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Free Speech and Islamophobia

Free Speech 2

The word “Islamophobia” is widely used in the media and elsewhere as a pejorative term and is obviously just a simple combination of two distinct words : “Islam” and “phobia”, nowadays a common, lazy, linguistic shorthand to suggest hatred and prejudice of a particular group in society, e.g. homosexuals, transexuals, racial minorities, etc.

Islam is the word used to describe the collective Islamic world in the same way that the word Christianity is used to describe the collective Christian world, whilst a “phobia” is defined in my Concise Oxford Dictionary as a “morbid fear or aversion”.

There are a great many words with “phobia” tagged on which really do mean a “morbid fear or aversion” of something or other such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders), acrophobia (fear of heights), agoraphobia (fear of crowds/being outside), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes). What all these phobias have in common is that the unfortunate individual concerned is afflicted by an irrational “morbid fear or aversion” of a specific environment or creature/entity. Can the same be said of “Islamophobia” which implies a “morbid fear or aversion” of the world of Islam?

My 1964 edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary doesn’t include the word “Islamophobia”, probably because tagging the word “phobia” on to all manner of other words is a fairly recent innovation. However, a current edition sourced online defines “Islamophobia” as “dislike of or prejudice against Islam, especially as a political force”. To me this is selective and invalid as, if a “phobia” can legitimately include a “dislike of or prejudice” against a “political force”, why don’t we have “Toryphobia”, “Labourphobia” “Libdemphobia”, Brexitphobia, etc.? I can tell you that on many occasions when out canvassing for the Conservative Party and for Vote Leave I was regularly verbally abused and sometimes threatened with violence if I didn’t “clear off”. Was this behaviour caused by a “morbid fear or aversion”? No, it was the result of a “dislike of or prejudice against” a particular political party (the Conservatives) or political movement (Brexit) and, in my view, is not a “phobia” but just a perfectly legitimate position in the rough and tumble of British politics excluding, of course, the threat of physical violence. For my part, I willingly admit to a “dislike of or prejudice” against fascism, communism, socialism, authoritarianism, globalism and the Liberal Democrats, but I don’t regard these as “phobias”.

All the main British political parties except the Conservatives and Reform UK have adopted a definition of “Islamophobia” as “a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”. It must be immediately obvious that such a wide definition is fraught with serious problems for free speech in that it could, and no doubt would, be used to close down legitimate criticism of Islam in the same way that discussions of immigration were for years closed down by the simple expedient of accusing anyone who raised the subject as being racist.

It’s also clearly nonsensical and illogical to catagorise “Islamophobia” as “a type of racism” as Islam is indisputably a RELIGION practised by almost 2 billion people worldwide of many different races, and is not an identifiable race in itself. Can the Muslims of Albania, for example, be regarded as the same race as the Muslims of Bangladesh? Christianity and Buddhism are not catagorised as individual races so why should Islam be made an exception?

A further serious threat to free speech should this flawed definition become law (as proposed by Labour) would be to create a blasphemy law that applies exclusively to Islam.