“Islamophobia” in America is a “social cancer” — one that has “metastasized.” So claims the eminent scholar John Esposito of Georgetown University. Is it really? Andrew Harrod has a good write-up on Esposito’s view, along with a forceful rebuttal to it. But let’s ask a prior question: what exactly does the term “Islamophobia” mean?
The term is usually taken to mean prejudice and discrimination directed at Muslims. But the term is fundamentally flawed. It is a specimen of what Ayn Rand called a “package deal,” a concept that brings together things that are essentially different and that should be kept distinct. It bundles together at least these two things: legitimate analysis and critique of the ideas of Islamic totalitarianism, the cause animating the jihadists, which is vitally important; and racist and tribalist bigotry against people who espouse the religion of Islam. Neither racism nor bigotry has any place in a civilized society. By packaging together legitimate criticism with racism and bigotry, the term “Islamophobia” works to smear — and thereby marginalize, discourage, and silence — any substantive critique of the jihadist movement.
How then can one productively engage people about the incendiary issue of “Islamophobia”?
That was the gist of a question Steve Simpson and I were asked at a recent ARI event on our new books, Defending Free Speech and Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: From George W. Bush to Barack Obama and Beyond. For our perspective and suggestions, you can watch the video clip below.