Can there be an Islamophobic Muslim? It might seem weird, but the witch-hunt on Islamophobia grows ever larger.
The lists of the modern inquisition, turning all critics of Islam into political pariahs, are filling up with Muslims who try to rediscover and reform Islam, bringing it together with the contemporary times.
Maajid Nawaz is a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, a reformer and activist calling for Islam to embrace democracy. In October, he ended up on the list of anti-Muslim extremists established by the Southern Poverty Law Center – the American organization dedicated to advocating against the racism of whites. And why? Because Mr. Nawaz is in favor of the law banning Muslim women from wearing veils that cover their faces. (niqab and burqa). He also re-posted a caricature of Jesus and Muhammad from a well know satirical series “Jesus and Mo,” although Muslims regard drawing the image of Muhammad as a blasphemy. And finally, Mr. Nawaz stated that despite the fact some Islamic groups do not resort to violence, they align their agendas with jihadists. He also mentioned them by name, which was weighed against the remark of the “high rank Scotland Yard official.” In the opinion of the latter, the Nawaz’s list contains organizations supplying useful information in fighting terrorism.
The term “Islamophobe” with respect to Mr. Nawaz sounds peculiarly odd, especially when you know the history of such an “islamophobic Muslim”. Persecuted by racists, as a young Pakistani he surrounded himself with members of the international Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, who call for the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate. While in college, Mr. Nawaz recruited new members for them, directly contributing to serious fights with their enemies. Thereafter, he began the international career of an Islamist, widening the organization’s operations to Pakistan and later Europe, where he went to jail. While imprisoned, he encounters liberal Muslims, opponents not only of the Mubarak’s dictatorship but also Muslim Brotherhood. It recalibrated him towards the agenda of Muslim reformers and as a result in Great Britain he established the Quilliam Foundation which criticizes political Islam.
Mr. Nawaz is not the only one whom American left activists want to label with Islamophobic disgrace. In their opinion, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is also worthy of the title of an extremist or Islamophobic Muslim. She ran away from an arranged (forced) marriage, leaving Islam and becoming its critic. Ms. Hirsi Ali also cooperated with a film director, Theo Van Gogh who was killed by a Muslim terrorist. A letter with her name was pinned to his body. However, the authors of the SPLC report are surprised to see Ms. Hirsi Ali links violence with Islam.
There is also Daniel Pipes, the founder of Middle East Forum. He propagates the differentiation between Islam as a religion and Islamism, which is a totalitarian political movement. Some of the charges that have been brought against him include his stance on profiling Muslims and monitoring mosques. Islamophobic, indeed.
Sometimes the authors of the report consider generally known facts as extremely anti-Muslim. For example, the facts that the terrorist organization Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Muslim Student Association of the U.S. was founded by the people related to the Brotherhood.
Similarly, the accusations against Mr. Nawaz amaze. According to the majority of Muslims, neither burqa nor niqab are garments required for women by Islam.
Before Mr. Nawaz, many have published caricatures of Muhammad, but apparently SPLC do not dare to call murdered satirists from “Charlie Hebdo” Islamophobes. Still, why Mr. Nawaz was not labeled as a Christianophobe? After all, the satirical publication “Jesus and Mo” has been aimed not only at Islamic fundamentalists but also Christians.
The activists and journalists squandering terms such as “Islamophobia” can be indirectly responsible for the death of yet another Muslim dissident.
And the most serious allegation followed by the funniest justification: Mr. Nazaw blamed Islamists for a longing to create an Islamic State, which as a matter of a fact is written in their own programs!
The fact that the British security service officer claimed these organizations provide valuable anti-terrorist intelligence information, in itself proves the authors of the SPLC report to be wrong. Just on the basis that these institutions have access to such data should give rise to suspicion that these organizations are interwoven in different extremists’ nets.
Nick Cohen from the British “Spectator” uncovered this “high ranked person” to be Bob Lambert. He is the ex-secret provocateur of the services infiltrating British leftwing communities. Mr. Lambert is known for some scandals, including fathering a child with an infiltrated activist, and then abandoning them.
Maajid Nawaz is not the only person accused of pathological aversion to Islam. Founding the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Dr. Zuhdi M. Jasser qualifies to this notable club of critics of Islam as well. The New Your Times categorized him as Islamophobe after Mr. Jasser had taken part in a movie titled “The Third Jihad” describing the threats for democracy coming with the political Islam.
So, what is Islamophobia? Nobody really knows. Among scientists there has been an unresolved dispute concerning its definition. Some would recognize it to be a general irrational fear of Islam. Others disagree, claiming that such a broad definition lumps together critics of Islam and its different movements, especially the political one with prejudiced people.
In fact, the features of Islamophobia given in 1996 by Runnymede Trust – a left leaning think-tank promoting multiculturalism, rarely occur in the cases of those accused. For instance, Islamophobes mentioned above do not perceive Islam to be monolithic. They do not claim it has no common features with other civilizations and there is no influence between them. They don’t think the anti-Muslim hostility is acceptable, nor do they reject the criticism coming form Muslims.
This case gets more complicated with some other aspects of the term “Islamophobia.” Those who coined its definition would like us to skip the sexist aspect of Islam, the fact that it is related to violence and aggression, and finally that it has the elements of political ideology.
Therefore, by formulating the question skillfully, we could literally hold everybody accountable for Islamophobia, together with the greatest proponents of multiculturalism.
As a result of lacking a precise definition, we are coming to the Orwellian paradoxes, that were most likely intended. In September, a meeting of non-governmental organizations within the OSCE in Warsaw took place. Some debaters were trying to clarify the definition of Islamophobia, but they were hushed up by supporters of its penalization. They reprimanded the first ones for putting forth such a question, which in their mind already is Islamophobic.
Imprecise Islamophobia becomes a convenient tool to silence the critics of Islam. In Poland we can relate to this issue. Our platform – Euroislam.pl was also the subject of stigmatization. Dr. Konrad Pedziwiatr from the Jagiellonian University is an author contributing a Polish-related passage to the research on European Islamophobia. He is stipulating, that our organization is steaming from the “anti-Turkish” protests. Let’s put aside the fact that this scientist cannot discriminate between being in opposition to Turkey and objections towards Turkey’s accession to the European Union. But in 2015 how could anyone have still accused us of warning 10 years earlier against the Turkish direction toward Islamic dictatorship, its porous borders with hot regions, its persecutions of Kurds, and the catastrophic condition of its freedom of speech.
Accusing people critical of Islam to be Islamophobes is one thing, but stigmatizing Muslims for being anti-Muslim – being some kind of Islamophobic Muslims – can bear more serious consequences. As a result, the Islamic law known as takfir can be enacted, which refers to the practice of excommunication for apostasies. It may even lead to death of the accused from the hand of another eager follower.
The activists and journalists carelessly using terms such as “Islamophobia” can be indirectly responsible for the death of another Muslim dissident. It would be good for them to be aware of it.
Jan Wójcik for euroislam.pl