Islamophobia – The 21st Century Weapon To Silence Our Freedom Of Speech
Editor's Note: Adam Milstein discusses how the term “Islamophobia” is used to not only describe a “hateful expression of intolerance” toward Muslims but also to demonize anyone who criticizes Islam or even objectively reports on crimes committed in its name. “We cannot let accusations of Islamophobia silence us when we confront and defend ourselves against the radical ideologies that exist in some Muslim communities and are now growing in America: ideologies that undermine our values and seek to destroy our way of life,” he writes. Of course, that is the very purpose of the term “Islamophobia.” While some argue that it is simply the equivalent of “antisemitism,” a term such as “anti-Muslim bigotry” would be much more accurate. “Islamphobia” implies an irrational fear of Islam – but a fear of Islam is rational in some circumstances and everyone has the right to criticize it, as they do any religion or ideology. Unfortunately, the term is becoming increasingly entrenched and the Ontario government is in the process of passing a bill condemning “Islamophobia” (Bill 83), with no apparent concern that the word can mean much more than a “hateful expression of intolerance.” Canadians should understand what a threat the term “Islamophobia” represents to freedom of speech in Canada. Our leaders clearly don’t.
Islamophobia – The 21st Century Weapon To Silence Our Freedom Of Speech
That said, by definition, antisemitism and Islamophobia refer to two very different phenomena – and should not be lumped together as one and the same.
By Adam Milstein - www.adammilstein.org
On March 5, the US House of Representatives was set to vote on a resolution condemning antisemitism in the wake of freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s latest hateful comments on Jews and Israel. Unfortunately, that resolution never made it to the House floor for a vote. Instead, on March 7, a revised resolution was passed 407-23, denouncing both antisemitism and Islamophobia “as hateful expressions of intolerance.” Around the same time, a resolution was introduced on the floor of the United Nations in response to recent attacks on minority groups, like the horrific murder of 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the slaughter of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Until Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon spoke out and rallied allies, the resolution only condemned Islamophobia, completely excluding antisemitism. The events illustrate how antisemitism and Islamophobia are often framed in our discourse: as equivalent phenomena and equal dangers. This framing is both incorrect and problematic. Let me be clear. Bigotry, prejudice and violence must be called out and combated forcefully – whether it is directed at Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists or anyone else. Those who traffic in this hatred must be marginalized and, when possible, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That said, by definition, antisemitism and Islamophobia refer to two very different phenomena – and should not be lumped together as one and the same. A phobia is a strong, irrational fear of something that poses no real danger. Judeophobia is an irrational fear of Jews. Islamophobia is an irrational fear of the Islamic religion or Muslims generally. Antisemitism is a race-based ideology rooted in stereotypes – not based on fear, but ancient hatred. One popular definition explains that, “Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’” “Islamophobia” as a term has existed since the nineteenth century, but became prominent in 1989 when Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa following the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. The fatwa not only imposed a death penalty on Rushdie, but also criminalized all the publishers and translators of the book. When Rushdie was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2007 for his services to literature, Iran accused Britain of “Islamophobia,” saying its fatwa still stood. Since then, the Islamophobic label has been used increasingly to deter and ultimately criminalize any scrutiny of any groups or individuals who happen to be Muslim, even when they are advancing radical or harmful ideas, like Iran’s ayatollahs.
People attend a national gathering to protest antisemitism and the rise of antisemitic attacks in the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, February 19, 2019. The writing on the sign reads: "Antisemitism, islamophobia, racism - not in our name".
Following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015, then-prime minister of France Manuel Valls refused to use the term “Islamophobia” to describe the phenomenon of anti-Muslim prejudice because, he said, the accusation of Islamophobia is often used as a weapon by apologists for radical Islamists to silence critics. Like Valls, I have seen how these fabricated accusations of Islamophobia are designed to whitewash, obfuscate and distract from dangerous and growing radical movements in the Muslim world. Few stand up publicly today against radical Islam, and those who do risk being silenced under the label of Islamophobes. The sword of Islamophobia is wielded to deliberately chill discourse and narrow the public marketplace of ideas. As a result, criticism of Islam, Muslims and related matters is censored – often in favor of the Islamist. Accusations of Islamophobia have been launched at people from Chelsea Clinton to Bill Maher. I’ve even come under attacks as an Islamophobe in response to my opposition to the Iran Deal and boycott campaigns against Israel, as well as my support of a petition calling out Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for their antisemitism and ties to terrorism-sponsoring organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations. I’ve been determined to speak out on this issue because I see a growing threat of radical movements silencing our freedom of speech on the Left, on the Right and among Islamists in this country. Often, they work together. For instance, vile, racist Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke called Omar the “most important member of the US Congress.” The Left has embraced the same congresswoman, a woman who espouses antisemitism without restraint. We cannot let accusations of Islamophobia silence us when we confront and defend ourselves against the radical ideologies that exist in some Muslim communities and are now growing in America: ideologies that undermine our values and seek to destroy our way of life. I am well aware that hatred of Muslims is a real and dangerous trend across the world. It’s killed innocent Muslim men, women and children in New Zealand and other countries. But in the past few years, as radical Muslims, organizations like CAIR and individuals like Omar and Tlaib have gained more power in America, false accusations of Islamophobia have sky-rocketed. Today, the unfortunate reality is that any time somebody is brave enough to critique a dangerous ideology, the government of a Muslim country or even a terrorist network, they’re silenced, shut down and stigmatized for engaging in “Islamophobia.” The Muslim Brotherhood, its Palestinian wing, Hamas, and its American wing, CAIR, are designated as terrorist organizations by many countries around the world. Confronting CAIR, an organization that supports both the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas terrorists, is not Islamophobic. Confronting Omar – who supports CAIR and espouses antisemitic vitriol and hatred from the halls of Congress – is not Islamophobic. Confronting Tlaib – another supporter of CAIR, whose fund raisers have called Jews “satanic” and who wrote a column for known antisemite Louis Farrakhan’s publication – is not Islamophobic. Make no mistake: each of these individuals and organizations deserves to be publicly criticized and discredited – not because they are Muslim, but because they are contributing to the rise of antisemitism, extremism and hate in America. I stand in solidarity with Muslims everywhere who face prejudice and discrimination because of their beliefs. Any decent person ought to. Not only because we have a common enemy – radical forces that seek to destroy America – but also because it is the morally right thing to do. Recently, 19-year-old white supremacist John T. Earnest opened fire at the Chabad of Poway, killing one Jewish worshiper and injuring three more. The same suspect committed an arson attack against the Escondido Mosque a month earlier. His manifesto cited the inspiration for his attack as the white supremacists behind the New Zealand mosque and Pittsburgh synagogue shootings. All of their actions are driven by radical ideologies that make no distinction between Muslim and Jew. That’s why I will never tolerate hate, including against Muslims. That’s why I will continue speaking out against radical Islam and other extremist movements. That’s why I will not stay silent in the face of phony accusations of Islamophobia. That’s why I won’t let radical forces take away my freedom of speech. And I call on you not to stay silent as well. The writer is an Israeli-American active philanthropist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @AdamMilstein and on Facebook www.facebook.com/AdamMilsteinCP. This article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post on May 6, 2019, and can be viewed on their website by clicking here.