January 27, 2015

Is criticism of Islam islamophobic and racist?

On the racist question, Christopher Hitchens says no, and categorically so:
"You cannot be a racist by criticising the Islamic religion, by definition you cannot. There’s now a stupid term that’s trying to be imported into our culture, "islamophobia", as if to group it with racism in general. Nonsense. I won’t have it. I dislike Islam very much, just as I do all religions, and ive every tight to say that I think it’s an absurd and wicked belief."
Glenn Greenwald gives a slippery view to the contrary, saying that the label of racism for anti-muslim animus is a "rational view":

"Whether Islamophobia is a form of "racism" is a semantic issue in which I’m not interested for purposes of this discussion. The vast majority of Muslims are non-white; as a result, when a white westerner becomes fixated on attacking their religion and advocating violence and aggression against them, as Harris has done, I understand why some people (such as Hussain) see racism at play: that, for reasons I recently articulated, is a rational view to me. But "racism" is not my claim here about Harris. Irrational anti-Muslim animus is."
Kenan Malik wrote that mocking the religion of islam is not racism, saying that “to ridicule religion and to defend free expression is not to attack minority communities”:
"On the contrary: without doing both it is impossible to defend the freedoms of Muslims or of any one else. So, yes, let us challenge the Islamists and the reactionaries within Muslim communities. Let us also challenge the anti-Muslim reactionaries. But equally let us call the fake liberals to account."
Kenan Malik wrote that the real racism is to think that only white people criticise religion:
"What is really racist is the idea that only nice white liberals want to challenge religion or demolish its pretensions or can handle satire and ridicule."
Kenan Malik also wrote about the pusillanimity of liberals for their inability to stand up for liberalism. Hitchens echoed this sentiment:
"It is much worse than pointless, in the face of genuine worry about the spread of real bigotry and awful violence, to try to pin the accusation of prejudice on those who are honestly attempting to ventilate the question, and to clarify it."
Interestingly, Hitchens actually pre-echoed this sentiment, saying to Jeremy Paxman:
"Within many Islamic countries there are people who have a greater respect for pluralism than there are people in Britain who would like to censor me for criticising Islam, for example."
On islamophobia, Christopher Hitchens said that to credit this neologism is to make criticism of islam an act of racism, saying in 2007:
"The stupid neologism “Islamophobia,” which aims to promote criticism of Islam to the gallery of special offenses associated with racism."
In 2006 Hitchens said about islamophobia:
"Within a short while—this is a warning—the shady term "Islamophobia" is going to be smuggled through our customs. Anyone accused of it will be politely but firmly instructed to shut up, and to forfeit the constitutional right to criticize religion. By definition, anyone accused in this way will also be implicitly guilty. Thus the "soft" censorship will triumph, not from any merit in its argument, but from its association with the "hard" censorship that we have seen being imposed over the past weeks."

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