectations on that issue, and I will do my best to conform.

  44. says

    I don’t think there are any reasonable arguments against “homosexual behavior.” I’ve listened to people trying for many years, and I really don’t think there are any. But that’s not the same as knowing that there aren’t.

    Yeah, I’ve hung around the edges of philosophy and mathematics enough to see your point. Proof by induction isn’t technically valid here. But I really really wish you hadn’t included this comparison, because it’s a very obscure technical point to most people.

    It’s like atheism – you don’t believe in god? Sure, let it go at that. Making constant fine distinctions between knowledge and belief is nitpicky and tedious, and who the hell cares? (OK, apparently you and Daniel Fincke and probably a whole bunch of professional philosophers.)

    Except with the homophobia, the “who the hell cares” is the actual victims of homophobia, who now are seeing you value your pedantry epistemological precision over their feelings. Imagine an argument saying “I’ve never seen a valid experiment proving women’s inferiority to men, but that doesn’t mean there absolutely isn’t one.” It may be technically true, but I’m still growling at myself just for writing it.

  45. Irene Delse says

    Ophelia, don’t blame “the malice” of a commentator who actually points out that some of your arguments here were just plain wrong. I happen to very rarely agree with lm, and I dislike his often abrasive manner, but bringing in a comparison with homophobia here was just absurd. And insulting to homosexuals.

    But thanks for implying that one “nuisance” among commentators was enough to poison our easily swayed minds!

    While we are at it, why not make a parallel with “misogyny”? Is the word similarly “blurred” by the way MRAs use it, or is there a valid distinction to do between “hating women” and “criticising radical feminism”?

  46. Jurjen S. says

    Quoth “ml”:

    These are homophobic statements, and it’s really disappointing how you can’t look self-critically at how hurtful it is to say these things.

    How is it hurtful to merely state an opinion on what the word “homophobic” means? The word has an inherent problem in that it uses terms with Greek roots that do not match its intended meaning; literally “homophobia” translates to “fear/hatred of the same,” whereas fear/hatred of homosexuality (itself one of those rather ugly hybrids of Greek and Latin like “television” and “automobile”) would be better expressed by a term like “homoerotophobia.” As a result, it’s inevitable that there will be some discussion as to what the term “homophobia” means. And good heavens, if a mere dispute over semantics is hurtful to you, I can only recommend you disconnect your modem right now, and then throw out every dictionary you possess.

    I’m asking you to recognize the harm you’re causing with these homophobic statements.

    Maybe it would help if you could explain how these statements are homophobic to begin with, and then explain what harm they’re actually causing, rather than merely asserting that this is the case. Because at this juncture, I find your claims simply incredible.

  47. Jurjen S. says

    Walton wrote:

    Geert Wilders, undoubtedly an anti-Muslim hatemonger and a bigot by any reasonable standard, has used this very defence, claiming “I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam.”

    However, Wilders’ claim doesn’t hold water, because many of the arguments he presents why Islam is supposedly evil–such the subordinate status of women–apply equally to indigenous hardline Calvinists (such as those of the Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij, not infrequently referred to as the “poldertaliban”). Thus, if Wilders truly had a problem with Islam per se, one would expect him to oppose hardline Calvinism with similar vehemence. But he doesn’t, and the only readily available explanation for that is that the Calvinist don’t have brown skin.

  48. Cluisanna says

    Really, Jurjen? Merely discussing the meaning of the word homophobia is not wrong, you’re right there. Unfortunately, that is not what Benn did. He wrote that there is a distinction to be made between fear/hatred of homosexuals and criticism of homosexual behavior. This would mean that there are some arguments against homosexual behavior, and thus, of course, gays and lesbians, that don’t stem from bigotry or hatred of other sexual orientations. That is, quite simply, in itself a bigoted statement, because (inside, of course, the framework of not being certain of anything, etc) there are no such arguments.
    This is not a dispute about semantics, and that you say it is either means you haven’t understood the issue or that you are deliberately setting up a straw man, especially because lm has already explained what is wrong with these statements, something that you again seem to have overread or are deliberately ignoring.

  49. says

    The Benn quote is just wrong on so many levels.

    Although ‘homophobia’ really means fear of homosexuals –Benn

    No it doesn’t. It never really meant that, not exclusively and not as a sort of dreadful fear like the fear of spiders would be. Wikipedia documents it very well. Here is what the coiner of the term had to say about it:

    [A] phobia about homosexuals…. It was a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear and it had led to great brutality as fear always does. –Benn

    So you see, even at the beginning it meant much more than a simple fear of homosexuals (not to mention that the word homosexual does not even appear fully in the term so no one can say that it means that literally without conceding that they think homo means homosexual).

    Many who use the word appear oblivious to the distinction between the fear (or hatred) of homosexual individuals, and disapproval of homosexual behaviour. –Benn

    For the reasons above and more, Benn is profoundly wrong on this point. Disapproval of homosexual behavior that lets the exact same heterosexual behavior slide is without a doubt homophobic. It’s bias and bigotry. Not to mention that there is no paradigmatic homosexual behavior just as there is no such singular behavior among heterosexuals.

    Of course, one might argue that language evolves and words change their meaning.

    One might also not want to be ignorant of what words mean in current usage (and in Benn’s case, ignorant of how the word evolved swiftly and never did mean only an automatic horrific fear of gay people as he claims).

    But this misses the point. There is a real distinction to be made here, which needs to be reflected in language.

    No there isn’t. Criticizing some stereotyped version of homosexual behavior falls smack into the category of bigotry which the term homophobia envelops.

    With Islamophobia, the same applies. It is essential to distinguish criticism of Islam both from fear of Islam, and from fear, hatred or contempt for Muslims.

    Benn got it all wrong. It is imperative not to confuse bigotry with blasphemy (which I have sadly witnessed happening on FTB recently from people who I think ought to know better). Homophobia is all about bigotry; the problem with Islamophobia is that it could be used in reference to blasphemy, and that aspect of it is what we need to be clear about.

    Really, I think way too much is being made of this issue. All it should take is a few more words or sentences to communicate that one has no problem with Muslims as people and even values Muslim people as people but has serious problems with their religion. Is that such a terrible problem? And when one is called Islamophobic erroneously, then is the time to try to educate the accuser about the problem with that term.

  50. says

    And there’s another thing, and this goes for Irene @ 50, too – I resent the accusation, because I think my track record is pretty damn obvious unless you’re a brand new reader. My loathing of homophobia is one reason I’m not a fan of Islam, for chrissake.

  51. says

    Ophelia, nobody has said that you yourself are generally homophobic. The only thing that was said was that the quote could be taken in a manner insulting to gays and lesbians (and everybody else with a sense for social justice). We know you are not bigoted, and the inclusion of the quote was probably either something you overlooked or that you didn’t understand as bigoted. However, since we still live in a profoundly oppressive system for most people, we have all at least a little bit of homophobia, racism, sexism, etc. internalized. I guess you know that too. I understand that the first reaction to a call-out like this is to say “but you know I am not bigoted! (and the thing is not really that much homophobic anyway)”, especially if the call-out sounds like an accusation. Still, like I said, we all are bigoted in some ways, even if we every day make an effort to get rid of that bigotry (as I, again, am sure you are doing, too). And it is to be expected that we sometimes screw up (probably in really minor ways, like here).

  52. says

    I didn’t overlook it – I’ve already said that I thought about omitting it, but didn’t because the rest of the passage would have made less sense without it.

    It’s not that I didn’t “understand it as bigoted.” It’s not a fact about the universe that it is bigoted, so that’s not something that wise people understand while I’m stupid about it. I think it’s a point about a distinction between categories that is being misunderstood as bigoted. I could just as patronizingly say that you don’t understand it as a distinction between categories.

    Who is the “we” in “We know you are not bigoted”? You speak for all B&W readers do you?

    I didn’t endorse the disputed passage. I simply said I don’t think the intended meaning is homophobic. I don’t think my saying that merits all this heavy breathing about my buried homophobia.

    I didn’t screw up. I often do screw up, certainly, but I didn’t screw up in the sense of inadvertently saying something homophobic.

    This is getting beyond stupid.

  53. says

    Ophelia, I don’t know if this is your normal writing style, but why are you so unfriendly? I have only been nice the whole time, and I don’t hold any bad thoughts against you (and sorry for my language, but I’m, like I wrote above, not a native speaker and sometimes have to make longer sentences to get out my meaning).
    When I wrote the comment I had not read what you said above, but anyway, half of what I wrote still applies – you thought it wasn’t bigoted (or not *that* bigoted), since you thought it more important to leave the quote intact than to exclude it. This lead to people noticing that the quote could be read to endorse bigoted ideas, and you had after all written under the quote “this is what I am saying”, without any mention of the problematic part of the quote (like you have it now).
    Of course the “universe” is not bigoted, and I never said that. But we all are. Or do you disagree? Do you think there is no such thing as internalized ideas about race, gender, sexual orientation, etc? I don’t really understand this part.
    Or, do you say this because I wrote “understood it as bigoted”? , Ok, sorry, I guess that was the wrong word. What I mean is, some people thought the quote is bigoted. You didn’t *see* it that way. That’s what I meant. I am not being condescending.
    This is what I mean by unfriendly. Sorry, but I thought I was being nice and polite and basically just trying to point out something problematic. Of course I don’t speak for all your readers. I never said that. But I speak for those of us who know you are not bigoted, but who still think that sometimes even the most un-bigoted person might say or do something that can be seen as bigoted.
    Like I said above, you *did* write “This is what I am saying”, without including something like “but of course not the part that can be understood as saying that there is legitimate criticism of ‘homosexual behaviour'”, so you were kind of endorsing the quote. Anyway, I find it quite radical that you think you have no buried homophobia at all. I think we all are, some people much less than others, prone to mistakes in this area. If you think you can never ever do something that might be seen by other people as homophobic, that is nice. I don’t know, however, how you can be so sure of it. (And again, “heavy breathing”? Come on, pointing out that things might be seen as bigoted is now some sort of overreaction? I thought this were over when the same thing happenend with women in your community.)
    And sorry, but why are you not taking me seriously? I don’t know why a simple explanation is now “beyond stupid”. I like you. I like your blog. I’d like to end this on friendly terms. I am just trying to resolve this. Maybe you think I am some sort of trouble-maker or attention-seeker. I assure you, I am not. So please, I beg you, take me seriously.

  54. says

    Cluisanna, ok, sorry. I was irritated rather than unfriendly. I also didn’t realize English isn’t your first language (which just goes to show how fluent you are in your non-first language, which I’m not).

    I find the conversation irritating because it started with what was just a misunderstanding of what I was saying (possibly a deliberate one). I just don’t think it’s worth all this concerned scolding.

    To tell the truth I think I’m less likely to have buried homophobia than I am to have other buried phobias. I don’t think that’s all that crazy (or arrogant or in denial or any of that). I don’t think it’s a particularly “natural” phobia or a particularly deep-seated one (except for people who’ve been steeped in it). Maybe it’s because I went to a tiny all-girls’ school instead of a big turbulent one with lots of gay-bashing in the halls.

    Plus there’s the fact that I see perfectly well what’s wrong with “love them hate what they do” and I always did; it was just that I didn’t think that was Benn’s point. I really don’t think it should be seen as a sign of homophobia to argue that a philosopher meant X and not Y in a few sentences of an article in a humanist magazine.

    But I didn’t mean to be unfriendly. Love you, not so crazy about your claim!

    :- )

  55. Tony says

    Ophelia:

    I didn’t screw up. I often do screw up, certainly, but I didn’t screw up in the sense of inadvertently saying something homophobic.

    -I agree. You did nothing wrong. I have not seen you display any homophobia. I’ve seen nothing in this thread to indicate any subtle or overt homophobia on your part and I’ve experienced some homophobia on my part in the past, so I know some of what it’s like.

    This is getting beyond stupid.

    -It got well beyond stupid many many posts ago. I’m not going to try and speculate how people were able to read any homophobia into your comments, but I will say the feeling that you expressed any homophobic comments is not universal. Nor does every queer think you should apologize. I certainly don’t.

  56. says

    Ophelia, thanks for answering. I didn’t mean you were intentionally unfriendly. I guess I meant irritated, but didn’t think of that word, so sorry for that.
    I think that we basically have the same opinion on this matter, but since this is a blog and not a face-to-face conversation, I didn’t explain myself good enough and you took some things the wrong way. So I think I’lll stop now so as not to create anymore pretty much off-topic comments and I guess we can agree on the bottom line that people have different sensibilities :)

  57. Tony says

    Aratina:

    No it doesn’t. It never really meant that, not exclusively and not as a sort of dreadful fear like the fear of spiders would be.

    -Well let me go out on a limb and say this is a word (along with Islamophobia) that needs to be redefined, stat. If most other words using the suffix ‘phobia’ indicate an irrational fear of something, its going to cause some confusion about definitions of words. It already has. That’s why I don’t use the word ‘islamophobia’.
    Muslimphobia-clunky though it may be-more accurately describes much of the so-called ‘islamophobia’ that I’ve read about. Muslimphobia: irrational fear of Muslims.
    Islamophobia: a word that *should* mean ‘irrational fear of Islam’ , yet is more often used to describe anyone critical of Islam. As I said before, Islam is the belief system, Muslim is the person. If you’re critical of Wicca, that doesn’t mean you’re ‘wiccaphobic’.
    I feel much the same argument can be made with ‘homophobia’. I’m sorry, but the vast majority of phobias I’ve heard of and read about indicate an irrational fear of something. 2 words don’t fit with the rest, yet somehow they get to be exceptions to the rule. ‘Homophobia’ should be ‘irrational fear of homosexuals’. Nothing more. Yes, I’m aware that the everyday definition encompasses quite a bit more. That doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, I think it leads to confusion.
    Oh, and for anyone who doesn’t think there’s a such thing as ‘disapproval of homosexual actions’, I’ve been to many PRIDE celebrations and seen many ‘homosexual actions’ that I’ve disapproved of. Heck, I’ve even taken part in actions that others would disapprove of (overt sexual actions displayed in the context of a PRIDE celebration–and AFAIK there is no heterosexual equivalent {nor should there be}).

  58. Irene Delse says

    Ophelia:

    I find the conversation irritating because it started with what was just a misunderstanding of what I was saying (possibly a deliberate one). I just don’t think it’s worth all this concerned scolding.

    I don’t pretend to talk for all your commentators, but I certainly wasn’t deliberately trying to misunderstand you – for the sake of what, anyway?

    And I find it irritating too when you add to your comments passive-aggressive asides like this one, or characterise disagreement as “scolding”. Are you still in school and are we teachers? Can’t we just have a discussion among adults?

    And when you think it all stems from a misunderstanding, maybe it’s a good idea to consider that you might not have expressed your point very clearly, instead of thinking that all the problem in communication is on the other side.

    Anyway, to go back to the question of whether “islamophobia” is a valid concept: why should we stop using a word because of what some Islamists say? Of course, any time someone criticise them, or Islam, they are going to claim to be harassed! If the word Islamophobia didn’t exist, they would use something else.

    Faced with adversaries who are clever with words, it’s dangerous to let oneself be shaped by this rhetoric. We should neither stop using a word just because they bandy it about as an ad-hominem – or, worse agree to the label they put on us. Next time, if the bullies say we are racist, shall we start thinking that after all, it’s not such a bad thing? Obviously not.

    +++++++++++

    Tony:

    Well let me go out on a limb and say this is a word (along with Islamophobia) that needs to be redefined, stat. If most other words using the suffix ‘phobia’ indicate an irrational fear of something, its going to cause some confusion about definitions of words. It already has. That’s why I don’t use the word ‘islamophobia’.

    Good luck to redefine the English language to accommodate your preferences, then… Inconvenient as it is, sorry, but there are imperfect words out there that we have to use in everyday life. If you insist on not using them, or to change their meaning unilaterally, you’ll have problems being understood, count upon it!

    Muslimphobia-clunky though it may be-more accurately describes much of the so-called ‘islamophobia’ that I’ve read about. Muslimphobia: irrational fear of Muslims.
    Islamophobia: a word that *should* mean ‘irrational fear of Islam’ , yet is more often used to describe anyone critical of Islam.

    Sorry, but you seem to be operating in a vacuum, here. You may only have encountered islamophobia in reading, but it’s out there, it’s not in the same category as arachnophobia and claustrophobia (!), and it’s not just a ploy by Islamists to disqualify criticism.

    Several people in this thread already mentioned political movements, parties and personalities (Pat Condell, the EDL, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the Front National in France) who engage in deliberate scaremongering against both the religion (Wilders want to ban the Qu’ran – how’s that for infringement on the freedom of religion) and the Muslims (calls for deporting immigrants from Muslim countries). And it’s not just racism, because they specifically target Muslims and not all foreigners, or even all brown people. The concept of Islamophobia is apt and precise, just as the concept of anti-Semitism is when talking about anti-Jewish prejudice, or misogyny for anti-women prejudice.

    I’m sorry, but the vast majority of phobias I’ve heard of and read about indicate an irrational fear of something. 2 words don’t fit with the rest, yet somehow they get to be exceptions to the rule.

    Obviously, then, you should get better information. Have you never heard of xenophobia? It’s not that rare a word! And transphobia (prejudice against transgender people)? Fatphobia (prejudice against obese people)? More examples of words constructed with the suffix “-phobia” but which don’t derive from the medical or psychological sciences! They are however useful in debates on social and political issues. Just add them to the list of racism, agism, classism, ableism, misogyny, and in general bigotry.

  59. says

    Irene: it was “lm” aka “l” who (I think) deliberately misunderstood. Anyone who has followed this digression enough to be still reading these comments will probably know that.

  60. walton says

    No it doesn’t. It never really meant that, not exclusively and not as a sort of dreadful fear like the fear of spiders would be.

    Indeed. The sense in which we use the term in the context of “homophobia” and “xenophobia” is, and has always been, quite different from “phobia” in the clinical sense. Terms like “homophobia” and “xenophobia” typically denote prejudice and bigotry against a group, not necessarily literal fear. I use the term “Islamophobia” in the same way, by analogy, since I think there is a specific bigotry against Muslims and Muslim culture which needs such a term to describe it accurately, just as we have “anti-Semitism” to describe specific bigotry against Jews.

    By all means, we can use “Muslimophobia” instead of “Islamophobia” if that’s what’s preferred, but I don’t see the point; “Islamophobia” is the term in common use. And as Irene points out, there’s not much point in dropping the word just because some people abuse it to silence criticism; any such word can be abused in this way. There have undoubtedly been people who make false allegations of racism or anti-Semitism as means of smearing and silencing their opponents, for example; that doesn’t mean that we should stop using the words “racism” and “anti-Semitism” to describe actual racism and anti-Semitism. Along the same lines, I see no reason to stop using the word “Islamophobia” to refer to irrational bigotry against Muslims and Muslim culture, such as the likes of Pat Condell and Geert Wilders espouse.

  61. says

    @Tony #65

    -Well let me go out on a limb and say this is a word (along with Islamophobia) that needs to be redefined, stat. If most other words using the suffix ‘phobia’ indicate an irrational fear of something, its going to cause some confusion about definitions of words. It already has. That’s why I don’t use the word ‘islamophobia’.

    I don’t recall using the word Islamophobia myself either (unless perhaps it was being used already by a person I was conversing with) because of the problem with it being used wrongly to attempt to silence legitimate criticism of Islam (and even Islamic practices that are destructive and harmful–to women, for instance) as Ophelia mentioned.

    I don’t think the -phobia suffix is the problem, though. The problem (the reason not to use the term) is the misnomer that Islam- refers to the religion while it actually refers to people and all the benign cultural practices generally associated with Islam. I mean, it would be very silly for someone to say that I was Catholophobic because of my condemnation of Catholic priests raping children or my laughing over the inanity of Catholics eating what they think is the actual flesh of Jesus.

    Islamophobia: a word that *should* mean ‘irrational fear of Islam’ , yet is more often used to describe anyone critical of Islam. As I said before, Islam is the belief system, Muslim is the person. If you’re critical of Wicca, that doesn’t mean you’re ‘wiccaphobic’.

    I used to think that, but now I think we should grant that there is a sort of culture that Islam (and any other religion) usually brings with it that is the direct target of the bigots (who are ultimately racist xenophobes). Also, being critical of a person is not always bigotry, either. Some people are worthy of being hated.

    I feel much the same argument can be made with ‘homophobia’. I’m sorry, but the vast majority of phobias I’ve heard of and read about indicate an irrational fear of something. 2 words don’t fit with the rest, yet somehow they get to be exceptions to the rule. ‘Homophobia’ should be ‘irrational fear of homosexuals’. Nothing more. Yes, I’m aware that the everyday definition encompasses quite a bit more. That doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, I think it leads to confusion.

    If you don’t like it, then you could always use an alternative word or phrase to say what you mean. Wikipedia has a great list of different terms you could use if you dislike homophobia. And like I said earlier, homo does not formally mean homosexual, so you’ve already imputed more meaning on those four letters than are literally there. (Speaking of those four letters, I find it ironic that homophobia originated as a term to describe the phenomenon we see today where ostensibly straight men qualify that something they just did does not make them gay by uttering “no homo” after doing it.)

    Oh, and for anyone who doesn’t think there’s a such thing as ‘disapproval of homosexual actions’, I’ve been to many PRIDE celebrations and seen many ‘homosexual actions’ that I’ve disapproved of.

    Actions done by one or more homosexuals is something entirely different from homosexual behaviors. This is where the prejudice comes in, when people assert that something is a universal homosexual behavior.

    Heck, I’ve even taken part in actions that others would disapprove of (overt sexual actions displayed in the context of a PRIDE celebration–and AFAIK there is no heterosexual equivalent {nor should there be}).

    I don’t understand what you mean that there could be no heterosexual equivalent. Really, I don’t believe you about that. (And FWIW, I can’t stand gay or bi men who criticize LGBT pride celebrations. Is Ethan Sabo not a homophobic bigot, for instance? Or Ted Haggard?)

  62. Irene Delse says

    Heck, I’ve even taken part in actions that others would disapprove of (overt sexual actions displayed in the context of a PRIDE celebration–and AFAIK there is no heterosexual equivalent {nor should there be}).

    Er… Yes there is. Maybe you just don’t go to the right kind of parties. ^^°

    As for conflating “homosexual behaviour” with “display in the context of a PRIDE”… Huh? This is not about homophobia any more, this is splitting hairs.

  63. says

    By all means, we can use “Muslimophobia” instead of “Islamophobia” if that’s what’s preferred, but I don’t see the point; “Islamophobia” is the term in common use. And as Irene points out, there’s not much point in dropping the word just because some people abuse it to silence criticism; any such word can be abused in this way.

    No, because “Islamophobia” has the abuse built right in. It’s a misnomer. I can’t think of any other words like that – words that protect a belief-system that way. Socialismophobia? Libertarianismophobia? Christianityophobia? Nope.

    And this idea that because a word is in common use there’s no point in resisting it is just mindless. Lots of words are in common use that should nevertheless be avoided because they’re prejudicial! “Slut” is one well-known example. That Toronto cop could have just said, “Wull it’s in common use.” He probably did. That doesn’t make it good thinking.

  64. lml says

    On the chance that that was a software error:

    ml @ 47 – well phrasing it as a request rather than an order would be a good start. You didn’t ask, you told.

    Oh, well that’s too much.

    Much like your disdain of tolerance, I don’t ask straight people not to say homophobic things, and I don’t ask straight people to apologize when they do.

    I demand apologies for homophobic rhetoric, because queer people deserve apologies for homophobic rhetoric. I will not grovel toward privilege.

    It’s unfortunate that you can’t differentiate between a demand for a deserved apology and ideological policing. As distasteful as you may find the former, it is not the latter. There is a real distinction to be made here.

    If you can’t or won’t understand that distinction, perhaps you should join Edwin Kagin in his crusade to never be criticized for homophobic speech.

    I can’t think of any other words like that – words that protect a belief-system that way. Socialismophobia?

    Red baiting.

  65. says

    If you can’t or won’t understand that distinction, perhaps you should join Edwin Kagin in his crusade to never be criticized for homophobic speech.

    Seriously, love moderately? I think you are acting out of paranoia here. The Benn quote is nothing like the unfunny, homophobic, sympathy-begging story Kagin wrote and now defends. The Benn quote is wrong, yes, and it has the whiff of a homophobe (many of them resort to the idea that homophobia only means one thing: irrational fear of homosexuals which they themselves don’t have, naturally, when it does not in fact mean only that), but it was not Ophelia’s words or her personal sentiment unlike with Kagin. She does not owe you an apology, but because she does care about that aspect of it, she has clarified her thoughts on that part of Benn’s words that she quoted.

    And just so you know, you are coming off no better than a common troll with all this morphing. Ophelia has moderated her comment threads as long as I’ve been reading Butterflies and Wheels (and Kagin, ironically, does not–your comments there are being eaten by a spam filter which is why they are not publishing). She didn’t start doing so because of you.

  66. says

    But still…they’re not really parallel, although it’s true that the word “homophobic” is blurred in the same way. -Ophelia #38

    Well, see, I don’t think that’s right, or rather that it’s the wrong part of the word to focus on. The -phobia in Islamophobia is blurred in the same way, but that isn’t the part that is problematic since -phobia is already well established as a valid ending for several English words outside of a clinical context.

    It’s the Islamo- half that is causing all the trouble. When anti-atheists/gnu-haters use it in the context of what they consider blasphemy, they are talking about the religion itself which they consider sacred or, if they aren’t Muslim, off-limits to criticism and mockery.

    That is compounded when atheists themselves say, “Fine. If it means an aversion to Islam, then I am an Islamophobe.” Probably the best thing to do would be to not play into the anti-atheists’ hands like that and instead criticize anti-atheists for improperly using the term Islamophobia, and for our parts, ditch the word from our vocabularies entirely due to the all too easily abused imprecision of the Islamo- part of the word.

  67. says

    Aratina – I wasn’t focusing on the phobia part but just on the word overall, and all I meant by “blurred” is the mashing together of people on the one hand and something else on the other. But it’s a bad parallel because the two something elses don’t match up.

  68. says

    I don’t “let them through,” you goon; you change your name to avoid the moderation and they appear without my volition. Don’t. Stop being so fucking rude.

  69. says

    Ah. Finally, a public acknowledgement of the deletions.

    *facepalm* Did you really have to go there? It’s truly beneath you. Anyone who’s anyone can see you are being moderated. It’s not a big secret that only you know.

  70. says

    Blimey. I’m catching up with this Edwin Kagin thing – I was totally unaware of it. I hadn’t read him at all yet. (I know, I know! But there are a lot of bloggers here, and a lot of stuff has been happening lately, and I can’t keep up.)

    Um…I’m not that.

  71. el em says

    Aratina, it’s only apparent to you because you’ve been watching this live and in person.

    It won’t be obvious later, or wouldn’t have been without her acknowledgement. Which I’m grateful for. I’m not complaining.

  72. says

    lem, it’s likely that no one else will notice or care. This thread is oldish; probably no one else is reading it.

    I at least see where some of your annoyance came from, now. For what it’s worth I was oblivious of Kagin’s blog. I wasn’t echoing him (intentionally, that is). This isn’t some FTB trend or campaign.

    Look, I do think the so-called “arguments” against “homosexuality” that get trotted out are all just dressed up dislike or revulsion; homophobia if you like.

    But philosophers try to come up with reasoned arguments they don’t agree with. It’s something they do. It’s a form of testing. I think that’s what Benn had in mind, though I don’t know.

  73. says

    Aratina, it’s only apparent to you because you’ve been watching this live and in person.

    It won’t be obvious later, or wouldn’t have been without her acknowledgement. Which I’m grateful for. I’m not complaining.

    Well, my seeing that set of particular comments is simply coincidence, but it was obvious to me even earlier that you were being moderated here when Ophelia started saying so in the comments on the threads about this topic. I think other people who read and/or comment here regularly would be able to see that, too.

    It’s not like Pharyngula, that’s for sure. Still, her place, her choice about where the line is drawn between being heard and being completely or selectively silenced on this site. (I probably shouldn’t even be responding to you at this point, come to think of it.) I believe you knew that, though. On the other hand, I get that your tactic is to do everything you can to break through and be heard. Suit yourself then, but I think that there are better ways to get your point across on this site than using that tactic.

  74. el em says

    lem, it’s likely that no one else will notice or care. This thread is oldish; probably no one else is reading it.

    Possible. I’d feel able to let the matter go if you’d just release all my comments from moderation.

    The worst thing I’ve said to you is what you interpreted as me calling you a homophobe. I think it’s clear I didn’t, and in any case I reiterated this afterwards: “sometimes LGBT allies make homophobic statements”.

    But that’s the worst of it. So this crackdown makes both of us look bad. It makes me look like I’ve perhaps said something worse than I really did, something really deserving of deletion. And it makes you look like you’re unwilling to tolerate my style of — admittedly abrasive — criticism.

    To reiterate, I’m aware I have no “right” to any space on what is your private property. But I think it would be charitable of you to just leave my comments be.

  75. says

    They’re already gone. I’m not sure I would reinstate them even if they weren’t. You’d made your point, more than once, and I was tired of the bossy insistence.

    However I get what motivated it now, so I’ll agree that you didn’t say anything all that outrageous. Nothing different from what’s still here, for that matter.

  76. el em says

    Or, if that would be too much of a bother, I think I still have all the comments. If I could just repost them under this name, I’d appreciate that.

  77. says

    But philosophers try to come up with reasoned arguments they don’t agree with. It’s something they do. It’s a form of testing. –Ophelia

    And this style of argument does have a tendency of seeming to support or actually supporting terrible ideas. It can be a kind of dissociative discourse, which is strange because it is supposed to be reasoned and yet the disconnect between what is said and the way things actually are can be rather apparent. We see this all the time when philosophers take up theology as the topic, or in debates with theoweasels like WLC.

  78. el em says

    They’re already gone.

    Ah. Okay, well I still have them.

    You’d made your point, more than once,

    Of course, since I’m in my head and I know why I wrote each one, I think there’s some nuance which will otherwise go missing. It may all look the same to you, but I don’t repeat myself for nothing, so far as I can tell.

  79. says

    I’d rather you didn’t. I get why you were hypervigilant now; how about if you get why I didn’t like being lectured so often and at such length for an imaginary sin?

  80. el em says

    I didn’t imagine that you posted something homophobic from Benn and are still denying that it’s homophobic. That’s why one of my more recent comments was devoted to explaining why Benn’s philosophy is homophobic.

  81. ecks why says

    Informed rational freedom loving people have all the reasons in the world to fear islam. The twin fogs of political correctness & ignorance must be dispersed before western society better understands this menace. Even a brief review of islamic theology & history quickly exposes the deadly roots of this evil ideology.

    Mohamhead was a 7th century murdering warlord who rose to power on a river of blood surrounded by thugs and gangsters using intimidation, violence, deception and trickery to expand their criminal empire while mercilessly suppressing and killing their opponents and enriching themselves on stolen booty.

    The evil koran is a collection of sayings and speeches by this diabolical madman claiming divine guidance from some mythical sky-god which has inspired generations of crazed fanatics to abhorrent behavior resulting in historys worst ever crimes against humanity starting 1400 years ago and still continuing even today.

    Islam is just another fascist totalitarian ideology used by power hungry fanatics on yet another quest for worldwide domination and includes all the usual human rights abuses & suppression of freedoms.

    and a snappy graphics version, great for emailing…

    http://img256.imageshack.us/img256/1479/dangermoko.jpg

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