Devastating, passionate and ferocious »« Xianityophobia

Who is an Islamophobe?

As I mentioned, in my horrid sarcastic mocking horrid way, I’m getting called Islamophobic a good bit these days. I’m getting called it here and even on the chat threads at Pharyngula, The Lounge and Thunderdome. (On the other hand it’s by the same people, so it doesn’t add up to more, it just adds up to repetition.)

I think this is frankly stupid. It’s as if the people who call me that had never heard of Maryam Namazie. Surely it can’t be the case that they’ve never heard of Maryam, can it? They don’t go round to her place and call her Islamophobic do they? Or do they.

Here’s Maryam at the National Secular Society conference in London last week:

Sometimes I really don’t know what more to say.

What else can be said about Sharia law that– at least in your gut – you don’t already know?

It is based on the Koran, the Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence. Its criminal code includes stoning to death for adultery and execution for apostasy and homosexuality. In Iran, for example, there are over 130 offences punishable by death.

Its civil code – which is imposed by Sharia courts in Britain – is discriminatory and unfair particularly against women. Basically it is a code of death and despair.

Not breaking news, is it? After all it is religious law. And that’s what – in my opinion – religion does best. A court based on the Bible and Torah would be similarly discriminatory and barbaric.

Yet the numbers of people who continue to defend Sharia courts in Britain as people’s ‘right to religion’ is staggering.

Well? How about it? No cries of Islamophobia yet? No accusations of punching down?

In a Sharia court in Britain, a woman can’t even sign her own marriage contract; a male guardian must do it on her behalf. Child custody goes to the father at a pre-set age irrespective of the welfare of the child. Marital rape is seen to be the prerogative of the husband – a sharia judge recently said calling it rape is the act of aggression. The rules here in Britain are the same as the ones women in Iran face in family courts.

And they are also dealing with child marriages, which is nothing more than religiously-sanctioned child rape and paedophilia. In 2010, around 30 cases of child marriages were reported in Islington alone. At least three 11-year-old girls and two nine-year-olds had been forced into marriage with older men. The oldest girls were 16.

In the latest scandal, which by the way has only been covered by the tabloid rags like the Sun and Daily Mail, an investigation by the Sunday Times found imams in Britain willing to “marry” young girls after being approached by an undercover reporter posing as a father who said he wanted his 12 year old daughter married to prevent her from being tempted in to a ‘western lifestyle’.

Question these and you are often accused of Islamophobia, racism, intolerance, and denying people’s very right to religion and belief.

And punching down. Well, how about it? Anybody prepared to accuse Maryam of that?

I have a question for those who use human rights and anti-racist language to excuse and apologise for inequality, discrimination, violence against women and barbarity.

Even if it were people’s right to religion (most rights are not absolute and anyway Sharia courts are about politics not religion) – and even if they were real choices (let’s put aside the many threats and intimidation for now), what is your position on it?

Do you have one?

Do you think it’s wrong?

Whilst you may be very happy to promote it for the ‘other’ – what I call a racism of lower standards and expectations – would you like if for yourself and for your loved ones?

If not, then please stop apologising for it.

Hiding behind ‘rights’ and ‘choice’ to excuse misogyny is a betrayal of human principles. After all, years ago, certain men only had the ‘right’ to vote and own slaves.

Remember good old fashioned international solidarity – how I miss it – when we actually joined forces with those suffering under racial apartheid in South Africa for example.

Nowadays, many liberals and post-modernist leftists side with those imposing apartheid – sex apartheid – because it is considered the ‘right to religion’…

It’s a betrayal of human solidarity.

And this solidarity is fundamental particularly given that Islamism and Sharia law have killed a generation in what I call an Islamic inquisition.

Anyone?

Muslims after all are not a homogeneous community as Islamists portray. When you give group rights to the ‘Muslim community’, you basically give further power to the dominant elite – the imams and Islamic ‘scholars’ [as Richard Dawkins says, you do need to read more than one book to be considered a scholar] – at the expense of women, and many others.

Conflating Islamism (and its Sharia courts) with Muslim is part of the effort of feigning representation and is the narrative peddled by Islamists. In fact Islamism or political Islam is part of the project for controlling the population at large and is not an exercise in people’s rights and choices.

To accept the Islamist version and narrative is to hand over countless individuals – many of them dissenting – to the far-Right Islamic movement and to ignore the resistance, the political, social and civil struggles, and class politics. Conflating Muslim and Islamist is like conflating Christian or English with the English Defence League or the British National Party.

Very often also a criticism of Islamism, Sharia or Islam is touted as being racist, discriminatory, and Islamophobic. It’s not. Let me give you an example of this. When a British court told a Muslim hospital consultant that he must pay his ex-wife maintenance even though under Sharia he believed he owed her nothing, the doctor said that the ‘Family law in Britain is biased against Muslim people’ but isn’t his wife Muslim too?

It does all depend on how you look at it and whose side you choose to take.

This has nothing to do with racism.

Such accusations of racism are particular to the west.

If you are criticising Islam, the veil, Sharia law, or Islamism in Iran, Egypt or Afghanistan the debate is not framed in the context of racism or Islamophobia.

When the Saudi government arrests 23 year old Hamza Kashgari for tweeting about Mohammad, it doesn’t accuse him of racism, it accuses him of blasphemy – an accusation punishable by death.

But that same government will accuse critics of Saudi policy at the UN Human Rights Committee as Islamophobic and racist.

What I’m trying to say is that Islamists and their apologists have coined the term Islamophobia – a political term – to scaremonger people into silence.

These bogus accusations of Islamophobia and offence serve Islamism in the same way that Sharia law serves them where they have power. It helps to threaten, intimidate and silence criticism, solidarity and dissent.

They work like secular fatwas and are used not to defend Muslims from bigotry but to defend Islam and Islamism.

So. Explain to Maryam why she’s wrong and she really does have “a massive blind spot” on this subject. I dare you.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    You dare us?

    Ophelia, I have a whole mess of respect for you. I’ve been an ass when I’ve disagreed with you before, and I am apologizing here and now for it, without reservation. I don’t think you’re a bad person. I don’t think you’re a racist. I don’t think you’re comfortable with bigotry in general.

    I do think you have a blind spot when it comes to Islam and Muslims. I don’t think you can avoid that blind spot by making tu quoque fallacies towards Muslims. I don’t think you can avoid it by pointing at Maryam Namazie and then claiming that some of her her completely valid claims of victimization make anti-Muslim bigotry disappear.

    There are valid criticisms of the current government of Israel. There are invalid criticisms of Israel that are based in racism/religous bigotry. We call the invalid criticisms based in racism/religious bigotry “anti-semitism”. The fact that anti-semitism exists and is a real thing does not detract from the fact that there are real and valid criticisms of the Israeli government. In the same way, there are real criticisms of Islam, and there’s anti-Muslim bigotry that can be fairly labels as Islamophobia, and honest critics can differentiate between the two without claiming that the bigotry simply doesn’t exist.

  2. says

    Well, Joe, I think it’s a blind spot to talk about Islam and Muslims in the same breath as if they were the same thing. I think it’s a blind spot to say “you have a blind spot when it comes to Islam and Muslims” as if I talked about both in the same way. I don’t. You can ask Eric – we’ve disagreed about it in the past, sometimes almost heatedly.

    Can you point out where I’m “making tu quoque fallacies towards Muslims”?

    I’m not trying to avoid anything. I’m not defending anti-Muslim bigotry. I don’t think I ever have.

    Thank you for the apology, meanwhile. I was glad when you came back, you know.

  3. Sastra says

    It’s as if some people have an automatic reflex: the religious right is criticizing X, therefore criticizing X makes someone just like the religious right. Therefore — attack.

    Obviously, there’s a lot more nuance involved. Over at Ed Brayton’s Dispatches, conservative wingnuts are often mocked for breathlessly arguing that Muslims are not only a menace, but on the brink of taking over America from within. Sharia law is just around the corner from being instituted by force on all U.S. citizen. Panic in the streets, elect a Tea Party Republican now. Close down the mosques, deport the brown people as a matter of protection in this our final hour. Silly.

    But Sharia law is not itself silly.

    I don’t understand how you could be charged with “Islamophobia” — a label which to me makes sense only when used on the extremists I describe above. You’re in the Maryam Namazie category. Yes.

  4. says

    And yes, I do dare the people who have been throwing around these accusations (which don’t include you). I dare them to call Maryam that, because it’s so ludicrous and so…to use that vexed but sometimes precise word, offensive.

  5. says

    Ophelia…

    I think the difference is in the tone? When you criticize the Catholic hierarchy for protecting pedophile priests, I never feel like you’re going after rank-and-file Catholics over pedophilia. When you criticize acts of Muslim extremism, I don’t feel that same sense of restraint or limiting to the people who are acting out.

    Whether you agree with it or not in reference to yourself, do you agree that if someone did what I am describing then it would be problematic? And do you accept that there ARE prominent anti-Muslim bigots at all?

  6. says

    Oh, and if you mean the Eric I think you mean (“Choice in Dying” Eric MacDonald?)… I think he has been at least as guilty as you are, from what I’ve seen of him. So if even HE is saying something similar to what I’m saying, I’d have to say that you DO have a serious problem.

  7. says

    And Ophelia, you have to admit that the criticism is largely coming from people who like and respect you. This isn’t the sort of nonsense that you’re used to addressing from people who are looking to tear you down based on your outspoken feminism, as an example. Even if no one can change your mind, I think it is fair to say that the same people who are criticizing you on this issue will continue to support everything else you do.

  8. says

    Joe…But I don’t call them “acts of Muslim extremism” – that’s your language, not mine.

    But as for the difference between rank-and-file Catholics and Islamists – well there is in fact a difference. As far as I know there is no Catholic version of Boko Haram or al-Shabaab or Jamaat-e-Islami. So I’m not sure what your point is. Do you consider Boko Haram rank-and-file Muslims? Do you consider anger at Boko Haram “Islamophobic”? If so then yes, we disagree. If not…I’m not sure we do…but you seem to be relying on a feeling.

    I’m not sure whether I would think it problematic or not because I’m not sure I get what you mean.

    Yes of course I accept that there are prominent anti-Muslim bigots. I also have no problem with the term “anti-Muslim” (unless it’s applied to people who aren’t). It’s “Islamophobia” I object to.

    I just did a thing objecting to Pamela Geller’s stupid NYC subway ad the other day.

  9. says

    I’ll take this “sharia law in britain” stuff seriously when it starts being mentioned together with the Bet Din and Christian arbitration courts. Which it isn’t. wonder why not? hmmm…

  10. says

    Joe – @ 7 – no, Eric and I disagree with each other in the opposite direction. I think he generalizes about “Muslims” too incautiously. I hope I’m not throwing him under the bus, here – I think it’s a problem of wording more than one of substance. But we have argued about it.

    And sure, I recognize what you say in 8. But I still think it’s dead wrong and a bit dense…given what Maryam has been saying for years. I think the people in question are making exactly the stupid and harmful mistake she warns against.

  11. says

    Oh damn, you caught me, Jadehawk! Me and Maryam both. The jig is up. We’re both secret racists (Maryam, weirdly, is racist against herself). It’s all just a ploy to pick on the brown people.

    I’ll go quietly.

  12. says

    I’m getting called Islamophobic a good bit these days…. It’s as if the people who call me that had never heard of Maryam Namazie.

    Who’s calling you that these days?

    They don’t go round to her place and call her Islamophobic do they? Or do they.

    Well, she wrote something titled something like “The Far Right: Enemies, Not Allies.” Who the hell is the audience of such a screed? What sort of social justice activist needs to be reminded that the far fucking Right is their enemy?

    (I’ve also been composing a long article about her HRW post. It’s not calling her anything (or particularly supporting HRW, for that matter), but it’s quite critical of her views.)

    People should be responsive to the reasonably assessed dangers of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religionists in their circumstances, while being attentive to the danger of faith everywhere. People also need to be responsive to ALL forms of bigotry. FFS, if you don’t acknowledge that people are being marginalized and oppressed in Western countries because they’re Muslim, how can a reasonable conversation even proceed? Would you have said the same about Jewish people 100 years ago?

    Conflating Muslim and Islamist is like conflating Christian or English with the English Defence League or the British National Party.

    Yes!

    Very often also a criticism of Islamism, Sharia or Islam is touted as being racist, discriminatory, and Islamophobic.

    Oh, wait…

    On what planet are attacks on “Islam” entirely separate from those on actual Muslims? (I don’t mean theoretically; I mean in the real world of the history of colonialism and racism; imperial wars; far-Right attacks on immigrants; stereotypes; and so on.)

  13. says

    As far as I know there is no Catholic version of Boko Haram or al-Shabaab or Jamaat-e-Islami.

    Really? Maybe not Catholic, although Opus Dei comes close. But Christian? Absolutely. Of course, if you are looking to pretend that extremist Muslims are a special thing, you’ll ignore that Christian extremists are infiltrating the military, have control over a “war on women” in state and federal American government, and that Christian extremists are enslaving women and murdering people in “land of the free” America every year.

    The difference is that you’ll say that Islam is more violent than other religions. Christianity is so much more violent that you miss it in the same way you notice the rain and ignore the ocean.

  14. says

    We’re both secret racists (Maryam, weirdly, is racist against herself).

    aside from the minor detail that I didn’t call either of you racist, I wonder if you actually think “I can’t harbor unexamined prejudices against X, I’m a member of X myself” is a reasonable sort of argument?

  15. says

    …or for that matter, that “I can’t do things that inadvertently contribute to systemic oppression against X, I’m a member of X myself” is a reasonable sort of argument?

    (both versions are possible interpretations of the “Maryam, weirdly, is racist against herself”, line, and I can’t be bothered to figure out which version is the one you’re using)

  16. Shaker Srinivasan says

    Ophelia,

    I am a frequent, but mostly silent visitor to this blog, for only one reason – your posts, and rarely for the comments section. I don’t know if this means anything to you, but, IMO, you are doing a great job, and please keep it up. You don’t need to change a thing, not your takes on the topics you choose, not the tone, nothing. There is absolutely no reason for you to be defensive about any of your posts.

    If you feel depressed about some of the comments, view this discussion among Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and, Hirsi Ali – two of them at least have been branded as Islamophobes in certain circles. I do.

  17. says

    I do acknowledge that people are being marginalized and oppressed in Western countries because they’re Muslim, god damn it – what the hell makes anyone think I don’t?

    By the way, do you acknowledge that many of them are marginalized and oppressed by Muslims as well as by anti-Muslim bigots?

  18. Mira says

    Actually, I am an Islamaphobe. I just don’t like Islam, I don’t like any other religion too. But I have this special hatred for Islam, because of the proportionally higher misogyny propagated by the main-stream-Islam.

    But most times I see mild-racism-to-utter-bigotry cloaked as anti-Islam. I guess practically this quality is considered as Islamaphobia, and not the general hating of religion or the silly-religious-stuff.

    In the other post I had said two posts in a row to mean the Hijab and the “We’re lucky: we know when something is funny!” post. I missed the AA post in between. Sorry for not being clear.

    I do think you have a blind spot. Whatever made you write the Hijab post – I’m guessing it was misunderstanding caused by this blind spot.
    She(rotifan) said the below in her response in the comments section
    // the vast majority of Hijabis I know wear the Hijab because they feel it has value in their lives. Some of these hijabis do so against the express wishes of their families that feel veils are “backward” and in some cases have rejected their daugthers because of it//
    This is bad, and I wouldn’t be offended if you had rebuked her for something this.

    Say, something like this -
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/28/hijab-society-women-religious-political

    But her OP did not have any direct/indirect references to anything like this. This just came as a defensive stance from a young, so I’m discounting woman and not a well-thought-concrete stance at all, as she goes back/loose on it as soon as you were kind.
    (okay… I’m being slightly generous- she calls herself “rotifan” and is a student)

    And regarding the Joke post :
    There are so many people who do/tell so much stupid stuff. I get so much Ryan/Romney jokes on my FB feed – which makes me wonder – “seriously.. did they really tell this?”
    Same in India – politicians do/say really wild stuff, sometimes makes the real news site look like Onion.
    But the stupidity or crassness is generally not directly attributed to their religion – unless it is a specific religious ritual being made fun of.

    I feel very embarrassed to even write on FtB, because people commenting here are very smart and engage in arguments so well (I’m a fan of LeftSidePositive and few others). I can’t even properly articulate what I want to say.
    I cannot defend my opinion – I lack the ability/proficiency. but this is what I feel.

  19. earwig says

    Jadehawk – Beth Din courts, yes, they operate in UK. They are tolerated and often criticised, especially for their treatment of women. But Christian arbitration courts? Never heard of them.

  20. says

    and lastly, I shall note that #12 is not actually an answer or explanation for why Jewish and Christian arbitration courts aren’t fought with the same fervor with which Sharia Courts are.

    Mind you, I’m not asking Maryam why she focuses on Sharia law,. Ex-Mormons often focus on Mormon-specific fuckery; Ex-Catholics often focus on Catholic fuckery; ex-Jews often focus on Jewish fuckery; ex-Hindus focus on Hindu fuckery. So it’s not at all notable that an ex-Muslim would focus on Islamic fuckery. But what’s everyone else’s excuse to ignore or only tangentially concern themselves with the other religious arbitration courts?

  21. says

    I do acknowledge that people are being marginalized and oppressed in Western countries because they’re Muslim, god damn it – what the hell makes anyone think I don’t?

    You haven’t, in your posts or on your blog. I’m basing that on my reading of your posts over the past few years. It’s not a scientific examination, so I could be wrong. Do you honestly think someone reading your blog over these years would get the impression that you think that’s a significant problem?

    By the way, do you acknowledge that many of them are marginalized and oppressed by Muslims as well as by anti-Muslim bigots?

    Is that a joke? You can read the evidence of my past posts and comments.

    My point is precisely that there’s more than one axis of oppression, and that it doesn’t help to focus narrowly on one while excluding others from our vision.

  22. earwig says

    As for shariah courts, this for starters. Let us separate the idea of Islamophobia (which is perhaps not such an irrational dread) from fear of individual Muslims. It’s pretty clear that there are a lot of individual Muslims who seek protection from their “community”. The rest of us need to recognise that and be there for them.

  23. earwig says

    Britain still has diocesian and archdiocesian courts.
    Indeed. And they deal with arcane ecclesiastical matters of no concern to anyone else who isn’t bothered about gravestones or stained glass windows in the chancel.

  24. says

    earwig, in Canada the Catholic courts (and JW courts, in a case i recently stumbled upon) work the same way Sharia and Bet Din courts work. I’d be pleasantly surprised if christian clergy didn’t get used for private arbitration (but that still wouldn’t explain the relative silence about Canadian Chistian courts, nor about the British Jewish ones)

  25. says

    It’s pretty clear that there are a lot of individual Muslims who seek protection from their “community”. The rest of us need to recognise that and be there for them.

    Catholics, too! (Sorry – I don’t mean Catholics need to be there for them, but that we need to be there for Catholics.)

  26. says

    earwig, in Canada the Catholic courts (and JW courts, in a case i recently stumbled upon) work the same way Sharia and Bet Din courts work. I’d be pleasantly surprised if christian clergy didn’t get used for private arbitration (but that still wouldn’t explain the relative silence about Canadian Chistian courts, nor about the British Jewish ones)

    Latin America.

  27. says

    O.o well, that’s fascinating….

    let’s try again:

    The rest of us need to recognize that and be there for them.

    which would be one hell of a lot easier if we weren’t simultaneously performing cultural work that hurts them.

    the reason I stopped having religious arguments with the Christians on NLQ is precisely because it was more important to work to get women trying to escape out of the Quiverful movement than it was to argue about whether Christianity is a real thing or not. Can’t imagine what purpose it would have served to alienate those Christians, when they’d likely be more successful at helping people escape that I would have been

  28. says

    erm. about whether Christianity is true; it’s rather obviously a real thing. alright, off to do something literally more profitable than this.

  29. says

    Just piss off, all of you, if you’re going to say shit like that

    Well… yeah, that’s sort of the point that “all of us” are making, is that you hear the criticism and just say “piss off” rather than trying to actually engage with it.

    Which again, is coming from people who generally respect you. I know I respect you. I just wish you could give us enough respect to at least pretend that there’s some possible merit to the criticism, worth you actually engaging with it.

  30. earwig says

    Jadehawk, I appreciate your desire to be even-handed here, but you can really forget canon law. What you call “Christian” courts here count for nada outside of their immediate concerns of the fabric of Anglican buildings. Beth Din – it’s unofficial, and has only as much power as the parties grant it. Only Orthodox Jews will go there, and I have no knowledge about that. Perhaps there is a question over how consenting Orthodox women are free to be. I do know that if any party chose to challenge a decision the civil law would entertain the challenge. As for shariah law, there are many courts operating unofficially. The problem here is that there are many immigrants who don’t speak English. It is tragic that they don’t know their rights under English law.

  31. says

    the reason I stopped having religious arguments with the Christians on NLQ is precisely because it was more important to work to get women trying to escape out of the Quiverful movement than it was to argue about whether Christianity is a real thing or not.

    Hmm. It’s an interesting question. I’m wondering if we – not Ophelia or anyone in particular, but we all in general – are more…indulgent of Christian or Jewish people who’ve moved from more fundamentalist to more liberal positions than we are of Muslims who have. Is there an attitude of “you can’t be a Muslim feminist/progressive/social justice advocate”?

  32. Carmichael says

    Exactly right Jadehawk. I too will refuse acknowledge any injustice until all injustices are acknowledged. I’ll start taking this “women are shown as sex objects in advertising” stuff seriously when it starts being mentioned together with the fact that men are too, which it isn’t. Wonder why not? hmmm…

    Snark off.

  33. says

    Joe @ 40. No. That’s not true. Your comment @ 23 is not “criticism.”

    “That’s convenient, isn’t it?” does not qualify as criticism. I said if you’re going to say shit like that, piss off. I say it again. And @ 40 is bordering on “shit like that” – in pretending that an insult is “criticism” and that I tell criticism to piss off.

  34. earwig says

    Hmm. It’s an interesting question. I’m wondering if we – not Ophelia or anyone in particular, but we all in general – are more…indulgent of Christian or Jewish people who’ve moved from more fundamentalist to more liberal positions than we are of Muslims who have. Is there an attitude of “you can’t be a Muslim feminist/progressive/social justice advocate”?

    Sorry if I’m being boringly literal here, but language is a real issue. In the UK we have had a lot of immigration from Pakistanis who don’t speak English. Although there are language programmes in place, they can’t necessarily access those, and can end up feeling totally isolated.

  35. callitrichid says

    I don’t think you’re a racist. I do think your hijab post was carelessly rude. You were/are right to argue against being called a racist, and you were right to appropriately acknowledge the careless rudeness of your post and to apologized to rotifan when she explained her position.

    That said, I am glad that you posted it because I think it was a good lesson that there is usually diversity when we think there isn’t. I now know that Hijabi women aren’t all oppressed, that they don’t all share the conservative orthodox Muslim values, and that I shouldn’t generalize them as such. Another lesson in choosing a finer-tipped brush to paint with.

    I wonder still about your comment regarding the creepiness of wearing religious garb. Forgive me if you’ve addressed this and I missed it, or if you don’t want to address it. I know you acknowledged that you don’t get to dictate who displays what religious paraphernalia, but is any “visible (religious person)” as creepy to you as “visible Muslim?” What’s the cut-off for creepy? Are you creeped out by monks? By nuns’ habits? By Hasidic jew hair? By cross jewelry? By religious tattoos? Is it that there is a uniform? Is it the level of devotion the uniform implies? Is it just that it reminds you that the religion exists, and that in itself is repellant?

  36. says

    Yes, I’m creeped out by all of it. I keep noticing women wearing crosses on tv, and flinching.

    I had an interval of wondering if I was an unconscious anti-semite, decades ago, because in wandering around Golders Green in London I kept finding myself disliking the sight of guys wearing a yarmulke. I now have a much better sense of what that was about, and it wasn’t buried race-hatred.

  37. says

    What you call “Christian” courts here count for nada outside of their immediate concerns of the fabric of Anglican buildings.

    who said I was talking about the Anglicans? wtf?

  38. says

    I’ll start taking this “women are shown as sex objects in advertising” stuff seriously when it starts being mentioned together with the fact that men are too, which it isn’t. Wonder why not? hmmm…

    lol. yes, demonstrating that you’ve no flaming clue what you’re talking about by reversing the powergradient does pretty that sad little strawman up a bit. does nothing for the credibility of that response, but it makes it more entertaining to me.

  39. says

    ‘Islamophobe’ is used as a grab-bag boo-word for all who are opposed to Islam, Sharia law, Muslim customs and the creeping political correctness that follows from all that. It is defined in online dictionaries as ‘prejudice against Muslims’ and ‘irrational fear of Islam’, and some call it as well a form of racism.

    It has been around as a term since about 1900 according to the link below, but has gained currency since 9/11/2001. Those who use it, particularly as an accusation, are inclined to conflate hostility to Islam with hostility to Muslims, whether intentionally or otherwise. For that reason, wherever it crops up in a conversation involving me, I always ask the user/s for their definition of it.

    Because it is so commonly used as a silencer and as a term designed to confuse and distract, I agree with Ophelia. In fact I would say that as a term it is worse than useless.

    Also, it has no antonym to my knowledge. An ‘Islamophile’ is defined as ‘one who is not an adherent of Islam but who loves Islam, the Moslem people or culture’. Though rationality does not get a mention, the assumption is clearly that an Islamophile is rational. But ‘Islamophobe’ is not the opposite of that.

    Consequently, I describe myself as anti-Islamic but Muslim-neutral. Please consider.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamophobia

  40. earwig says

    What you call “Christian” courts here count for nada outside of their immediate concerns of the fabric of Anglican buildings.

    who said I was talking about the Anglicans? wtf??


    You said “Britain still has diocesian and archdiocesian courts.” Those are Church of England (aka Anglican) courts. They don’t apply to anyone else.

  41. callitrichid says

    I have similar feelings of creepiness when I see Catholic priests, but it’s because I have a *really* hard time not painting them with broad strokes. It doesn’t generally transfer to other religions, though.

    On a lighter note, I just had tea come out of my nose reading your post. I assume you meant to say subconscious, but the idea of a unconscious anti-semite conjured up an image of a narcoleptic that is triggered by yarmulkes…. passing out, legs in the air like a fainting goat at the very sight of a yarmulke. So silly, but so funny to me.

  42. says

    Yes, I’m creeped out by all of it. I keep noticing women wearing crosses on tv, and flinching… I had an interval of wondering if I was an unconscious anti-semite, decades ago, because in wandering around Golders Green in London I kept finding myself disliking the sight of guys wearing a yarmulke. I now have a much better sense of what that was about, and it wasn’t buried race-hatred.

    I’m not completely sure if this is the same thing, but if it is: it’s not just clothing, for me, either.

    Jesus fish sometimes. Some bumper stickers…

    Even sometimes, oddly enough, t-shirts with slogans. And not only ones whose sentiment I particularly strenously disagree with.

    It’s layered, it’s complicated, it’s conflicted. It’s like this sympathetic claustrophobia. This feeling of being stifled, that comes with the religious stuff especially…

    It’s like… in part, just: clothing that’s trying to say stuff, sometimes I wish it would all just shut up. Might make it easier for the rest of us to hear each other. And t-shirts, bumper stickers, it’s not like they usually get much of an argument out. Slogans, generally. Stuff that’s only going to impress you if you already agreed, for the most part. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it’s a bit clever, and you can laugh a bit, and that helps take the sting off a bit…

    But sometimes, without that, I look at it, think: great, it’s like I just walked through some kind of ritualized but still bitter argument, carried out via 100% cotton blends. How do we know who wins? Which one is cleaner, maybe? I have to assume this one has been going on a while. Long enough to make a shirt, anyway…

    But it’s not just that, or not that generically, entirely, either. The really nasty religious stuff, or just the stuff associated with the really nasty religions, especially, it’s a bit like meeting a chain gang from the pentientiary in the road, and being reminded of that whole side of life and penalties and courts and parole and misery and ex-cons who can’t get ever land a decent, dignified job and people having a shitty life in general when you’d really rather be thinking about sunsets and picnics.

    And really, if you get that bit, I think you probably get me, here. Because I think that’s most of it. It honestly is largely sympathetic. I think. Take that as patronizing, too, if you like, but that’s how it is. It’s a ‘you poor bastard’ response, as much as anything else. Here you are, that thing wrapped around you, and what the hell can anyone do? Shrug and go have lunch, I guess, and here I go, then. Born free, everywhere in chains. And thanks so much for reminding me, I guess.

  43. says

    You said “Britain still has diocesian and archdiocesian courts.” Those are Church of England (aka Anglican) courts. They don’t apply to anyone else.

    *facepalm*

    guess what the Catholic courts are called

  44. jose says

    The woman who took off the hijab commented on the post clarifying Ophelia’s remarks and it all ended well. I just visited the post and there’s a friendly conversation going on.

    I don’t know what islamophobia has to do with anything.

  45. earwig says

    Jadehawk, I think we are at cross-purposes. Perhaps there are RC courts operating in the UK I wot not of. Never heard of them. The same rule would apply to them as to any other tribunal: people who feel justice hasn’t been done can appeal to civil process.

    I don’t understand the facepalm.

  46. says

    RC courts have no standing in England.

    faith-based arbitration in the UK doesn’t exclude catholics. your comment makes no sense.

    The same rule would apply to them as to any other tribunal: people who feel justice hasn’t been done can appeal to civil process.

    this also makes no sense, since “any other tribunal” includes those sharia courts.

    I don’t understand what your point is. Do you think faith-based arbitration courts are dangerous and harmful, or not?

  47. dzd says

    It seems to me that OB is more concerned with pointing up religiously-backed patriarchy and religious encroachment on secular law in all of its forms. Islamism and American extremist Christianity and Jewish ultra-orthodoxy all share a hatred for women and a hatred for all things “secular”. All of these have come under fire at various points in B&W history—there have certainly been spans of posts in the past where all of the guns were leveled at the blatant woman-hate displayed by American politicians or the viciousness of the Haredim.

    Feminist criticism of the Abrahamic patriarchy is a far cry from the bloodlust and fearmongering displayed by so many Western politicians and commentators. Even if some of them use the liberation of women as their casus belli, that doesn’t mean the feminist criticism has no power; it doesn’t mean those women are any less oppressed.

  48. Carmichael says

    Yes Jadehawk. It’s all about the power gradient. If I were living in Egypt, I would refuse to point about anything unsavoury about Coptic Christianity unless I simultaneously pointed out that Islam also had it’s unsavoury aspects. I also refuse to criticise that oppressed minority, the KKK. They have such little power.
    The debate reminds me of the 1970s when many on the left defended Soviet and Chinese communism. Those on the right were closer to the mark on that than we were. I think the same is happening today in regard to Islam.

  49. says

    I do think Islamophobia is a useful word, especially in the United States — but that doesn’t mean it’s always used accurately. Islamophobia is a very real thing, particularly among the religious right in America. People like Pam Geller, David Horowitz, Frank Gaffney, Bryan Fischer, Jerry Boykin, David Yerushalmi and Avi Lipkin are, in fact, Islamophobic — that is, they have an utterly irrational fear of Muslims. To hear them tell it, the Muslims are on the verge of taking over America and imposing Sharia law upon us all — a claim so ludicrous and laughable that anyone who utters it should spend the rest of their lives having people point and laugh as they walk by. They demand that Muslims be stripped of their First Amendment rights, that they be forbidden to build mosques, forbidden to emigrate to this country and sometimes even forcibly deported (never mind that most of them are American citizens). They compile fraudulent “studies” that purport to show that American courts are imposing Sharia law when, in reality, every case they cite shows the exact opposite. So yes, Islamophobia does exist.

    But that does not mean that anyone who criticizes Islam is an Islamophobe (and no, I don’t give a damn that Muslims are a minority in this country; all ideas are open to criticism, whether held by one person or a billion people). Even less does it mean that I don’t think that some versions of Islam are utterly barbaric; I certainly do. The thing we need to keep in mind is that there isn’t one Islam, there are many Islams (just as there are many Christianities, many Judaisms, and so forth). I have Muslim friends who are strong and active proponents of women’s rights, gay rights and freedom of speech; they hardly deserve to be tarred with the beliefs of others whose views they despise just because they both fall under this very broad umbrella of Islam. I have Christian friends who do the same, and they do not deserve to be tarred with the beliefs of Pat Robertson, which they consider disgusting. Failing to make such distinctions is very likely to make one prone to Islamophobia.

    This is not an either/or. One can be ,as I am, unalterably opposed to the imposition of Sharia law and to Islamic barbarism and be opposed to Islamophobia at the same time. Indeed, I would argue that this is really the only position to be taken by someone who values liberty in all forms, both for ourselves and for those whose views we oppose.

  50. says

    I also refuse to criticise that oppressed minority, the KKK.

    lolrofl. look up “minority” in a sociology dictionary sometime (or the Encyclopedia Britannica), maybe you’ll stop looking so silly.

    As for the rest of your comment… if you think promoting anti-coptic sentiment in Egypt by selectively only criticizing their faults while systematically ignoring those of the majority wouldn’t be a shitty thing to do, I can’t fucking help you.

  51. Beatrice says

    I don’t think you are an Islamophobe, Ophelia.
    I explained what I didn’t agree with in the post about hijab and I don’t think that disagreement was an attack on you. Although, I realize that you might be more inclined to see it as an attack as it comes on the heels of others’ criticism.

  52. says

    I have mostly the same criticism of Maryam as I do of you. I think she came to her conclusions by a different route than you, but has mostly the same problems. I’ve argued with her more than you, in fact.

    The fact Islam, as practiced by many people, is a shitty religion, isn’t a reason to legally discriminate against it by not giving them the same right to religious arbitration as every other religion (which is strictly voluntary) and take away their rights to wear the outward symbols of their religion if they so choose.

  53. Hertta says

    …take away their rights to wear the outward symbols of their religion if they so choose.

    Who has been advocating for that? How do you get from criticizing people’s choices to taking away the right to make those choices?

  54. Carmichael says

    So, Jadehawk, you’re criticism of the KKK is based solely on the fact that you think they are a majority, not the fact that they are racist assholes. I think it is the quality of the ideas that should be examined, not whether or not it’s a majority view.
    You’ve managed to turn criticism of Coptic ideas into “anti-Coptic sentiment”, which nicely mirrors the problem of Islamophobia.
    In any case, I wasn’t suggesting selectively criticizing only Coptic Christian ideas. I’m saying that every time you criticize something, it isn’t necessary to criticize something else. Ophelia has many posts on nutty Christians. She doesn’t feel it necessary on every occasion to point out nutty Islamic stuff as well.

  55. says

    Who has been advocating for that?

    Maryam Namazie for one, plus lots of right-wingers. I think the fact that there are so many people who want to ban veils on the grounds that foreigners are scary means anyone who wants to criticize veils but does not advocate banning them needs to explicitly say so or it looks like they are just trying for plausible deniability.

  56. Hertta says

    There was nothing in the hijab post about rights. It was all about choices. Rude or not, the post definitely had nothing to do with veil bans. Hijab isn’t even a face covering veil. Has there really been talk about banning the head scarf?
    As an atheist I’m told all the time that I want to ban religions. It’s a srawman. There may be some people out there who’d like to ban them, but I don’t feel obligated to denounce them every time I criticize religions.

  57. says

    you’re criticism of the KKK is based solely on the fact that you think they are a majority,

    lol. really, those two minutes with the dictionary would have really helped. maybe then you’d know that the opposite of “minority” in this context is “dominant group”; of which the KKK is an extreme outlier.

    You’ve managed to turn criticism of Coptic ideas into “anti-Coptic sentiment”,

    no such thing, of course. please pay attention when reading.

    In any case, I wasn’t suggesting selectively criticizing only Coptic Christian ideas.

    thank you for admitting that you strawmanned my position. I know you didn’t meant to admit it, but right now, by suggesting that you weren’t talking about selectively criticizing Coptic ideas, you’ve admitted that you’ve not in fact built a parallel to what I was actually saying, but to a strawman thereof.

    Ophelia has many posts on nutty Christians.

    irrelevant to the point about singling out one form of faith-based arbitration over the ones that have been there much longer.

  58. says

    I think it is the quality of the ideas that should be examined, not whether or not it’s a majority view.

    irrelevant to the topic at hand, which is whether doing so, and doing so in specific ways, performs pro-bigotry cultural work.

  59. says

    How do you get from criticizing people’s choices to taking away the right to make those choices?

    it’s one possible interpretation of the following:

    I don’t want your religion made visible (unless I’m actually in your religious building for some reason). Keep it to yourself.

    it’s likely an incorrect interpretation, but not a wholly unwarranted one, given that many people who share Ophelia’s perspective (including Maryam Namazie, IIRC) do support veil bans.

  60. Hertta says

    Of course, if one wants to be as uncharitable as possible, all sorts of interpretations can be made. But, as you said yourself, it’s likely an incorrect interpretation of Ophelia’s “Keep it to yourself”.
    And, again, the post was about the choice to wear the hijab, not about possible bans of face covering veils.

  61. says

    One obvious difference here is that Maryam Namazie is broadly criticising a legal system that oppresses people, whereas your hijab post seemed to focus on one individual woman who was making a personal religious choice. You probably felt in your post that you were criticising the entire patriarchal religious structure by focusing on one manifestation of it (hijab), but it didn’t fully come across that way, at least to me (and apparently to others).

    She wrote about her struggle to reconcile her humanistic values, her Western upbringing, her personal religious understanding and her choice to wear hijab in a society that tells her she’s either a self-oppressed brainwashed fool in need of saving, or an immodest harlot for not veiling. I think going through such a journey is difficult and requires empathy and understanding.

    The question of who gets to define religious (or other) symbols is a problematic one. I think it’s a mistake to say that the hijab is always a symbol of women’s oppression. I view it as something like a cross, turban or bindi/pottu, which people can wear for many reasons, some good, some bad. People raised in the West often read too much into the hijab because they’re less used to seeing it than, say, crosses.

    As for Ms Namazie, I think she does good work fighting religious fundamentalism, but sometimes she goes too far, and I have argued with her and some of her commenters over things like banning the hijab (which she’s in favour of, because she thinks it’s always a symbol of female oppression, kind of like a KKK hood. Whereas I think it’s closer to, say, an American flag – it has a checquered history but isn’t always a hate symbol. It can stand for positive things, too.) And I have been called sick, a typical leftist male, a politically correct leftist who defends religious sexism, a reprehensible racist, an open sewer of prejudice against the working class, a cultural relativist, a coward and someone who hates the West and blames it for all the world’s problems. And that was on Maryam’s blog alone (by one commenter I argued with)! So when you feel down about being called an Islamophobe, remember that the other side gets called names too.

  62. John Morales says

    Improbable Joe:

    I do think you [Ophelia] have a blind spot when it comes to Islam and Muslims. I don’t think you can avoid that blind spot by making tu quoque fallacies towards Muslims. I don’t think you can avoid it by pointing at Maryam Namazie and then claiming that some of her her completely valid claims of victimization make anti-Muslim bigotry disappear.

    That was no tu quoque, it was an indignant challenge to account for the apparent application of double standards*, to her detriment.

    (Nobody likes false accusations at the best of times, so her irritation is understandable)

    * Whether of judgement or of open condemnation.

  63. Walton says

    It can stand for positive things, too.) And I have been called sick, a typical leftist male, a politically correct leftist who defends religious sexism, a reprehensible racist, an open sewer of prejudice against the working class, a cultural relativist, a coward and someone who hates the West and blames it for all the world’s problems. And that was on Maryam’s blog alone (by one commenter I argued with)! So when you feel down about being called an Islamophobe, remember that the other side gets called names too.

    Similar things happened to me – when I posted about immigrants’ rights on one of her posts, I was accused by certain commenters of “shilling for Islam and clerical fascists”, among other things. What worries me is that her blog does seem to attract some right-wing xenophobic types who are fans of Douglas Murray or Geert Wilders. (Even though Maryam herself, to give her credit, is a staunch leftist and has spoken out against those people. And she expressed agreement with what I wrote on that post, FWIW.)

    And I disagree with her on some things, particularly the ban on the veil, which has been a disaster for Muslim women in France.

  64. stewart says

    I guess I must share all of Ophelia’s blind spots, which is very sarcastically meant, as I’m seeing far more blind spots in the criticism of her.

  65. says

    @85: If there were a bunch of people with significant political power out there trying to ban all religions, then you would have a responsibility to explicitly say that’s not what you mean when you are criticizing religion. It’s not a straw man if it’s an actual popular view.

    My basic criticism of Maryam Namazie is she complains a lot about multicultural leftists who want to say that we should let FGM happen because it’s culturally imperialist to try to stop it or something, even though very few people believe this and she’s light on examples. Then, she turns around and endorses statements put out but racist wingnuts like Pam Gellar and tends to swallow their claims about creeping Sharia and such uncritically.

  66. Hertta says

    Is banning the head scarf really a popular view among influential people? And even if it is, Ophelia’s post was clearly about the choice of wearing it and didn’t even touch banning anything. So yes, it’s a strawman.

  67. Walton says

    Self-correction – I misread your post. The French ban applies to the burqa and niqab, not the hijab.

  68. Carmichael says

    Jadehawk. You may be right about those two minutes with the dictionary, as I have no idea what you mean by “extreme outlier” in this context.
    Perhaps my examples were poorly chosen. They certainly gave you the opportunity to concentrate on them, rather than the substance of my criticism.
    I certainly didn’t mean to strawman your position. I was trying to point out that it is not necessary, every time you mention one bad thing, to always mention others, even if they are forms of “faith-based arbitration”. That’s how I read your original comment.
    I guess the topic at hand is “whether doing so (criticizing a minority view), and doing so in specific ways, performs pro-bigotry cultural work.” We just disagree as to whether Maryam and Ophelia are guilty of this.

  69. Hertta says

    I know the face covering veil has been banned in France, yes. But the head scarf? I think it’s only banned in public schools along with all other overtly religious dress and signs.
    But anyway, Ophelia’s post was not about any bans. If you want to know her position on them, I think you can just ask her (or see if she’s written about it before).

  70. Amy Clare says

    Here’s one reason I can think of why ‘Muslims’ and ‘Islam’ are not the same thing:

    Many Muslims are hurt by Islam. Many Muslims are controlled by Islam. Many Muslims don’t like Islam, or feel confused or conflicted about Islam. Many Muslims want to leave Islam. Many Muslims go through the motions of Islam even though they no longer believe in it.

    Therefore, one can be on the side of Muslims and yet at the same time, not on the side of Islam.

  71. Carmichael says

    @Jadehawk. In fact, my original objection was to the notion that you will ignore all injustices (or at least ones that refer to faith-based arbitration) until all similar injustices are specifically dealt with. I think that’s wrong. If it’s not what you meant, I apologize, but that’s how it seemed to me.

  72. Hertta says

    The issue of choice concerning women in patriarchal religions and cultures is an interesting and important one and I think feminists should be able to discuss it with some nuance. But when it comes to Islam and immigrants, it’s hard because there is so much actual bigotry against Muslims as a group. There’s a line to tread and I see this discussion as a disagreement where that line is.
    But there also the risk of having our tolerance exploited in order to oppress women in immigrant communities and I think that’s what Ophelia and Maryam are trying to fight against. They are not bigots for doing that.

  73. miraxpath says

    Ophelia, you are a champ among the FTB bloggers despite best efforts of the uber politically correct folk who are trying to bring you down as an anti-muslim bigot using the oh so convenient label of ‘islamophobia’. This is the way women like Ayaan hirsi Ali, M Namazie or Taslima Nasrin are criticised and sidelined by some very superior acting western feminists while every confused hijabi must be mollycoddled and never ever criticised for making choices that actively harm women. You know these are the times when feminists like Gita Sahgal are put out to pasture and taliban lovers are championed by the likes of Amnesty.

    You realise how how utterly parochial and west-centric the discourse is with regard to ‘islamophobia’ when you are like me, a brown heathen woman who lives in South East Asia where everyday, Islam is a rallying call for oppression and hatred towards others. I know where you are coming from and it is a crying shame that so many of the Horde dont. This is one area where they dont fucking realise their privilege.

  74. Forbidden Snowflake says

    I was trying to point out that it is not necessary, every time you mention one bad thing, to always mention others, even if they are forms of “faith-based arbitration”.

    Maybe not every time, but after a 100 times you’ve seen people freaking out about creeping Shariah and zero times you’ve heard complaints of creeping Halacha, a pattern begins to emerge.

  75. says

    Ophelia,

    I respect you greatly, but you have dug yourself into a hole and are continuing to dig.

    Well, Joe, I think it’s a blind spot to talk about Islam and Muslims in the same breath as if they were the same thing.

    And I think it is a blind spot to discount how all Muslims are racialized in the West as scary brown people and how racists and nativists conflate “Muslim” with “terrorist.”

    Nobody over the last several posts has said you were the equivalent of Pam Geller or David Duke. Nobody over the last several posts has even called you a racist. The closest anyone came is Rutee stating a fact: that, like all of us, you swim in a culture of white supremacy, and therefore you will default to racist ideas unless you make an effort not to.

    Yes, it is wrong (to hell with the weasel word “problematic”) to compare a group of people who are demonized and oppressed in the West, at least, to oppressor groups like the Nazis or the KKK. You can claim that you were not doing so, but, at the very least, that was a metaphor you would have done best to avoid.

    It is, at the very least, ill advised to call their visible religious garb “deeply creepy” and “repellent.” You may say, upon being asked, that you feel the same way about Orthodox Jewish women and “prairie muffins,” but I do not recall your having ever felt the need to spontaneously make that remark about either group. And it would not have had the same effect, as Dominionist Christian women in the U.S. are overwhelmingly white, and (eliding a lot of ethnic and racial complications here for the sake of argument) the Orthodox Jewish women who are most visible to the rest of us are white, or at least considered same.

    You have responded to many of these criticisms with fury, denial, and demands that your critics “piss off.” This is in contrast to your usual concern that we treat privileged white men who say clueless things about gender and sexism with the utmost “civility.” In fact, you have gotten upset with me saying much milder things, such as my reply to Ernest W. Adams when he compared me and his other critics to the bystanders in the Kitty Genovese murder, than you have said to people calling you out this weekend.

    You’re determined to force the discussion into stupid clumsy categories that I reject…

    And it’s a form of privilege that you can reject them, then think no more about them. That doesn’t mean they have no sway in the real world.

    Imagine a male atheist who was declaiming on the glories of nude calendars of women, how such calendars broke down barriers of sex-negativity and shame. You, rightfully, might inform him that he is ignoring the issue of objectification, which he has the privilege of doing. Imagine if he began to rail that he is not a sexist, how dare you imply he’s one, how dare you force the discussion into stupid clumsy categories he rejects… and he told you that you were on the wrong blog.

    That’s basically what you’re doing here.

    And, yes, Maryam has said a lot of the same things you’re saying. Leaving aside that your critics have criticized her as well, she is able to say those things with less baggage, if you will, because she is not a Westerner.

    Unfair? Yes, but that’s how society works. None of us are pure intellects residing somewhere in the ether. We exist in a network of our own preconceptions, others’ preconceptions, power differentials, and relationships. That’s what Atheism Plus is supposed to acknowledge, am I correct?

    I think it’s valid to criticize hijab and other forms of veiling. I think it’s valid to criticize Islam as a religion. I think it’s tone-deaf to refuse to consider that how you criticize them can come off as racist and give aid and comfort to unrepentant racists.

    Shaker Srinivasan: I don’t know enough about Dennett to comment, but Harris has called for racial profiling. Dawkins’ “Dear Muslimah” response to Rebecca Watson has been criticized not only by white feminists but by Muslimahs who didn’t appreciate his appropriation of their issues. Hirsi Ali allies herself with neoconservatives who are openly contemptuous of Muslims. I would not look to any of the three as models on this topic.

    Winterwind and Walton: Very well said.

    Miraxpath: I respect your experience as a brown woman in a Muslim country, but can you acknowledge that the experiences of Muslims in white-majority countries with significant racist and xenophobic elements might be different from your own and, sometimes, equally fraught?

    Also, not all of Ophelia’s critics are white. Rutee and Improbable Joe are Latin@. Winterwind is, IIRC, Indian, and it seems that Mira is as well. I may be leaving others out, and, if so, I apologize to them.

  76. Select says

    I don’t think Ophelia is an islaophobe at all. In fact she’s far too soft with regards to many aspects of Islam.

    And one sees the likes of Jadhawk and Improbable Joe spouting the same tried arguments, the same whatabouteries and the same false and facile equivalences concerning Islam, Chtristianity and Judaism because such arguments, whatabouteires and false,facile equivalences negate the need for any reasoned and intelligent debate.

    And the views of both these commenters as pertains to islam are absolutely infused, systemically so, with this vile and widepsread racism of low expectations one sees coming from such “progressives”

    I agree with the views of Douglas Murray and Maryam and so am a classic islamophobe.

    the following excerpt was taken by an Article Murray published just yeaster, Sept 28th 2012

    Such as, for instance, a truth that anyone who has ever travelled around almost any Muslim majority county will know: that they are themselves absolutely rife with the vilest caricatures, programs, films and books. And these are not one-offs. These are the staple diet. The works of Adolf Hitler and other anti-Semitic tracts are a mainstay of the bookshops in even some of the most ‘advanced’ Arab cities. I recall standing at Cairo station a couple of years back, searching the bookstalls for something to read on the journey. But there was almost nothing in the way of traditional train-reading fare. If you were into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories then you were set. If you wanted some texts about the awfulness of the Jews or the wondrousness of Hitler then you had arrived at the right place. But if you wanted a nice romantic novel or a comic novella then you were flat out of luck.

    I used to travel to the Mid-east to visit relatives that were living and working there, and I’ve witnessed the very same phenomenon. Murray’s statement isn’t islamophobe, his observations are quite accurate and honest.

    A few years back before people began talking about the availabilty or even existence of such “literature”, I had been alerted to this by an ex-muslim co-worker. To determine if there was any truth to these ‘islamophobic’ assertions, I decided to visit sevearal local mainstream mosques and to present myself as a potential convert to Islam.

    After having ingratiated myself to a few of the ‘scholars’ I then turned the discussion towards the topic of Jews and Judaism.

    I smiled and so did they.

    Before long they presented me with islamist neo-nazi pamphlets, and such, little different from the vile, antisemitic tracts described by Murray in the excerpt above.

    And combined, these mosques had congregations numbering in the thousands…of whom one member had sported the name Marc Lepine.

  77. mnb0 says

    You’re not an islamophobe. Robert Spencer is. The term “phobe” refers to irrationality, ie making up facts plus using all kinds of logical fallacies. Exposing abuse of women by muslims and citing nasty quotes from the Quran is not irrational, it’s pointing out facts. It may be inconvient, even for atheist me having a muslima as a female counterpart, but facts are facts.

  78. Select says

    Miraxpath: I respect your experience as a brown woman in a Muslim country, but can you acknowledge that the experiences of Muslims in white-majority countries with significant racist and xenophobic elements might be different from your own and, sometimes, equally fraught?

    Also, not all of Ophelia’s critics are white. Rutee and Improbable Joe are Latin@. Winterwind is, IIRC, Indian, and it seems that Mira is as well. I may be leaving others out, and, if so, I apologize to them

    The fact you’d go so far as to catagorise commenters here based on their ( supposed ) race and to judge the appropriateness of their comments based partly on that catagorisation is an astounding example of soft racism.

    And you even apologise fopr those you’ve neglected to mention on the outside chance some of ‘em may be non-white!

    Why not go the distance and apologise you self-loathing little white a-hole right out of existence?

    Ms Daisy Cutter, no doubt in pôssession of at least one Masters degree, appears to feel that the truth, validity and accuracy of a comment is dependant upon the race of the individual making it.

    The imaginary pixie dust of the ‘power structures’

    And I think it is a blind spot to discount how all Muslims are racialized in the West as scary brown people and how racists and nativists conflate “Muslim” with “terrorist.”

    Yes, that ‘scary brown people’ trope.

    For decades now I’ve listened to priviledged, upper-class white liberals lampoon and denigrate Christianity with impunity.

    Those same white liberals had inundated us with stories about ‘scary Christians’ for decades now without anyone ever inferring their pro-pos could smack of racism, even though like Islam, Christianity is overwhelmingly ( 75 to 80% ) composed of non-whites, almost none of whom, particularly those in Egypt, could ever be considered “privileged”.

    Although to be honest, Ms Daisy Cutter’s claim that Ophelia has dug herself into a hole contains a certain amount of truth.

    But for entirely different reasons than those Ms Daisy cites.

  79. says

    Ms Daisy Cutter –

    Oy, so much wrong there…

    Yes, it is wrong (to hell with the weasel word “problematic”) to compare a group of people who are demonized and oppressed in the West, at least, to oppressor groups like the Nazis or the KKK.

    Well that depends on who the group in question is and what it does. But in any case that’s not what I did. I compared ideologies.

    You have responded to many of these criticisms with fury, denial, and demands that your critics “piss off.”

    No. Not criticisms; sneers like “well that’s convenient.”

    And, yes, Maryam has said a lot of the same things you’re saying. Leaving aside that your critics have criticized her as well, she is able to say those things with less baggage, if you will, because she is not a Westerner.

    Ahhhhhhh now there we have it. That’s the real essence of it. She can say it, you can’t.

    What you’re ignoring is what she says herself. She wants allies. She wants solidarity. She wants “white” liberals agreeing with her that women’s rights don’t suddenly become optional when it comes to brown people.

    You’re telling me to abandon her and countless women like her and countless women not lucky enough to have escaped. I’m not about to do that! Fuck that noise.

    Maryam was almost totally ignored when I first knew her. I did my level best to correct that situation, because it sucked. The BBC was always calling the Muslim Council of Britain (in the person of one of its male officials) to prounounce on anything to do with Islam and Muslims. It never called Maryam. That situation has changed now – it sometimes does call Maryam. Why is that? Because she has allies. Because of “white” people like Richard Dawkins and Nick Cohen and Peter Tatchell. Fuck the idea that we don’t get to stand with her.

  80. says

    Ed @ 67 – but “Islamophobia” is still the wrong word for hatred of Muslims. Hatred of Muslims should just be called that – hatred of Muslims. Hatred of Islam is a different thing, even though there can be overlap, one can lead to the other, and so on. The word “Islamophobia” is a ploy to shield Islam from robust criticism, and secular people shouldn’t use it.

  81. julian says

    Islamophobe is a broken word. Among many Muslims and more than a few non Muslims, showing hostility or contempt for the religious dictates of Sharia is Islamophobic. Whatever it might mean to a few, by now it’s so interwoven with Islam (and blasphemy against Islam) I don’t understand why anyone is defending it.

  82. says

    One more thing…

    And it’s a form of privilege that you can reject them, then think no more about them.

    I don’t know what on earth makes you think you know that I think no more about them. I don’t know how that would even be possible, since they keep coming up.

  83. =8)-DX says

    But, but.. real islamophobia exists:

    Conflating Islamism (and its Sharia courts) with Muslim

    Yes, conflating Islamism with the opinions of all muslims and deriding them is what islamophobes do.

    Case in point: The attack and murder at the US embassy in Lybia were actions of Muslims. An Islamophobe will, however ignore the anti-Islamist protests that happened in that country after this terrible event. Many Muslims spoke out against the voilence and supported their late US ambassador.

    There are actual Islamophobes – I mainly find these among the Christian right wing, certain online atheists (YouTube’s Pat Condell for instance) as well as racist groups such as the EDL.

  84. =8)-DX says

    And Re:

    The word “Islamophobia” is a ploy to shield Islam from robust criticism, and secular people shouldn’t use it

    As I showed in my comment there is a valid use of the word and it has been used to describe actual irrational racist and violently anti-anything-Muslim sentiments.

  85. says

    Ophelia Benson wrote:

    Ed @ 67 – but “Islamophobia” is still the wrong word for hatred of Muslims. Hatred of Muslims should just be called that – hatred of Muslims. Hatred of Islam is a different thing, even though there can be overlap, one can lead to the other, and so on. The word “Islamophobia” is a ploy to shield Islam from robust criticism, and secular people shouldn’t use it.

    This is the same argument made against the use of the word “homophobia” to describe anti-gay bigotry, though most people who are anti-gay aren’t so much afraid of gay people as they are opposed to their equal rights. But the word has come to be used in a broader sense than merely fear.

    Still, in this case I think phobia is exactly the right word, at least for the people I describe that way. They have an utterly irrational fear of a Muslim takeover of the United States and they use that fear to justify bigotry and demands for discrimination. So I do think the term is accurate and valid when used in the manner that I use it (though I still understand that others often use it in the manner you describe). I don’t think that makes the term worthless, it just means it should be used when it’s justified (which makes it much like many other useful terms).

  86. says

    It’s not the phobia part that I (and others) object to, it’s the Islam part. What you’re talking about is Muslimophobia, not Islamophobia. What the latter word can’t help doing is conveying the impression that criticism of Islam is taboo.

  87. =8)-DX says

    It’s not the phobia part that I (and others) object to, it’s the Islam part.

    But then words don’t have meanings simply based on their definition, but based on usage. I understand that islamophobia has been used incorrectly and that muslimophobia might be more accurate but similarly to Ed, I use it (and have mainly seen it used) as a negative label for people attempting to instill (and having) fear or hatred of Muslims and the ubiquitous “Muslim takeover of the West”.

  88. Mal Adapted says

    I’m a middle-class, college-educated, white, heterosexual, male, cis-gender, atheist, skeptical citizen of the U.S. I’m conscious of my own intersecting privileges, but the last two I listed are the most precious to me (and I’ve paid my price for them). The oppression that institutionalized religion has imposed on all people, throughout history, should be relentlessly denounced. Like all religions, Islam is a vehicle for oppression on all axes, by the privileged, of the less privileged. Like all religions, it begins to lose its power when believers begin to lose their ignorance. That’s as true for Islam as it is for Christianity.

    I think Ophelia’s distinction between Islam and muslims is crucial. Muslims are oppressed, Islam is the oppressor. Helping muslims to understand that is a just cause. As atheists and skeptics, full awareness of privilege should make our efforts more effective, not keep us from making them at all.

  89. says

    @ 112 – Yes but sometimes words and phrases are crafted deliberately to shape opinions, not always in benign ways. I could suggest a few –

    death tax

    men’s rights activist

    witch hunt

    FTBullies

    working families

    Intelligent Design

    “Islamophobia” is decidedly such a word, and I think it’s a huge mistake to assist the agenda behind that word. Huge.

  90. =8)-DX says

    “Islamophobia” is decidedly such a word, and I think it’s a huge mistake to assist the agenda behind that word. Huge.

    I think the problem here is you’re reacting to a certain political usage of the word, which to me is rather new (and should be opposed), but I don’t think this word was is inherantly associated with such an agenda. My Catholic parents and some family members used to make “fun” of the word homophobia, in that it was not irrational to oppose (and be wary of) the cultural changes accepting homosexuals entails.

    But most often I’ve seen people defending themselves against charges of islamophobia was either to embrace the term (saying they were anti-muslim), while ignoring the fact that the charges against them were against Muslim stereotyping and grouping. Or to reject as a label applying to them with precisely the logic you gave.

    For me, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has shown Islamophobic tendencies (while being also anti-islam), but I wouldn’t use the word to describe Maryam Namazie.

  91. Bruce Gorton says

    Just a note on homophobia and Islamophobia

    The two are not comparable.

    Islamists are currently pushing to restrict the rights of non-Muslims (EG: blasphemy laws, the treatment of Copts in Egypt, the targeting of Not-quite-the-right-brand-of-Muslims in Pakistan etc…) and less extreme Muslims (EG: in-group intimidation attempts such as “Sharia law zones” in the UK).

    Some may argue that it is no threat to them because they don’t live in areas where this is a set of issues likely to come up. Evidently these are the same people who figured that apartheid was just dandy, because it happened all the way here in South Africa, not over in the US and EU.

    What is generally termed Islamophobia is just as likely to be opposition to Islamism (which is a serious danger to the rights of others) or criticism of Islam (which seriously needs it) as being in favour of prejudicing the rights of Muslims (which would be injustice). Islamophobia as a term was specifically coined to cause this confusion.

    If I say the Koran is essentially crap unworthy of toilet paper, or that blasphemy laws demonstrate that even the fanatics who claim to worship Allah don’t believe in him because if he was that powerful he could do his own damn smiting, that is very different to saying I believe that Muslims should have to go through extra screening at airports.

    Homophobia is about wanting to reduce or prevent the rights of gay people. Gay rights have zero implications for the rights of anybody else, because the gay rights community isn’t lobbying to restrict the rights of anybody, they are lobbying for a restriction on their rights to be lifted.

    It is thus clear on what it is about and why, Islamophobia however isn’t so clear.

  92. says

    How can the word not be inherently associated with such an agenda when it does exactly what the agenda is? Is the mismatch just some random accident? “Oh, oops, we meant Muslimo-, not Islamo-.”

  93. =8)-DX says

    Well Ophelia, I’m not exactly sure what you are pushing for then. Is Islamophobia a misnomer? Should the word not be used at all? Should online communities debating Islam, Muslims and arabs use “Muslimophobia” exclusively and reject labelling people as Islamophobes? That would be great, but since the usage of the word is to disparage – sometimes legitimately, I fail to see how people criticising Islam who explain their position and reject the term as applicable to themselves (as with your example of Maryam) makes the word inappropriate for people who embrace it (and who disparage Muslims – anyone who is a member of the religion of Islam).

    If I call Tommy Robinson or Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Pat Condell Islamophobic, while rejecting the label for critics of Islam as a religion and Islamism as a political philosophy, how am I playing into someone’s agenda?

  94. =8)-DX says

    And to be more accurate re: “Muslimo-, not Islamo-.”, how is Islamophobe not appropriate for someone uniformly disparaging, rejecting and stereotyping “everything to do with Islam”.

    My point here is that criticism of Islam is a part of Islamophobia, just as criticism of so-called “homosexual lifestyle” is part of homophobia, or maybe more to the point there are atheists who while critising religion, unjustly stereotype and group all theists or Christians.

  95. stewart says

    “Should the word not be used at all?”

    That made me think; I never have used it, because there’s nothing in the way I’ve seen it used that matches anything in my thought processes.

  96. says

    Some may argue that it is no threat to them because they don’t live in areas where this is a set of issues likely to come up. Evidently these are the same people who figured that apartheid was just dandy, because it happened all the way here in South Africa, not over in the US and EU.

    Yeah, I totally am. It’s not like I knew what the ANC was before I could actually spell and it’s not like I have been called a Turkish bitch or a muslim bitch for the crime of having long dark hair and eyes. It’s just me sitting in my ivory tower not caring about people because hey, it’s a long way off.
    Fuck that shit, I’m sick and tired of it.
    I’m sick and tired of having all arguments dismissed with something like that, of having my humanist and feminist credentials questioned because I dare to disagree on this subject.

    So, and if anybody is interested in reading what I actually do think, here’s one of those horrible comments in the Lounge, where I’m obviously accusing Ophelia of Islamophobia, Racism and you can make up your own favourite accusation as you go along.

  97. says

    My point here is that criticism of Islam is a part of Islamophobia, just as criticism of so-called “homosexual lifestyle” is part of homophobia

    No, no, no, no, no. Not “just as” at all. There is nothing objectively wrong with “homosexual lifestyle”; people have to struggle for inane rationalizations to defend the claim that there is. There is plenty objectively wrong with Islam (if you start from liberal universal human rights premises).

    Yes, of course, what I’m “pushing for” is not using the word at all. There are other words and phrases I don’t use and think others shouldn’t use. I listed some of them above.

    I don’t refer to Obama as Barack Hussein Obama, for instance. It’s accurate, but there’s an agenda behind it, one which I hold in contempt.

    I don’t talk about “special rights for gays”; that’s another agenda.

    I don’t call opponents of abortion “pro-life.”

    I don’t talk about the Democrat Party or a Democrat Senator.

    There are lots of things like that. This isn’t some big news flash. There are loaded words and phrases; some should be avoided if you disagree with the agenda behind them.

  98. =8)-DX says

    OK Giliell, looking at the comments thread on the Lounge you linked, it seems you would agree that:

    Islamophobia (although perhaps rebranded “Muslimophobia”) is a real and pressing problem, despite attempts to brand any criticism of Islam as Islamophobia?

    To me this is a discussion that’s “been had” online in par with the “what is an atheist” one. Racism, stereotyping and hatred towards “Islamic” immigrants or “anything arabic/Muslim/Islamic” can be appropriately labelled Islamophobia in my mind.

  99. says

    @ 124 – how fascinating. So what about the problem that the word “Islamophobia” used that way implies that it’s taboo to criticize Islam? You’re happy to just ignore that?

  100. says

    =8)-DX
    Yes, more or less

    @ 124 – how fascinating. So what about the problem that the word “Islamophobia” used that way implies that it’s taboo to criticize Islam? You’re happy to just ignore that?

    No, I don’t think that any of us is or, in fact, does.
    As others have said, there’s anti-semitism and there’s legitimate criticism of Israel or Judaism. But in fact quite often the latter will be called the former in order to silence the criticism.
    Whether the etymology of Islamophobia is the best one possible or not is quite irrelevant. You can call the phenomonon Quigglewads if you want, but if the word gains hold you can be certain that the same people who scream “Islamophobia” now in order to silence criticism of Islam and Islamists now will scream “Quigglewads” then.

  101. =8)-DX says

    Sorry, homophobia is an inappropriate comparison (although my points were linguistic). The only point of comparison would be Fundy Christians realistically seeing a propagation of gay rights as a threat to their Christian Cultural Hegemony™ in the US (and in general a threat to their bigotry in Europe). There is no real, valid criticism of homosexuals (I purposely worded it as a misnomer), because all these criticisms are misconstrued, unscientific or delusional.

    But Ophelia you still haven’t answered my main point: how are people’s opinons such as held by Tommy Robinson or Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Pat Condell not as disgusting as those held by the homophobes? That’s how I use the term and defend it.

    Your “political agenda” problem seems to be associated with the idea that actual Muslims (or their representatives) use the term to deprecate critics of Islam. You’re ignoring the fact that they are also using the term to refer to racism (or xenophobia) against Muslims or “anything Islam”.

  102. =8)-DX says

    “Islamophobia” used that way implies that it’s taboo to criticize Islam? You’re happy to just ignore that?

    No, I don’t ignore it. I reject and argue against it at every opportunity.

  103. says

    Giliell that’s ridiculous. How can it possibly be irrelevant? It’s not the least bit irrelevant!

    A nonsense word has no content, so it couldn’t do the same work. Saying it could is just absurd.

    8DX – the fact that Pat Condell’s views are disgusting is hardly a reason to use an inaccurate agenda-driven word to describe him. Suppose Sarah Palin (say) has never said a homophobic word – then just because she’s reprehensible in countless other ways is no reason to call her a homophobe.

    No, you’re not arguing against it, you’re arguing for it. Over and over.

  104. says

    Ophelia

    Giliell that’s ridiculous. How can it possibly be irrelevant? It’s not the least bit irrelevant!

    Well, it is irrelevant the same way misogyny means hatred of women and we casually dismiss those who say that X isn’t misogyny because it’s not literally hatred.

    A nonsense word has no content, so it couldn’t do the same work. Saying it could is just absurd.

    No, it isn’t. You’re not refuting my argument.
    To phrase it differently, do you think that if the word was muslimophobia the Islamists wouldn’t be crying it out whenever anybody criticises their precious beliefs?
    Yes or no?

  105. =8)-DX says

    Well, seeing as this is the first time I’ve seen Islamophobia defined as “an inaccurate agenda-driven word” in a thinking community then I guess I’ll just have to pass.

    Obviously you’re oblivious of all the debates that have happened online where (in my mind) meaningful allegations of Islamophobia have been levelled, where I (and mainly others) have argued against its use towards criticism of Islam over and over again, but instead as a useful label for an actual issue, an actual problem of xenophobia and racism and stereotyping.

    And seriously: “you’re arguing for it. Over and over.”, when did I argue that islamophobia should be used to imply it’s taboo to criticise Islam? Or when did I argue it should be taboo to criticise Islam?

  106. says

    miraxpath:

    I despise the rise of fundamentalist Islam in South East Asia and disgusting phenomena like morality police harassing young people for holding hands. Most of my family are Malaysian Indian, I visit Malaysia every few years, and I have seen the way non-Muslims are discriminated against. But the significance of wearing a hijab in Southeast Asia is different from wearing it in a Western country. It does not take courage to wear a hijab in a Muslim-majority nation like Malaysia, but in a country like the UK, US, Australia or Canada, the dynamics are different, and the symbolism of wearing a hijab is different.

    The woman in the hijab post was a Westerner. She was writing about the significance of the hijab to her as a Western-raised, Muslim woman. I identified with her because I too had a foot in both a Western and non-Western culture growing up. If anything, being a Westerner makes me better able to identify with her experience.

    People should continue to criticise the disgusting oppression of women in the name of Islam and other religions both in the West and all around the world. However, I believe in a thing called female agency. When a woman raised in the West says she is wearing the hijab as a choice (and if she can choose to remove it, presumably it really is a choice), then I take her at her word. And I don’t think the hijab is always a symbol of female oppression, though we can disagree on that. I think a woman can wear a hijab and still be a feminist or believe whatever the hell she likes. As I said, the question of who gets to define symbols and how much freedom we have to reclaim or reinterpret them is up for debate and we’re not going to solve it here.

  107. says

    Giliell – yes, the Islamists would be crying it out, but it wouldn’t have the same problem (of nudging outsiders into thinking it’s taboo to criticize Islam).

    (Furthermore, I actually do use “misogyny” literally. I didn’t know it was widely used non-literally. I know stupid people say we don’t know what it means, but I haven’t seen any examples where that fit. Hendricks tells me to look it up in the dictionary when I’ve used it entirely literally.)

  108. says

    8DX, yes, I’m oblivious of all the debates that have happened online where you have argued against the word’s use towards criticism of Islam. I’ve never heard of you before. Sorry.

    You’re arguing for the use of the word. The fact that you argue that it should mean something different from its plain literal meaning isn’t particularly relevant.

    Go ahead and pass. But don’t expect me to agree with what you’re saying. (If you’re always having to argue about not using the word to mean what it means, doesn’t that demonstrate that it’s the wrong word for the job?

  109. says

    Winterwind – yes in a sense it’s possible for a woman raised in the west to wear the hijab as a choice. But what is not a choice is the meaning of it. She can’t choose to wear it free of the fact that some women have been beaten for refusing to wear it; some have even been killed for refusing to wear it, including in the west – Aqsa Parvez in Toronto for instance.

    So it’s an ugly choice, frankly. I don’t see how it can be shaken free of the ugly history around it.

  110. says

    Islam is political by its very nature. Its proponents are politicians, and like politicians everywhere (eg Mitt Romney) they have ideas and thoughts they prefer to keep within their inner circle, and it can be embarrassing for them when they spill out. The propagandists of Islam are a bit coy on this, and no doubt find the activities of the more club-footed Muslims, like Islamists, to be a bit emabarrassing. But liberalism and tolerance have never been part of the Islamic agenda.

    Any doctrine that says it is the answer to all the world’s needs must logically hold to the hope and expectation that it will one day convert and rule the world. The history of Islam to date has been in acordance with this: that of a conquering religion, just like Stalinised Marxism.

    One of the greatest mistakes western politicians made with regard to Hitler was to not read his works, nor to take him at his word. It pays to be Islamocritical, Islamosuspicious, Islamoaverse and Islamohostile. There is plenty of room for all of it.

  111. says

    Ophelia:

    She can say it, you can’t.

    Um, yes. This is kind of a basic concept in social justice. Unless you want to invite comparisons between your argument and that from the sort of white person who complains about not being able to say the “N” word?

    As for “sneers,” what Adams said to his critics, after he told them bluntly he didn’t care about their goals or how his might hinder them, was a sneer and more. Why was that okay?

    Select, your comment at #102 says much more about you than it does about me: namely, that you’ve been marinating in right-wing rhetoric for quite a while.

    FWIW, I grew up working class, I have a B.A. and have worked mainly office jobs my whole working life, and I’m of Jewish descent.

  112. says

    Um, yes. This is kind of a basic concept in social justice. Unless you want to invite comparisons between your argument and that from the sort of white person who complains about not being able to say the “N” word?

    Um no. To repeat the much-repeated banality (which you seem to have forgotten) – Islam is not a race. Islam is a religion. It’s a lot of rules and practices, and a tradition, and a set of beliefs or dogmas. The right category here is not “white person” plus “N word”; it’s non-socialist plus socialism, or non-libertarian plus libertarianism, or liberal plus conservative.

    Yes there is overlap; yes in some ways “Muslims” are conceptualized as if they were a race, often by racists; yes, one has to be careful about not feeding into that. But that does not mean that only people raised Muslim can criticize Islam.

    I notice you’ve completely ignored what I said about Maryam’s passionate insistence on solidarity. Are you not aware that many liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims in “the west” feel abandoned by the left?

    So “basic concept” yourself.

  113. says

    But that does not mean that only people raised Muslim can criticize Islam.

    Except that I never said this. What I said was that if you are white and you criticize Islam, you need to be careful about your word choices, much more than someone like Maryam Nazarie does.

  114. says

    Also – given this “she can say it, you can’t” thing – why are you ignoring what Maryam is on record saying? What I just quoted her as saying? She can say it, remember? She can say it, you can’t – so why aren’t you taking her word for it that she wants allies and she thinks your racism of low expectations is horseshit?

    In other words isn’t it heads you win tails I lose? I can’t say it, because I’m western or white or both, but you can say it to me, because…why, exactly? Why do you get to dismiss Maryam’s point of view while I’m not allowed to back it? How, exactly, does that work? What basic concept in social justice makes that the rule?

  115. stewart says

    Not to open another subject for this purpose (and especially not the following one), but it seems to work in the other direction if Jews or Israel are involved. One doesn’t usually get outsiders of that group criticising Jews who are critical of Israel – the obvious reason being political.

    To re-generalise (which was the purpose):
    It is not clear why an outsider to a group should have more or less right to back or criticise the mainstream of that group, when the group itself will include backers and opponents of that group’s mainstream.

  116. says

    But what is not a choice is the meaning of it. She can’t choose to wear it free of the fact that some women have been beaten for refusing to wear it; some have even been killed for refusing to wear it, including in the west – Aqsa Parvez in Toronto for instance.

    So it’s an ugly choice, frankly. I don’t see how it can be shaken free of the ugly history around it.

    This is the part I think we disagree on. You believe the hijab has a particular meaning. If I understand you correctly, you point out that wearing the hijab doesn’t occur in a vacuum, but as part of an Islamic culture that sometimes uses violence to force the hijab on women. As a result, anyone wearing the hijab is implicitly supporting that culture regardless of their intentions.

    I believe that the meaning of symbols is more flexible. Many symbols have ugly histories but we don’t judge everyone who wears them. They can be reclaimed or reinterpreted with varying degrees of success. The modern Australian nation was founded on the genocide of our Aboriginal nations, but our flag also stands for positive things. I believe the hijab, crucifix, Sikh turban or bindi/pottu are closer to a national flag than a hate symbol like a KKK hood or Nazi swastika. Others disagree.

    I have a close family friend who lived in Cambodia. Her children and parents died under the Khmer Rouge. Horrible things were done to the Cambodian people in the name of Communism. However, I take it that you don’t think everyone who identifies as a Communist is implicitly supporting such atrocities. Maryam Namazie belongs to the Worker-Communist Party of Iran but you haven’t asked her about how she reconciles Communism’s ugly history with her own personal humanist values.

    And while sometimes the hijab is enforced with violence, let’s remember that sometimes the opposite happens and people are attacked for wearing religious symbols, or for making their religion visible. Like the Iraqi woman who wore a hijab and was beaten to death in California:

    Fatima Al Himidi, told KUSI-TV her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly with a tire iron, and that the note said “go back to your country, you terrorist.”

    Or the murder of a Sikh man right after September 11:

    On 15 September 2001, 52-year-old Balbir Singh Sodhi, a gas-station owner in Arizona, was shot five times by Frank Roque. While Sodhi died instantly, Roque went on to shoot at other ethnic minorities before going to a local bar and boasting: “They’re investigating the murder of a turban-head down the street.”

    Or the two British Muslim women on a train who were shouted at and had their headscarves pulled off:

    A pregnant Polish migrant launched a blistering racist verbal attack on two young Muslim women wearing hijab headscarves and told them to ‘go back to your own country’, a court heard.

    Drunk Beata Jopek shouted at the two passengers on a Yorkshire train, screaming ‘no-one wants you here, you are f****** disgusting.’

    The British women were left ‘fearing for their safety’ as Jopek, 30, told one of them: ‘Take that f****** thing off, a white person wouldn’t do what you are doing.’

    Jopek then ripped the headscarf from one of the women and when restrained by a guard said: ‘If I lose the baby I’m going to kill the black b****.’

    So women in the West who wear the hijab may be negotiating their place between violence enforcement of the hijab on one hand and violent opposition on the other. Clearly there is ugly history on both sides. I don’t think the answer is so clear cut.

  117. says

    The murder of the Iraqi woman – wasn’t that hijab story a fake? It certainly sounded fake, and at the time quite a few people said it was. I didn’t follow up on it…Was it later verified after all?

    Anyway. The hijab is enforced a good deal more than wearing it is punished. There are whole countries where it’s not optional; also whole neighborhoods.

    I don’t exactly think that wearing it voluntarily equals complicity…but that’s pretty close. Not exactly because, I suppose, when that’s not what’s intended, then that makes a difference. But all the same one can’t just “choose” a hijab that’s free of all that.

  118. yaqub says

    143. Winterwind

    Like the Iraqi woman who wore a hijab and was beaten to death in California:

    Fatima Al Himidi, told KUSI-TV her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly with a tire iron, and that the note said “go back to your country, you terrorist.”

    Fake.

  119. says

    Like the Iraqi woman who wore a hijab and was beaten to death in California:

    Fatima Al Himidi, told KUSI-TV her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly with a tire iron, and that the note said “go back to your country, you terrorist.”

    Fake.

    What sources are you using that say her murder was faked? I’ve read a bit more and apparently police now think she was killed by a family member and it was not a hate crime. Regardless of that one example, hate crimes do occur in the West (and other parts of the world, but we were talking about a Western woman choosing to wear a hijab) and are often directed at members of minority religions who display religious symbols in public. The other two examples I provided – the English women abused on a train, and the Sikh man murdered, were both examples of hate crimes. It was not my intention to list every single hate crime. If one disbelieves such attacks happen and are part of the reason people might feel the need to wear religious symbols, one isn’t paying attention.

  120. says

    I’m an America living in Indonesia. While I have always been an atheist, I never actually cared about it until I came to Indonesia. People in the West really have no idea at how deep Islamic indoctrination really is. The average Muslim in Indonesia, touted as a “moderate” Muslim country, would make the most radical Christian fanatic that I have ever met in the states seem liberal.

    During my 7 year stay here I have changed from being indifferent towards people’s silly beliefs to vehemently apposed to religions. I had never realized how vile religions actually were until I had to live in an Islamic society. While Islam-phobia is a real thing, most people in the West have no idea of how disgusting Islam really is. If they did, Islam-phobia would likely be far more common.

  121. says

    Ophelia Benson, actually, a lot of Muslim women here do choose to wear a Hijab. It’s actually common for a woman to don one after getting caught doing something bad, such as infidelity. My wife and I make a joke about it being a “badge of shame” :-P

    For many Muslim women, donning it is a way of showing their piety. It is like a Christian being “rebaptized”.

  122. dirigible. says

    “faith-based arbitration”

    That’s a remarkably careful euphemism for “religious courts”.

    All of which are bad, yes. Well done. It’s almost as if you’ve read this blog.

  123. stewart says

    I think if I were given the expression “faith-based arbitration” to explain without any context provided, I would have to go with something like “a binding judgement made based on beliefs rather than facts.” Except “arbitration” isn’t always necessarily binding, is it (I’m open to correction here)? In any event, I agree with dirigible’s assessment, though the word that pops into my head isn’t “euphemism,” but “Sprachregelung.”

  124. Walton says

    Hate crimes against women wearing religious clothing:

    Ahmas, 32, French, a divorced single mother of a three-year-old daughter, puts her handbag on the table and takes out a pepper spray and attack alarm. She doesn’t live on the high-rise estates but on a quiet street of semi-detached houses. The last time she was attacked in the street a man and woman punched her in front of her daughter, called her a whore and told her to go back to Afghanistan…

    In one recent case a young French convert was assaulted at a zoo outside Paris while carrying her 13-month-old baby. “Her child was traumatised by the zoo attack and is now being seen by a psychologist. These women blame themselves; they see a baby in that situation and think, ‘It’s my fault.’”…

    Kenza Drider, a 32-year-old mother of three, was famously bold enough to appear on French television to oppose the law before it came into force. She refuses to take off her niqab – “My husband doesn’t dictate what I do, much less the government” – but she says she now lives in fear of attack. “I still go out in my car, on foot, to the shops, to collect my kids. I’m insulted about three to four times a day,” she says. Most say, “Go home”; some say, “We’ll kill you.” One said: “We’ll do to you what we did to the Jews.” In the worst attack, before the law came in, a man tried to run her down in his car.

  125. Select says

    Select, your comment at #102 says much more about you than it does about me: namely, that you’ve been marinating in right-wing rhetoric for quite a while.

    FWIW, I grew up working class, I have a B.A. and have worked mainly office jobs my whole working life, and I’m of Jewish descent.

    Thanks for the pedigree, but it isn’t germaine to anything as pertains to accusations of “islamophoia”.

    The validity of a viewpoint has little to do with either race or one’s relative position within the power structures.

    YOu are completely obsessed with race and you assign worth, validity and truth to views and comments based almost solely on the ethnic/racial/religious identity of the individuals expressing those views or making those comments.

    What an extremly partonising way of thinking.

    Can you not see the similarity between that race-based way of ascertaining value and truth of a statement and those racists of old who ascertained intelligence based merely on skin tone?

    Currently there are about 25,000 enraged Muslims in Bangladesh burning Buddhist temples, lotting Buddhist owned stores and shops and murdering innocent Buddhists because of some item on Facebook. That must be quite a quandry for you as both attackers and victims are brown.

    Who’s right and who’s in the wrong here? What criteria will you use seeings both groups involved are neither western Christian nor white?

    And you have the gall to accuse others of having dug themselves into a hole?

  126. says

    That’s a remarkably careful euphemism for “religious courts”.

    Arbitration only has jurisdiction over people who sign up for it. They can always opt for a civil court. It also can’t make any rulings against public policy. In the US, at least, it can’t grant divorces.

  127. brucegorton says

    @Winterwind

    To me the most primary right of all is the right to disagree. This is more fundemental than the right to life, as I wouldn’t sacrefice my right to disagree in the name of continued life. Thus for example, someone being a Muslim is 100% their right, so long as they agree that I have the right to not be one myself.

    So before we can even begin the discussion, we need that fundemental point between both sides, that both sides have the right to disagree.

    Which already makes it a totally different discussion to one of identities and racism, because in those cases it isn’t “You have the right to your own thoughts” it is something else entirely.

    That is the fundemental evil of that form of assualt, not racism but a basic hostility to freedom itself.

    It is the shadow of the dark ages rebelling against the enlightenment, which was not started by science but by communication.

    There is no real difference between the religious right of Christianity, and the religious right of Islam.

    The Pope and the Imam sing in chorus on the evils of secularism.

    And you see this when the brakes are taken off Christianity. You see it in the harrassment recieved by Jessica Ahlquist, the treatment of Damon Fowler, the religious right’s insistence that “freedom of religion is not freedom from religion”.

    And you see it in violent assualts on Muslims. The far right, is the far right, is the far right. Heck even when it is far right atheists its the same, as any one of the feminist writers on FTB can attest.

    What we object to in extreme Islam is exactly what we object to in extreme Christianity. What we object to in Islamic theocracies is exactly what far right Christians would love to create in Christian theocracies.

    What we object to is efforts to ban the right to disagree. The trouble is, if one gets too active in trying to deal with that from Islamic sources, one runs the risk of being called Islamophobic and racist.

  128. says

    I wonder whether the silence of these vociferous critics of Islam on the hideous legacy of suppression of women in Judaism which continues to this day in the “Ultra-Orthodox” groups (The terms “Orthodox and “ultra-Orthodox” in the context of Judaism are euphemisms for religious fundamentalists and extremists!!) in Israel is primarily because of the mortal terror inspired by the prospect of a charge of “Anti-semitism” against the critics.

    The charge of “Islamophobia” pales into insignificance in comparison.

    Perhaps, Ophelia might consider a post on the threat posed by “Ultra-Orthodox” Judaism to the values she upholds.

    Here is just a glimpse into the problem:

    Ultra-Orthodox Jews Blur Women With Modesty Glasses

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/08/ultra-orthodox-jews-blurry-glasses_n_1757338.html

    JERUSALEM — It’s the latest prescription for extreme ultra-Orthodox Jewish men who shun contact with the opposite sex: Glasses that blur their vision, so they don’t have to see women they consider to be immodestly dressed.

    In an effort to maintain their strictly devout lifestyle, the ultra-Orthodox have separated the sexes on buses, sidewalks and other public spaces in their neighborhoods. Their interpretation of Jewish law forbids contact between men and women who are not married.

    Walls in their neighborhoods feature signs exhorting women to wear closed-necked, long-sleeved blouses and long skirts. Extremists have accosted women they consider to have flouted the code.

    Now they’re trying to keep them out of clear sight altogether.

    The ultra-Orthodox community’s unofficial “modesty patrols” are selling glasses with special blur-inducing stickers on their lenses. The glasses provide clear vision for up to a few meters so as not to impede movement, but anything beyond that gets blurry – including women. It’s not known how many have been sold.

    For men forced to venture outside their insular communities, hoods and shields that block peripheral vision are also being offered.

    The glasses are going for the “modest” price of $6.

  129. stewart says

    Thill:

    You really ought to be specific about who it is you mean. That’s for starters. But the worst excesses of Islam against women today (stoning, FGM, “honour” killings) – where are their parallels in even the most ultra-Orthodox Judaism?

    Are you unaware of how often Ophelia has already tackled this topic in its Jewish context? And things far worse than blur-spectacles, which, however offensive they are as an idea, are mild compared to some of what’s gone on, affecting the wearer more than the women he tries to exclude from his field of vision.

  130. says

    Stewart,
    Are you familiar with the “Old Testament”? Does it say anything about stoning women, who are accused of adultery, to death?

    Judaism is no different from Islam in terms of hideous doctrinal bigotry against women.

    But contrast the extraordinary amount of criticism unleashed against the dogmas of Islam, and even those of Christianity, with the coverage of the dogmas of Judaism.

    This fact is not unrelated to the manipulative use of the charge of “anti-semitism” (a misuse which dishonors the memory of the genuine victims of anti-semitism)to suppress criticism of Judaism and war criminal policies and actions of the Israeli government.

    You can do a search of Israeli newspapers to find plenty of examples of the oppression of women by the the fundamentalists and extremists of Judaism (AKA “”Orthodox” and “Ultra-Orthodox”).

    Parallels? The article I quoted already mentions the following:

    “In an effort to maintain their strictly devout lifestyle, the ultra-Orthodox have separated the sexes on buses, sidewalks and other public spaces in their neighborhoods.

    Walls in their neighborhoods feature signs exhorting women to wear closed-necked, long-sleeved blouses and long skirts. Extremists have accosted women they consider to have flouted the code.”

    You may also want to take a look at this:

    “After Ultra-Orthodox extremists spat on and harassed an eight-year-old female student in Beit Shemesh, thousands of Israelis protested against religious extremism and the discrimination against women in Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox communities. Even though Naama Margolese went to the religious Beit Orot School and wore a strict school uniform with long sleeves and a long skirt, Haredi extremists repeatedly harassed her on her way to school and called her a “prostitute.””

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ynp2G_GlIOs

    And this too if you are interested in threats to secular education:

    “Israeli ultra-Orthodox leader tells Jews of France to shun secular education
    Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman’s comments seen as a challenge to the French law mandating study of core subjects such as mathematics, science, language and history in all private schools.”
    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/israeli-ultra-orthodox-leader-tells-jews-of-france-to-shun-secular-education.premium-1.462809

    The forms of action misogyny, or the suppression of women, takes in Islam or Judaism is irrelevant to the issue of whether it is shared equally by Judaism and Islam in just the way it is irrelevant, if the issue is terrorism, whether terrorism takes the form of a suicide bombing on a bus in Israel or the form of unleashing missiles and cluster bombs in the civilian areas of Gaza.

  131. stewart says

    Thill:

    There was nothing you said there of which I was unaware and several of the specific cases have been dealt with by Ophelia (was your main point not that these things were being neglected because of a concentration on Islam?).

    Of course the Old Testament contains horrific punishments for things we no longer consider crimes and women are discriminated against. But today, in the 21st century, it is not Jewish religious authorities who are permitting these punishments to be carried out, is it?

    Do we actually have a disagreement? My opinion is that all such phenomena in any religion should be resisted, condemned, spoken about, etc. I don’t think we should be soft on either Jewish or Muslim or Christian behaviour of that nature. If you think Ophelia has given a pass to any of these religions, you are simply in error, but that is easily corrected by a quick search of the B&W archives. So, unless you think we should be either softer or harder on any given religion than on any other, I don’t think we do disagree.

  132. plutoanimus says

    “Joe…But I don’t call them “acts of Muslim extremism” – that’s your language, not mine.”

    Then what are they — acts of secular extremism?

    Enough of the semantic bullshit, please.

  133. says

    Don’t be shewpid. Language is what we’re talking about. This is a blog, remember? Language is the medium. If people are shouting at me on the grounds that I’m always ranting about “acts of Muslim extremism” I get to point out that I don’t put it in those terms.

  134. says

    I’ve been generally avoiding sticking anything much into this thing because a) I’m a coward and I don’t need the grief and b) it seems constantly to be moving too fast for me really to assess at the level I’d like to.

    I will say this much, tho’, as I think I can get it into a comment I have time for:

    There’s been a lot of folk insisting that we keep in mind that we don’t ‘Other’ Muslims.

    This is wise. This is fair. And it’s probably the more common problem you’re likely to make if you’re not thinking at all about it–something you’re very likely to do quite unintentionally, if it’s not on your radar as a problem…

    Anyway. But:

    Don’t ‘Just like us’ them, either.

    More precisely, for one instance, don’t reflexively ‘Just like Christianity’ Islam.

    Islam is not just like Christianity. Muslims are not just like Christians. Islamism is not just like Dominionism. There are many similarities. There are also differences.

    And, amusingly, I can think of a rather lot of contexts in which, if you said to a Muslim, ‘Oh, you’re just like Christians, then’, they wouldn’t be amused.

    … this, I suppose, probably goes without saying. And there’s others, oddly enough, of course, where they’d be pretty happy with that, but I digress.

    There is actually a great deal of value in looking for parallels, of course, beyond just being ‘fair’. Yes, if you understand something of what draws people to the one ideology, you probably know something about the other, and that’s useful.

    There’s also a hazard, however, in always trying to force the one faith into the other’s box. For instance: we had a bit of a back and forth a few days ago over at Pharyngula about Islam and science, with Sastra saying, look, there’s differences…

    I was one of those said a bit rhetorically that I think they had a lot in common, but I wound up having to qualify it a lot, once I got thinking about it. And in retrospect, I think Sastra was more right about that than I was. There are differences, if we’re talking about what you could probably fairly call ‘mainstream’ between those faiths. I think I may have somewhat excessively de-emphasized them, rereading what I had to say, even allowing I later said, sure, I could see it might be because of X and Y that there are differences…

    I’m not, by the way, saying I want to go all the way on that, either. But if you know the discussion: yeah, come to think of it, I have read Edis (An Illusion of Harmony, specifically), and his take is, look, the institutional levels of the Muslim world at which some of that Koranic pseudoscience stuff seems to be taken seriously are rather on another level than what happens elsewhere. Schlafly, as Sastra points out, generally isn’t taken very seriously outside a relatively small partisan extreme. So there’s a difference. Essentialy, again, how ‘mainstream’ within that larger stream this stuff is.

    And people were, it seemed to me, pretty quick to jump on Sastra for saying there’s differences. It came across to me as a little scornful, and a bit of a jumping to conclusions. Like it was just an assumption: she’s just othering, she’s just not thinking about it, she just doesn’t see the parallels when she says this is a difference.

    I think I sorta know Sastra. I’ve read her a while. I’d find that surprising. I expect she sees the parallels. But like anyone trying really to shake this thing out, I think she sees them, and thinks to herself: it’s just as big a mistake to overemphasize those. There are cultural differences that may hold. I’m going to do what I can to assess this: is there a difference? And I think there is, on balance, and this is particularly significant in that context, I’ll say so. And y’know, her insight about this magical/analogical thinking probably has merit. Notwithstanding that there’s also Christians that do think like that, too–but, y’know, mentioning this isn’t necessarily telling her anything she doesn’t already know, either.

    I dunno. All that said: I think I get how Ing (it’s here) reacted how she did, still taking that as a for instance, and I think I reacted a bit the same. My observation that, look, there are Christians who are like that still stands, I think, but it’s a matter of emphasis, significance, numbers, context. And no, Ing, I’m really not trying to single you out, here, but this is one of those things is just going to be rhetorical pablum and utterly impossible to assess usefully without that specific, which did rather strike me at the time.

    But anyway, toward saying something maybe actually useful, here: I think it would really help if, when people think they see othering, they maybe stop and think about it just a little longer. Ease up on the hammers, a bit, y’know? No, I’m not saying let it go; to hell with that, as you sure will find it, some places. But even if at first it does strike you as ‘what the hell are you saying, here?’, try to probe a little, first, calmly, anyway, see what the basis is, before you start assuming that. For better or for worse, the overtones of accusations of racism people may well hear if you jump to conclusions there are very likely to chill open discussion pretty quickly. And potentially wind up with a lot more heat than light in the room.

    The thing I might add here is: I absolutely assume I’m racist, insofar as I’ve got my implicit outgroups and ingroups, and I do hear and see people and voices within them differently, no matter what I do. But every comment I make on subject in this realm, I do stop and ask what lenses I’m seeing this through, and so far as I can do, I try to be fair about it, try to get to the reality as best as I can.

    Someone assuming you just haven’t even thought about that, when you really have, as far as you can, could easily get you thinking: geez, do they just think I’m stupid? The first reaction is just naturally gonna be to think: give me some fucking credit, here. I’m gonna take a deep breath here and try not to get too pissed about this, but seriously, ya yutz, do you not think I thought this through?

    I’m talking theoretically. Because no one has so much, to me. But y’know, I could easily see, with like four or five people muttering a bit that this seemed a bit off, and geez did we touch a nerve here, and oh the tone of that bothered me, how hackles could be raised, y’know?

    Just generically as I can, I guess all I’m really saying is: deep breaths, everyone. And again, constantly looking for ‘Just like us’, apart from being potentially being equally insulting to acting like the other is from Neptune or something, isn’t exactly guaranteed to get you to the truth, all the time, either. Worse: if it makes you artificially minimize genuine challenges in a well-meaning effort to see things as the same that aren’t, or not quite, you’re stepping on the toes of actually potentially valuable critics and observers trying just as hard as you are to shine a light on real problems.

  135. Anya says

    Why not go the distance and apologise you[r] self-loathing little white a-hole right out of existence?

    “Self-loathing little white a-hole”?? White pride? Really? And you wonder why people think you’re racist.

  136. julian says

    I wonder if using flamethrowers on misogynistic trolls would be considered a war crime…

  137. julian says

    Seriously that’s beyond gross. I can’t believe people are actually shielding this behavior.

  138. jenniferphillips says

    Julian, I know, right? I completely understand and support Ophelia’s moderation standards for taking out the trash, but I wish there was also a way not to let this type of thing fly under the RADAR. Rebecca’s Wall O’ Hate serves an important role in that regard, IMO.

    Ophelia, I don’t know how many of those type of comments you have to deal with in a given week, but I’ll bet the number if pretty fucking depressing. I am sorry, and I wish there was more I could do to support you.

  139. says

    Oh not that many. None like those! I’m sure there are thousands at SlymeOLand, but I don’t go there.

    It was lying, of course – it’s commented before under other names.

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