Friday, 12 October 2012

A Note on the Term "Islamophobia"

David Miller of SpinWatch has written in The Guardian ,
There seems to be some suggestion that the review of the BBC may also examine religion in general, and Islamophobia in particular. No shortage of material there. A variety of academic studies has examined how the BBC and other media have covered Islam, especially since September 2001. One found that "the framing of Islam as a security threat can be inferred from the very large numbers of news items in which Muslim political and military or paramilitary actors have been shown in postures of hostility towards aspects of [western] societies".

The authors contend that "while distinctions are made between dangerous, fanatical, politically driven Islamism and Islam as a religion, these distinctions are not always made clear, so there is a persistent danger of conveying the issues in terms of an all-embracing clash of civilisations". Not a lot of support in these studies for the contention in a Daily Mail leader column last week that the BBC "consistently attacks Christianity (though never Islam)".
On the notion of spin and framing, the term "Islamophobia" is one that itself makes no distinction between Islamism as a political ideology or trend, Islam as a religion and Muslims as individuals, estimated some 1.6 billion of whom live on the planet and are as diverse in outlook.

The problem with "Islamophobia" is that it fails to distinguish between criticism of politicised versions of a particular, and often apocalyptic reading of the Qu'ran, and those who hold only to the religion without any belief in the Islamism of ideologues such as Qutb or Maududi.

There is, of course, hatred of Muslims which can be concealed behind the idea that Muslims as some lumpen mass consist of a potential enemy within" all believing that Islam must dominate and control any land where Muslims are present.

In which case, the term has to be 'anti-Muslim sentiment'. Words and their meaning matter. Which is why "Islamophobia" is so hopeless as a catch all description of anyone who is deemed , in some way, to be hostile to Islam.

Few would describe Richard Dawkins as "Christianophobic" for his dislike of Christian doctrines and dogmas. Likewise, it is wrong to term somebody "Islamophobic" for criticising the history and practice and dogmas of Islam. The best term would be "critic of Islam" or "anti-Islamic".

Even those hostile to Islam or anti-Islamic are not "Islamophobic" , a term that implies the person has some sort of pathological hatred for both Islam as a belief system and necessarily those who believe in Islam or are born into a family and background that is Muslim.

The term for those who oppose Islamist ideology should be anti-Islamist. Even better, for clarification, it would simply be better to describe those who oppose certain forms of Islamism precisely. A Palestinian secular Arab hostile to Hamas would be simply be described as anti-Hamas.

If the notion of some essential "clash of civilisations" is to be avoided, then these sort of nuances are essential to take into account. Otherwise, the danger is that fanatics, zealots and those who believe they are eternally victimised, the better to advance power hungry agendas and mendacious propaganda will win.

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