Elan Journo

What the critics of “Islamophobia” get wrong

“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.

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About the Author
Elan Journo is a vice president and senior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. His most recent book is What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli Palestinian Conflict (2018). He is co-author of Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism (2016), a contributor to Defending Free Speech (2016), and editor of Winning the Unwinnable War (2009). His articles have appeared in a wide range of publications, from Foreign Policy and Middle East Quarterly to The Hill and the Los Angeles Times. He has been interviewed on numerous television and radio programs, and he often speaks at conferences and universities.