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May 07 2012

Often, the silence is deafening

I have just returned from the Center For Inquiry’s Rhine River cruise where Richard Dawkins, Ronald A Lindsay and I were speaking. I gave two talks – one on Sharia law, Islamophobia and Secularism and the other on Free Expression and Islam. Here’s my speech on Sharia law:

My talk today is on Sharia law, Islamophobia and Secularism.

It’s a difficult topic, not – as one might assume – because of the threats and intimidations that surround this issue, or the palpable fear associated with it. While these are very real and colour everything, I find this topic difficult primarily because of how many people and organisations are siding with Sharia law at the expense of rights, equality, and secularism.

There are reasons for why a large segment of the population has become convinced that it is not possible to act or intervene and that it is racist to do so.

People will often tell me that they don’t know enough about Sharia law to oppose it but doesn’t everyone know what Sharia law is even if they don’t know of the existence of Sharia courts in Britain or Europe.

You’d have to live under a rock not to know what Sharia law means for people across the world.

Sharia law is Islamic law and it’s based on a combination of sources, including the Quran, the Hadith or Sunna (sayings and actions of Islam’s orophet Mohammad), and Islamic jurisprudence and rulings or fatwas issued by scholars.

Sharia law is far from monolithic and consistent; there are four prominent schools of Sharia in Sunni Islam and one major school in Shia Islam.

But despite the inconsistencies, there is consensus within all schools regarding the necessity of the death penalty for apostasy and sexual “crimes” including homosexuality, on the need for women to be veiled, and on different treatment under the law accorded to men compared with women as well as Muslims compared with non-Muslims.

Sharia law rulings that everyone is familiar with is people being hung in Iran for examples from cranes in city centres for apostasy, blasphemy, heresy, being gay, and enmity against god. There are 130 offences punishable by death under Sharia. Another recent example is of morality police in Iraq stoning dozens of Iraqi youth to death because of their haircuts and tight jeans. Or in the case of Afghanistan, for example, a majority of women prisoners are there for ‘moral crimes’. The case of Gulnaz, which was highlighted in a documentary commissioned by the EU and then banned by it to safeguard their relations with the ‘justice’ institutions, is better known. She was given a 12 year sentence after being raped. After much protest, she was pardoned by Karzai so she could to marry her rapist! And of course there is the latest example of the Islamist-dominated government in Egypt introducing a law that would allow a man to have sex with his wife for up to six hours after her death…

Despite all the evidence – there are quite a few of people some of whom are humanists, freethinkers and atheists who will say they don’t know enough about sharia to criticise it though they know very well what religion in political power means since they spend quite a large chunk of their time fighting Christianity’s role in the public space. But bring up Islam and Sharia law and suddenly the response is hardly audible.

Often times the silence is deafening.

When people tell me that they don’t know enough about Sharia law to oppose it – though we hear about its abominations day in and day out – I think what they really mean to say is that it is not their place to oppose it.

In its very essence the reason for this – for the conviction that it is not one’s place to act – is a false belief that to do so would be tantamount to racism. And I do think this is why we don’t see the outrage that barbarism of this kind deserves and demands.

Now, if you are fighting Islamism or Sharia law in Iran, Egypt or Afghanistan the debate is not framed around racism and Islamophobia. I remember being on a panel discussion in Sweden with a famous Syrian atheist, Sadiq al-Azm and when the Swedes called his criticism of Islam racist, he said I’ve been arrested, imprisoned and called many things but never this. This accusation of racism is specific to the debate in North America, or Europe or Australia.

If you criticise Islam or Islamism in Iran, you’re not labelled a racist, you are accused of enmity against god, corruption, blasphemy, heresy and apostasy. So the accusation of racism and Islamophobia is specific to the debate taking place in the west.

Just to give you an example, 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. The same government though will accuse critics of Saudi policy abroad as Islamophobic.

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 – by deeming it racist to criticise anything related to Islam.

Of course various contexts can change the way in which one addresses a specific issue but it doesn’t change the fundamentals.

If Sharia law is wrong in Saudi Arabia or Iran, if it is anti-woman, if it is anti-gay, if it is anti-freethinkers and apostates and political dissidents and so on, it is also the same here in the west though it takes various forms.

Sharia courts in Britain for example don’t stone people to death but they do deal with civil aspects of sharia law – divorce, child custody, domestic violence, marital rape, and so on.

Just because there are no amputations and stoning and the courts are denying women’s rights in the family, it doesn’t make it any less scandalous.

Under its rules in Britain, which by the way are the same as the rules that apply in Iran or Afghanistan, a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s, a women can’t sign her own marriage contract, men have the unilateral right to divorce whereas a women have limited rights to divorce; child custody goes to the father at a preset age; girls get half of the inheritance boys do and so on.

The Islamic Sharia Council – which is a charity by the way though the CEMB has been refused charitable status – explains why this is so: ‘with regards to women’s testimony, ‘If one forgets, the other can remind her.’ ‘It’s the difference between a man and a woman’s brains.’ ‘A woman’s character is not so good for a case where testimony requires attention and concentration.’ It goes on to say it is not ‘derogatory’ but ‘the secret of women’s nature.’

What this means in practice is that in Britain, for example, information from the Ministry of Justice, following a Freedom of Information request, has revealed that 32 Forced Marriage Protection Order applications were made for children under 16 in Britain last year. At the Islington court, “five or fewer” orders were made to protect children between the ages of 9-11.

The Centre for Islamic Pluralism reported of a 15-year-old girl in Pakistan who was tricked into marriage over the telephone with a 40-year-old man from Sheffield, who had the mental age of a four-year-old child. “The Home Office refused to recognise the validity of the marriage but the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain accepted it”.

The CIP also uncovered the case of thirty-year-old from West Yorkshire, who was 13 when her father arranged her marriage. She went to three different imams who all ruled she was legally married according to the Sharia. “I told them I had been forced but they said that did not change anything.” She eventually secured her divorce because her husband finally agreed to it.

These realities cannot be ignored simply by saying that to oppose sharia courts or Sharia law would tantamount to racism.

And it’s not racism to criticise Islam and Islamism.

Of course people must be respected and people have the right to believe in anything they choose however absurd but not necessarily every practice and belief must be respected. Also Sharia courts have nothing to do with people’s beliefs but with political power.

The problem is that multiculturalism– not as a positive lived experience – but as a social policy – has created false homogeneous communities – like a ‘Muslim’ community – whereby Islamist values and sensibilities are seen to be the values of all who are deemed to be part of that community.

This viewpoint of a homogeneous Muslim community fails to see the resistance and dissent.

It doesn’t see the girl who doesn’t want to be veiled, the young lovers who don’t want to be killed in the name of honour, the Muslim who is also gay, the ex-Muslim, the freethinker, the socialists, and the many closet atheists who walk the streets in Britain wearing a burqa or hejab.

What multiculturalism does is shrink the space to breathe and think and live for anyone deemed part of the ‘Muslim’ community and hands over masses of people – citizens – to the Islamists.

Also this viewpoint doesn’t see that this is not about identity but politics and power.

Of course this is not just a problem with Islam as the far-Right says. All religions are equal and equally bad particularly when they have access to political power.

But even so, today – as we speak – there is a distinction to be made between religions in general and Islam in particular though that is changing due to the rise of the Christian right in a places like the USA, a rise that has been spearheaded by Islamism.

I call it an Islamic inquisition and see it as the difference between Christianity today in Europe versus one during the inquisition. A religion that has been reined in by an enlightenment is very different from one that has political power and is spearheading an inquisition.

Under an inquisition, ‘Islamic feminism,’ ‘liberal and humanitarian Islam,’ ‘Islamic reformism,’ ‘Islamic democracy,’ ‘Islamic human rights,’ and moderate interpretations of Islam are impossible.

A ‘personal’ religion is impossible under an inquisition. You can’t pick and choose as you’d like.

Islamists will kill, threaten or intimidate anyone who interprets things differently, thinks freely or who transgresses their norms by living 21st century lives.

One of the characteristics of an inquisition is a total ban on freethinking and policing of thought. Censorship is rife so that one can face the death penalty for reading a book or visiting an internet site. Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1600; today there are numerous examples of people being killed for similar reasons.

Under an inquisition, torture is the norm. According to their handbook at the time, inquisitors were instructed not to find any accused innocent under any circumstances. The same applies under Islamism. You are guilty. Full Stop. Guilty for laughing, guilty for listening to music, guilty for wearing jeans, for driving, for loving, for thinking and for breathing.

The purpose of the so called Sharia justice system is to elicit a confession.

Under the inquisition, you were killed even if you confessed. A confession would just mean that you would be strangled before being burnt to death rather than being burnt alive. The same applies for Islamism. It’s a killing machine.

Sharia law is designed to teach the masses the damnable nature of dissent.

Moreover, under the inquisition, once you were baptized, it could not be undone. The same is true with Islam. You are just not allowed to leave.

Of course as I mentioned before there are distinctions in the practice of Islamism as in every phenomenon but it is a question of degrees. A little less vile is still repugnant.

The misogyny and inhumanity behind a law that stones people to death in Afghanistan and Somalia are the same as one that denies women the right to divorce and child custody in a sharia court in Britain.

If you look at Christianity in Europe today for example, it’s not that the tenets, dogma, and principles have changed; it has not become more humane since the days of the inquisition and witch burnings. What has changed is its social and political influence in today’s society, in people’s lives, in its relation with the state, the law and educational system. To the degree that it has become undermined and weakened, that is the degree that people have managed to free themselves from the clutches of religion, and in having happier lives and a better society.

The same has to be done with Islam and Islamism.

And it is being done but mainly by the people living under Islamic laws or those who have fled them.

It is the people living under Islamic laws or the many who have fled Sharia and sought refuge who are the principal victims of Islamism, and in the forefront of the struggle against it.

You will no greater opponent against Sharia law than the very people living under, suffering under, and resisting it day in and day out or who have fled it.

Despite this human right catastrophe, it is difficult to gather the support that opponents of sharia and Islamism deserve and demand because opposition is deemed to be Islamophobic and racist.

How can it be racist to defend and support equality, freedom and secularism?

That’s not to say that racism doesn’t exist. Of course it does.

But staying silent about Sharia law and Islamism won’t stop racism, it will only exacerbate it leaving countless people under the influence of Islamism – separate and unequal.

And it also leaves the playing field open to the far-right to scapegoat and blame Muslims and immigrants for Islamism’s crimes.

It’s important that there be a vocal opposition to Sharia and Islamism from a rights and egalitarian perspective.

Secularism is an important vehicle in this fight. Firstly, it is a characteristic that distinguishes us from the far-Right, which is not concerned with religion’s role in the public space but only Islam’s role in society at large.

Also secularism can help unite atheists, freethinkers and the religious, including many Muslims, who cherish their beliefs but are opposed to religion’s role in the public sphere.

Secularism is essential for a plural society.

When there are countless beliefs, you need to keep beliefs out in order to include people.

Inclusion, rights, equality, and respect are for people not beliefs.

Secularism doesn’t deny religious belief as a private matter; in fact it’s central to protecting it and all beliefs or lack thereof. But as I’ve said before; it does make a value judgement on religion in power and so must actively ensure that religion isn’t privileged but also that it doesn’t encroach on the public space.

As a song for change by Algerians opposed to Sharia law in Algeria’s family code says: Sharia law is a code of despair, obsessed with women. It commits the unspeakable and must not be endured.

Sharia law is not ‘our’ culture. It is Islamism’s culture.

It is not racism to say so and stand with the innumerable suffering under and resisting it.

In fact given the deafening silence that we are face with, speaking out is one of the greatest acts of anti-racism we can find today.

Thank you.

29 comments

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  1. 1
    Rafiq Mahmood

    It is strange when we hear the argument, usually tacit, that we should leave things be because we don’t want to appear racist or (what a strange word) islamophobic.

    I grew up in the 1960s, filled with anger at the Apartheid regime in South Africa and the segregation in the southern states of the USA. My father was wounded and taken prisoner fighting a diversionary battle in Calais to allow the Allied Expeditionary Force to escape from Dunkirk. He spent most of the rest of the war starving in appalling conditions in camps in Germany and Czechoslovakia. I yearned to fight against fascism and Apartheid in all its forms.

    These times are like the inter-war years of appeasement, of trying to persuade the beast not to be so beastly.

    There was nothing so thrilling as seeing Nelson Mandela walking free of his prison gates, Apartheid at last defeated and seen for what it was, the negation of humanity, the chains that bound both oppressed and their oppressors. It was thrilling too to see the Berlin wall being smashed – the end of the cage that had perverted and usurped the name of Socialism.

    And yet, here in Indonesia, as elsewhere where Islam holds sway, Apartheid dominates and rules just the same as it did in South Africa. There are the same pass laws: you have to have your (state decreed) religion on your identity card. There are the same anti-miscegenation laws, not about race, but about religion. You cannot marry someone who is not the same religion. One religion has privileges over the other, all are not equal. In some countries, like Saudi Arabia, open and rampant racism is practised as well. Sharia is an Apartheid of the sexes too.

    Apartheid was wrong because it created the myth of race as a marker of identity and the superiority of one race over others. It created gradations in decreasing order of worth: Europeans, Indians, Coloured and Blacks – called kaffirs, as it happens.

    Sharia creates the myth of religion as a marker of identity and the superiority of one religion over others. It also creates gradations in decreasing order of worth: Muslims, Dhimmis (“people of the book”), other religions and kuffar – atheists, apostates and other refuseniks.

    And so, as you say Maryam, there is a deafening silence. There are no fly posters, no protest songs, no vigils outside embassies. It is “business as usual”. The storm clouds are gathering and yet we wave out little pieces of paper and continue our game of cricket on the village green.

    The term “Islamo-Fascism” was accurate but it has lost its punch. So many things have been labelled fascist that we have forgotten what fascism means. The generation that struggled against the jackboot of European industrialised slaughter and tyranny has all but died out. It has become history, shown on Sunday afternoons as quaint old films of times gone by.

    Apartheid is, perhaps, more near and more real. Perhaps it might help if we used the term “Sharia-Apartheid” to remind people of what this really is.

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    Ms. Namazie, you reminded me of something an activist mentor told me decades ago: In the real world, there is no Prime Directive. We are under no compunction to respect other cultures that violate human rights, and in fact, we are duty bound as moral human beings to speak out and take action against discrimination.

  3. 3
    August Pamplona

    Please relieve me of my ignorance, if necessary.

    There’s much talk of sharia courts in Britain and Europe in this post. What is the reality of these courts? Are sharia courts legally binding? Do they have legal standing? I am under the impression that they are not. Correct me if I am wrong.

    I see a huge problem with sharia courts in a country like Malaysia which, as I understand it, has a parallel track judicial system based on sharia. If your identity card says you are Muslim then sharia applies to you (whereas if it says otherwise then the normal justice system applies). The more important consideration to me is that whatever sharia courts decree has legal standing there. As a Muslim you absolutely cannot legally opt out of Sharia. That’s where I see the problem. Hypothetically, no matter how moderate the interpretation of sharia may be I still have a huge problem with it because I am pretty intransigent on church state separation.

    In contrast, as I see it, if sharia courts are not legally binding then I am not sure about what one can/should do about it.

    To further illustrate my view on this, I am in favor of gay marriage. I think that if two people want to commit to each other in that way they should be free to do so and that no barriers should be placed in their way regardless of gender. Nevertheless, I would not wish to require churches to allow gay marriages. I would find it more agreeable if they did allow gay marriage (and find it to be unfortunate that they do not) but I don’t think that I (or government, on my behalf) have any right to impose this on a church.

    So if a sharia court decrees that someone should have their hands chopped off or be lashed or whatever, we should have laws which deal with that. Other than gross violations like that, I am not sure we can/should intervene.

    For instance, if it’s stupid (and discriminatory) to not be able to have a divorce granted because you are a woman and your rights are less than those of a man (who does not want a divorce), then the remedy is to go through the regular justice system and petition for a divorce there just like everybody else.

    I do understand that this may be a difficult thing to put in practice: the social pressure to conform to Islam may be too great to risk violating whatever norms move people to using the sharia system in the first place. This is unfortunate. I just don’t view the alternative of having the government regulate what Islam is as being particularly attractive. That is sort of the opposite of my ideal.

    1. 3.1
      Rafiq Mahmood

      In Malaysia you are Muslim by legal definition if you ethnically Malay. You are stuck with it. You can, of course, also be Muslim if you are non-Malay. A Malay woman converted to Hinduism and married a Hindu. A sharia court decreed that she could not convert to Hinduism and was therefore still Muslim and, because Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims her marriage was decreed void and her baby was taken away from her. The woman was incarcerated in a “re-education centre” and her husband was not allowed to visit her.

      1. augustpamplona

        Yup, I remember being told about that case.

  4. 4
    MatthewL

    Islamophobia is a very strange meme. Where does it come from? Is it from Muslim apologists trying to co-opt liberal sympathy by reference to homophobia? Another attempt by theocrats to play victims while grabbing for more despotic power?

    Fear of radical Islam as a political movement is entirely rational and thus not phobic. Irrational fear of Islamic people is bigoted and should be called out as such. I see no proper place for islamophobia in the lexicon.

  5. 5
    Gregory in Seattle

    @August Pamplona #4 – I believe that in Europe, Canada and the United States, Sharia courts (and similarly, Jewish Halakha courts) have standing as arbitration forums. If two people wish to mediate their divorce, or settle a dispute, or otherwise come to a mutually agreeable solution to a problem in accord with their religious views, they are free to go to such a “court” and the law will accept the result provided that it is in accord with civil law. There is no legal obligation to use a religious court, even in cases where mediation is required; in theory, their use is purely voluntary and by mutual agreement. There is the issue of one party — typically a wife or daughter — who is coerced into using a religious court that starts off objecting to her rights; this is a problem that many governments have chosen to gloss over.

    This is distinctly different from some countries such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and so on where religious courts are integral with the civil courts. This is no different from other theocracies: Bhutan and Thailand have, and independent Tibet had, Buddhist religious law tightly integrated with civil courts, and the Vatican City is run in accordance with canon law as much as civil law. India is an interesting example, as it has mandatory Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Christian court systems, depending on the official religion of the parties involved.

    @MatthewL #6 – Unfortunately, Islamophobia is very real: In the United States, particularly after the 9/11 attacks, there have been many documented cases of people being harassed, beaten and robbed, with their automobiles, homes and places of business and worship being vandalized, solely on the grounds that they were or were perceived to be Muslim. In this regard, Islamophobia is comparable to anti-Semitism. The problem is where people take justifiable criticism of Islam, or the politics or “justice” of Muslim nations, and treat it as blind bigotry: this is comparable to those who call criticism of Israel’s domestic policy “an effort to restart the Holocaust” or turn complaints against Christian cherry-picking of the Bible into “persecution of Bible-believing Christians.”

    1. 5.1
      LeetheGirl

      No. Sharia Law has no standing in Canada at all. Around the same time the push for it was denied we also discontinued Jewish courts. Fair is fair.

      It’s true that there are plenty of muslims living in North America who are nice, normal people and wrongfully judged by their appearance. The problem with that is islamic ways a very quickly try to push out to every part of the world. To prevent it from forming into every country it has to be fought back against as harshly as possible. And sadly it’s the non-insane muslims that are going to pay a lot of the price for the assholes of their own religion.

  6. 6
    Dalillama

    @matthewL
    In addition to what Gregory in Seattle mentions above, there is also a persistent meme in the U.S. that radical Islam is a greater threat to the integrity/safety of the U.S. than e.g. radical Christianity, which unlike radical Islam infests the governments of the U.S. at every level. This is not to minimize the atrocities of those places which are governed or heavily influenced by radical Islam, nor the threat which it poses to those regions, but the meme is usually used to justify U.S. military action in the Arab world, which only amplifies the threat level to citizens living in the areas targeted by such actions. I certainly feel that the U.S. and Britain, as well as the explicitly theocratic countries of course, should cease to recognize religious courts of any nature and on any level. I additionally am in favor of intervention to prevent human rights abuses, but invasions and military military occupations such as those advocated by many Americans based on the dangers of radical Islam are almost never the most effective form of intervention.

  7. 7
    Corey

    “Islamophobia” is really a misnomer. Phobias are irrational fears. Something that is well-known to cause pain, mutilation, or death is deservedly feared by rational people. We haven’t constructed phobia-words to describe people who are afraid of grizzly bears or great white sharks, and yet how many more people are harmed by sharia law than these two deadly animals. Is being cautious to not attract grizzly bears, taking the time to understand how when and why people are mauled by them, and then taking steps to avoid such outcomes an expression of irrational hatred or fear of grizzly bears? Of course not!

    Also, this post is so similar to Sam Harris’ “On Knowing Your Enemy,” (also published today), I can’t believe there is no reference to the whole recent debacle surrounding Sam’s position on airport profiling. You guys make several of the same points.

  8. 8
    timgueguen

    Sharia courts have no standing in Canada at the moment.

  9. 9
    MatthewL

    @ Gregory #6 & Dalillama #6

    See: Corey #8

    Clearly anti-Muslim bigotry is a problem. I just think the term Islamophobic is neither useful nor constructive and is more often used to confuse and obfuscate. Would it be helpful to add negrophobic or hispanophobic to discussions of racism and nativism? Does accusing bigots of having an irrational fear of the targets of their bigotry accomplish anything of value?

    1. 9.1
      Dalillama

      Actually, yes. Being afraid that sharia law will be implemented in the U.S., a fear which is commonly espoused by American Right wingers, definitely constitutes an irrational fear of Islam. So does worry about ‘terror babies,’ the claim that all terrorists are Muslim, and in fact basically anything Fox News has to say on the topic of Islam.

      1. MatthewL

        …but how is it helpful to call it phobic?

        1. Gregory in Seattle

          Despite the etymology of the individual components,” “Islamophobia” is the word that has come into popular use to describe anti-Islamic bigotry.

          Sorry, but you are starting to sound like the folks who insist that homophobia does not exist because it is not a “real” phobia.

          1. Dalillama

            This too, yes.

          2. MatthewL

            I’m not convinced that homophobia is the best usage either but it does not suffer from the same problems as islamophobia does (or christophobia, etc would). To take legitimate objections to and fears of an actually threatening political movement and conflate them with an irrational fear of an entire religion is disingenuous and harmful to rational discourse.

            Just because the word is in common parlance doesn’t mean that it should remain so.

        2. Dalillama, Schmott Guy

          So how would you characterize an irrational fear of a negligible threat, i.e. the fear of the U.S. becoming dominated by Sharia Law, mass Islamic terrorist attacks in the U.S., pregnant Muslim terrorists sneaking into the U.S. to give birth so they can raise the resulting U.S. citizens to be terrorists, and the rest of the delusional paranoia about Islam to be found throughout the U.S. and AFAICT Canada and Britain as well, although to a lesser extent?

          1. Corey

            The “fear of the U.S. becoming dominated by Sharia Law” you keep harping on is a clumsy straw man. I certainly have no such fears. No one on this thread (I admit, I skimmed quite a bit) seems to fear that. And I don’t think people usually hammered with the “islamophobia” accusation are afraid of that either. Sure, that would be a ridiculous and irrational fear, but who are you arguing against with this? No one here. If you’re going to conflate crazy wingnut paranoia with the (quite liberal) desire to take a stand against the human rights abuses of hideously oppressive religious sects, you’re going to have to do it with more skill.

          2. Dalillama

            Corey, I’ve posted a response, but it looks like the links got it put into moderation.

          3. MatthewL

            I would characterize the irrational fear of the negligible threat of sharia law being imposed in the US as ridiculous, absurd, etc. I don’t see why it needs a special term, especially one that connotes an uncontrolable medical condition, when it seems likely driven by ulterior motives such as tribalism and bigotry. It seems less a fear of theocratic Islam in particular than of the loss of white privilege in general that is inevitable with growing multiculturalism and multinationalism.

        3. M can help you with that.

          Surprisingly enough, terms in popular usage may not adhere perfectly to either etymology or technical language! [/sarcasm]

          Seriously — “phobia” in popular use as a suffix isn’t always equivalent to its use as a suffix in psychology. In that sense, “homophobia” is a useful comparison — in popular use, “-phobia” incorporates “irrational aversion” as well as “obsessive opposition” as well as the psychological sense (and a few others at that). So it may be useful to describe “insistence that everyone who identifies as Muslim is part of a terrorist plot to institute a particular right-wing version of Sharia on the world and is on the verge of doing so” as an “Islamophobic” attitude while not using the same term for “Dude, there’s some heinously fucked-up patriarchal shit in most branches of Islam; let’s try to avoid supporting that (and maybe slide a little bit of support towards the relatively feminist/etc. parts of the mostly-Muslim social world).” The latter leaves open the possibility of feminist/socialist/queer/etc. critique of a deeply patriarchal religion (along with, well, most major world religions — Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism) while recognizing that there are factions within all of these, with some less noxious (and more potentially a place to find allies on any number of important issues) than others.

  10. 10
    MatthewL

    @ Corey #8, a quibble…

    Galeophobia is the fear of sharks. Just because something can be dangerous, like falling or suffocating, doesn’t mean one can’t be irrationally fearful of it.

    On the other hand it seems highly questionable that anyone can be phobic of an abstraction, a doctrine, a philosophy or a religion. I doubt that anyone has panic attacks due to physics, monetarism, determinism or Zoroastrianism (aside from facing exams on such topics but that’s performance anxiety not phobia).

    1. 10.1
      Corey

      Good point. I agree.

  11. 11
    augustpamplona

    Corey:

    The “fear of the U.S. becoming dominated by Sharia Law” you keep harping on is a clumsy straw man.

    I don’t think it’s at all a straw man unless you restrict yourself to Freethought bloggers and readers. It’s just not a mainstream belief. You will probably find folk who believ just this at Worldnet Daily. The occasional politician has even been known to pander to this belief.

  12. 12
    Aliasalpha

    there is the latest example of the Islamist-dominated government in Egypt introducing a law that would allow a man to have sex with his wife for up to six hours after her death…

    What? I’m sorry, WHAT??

    WHAT????

    What the fuck is wrong with these people? This sounds like a necrophiliacs version of the ’5 second rule’ when you drop food on the floor

    1. 12.1
      MatthewL

      It looks like the reports are probably false. From what I’ve seen there has been no confirmation of it. The Egyptian congress apparently has confirmed the early marriage part but says the death bit is nonsense. Perhaps someone started the rumor to draw attention to the awful early marriage part that the Islamists no doubt find unobjectionable.

  13. 13
    daenyx

    This is brilliantly written – thank you. I’m saving the link to give to everyone I end up arguing about this sort of thing with – because that happens far more than it should.

  14. 14
    LeetheGirl

    There’s more than one point at which I would have given a standing ovation during that speech.

  1. 15
  2. 16
    Criticism of Islam ≠ racism | Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] Maryam on sharia and “Islamophobia”: When people tell me that they don’t know enough about Sharia law to oppose it – though we hear about its abominations day in and day out – I think what they really mean to say is that it is not their place to oppose it. [...]

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