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The APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’ is a triumph for fundamentalists

The APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’ is a triumph for fundamentalists

Christopher Hitchens on Islamophobia
Country: 
United Kingdom (UK)
News Date: 
19/06/2019
Lancastrian
Summary: 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia has mainly been framed as a free speech issue. The definition adopted by some parties and councils will certainly limit criticism of Islam and Islamism even further than it already is currently. To say it will not is dishonest at best. This has already been the case for a long time now. For those of us who have fled Iran, it has been so since the expropriation of the Iranian revolution by the Islamists; in Britain, at least since the Rushdie affair.

A few other key points:

  • Religion and belief are personal matters; lived experiences as varied as the people who hold them. Homogenising countless diverse people based on essentialised characteristics is part of a fundamentalist project designed to manage dissent. It has everything to do with power and control, and nothing to do with the right to freedom of belief and religion, or the fight against racism.
  • Equalities legislation already considers discrimination against someone on the basis of protected characteristics such as religion or belief against the law. The insistence on normalising the term ‘Islamophobia’ appeases fundamentalists by conflating criticism of Islam and Islamism with bigotry against Muslims in order to restrict free expression, particularly blasphemy and heresy.
  • Free speech matters most to minorities and migrants, the poor, disenfranchised, witches, apostates and heretics. Popes and imams, capitalists and kings don’t need it; they already have access to all the forms of expression available, as well as the brute violence to back it up. Any limit on free speech limits the rights of the oppressed and aids the oppressor – even if the oppressor belongs to a ‘minority’ religion.
  • Free speech is an individual right. It is not a group right. It is I who decides how to exercise my free speech, not the APPG nor any ‘useful tests’ proposed by some professor such as Tariq Modood proposes to ascertain if my speech is to be considered ‘reasonable criticism’ or ‘Islamophobic.’ With limits, speech is no longer free.
  • Finally, as needs to be clarified in any discussion of Islamophobia: rejecting the term ‘Islamophobia’ itself, or rejecting any attempts at defining it, does not mean that anti-Muslim bigotry doesn’t exist. The rise in hate crimes and xenophobia, the dehumanisation of those deemed ‘other’, the criminalisation of migration and those helping desperate migrants all make the continued fight against racism as urgent as ever. Racism is a matter of life and death at worst and humiliation and discrimination at best for many people from Muslim, minority and refugee backgrounds. But fighting racism by imposing blasphemy laws gives the impression that something is being done against racism. Racism, however, is only being exacerbated by promoting difference and superiority, rather than secularism, citizenship, equality and our common humanity irrespective of background and belief.