Pissed-off Toff

‘Islamophobia’ – a crime in the making?

in PC Watch

Pissed-off Toff speculates that a series of proposed ‘tests’ to define ‘Islamophobia’ is in fact the first step towards making it a crime.

We already hear more than enough about the numerous thought-crimes which we must cast from our minds, including – oh, the boredom! – ‘transphobia’, ‘homophobia’ and ‘Islamophobia’. However, if a cross-party group of peers and MPs get their way, we are about to hear a lot more about the latter.

Concerned by a rise in what are now described as ‘Islamophobic hate crimes’, and unwilling to accept that these might be the predictable result of recent terrorist attacks carried out by Islamists, this parliamentary group wants the Government to adopt a new and wide-ranging definition of ‘Islamophobia’ which has all the hallmarks of being a first step towards repressive new legislation.

But before we go into that, let’s get back to basics, starting with the word itself. Open the 1983 edition of the two-volume Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, and you will not find the term ‘Islamophobia’ at all. It is a neologism, a recent linguistic invention. As for what it means, that is obvious. A phobia is an extreme or irrational fear, horror, or dislike. So ‘Islamophobia’ (and I insist in putting it in inverted commas) is therefore an extreme or irrational fear, horror or dislike of Islam.

However, just like the now almost meaningless term ‘racist’, it is so overused that anyone who voices any misgivings at all about Islam, no matter how mild or reasonable, can expect to be accused of being ‘Islamophobic’. As with ‘racist’, it’s a way of attempting to silence any dissent by brandishing a single word. And because you will so often hear it pronounced in the same breath as ‘hate crime’, there is the suggestion that ‘Islamophobia’ is in fact a crime, a criminal offence. I even thought it might be, until I discovered that it is just a recently cooked-up word, with no legal weight or significance whatsoever.

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Not for much longer, perhaps. Because this cross-party parliamentary working group wants the meaning of ‘Islamophobia’ to be officially defined and adopted by the Government. Mouthing a patently insincere reassurance that people should be free – yes, of course! – to criticise the religion of Islam, they then reveal their true colours by proposing a series of tests to establish whether critical comments about Islam are ‘legitimate’.

These ‘tests’ are worth looking at in some detail. Here they are, quoted verbatim:

  1. Does it [the comment concerning Islam] stereotype Muslims by assuming that they all think the same?
  2. Does the criticism consist of generalising about Muslims in a way that excludes them?
  3. Is the behaviour or practice being criticised in an offensive way so it makes Muslims rather than the issue the target?
  4. Does the person criticising really care about the issue or is he or she using it to attack Muslims?

Far from leaving people free to criticise Islam, the ‘tests’ are so wide-ranging and so broadly framed that every generalisation you can think of about Islam – and every criticism, however reasonable – would fall foul of them.

Let’s try a few examples.

I borrow the first one from an excellent recent essay by Douglas Murray, author of The Strange Death of Europe. Take the statement: “All Muslims believe that the Quaran is the revealed word of God, that Mohammed was the messenger of Allah and that this revelation has been revealed for all time as the unalterable, final revelation from God.” You can’t argue with that – it’s a bald statement of fact; nor does it contain any criticism, or even any hint of criticism. But as Murray points out, it would fall foul of test 1 above. So: undeniably true, but ‘Islamophobic’ nevertheless.

Now two more hypothetical test statements, which I conjure up for the sake of argument.

How about: “Islam is incompatible with western cultural values.” It would be entirely possible to make a strong argument in favour of this proposition. But it probably fails all four of the proposed ‘tests’.

Or how about: “The burka is an oppressive item of clothing which has no place in a civilised society.” Again, quite possible to argue for this view in an entirely reasonable manner. But it fails tests 2 (it would be deemed to ‘exclude’ Muslim women) and 3 (it would be deemed ‘offensive’).

As for the four ‘tests’ themselves, the last one is perhaps the most absurd, with its clear implication that only those who really ‘care’ about the ‘issue’ (what issue?) are allowed to voice an opinion. Thus, an identical statement would be fine if voiced by some people, but not fine if voiced by others.

In any case, the point is that pretty much any comment about Islam that any Muslim might object to on any basis would fail one of more of the proposed ‘tests’. It’s a catch-all net, a direct challenge to freedom of expression.

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Why, one wonders, should the Government get involved in the lexicographer’s task of defining neologisms, especially the more ludicrous ones ending in ‘-phobia’? And where does this leave us?

As the working-group has made clear, the purpose of getting their definition of ‘Islamophobia’ adoped would be to establish, by means of a few friendly little ‘tests’, which comments or criticisms concerning Islam are ‘legitimate’. That is sinister enough. But even if the Government does go along with this, the exercise would be pointless. Because what teeth would these ‘tests’ have? What force in law? The answer, thus far, is none at all. ‘Legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ have no more bite than ‘nice’ and ‘nasty’, or ‘kind’ and ‘unkind’.

However, ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ are not far removed from two other much more useful words: ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’. Which brings us to the only conceivable point of this otherwise pointless exercise. Unless we accept that it is a pure waste of time, it can only be the first part of a manoeuvre in two stages.

The first stage, already embarked on by the working group, is to get the ridiculous term ‘Islamophobia’ officially recognised and defined as broadly as possible. The second stage, without which the first stage makes no sense at all, is to make this alleged state of mind a crime for which we can all be locked up.

And why not? Almost everything is a criminal offence nowadays. So what difference does one more crime on the statute book make, while we await the death of freedom of speech and the triumph of the religion of peace and tolerance?