No Such Thing as Islamophobia?

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock

A phobia is, obviously enough, a fear. What distinguishes a phobia from other fears is that a phobia is persistent, intense (though the intensity can vary) and irrational. Having a rational fear is not a phobia. For example, a person who is momentarily afraid because he discovers a black widow on his arm does not have arachnophobia. Someone who lives in ongoing fear of spiders even when they are not present might well have arachnophobia.

Interestingly, the term “phobia” is often used to indicate dislike, prejudice or discrimination rather than fear in the strict sense. For example, people who dislike homosexuals are often labeled as being homophobic. Perhaps this is based on an underlying assumption that there dislike or prejudice is based on fear. In any case, using the term “phobia” seems to be intended to convey that someone who has the phobia (such as homophobia) is irrational in this regard. So, in the case of homophobia the idea is that the person has an irrational dislike of homosexuals.

Not surprisingly, this usage of “phobia” is generally intended to be judgmental and critical. To be labeled as having such a phobia is, in effect, to be accused of being both irrational and prejudiced.

Just as there are rational fears, there are also rational dislikes. For example, pedophiles are reviled and disliked. But to claim that people who dislike them have  pedophilephobia would be an error. This is because the label would imply that disliking pedophiles is a prejudice. However, this does not seem to be a prejudice but a correct moral view. As such, if a “phobia” of this sort can be shown to be rational and correct, then it would not be a phobia at all.

One recent example of such an argument  is from Sam Harris, the famous atheist. He writes:

There is no such thing as Islamophobia. Bigotry and racism exist, of course—and they are evils that all well-intentioned people must oppose. And prejudice against Muslims or Arabs, purely because of the accident of their birth, is despicable. But like all religions, Islam is a system of ideas and practices. And it is not a form of bigotry or racism to observe that the specific tenets of the faith pose a special threat to civil society. Nor is it a sign of intolerance to notice when people are simply not being honest about what they and their co-religionists believe.

In the light of the above, Harris’ claim can be backed up by two arguments. The first is that there is no Islamophobia in the sense that a phobia is an irrational fear. This is because Islam is a special threat and hence being afraid of it is not irrational. The second is that there is no Islamophobia in the sense that a phobia is a prejudice or bias. This is because  people should dislike Islam for its tenets.

One obvious reply is that some people do seem to have an irrational fear and bias against Muslims. Of course, Harris would have an easy reply to this. After all, he notes that being prejudiced against people who are Muslims “by accident of their birth” would be despicable. He is, apparently, distinguishing between the sin and the sinner (so to speak).

One reply worth considering is that people can have irrational fears even in regards to things that are rational to be afraid of.  For example, consider terrorism. While it is rational to be afraid of terrorism, there is a point at which such a fear becomes irrational. Likewise for Islam. It seem clear that a person could have a fear of Islam far out of proportion to the threat it poses (assuming it poses a threat) and that this fear could be irrational, persistent and intense. That is, it could be a phobia.  As such, there would seem to be such a thing as Islamophobia (at least in theory).

But this seems like it might be a mere technical victory. After all, Harris is probably not claiming that an irrational fear of Islam is not possible. Rather, he seems to be making (a bit dramatically) the point that it is rational to be afraid of Islam and that the term “Islamophobia” is being misused. To settle this point requires determining whether Islam is, in fact, a threat of the sort alleged by Harris.

Another reply worth considering is that people can be biased or prejudiced even when there are rational reasons to dislike something. This is because a person could dislike (or even hate) something or someone on the basis of insufficient reasons. Thus, while the object of the dislike might be such that it is worthy of dislike, a specific person’s dislike might not be adequately grounded. As such, it would seem to be a bias or prejudice rather than a sound judgment.

In the case of Islam, there seem to be many people who hate or dislike it without knowing much about it. For example, someone might know that some terrorists are followers of Islam and that the 9/11 attackers were followers of the faith. However to dislike Islam on this basis would be like hating the United States military simply because  one knew that Oswald was  a Marine and  Timothy McVeigh was in the Army.  As such, this sort of Islamophobia also seems to be a real possibility.

Again, this might seem to be a mere technical victory. After all, Harris seems to be making the point that there are rational grounds to dislike Islam and that the term “Islamophobia” is being misused. As before, the heart of the matter is whether Islam is something that should be disliked or not.

Harris, obviously enough, contends that Islam should be feared and disliked. If he is right, then it seems that there would be no such thing as Islamophobia. Or, to take a more moderate approach, that the term is being misused. This then is the crux of the matter: is it rational to fear and dislike Islam?

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  1. To what extent does having a “rational fear” of an object presuppose a consistent definition of said object with both those that identity with it and those who stand at a distance from it? When whats “rational” is very much specific to what culture one inhabits, it seems near impossible for me to make sense of what a rational fear would be that failed takes into consideration an understanding that would be sufficient for someone who identifies with the object in question. Unless that is, we admit that such a “rational fear” may or may not be culturally specific (i.e. Islam from the perspective of a population that is near entirely Judeo-christian in perspective and culture).

  2. Sorry, I meant an E.g. where I put an I.e…

  3. People whom I know speak well of Sufism, which is a form of Islam, but I don’t know much about Islam myself.

    Now, it seems like a rather big affirmation to claim that there is no such thing as Islamophobia, since some people somewhere could have an irrational fear of Islam.

    I do admit that I have run into people online whose dislike of and fear of Islam could well be termed “Islamophobia”.

  4. Defining what would be a rational fear seems fairly straightforward. It would be a matter of being afraid in proportion to the probability of the threat and its severity. While this would not be an exact science, it seems that we could do a fairly good job of assessing fears as rational or irrational even across cultures.

    Naturally, it would make sense to factor in epistemic matters. For example, a fear may be rational given the best evidence a person has, but might be irrational if she had better evidence.

  5. I suspect that anything could be the subject of a phobia. However, I think that Harris’ point is not that Islamophobia is impossible but that Islam is such a threat and something so worthy of dislike that people who dislike and fear it cannot be labeled with such a term.

  6. I have read stuff online where people compare Islam to fascism, Nazism or Soviet communism as a threat to our freedom.

    I have read stuff online where people say that any concessions to Islam are appeasement, are another Munich. Those seem like exaggerations and Islamophobia to me. Hitler was able to conquer most of Europe before he was stopped or before he overextended himself. Islam has conquered nothing since the Middle Ages.

  7. Show me the meter that measures it, and then show me the irrational fear.
    A highly subjective conclusion to a highly personal and perhaps at times, justified state. Then again, maybe it is the use of the killer word “irrational” that is itself lacking rationality, more dismissive & close minded then anything else. an escape clause you might say.
    I would think that after 1500 years of wars intermittently waged, a people who when they can’t kill others will turn on themselves. what should be their fellow muslims, it is at least fair to harbor reservations.

    One may if he wishes call such negative feelings in the public discourse “prejudice”. But as not all prejudice is hate or mindless, that it may be the embodiment of previous experiences and knowledge. this becomes quite another matter.
    I say this realizing that time can distort foundational meaning. Even so, it is a somewhat softer usage than “irrational” & what often is connected to it, “hate”, and allows for easier correction or modification.

  8. A measurement system could be created by using instruments that record stress responses in the body. This would require considerable study, but should be (in theory) possible. The next step would be developing a threat measurement system. Obviously, the color coded system we use in the States for terror would not work very well.

    However, determining whether a fear is rational or not does not require a fearometer. After all, we can make reasonable judgments about people’s emotional states without being able to measure them with such precision. For example, we do not have an anger-meter, yet we can make reasonable judgments about what is over-reaction and what is not. To use a specific example, if someone went into a homicidal rage because her latte was minutely cooler than she desired, that would clearly be an over reaction.

    As I note in the blog, dislikes and fears need not be irrational. So, it is possible that fear and dislike of Islam can be rational.

  9. @Mike… I understand what you’re saying, but when you’re dealing with highly dynamic, highly multiplicitous social systems like a Religious identity of which Territoriality and an Other always implicitly play a role, you yourself as a subject are actively involved in the subjectivity of that which you would be fearful of. A Christian identity would be nothing without something to differentiate itself from (i.e. non-Christians); or a Muslim, meaningless without non-Muslims. So my question wasn’t simply epistemic. For Harris, I my first response to the denial of Islamaphobia isn’t to call into question the issue of the phobia but of the concept one has of Islam. What is it? Is it the shallow understanding the average non-Muslim westerners has of it from movies and the evening news? Is it the definition a small minority of fanatics hold of it? My second response would be to call into question whether one could be “rational” about something one fears? To me, there seems to be a certain circularity in his argument between fear and irrationality. Fire is a very dangerous element, but a person who works with fire daily doesn’t feel threatened by it (fear in the sense which Harris wants to use the term). They know how to ‘relate’ to it in such a way that they do not put themselves in unnecessary danger or feel a need to up at night fretting about some boogieman. The same example could be made with dangerous waters and the difference in response and outcome between the person who fears it and the person who understands it enough to respond wisely to it. The moment you fear something it seems to me that you’ve allowed the nervous system to override the calm processes of thought associated with the brain. I don’t consider fight/flight or inherited instinct to be rational. They can put one in danger just as often as they might save a person. It may be an issue of degree, but I think the more one fears the less they are in touch with the capacity to reason (and thus be ‘rational beings’) and the more they rely on nervous system impulses (emotion) that they later “rationalize” with thought.

  10. You do raise a good point in regards to the question of the nature of Islam.

    Some followers of Islam argue that their religion is not one that should be feared. However, Harris has a response to this: ” Nor is it a sign of intolerance to notice when people are simply not being honest about what they and their co-religionists believe.” This would seem to indicate that Harris believes he knows what the followers of Islam truly believe. In short, he seems to be claiming that Islam should be feared and the Muslims who say otherwise are being dishonest.

  11. Mike: There is no reason to fear what followers of Islam truly believe or what anyone else truly believes.

    Sometimes, we need to fear what they do or will do, but the beliefs of others cannot harm us.

  12. I think Mike shows a touching faith in ‘our’ ability to assess actual risk in this matter given (a) our reliance on agencies of governments and news media for our information and (b) our proven awfulness, individually and societally, at judging risk.

    I also think that Amos touches on an important point re Sufism: after centuries of schisms and grafting onto different cultures it becomes pretty arbitrary to speak of any of the major religions as if one entity. Probably the major feature common to all predominantly Islamic societies is having been comprehensively screwed over by the Great Powers.

    It is unfortunate that language has changed to add to confusion with the proliferation of phony phobias. If we speak instead of a prejudiced belief in a threat from Islam, then the justification or otherwise of that prejudice depends precisely on whether evidence, when examined, supports that belief. As Mike concludes, that is the heart of the matter.

    I am also greatly saddened to see many of my co-religionists, the more fundamental, evangelical atheists, joining in with the playground bullies against moslems:

    And it is not a form of bigotry or racism to observe that the specific tenets of the faith pose a special threat to civil society. Nor is it a sign of intolerance to notice when people are simply not being honest about what they and their co-religionists believe.

    It is a form of bigotry; it is a sign of intolerance to make such assertions if not supported by the facts, however. I simply do not see evidence to support an argument made in terms so sweeping as to be, in any case, meaningless.

  13. Arachnophobia is not irrational because there exist spiders whose bite is deadly. The O.T. going on its tenets alone would justify judeophobia however most people are capable of making distinctions between sane and rabid rabbis and mullahs. Unwarranted generalisation is the mark of the politically pointed and using the free speech shibboleth to justify it fools no one. Are they really going to open the Twin Towers Mosque on Sept.11th.? There is steam coming out my ears, my blood is boiling. It’s an outrage.

  14. Hate is fear.
    Fear is ignorance.
    Religion is dogma.
    Dogma is an anathema to reason.
    Ergo, religion is hate.

    This being America, that’s a lot of hate…

  15. True, a belief cannot inflict direct harm on others. However, beliefs lead to actions which can be harmful.

  16. Actually, I think that most people are bad at threat assessment. As you point out, people often assess on the basis of low quality or biased information. Also, people often employ poor reasoning skills when doing such an assessment. However, I do think that it is possible to make a reasonably accurate assessment. To use an analogy, most people are not that great when judging in specialized areas (like medicine or engineering) but those with the proper skills can make good judgments. Likewise, people with good information and proper reasoning skills can do a decent threat assessment.

  17. Arachnophobia can be irrational. While there are deadly spiders, people can have a fear of spiders that is excessive, irrational and intense. For example, I know people who scream and freak out when they see even a spider they know is harmless.

    Opening the Mosque on 9/11 might not be a prudent idea. While they have the right to do so, it is good sense to be sensitive to how others feel.

  18. Beliefs can lead to action, but generally, people who harbor violent beliefs or ideologies do not act on them.

    If we were to jail everybody in your and my country who hates gays, Jews, blacks, immigrants, rich bankers, Muslims, communists,
    U.S. imperialists, etc, etc, the already overcrowded jails would
    burst at the seams.

    Most fanatics, in spite of their violent hatreds, do not roam far from their widescreen TV’s or their notebooks.

    Hypocrisy is as widespread or more so among fanatics as it is among the general population.

  19. About Arachnophobia:
    I was offering an example of parity of unreason. When not actually in an area where there are poisonous spiders then there is no threat particularly from tiny domestic spiders. It’s a matter of rational assesment.

  20. Mike: ‘Actually, I think that most people are bad at threat assessment.’

    Yes, there are psychological studies showing that people fairly consistently over-rate the risk of catastrophic, but rare, events and under-rate the risk of more ‘familiar’ dangers (e.g. car accidents).

  21. I think that Mr. Harris’ remarks have to be taken in context. That context being the taboo against any and all negative statements on the subject of religion. I think that Mr. Harris’s claim that Islamophobia is imaginary is a valid response to those who would paint legitimate discussion of the manifest defects of Islam with the brush of Islamophobia, when in truth the painters are merely parroting the taboo.

    Many people, who would, if only to themselves, readily admit to the defects of Islam, will, nevertheless, parrot the taboo. After all, once the taboo is broken, and its emptiness revealed, why stop with a discussion of the defects of Islam? Why not also discuss, openly, the defects, nearly or even equally as manifest, of other religions? These people quite correctly anticipate this outcome, and would rather sell their souls by suppressing their awareness of Islam’s defects, and the productive process of open discussion of these defects, in their expressions of outrage over the breaking of the taboo.

    By challenging this process with the blanket statement that there is no such thing as Islamophobia, Mr. Harris does society a great favor. His words work to lay bare the emptiness and mindlessness of the taboo against honest criticism of religious thought.

  22. re Keith:
    >people fairly consistently over-rate the risk of [the] catastrophic, under-rate the risk of more ‘familiar’

    I venture this is genetic.
    Fear of domestic animals is low, whilst that of predators is high.
    Despite our overwhelming higher contact with domesticated animals (and the resulting dramatically higher incidence of death and injury) our evolutionary history shows a much longer period of time exposed to the threats of predators – domestication is a relatively new idea.

    As is social living on a modern scale. But less recently, what adaptive processes took place, to enable us to evolve, from wandering bands to situated enclaves?

  23. Keith,

    No doubt there is some evolutionary reason as to why we are bad at assessing threats. For example, by under-rating common dangers we would tend to take more risks and those that survived would no doubt impress potential mates. 🙂

  24. Randolph,

    Harris seems to go beyond merely defending a legitimate discussion of Islamophobia. His argument seems to be that there can be no such thing as this because Islam is, in fact, such a threat that it should be feared.

    I do agree that Islamophobia (and other such terms) are sometimes employed to silence legitimate discussion and I am against such uses.

  25. Mike,

    Harris does go beyond a discussion of Islamophobia. One of his larger points from his other publications, if I may presume to speak for him, is that all religions (to date, or perhaps even by definition) have fatal defects making them net negative influences. Despite that, in a free society we should not outlaw religion, but we should frankly discuss religion’s defects so as to monitor the societal expression of those defects and thereby as effectively as possible limit the harm this expression causes to, best case, adults who freely chose to risk such harm. (The tragedy of religion is the harm done to the children of such adults, and that there is almost nothing that can be done to prevent that harm without compounding it – vile stuff religion!) Promulgation of the concept of Islamophobia is nothing but an attempt by the religious to suppress others in the exercise of this socially responsible activity, the prevention of harm to those who did not choose to be harmed.

    While it is possible that somewhere there exists a person who is a true Islamophobe, such a psychological aberration, if it exists, is no doubt so rare that use of the term outside the notes of the that person’s personal psychiatrist is bald-faced subterfuge. The lie serves the smearing of the activities of those who are simply, responsibly, and necessarily airing Islam’s mountain of dirty linen. Thus Harris’ claim of non-existence, and rightly so it is made.

    I leave out the concept of bigotry. No doubt bigots exist. I could easily be called one, for I do hate religion. But I don’t hate its practitioners – well, I don’t hate its innocent practitioners. I consider them victims deserving of pity. As for its practitioners who use religion as intended, to manipulate the innocent, I have to take them on a case-by-case basis. I have to struggle to not hate them and only hate their evil activities. Be all that as it may, the term is Islamophobia, not Islamic Bigotry. Hatred and fear are different emotions, so a discussion of Islamic Bigotry is a different question. That bigotry exists provide no excuse to shepard the term Islamophobia.

  26. Perhaps it is possible for Islam to be rationally feared, and for Islamaphobia to exist – i.e. for Islam to be irrationally feared – in different instances.
    As an example, there are certain Mullahs in my town (Sydney) who espouse a form of Islam that is violent and hateful, and it is certainly rational to fear Islam in that form. However, to extend this fear to all Moslems is prejudice, and is counter-productive, as friendly interactions between different religious groups is essential to the peaceful continuation of our worldwide society. All religions of the book contain groups and individuals who preach violence in God’s name, but this alone is not a rational reason to hate or fear Judaeism, Christianity or Islam in their entirity, without taking into account the value of these cultures to all of us.
    We must be able to seperate in our minds the views and actions of individual Mullahs, and indeed terrorist organisations such as AL Kaida, from Islam in general, if we don’t want to see ourselves descend into long term worldwide confict.

  27. Micah,

    To err on the side of caution is not prejudice, it is enlightened self-interest. I think you conflate fear and hatred. There is nothing bigoted about fearing a random individual who practices a fearful religion. To refuse to allow that individual to demonstrate that he or she is harmless would be bigotry, but the onus to so demonstrate falls upon him or her. I fear all devoted practitioners of religion – they are mentally ill, and therefore likely to perform irrational acts that may harm me. As I said in my previous post, I may well be called a bigot, not that I think I deserve the label, however I will admit that my hatred of religion does occasion some question of the precise nature of bigotry. I think that as long as I do my best to only hate the evil acts, the dogma that breeds these acts, and not hate the people who commit them, I am innocent.

  28. Randolph,
    I may well be conflating fear and hatred, true. I do feel, though, that this is at least in part inherent in the particular use of the suffix ‘phobia’ that we are talking about. ‘Islamophobia’, like ‘homophobia’ is commonly used to refer to an irrational hatred that is born of an irrational fear. This is distinct from something like ‘agoraphobia’ or even ‘arachnophobia’, neither of which will often lead to the desire to seek out and destroy the feared object wherever it stands.
    I am not for a moment trying to suggest anything about your own fears or prejudices, as I don’t see your own status as an Islamophobe or otherwise as being central to the existence of Islamophobia. However, it would be interesting to me, for the sake of discussion, to know what you would see as a legitimate definition of ‘Islamophobia’.
    This aside, Mike’s statement above that ‘there seem to be many people who hate or dislike [Islam] without knowing much about it.’ still holds true, in my view. Further to this, those who have studied Islam further and still desire to wipe it from the face of the planet – as many do – are ignoring the benefit of forming long lasting, positive relationships with over 20% of the world’s population.
    In my view it is a fear of Islam, leading to violence or the desire for violence, in disregard of the benefits of acting or thinking otherwise, which constitutes true Islamophobia. I also feel that it is undeniable that this is present – even common – in western society.

  29. You answered your own question. Common use does not imply accuracy. The common uses you mention also conflate fear and hatred. That such fuzzy headed thinking is common is no justification for you so doing. A phobia is an irrational fear. Like arachnophobia. You don’t have to suggest anything about my fears: I confess them. “Prejudices”, on the other hand, is undeserved. I am 55 years old, I have observed humanity for these years with as open a mind as I can possibly muster, and my fear and hatred of ALL religion is based upon a valid analysis of the data. That is not prejudice, it is justice.

    I doubt that much good will come of attempts to form relationships with your 20%. That said, I do not deny that we in the US are being used by the oil industry. That is why we are “building relationships”, (read “warrring”) with some parts of Islam. Now, about those who desire to wipe Islam from the face of the planet, well, yes, there are a host of small minds in this world. That they are manipulated by religions and other power structures such as the oil industry is obvious. The resulting hysteria is not a phobia. Thus Harris’ denial of the syndrome.

  30. Muslim terrorism or terrorism practiced by people who happen to be Muslims is not a serious or credible threat for America on American soil. An example of a credible and actual terrorism threat would be the IRA during the long war against Britain as they called it. The idea that enhanced surveillance is protecting you from outrages that would have occurred is nonsense. There is nothing that could be done against someone arming themselves with an automatic weapon and spraying a bus station. Disgruntled employees, now that’s a threat I can believe in. Frankly in all of this I hear the voodoo drums of Fox and their political wing.

  31. Muslims constitute 20% of humanity (figure cited above). There were 19 or 20 people involved in 9-11; and a similar number involved in the bombings in Madrid and London. To be fair, I’ll add the bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires probably by Hezbollah in the 1990’s with a car bomb: number of participants unknown.

    I exclude the bombings carried out by Hamas within Israel, because while they are acts of terrorism, they have a political rationale or logic.

    Ergo, the percentage of Muslims engaged in terrorism against Western targets is ridiculously low.

  32. Amos, “terrorism against Western targets” is not the only grounds for being concerned about Islam.

    There’s the murder of gay people, stoning of adulterers, killing of apostates, blasphemy laws, honour killings . . . and quite a few other fun things.

    When combined with the the fact that Islam seeks to proselytise, and that it is the world’s fastest growing religion, it seems that it is well worth debating Islam honestly (minus the hysteria which seems to be coming from a number of different sides).

  33. All of those practices which you mention are motives for concern and protest, as are human rights violations anywhere in the world.

    First of all, not all Muslims stone adulterers or murder gay people and not all honor killers are Muslims.

    Second, I think that my attitude towards human rights violations in some Muslim cultures and by some Muslims should be similar to my attitude toward other serious violations in countries like Burma, Zimbabwe, China,
    North Korea, Israel, etc., one of concern and of condemnation, not one that involves a phobia.

  34. I Agree with Amos. It is impractical to think that we can neutralise any religious, political or cultural system, or eliminate the parts that we don’t agree with, at the click of our fingers, or through ‘hard power’ alone. To act as if we can only increases hostility, giving fuel to irrational opinions on both sides.
    The best we can do is work towards friendly co-existence and integration, and from within slowly change our own cultures for the better. As this takes place across the board, systems left behind will have no choice but to follow suit eventually.

  35. Randolph,

    I’m inclined to think that the phobias tend to be a bit overused. In the technical sense of the term, I would agree that a true phobia of Islam would probably be fairly rare. Irrational fear and dislike of Muslims is, however, rather too common.

  36. Islamophobia on Talking Philosophy | ARISE - pingback on August 25, 2010 at 7:02 am
  37. @ Emily (not C):
    >There’s the murder of gay people,
    >stoning of adulterers, killing of apostates,
    >blasphemy laws, honour killings
    >and quite a few other fun things.

    Did we move on to Christian religions?

    You can take a tar brush to Islam but you’re going to spill a lot on every other religion.

    As with all issues it’s the extremities (and the extremists) that get our attention.

    Its declining (87% in 1990) but I think the number of people in the US who self identify as Christian is around 70% today.

    Projecting that percentage onto the number of convicted murders, rapists, child sex offenders, and other violent crime offenders, I’m wondering where their religious convictions went?

    Why are we so concerned with an International identified percentage of terrorists that is dwarfed by our home grown (and largely Christian) brand?

    Is the threat of Islamic terrorism real – absolutely. But if you want to really live your life in fear, take a look at your neighbor – or your partner.

  38. I’m certain that any fear of Islam is irrational unless you are at serious personal risk from religious persecution.

    Claiming that Islam is a threat to society is a dangerous stance to take in an increasingly interdependent global politic.

    Common wisdom in contemporary international relations is to keep seperate states economically dependent on each other. So perhaps the world would be safer if Western Countries would open their markets, rather than closing their minds, to Islam.

    Western Media thrives on a percieved threat -Islam has existed for the duration of Western Society. “Islamaphobia” has only existed as a word since Communism collapsed.

  39. It cannot be ignored that there is a widespread of misconceptions in regards to Islam, and Islamic doctrine. This is true especially in regards to the perception that Islam serves as a foundation for Muslims to “hate” non-Muslims. As a result, there appears to be this defensive movement which appears to make dangerous generalizations (i.e. “there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim who follows the Qur’an”).

    We can find a number of popular writers, politicians, and news stories which signify this approach to Islam. For instance, take the works of authors such as Robert Spencer and his heap of followers. You can find plenty of “Anti-Islamic” blogs all over the internet. Many of these, deliberately propagate misinformation of fundamental Islamic tenets (i.e. treatment towards non-Muslims; “Muslims must kill all non-Muslims!”)

    Now, it is true that there are plenty of blogs dedicated towards other religions as well, however, it is interesting to note the level of hate inspired, or fear inspired comments you’ll find there.

    Academic, and intelligent debating is almost non-existent, and those who initiate such debates are often abused by members.

    Now, as for a phobia of Islam itself, as others have mentioned, in the strictest sense of the term, this is rare (at least today). However, a fear of that which is associated with limited perceptions of Islam certainly exists and is expressed through hate-filled sentiments.

  40. @ Emily,

    True, such things do occur in predominantly Muslim countries. However, everything you have listed has occurred in the history of Christianity and Judaism as well. I believe St. Thomas Aquinas’ renowned Summa Theologica (still used and praised as amongst the most excellent summaries of Catholic doctrine today) advocates the killing of Apostates. As for the honour killings, they have absolutely no basis in Islam. This is a common misconception, however, honour killings have occurred in plenty of cultures. Even in Greece, up until recently. I believe it’s more of a cultural phenomena.

    You should realize that there are plenty of reform minded Muslims who are against things like the killing of peaceful apostates. Check it out:


    As for stoning of adulterers, this requires a bit more investigation:

  41. “Just as there are rational fears, there are also rational dislikes. For example, pedophiles are reviled and disliked. But to claim that people who dislike them have pedophilephobia would be an error. This is because the label would imply that disliking pedophiles is a prejudice. However, this does not seem to be a prejudice but a correct moral view”

    Are you fucking kiding me? Do you think that hating ALL pedophiles is a “correct moral view”? Do you think that a person who is attracted to children but has never touched one is a “monster”, “the worst thing in the world”, etc.?? Do you think is rational to hate pedos so much even if they have done nothing wrong?

    A pedophile can be ANYONE, the best person in the world can be a pedophile, its just a SEXUAL ATTRACTION. Pedophiles are just people with a different sexual attraction (just like homosexuals), they can be good or bad!

    A pedophile can be kind, honest, and intelligent, or he can be egotistical, evil and racist.

    Not all pedophiles are child molesters. Judging a person by his sexual orientation is bigotry.

    Judging persons regardless of what they have done because they have a different sexual orientation is bigotry.

    There are thousands of pedophiles who would never harm a child, they love children and despise the very idea of harming one. A pedophile can love children just like any heterosexual man can love women.

    Hating all pedophiles like if they were the same thing is irrational and prejudge.

    Or do you personally know all pedophiles to say that is rational to hate ALL pedophiles?

    “In the case of Islam, there seem to be many people who hate or dislike it without knowing much about it. For example, someone might know that some terrorists are followers of Islam and that the 9/11 attackers were followers of the faith. However to dislike Islam on this basis would be like hating the United States military simply because one knew that Oswald was a Marine and Timothy McVeigh was in the Army. As such, this sort of Islamophobia also seems to be a real possibility.”

    In the case of pedophilia there is extreme ignorance and people are completely mind-washed by the media in regards to pedophiles.

    Some people hate pedophiles because some of them are child molesters. But to dislike pedophiles on this basis would be like hating heterosexual men because of them are rapists.

  42. s. wallerstein (ex Amos)


    Thanks for an illuminating point of view on the issue.

  43. s. wallerstein


    I understand why most people dislike and revile pedophiles, but I doubt that anyone chooses to be a pedophile in the way that people may be said to “choose” to rob a bank or to join the SS.

    Pedophiles should be treated medically, if possible, and if not, kept very far away from children, but there is no point reviling them or making them feel worse about themselves than they probably already do.

    Have you read Sartre’s Nausea, in which the protagonist, after spending the entire novel, avoiding all significant contact with others, leaves his shell to defend a pedophile at the point of being dismembered and lynched (in metaphorical terms) by respectable citizens? As I see it, it’s not a defense of pedophilia or even of the pedophile, but a healthy skepticism about the mechanisms of reviling sinners among respectable people.

  44. Bro0002,

    First, I did not say “hate”, I said “dislike.” Second, in this context I did not mean “people who are sexually attracted to children, but never act on it and are actually very good people.” In this context, I used the term in its popular usage, namely someone who has acted (or attempted to act) on sexual desires towards children. It certainly seems rational to dislike such people.

  45. bro0002March 14, 2011 at 7:09 am:
    Brilliant argument which uses relativist thinking coupled with neoGlobalist predeterminism.
    If you don’t care for the direction of the the populous’s hearts and minds, nor desire for your descendents to enjoy the societal and personal freedoms you enjoy with a similar moral and ethical center point, then your assessment is correct. To play devil’s advocate: In 2 centuries, if the overwhelming majority of America could practice and approve pedophilia, are they wrong? With a purely relativistic and humanistic persective; unless you can decively prove that children in such a society accepting this behavior as normal are at mental or physical health risk in such a society you can not say it is wrong with such thinking. Therefore all behavior can be accepted.
    Which is why globalism, and relativistic thinking are dangerous for any society if you TODAY care for the FUTURE of your people.
    Globalistic predeterminism is a term I’ve personally created to describe the false belief that a global politic and “one world” culture is both unavoidable and a positive goal. Such thinking is false and dangerous for personal liberties as WE in the West see it. Because until ALL nations in the Islamic world, Atheist world(USA/China), can agree and ALL sign and practice ONE document that ensures EQUALITY FOR ALL and FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS, defined explicitly, then this “forced diversity” will bring great war between the masses over which ethical view will produce law.
    Globalism without agreement on explicit human rights signed by all(Many Islamic countries have not signed the UN HR charter) will result in a system where our system of law will be left for dictation by those who produce the most children by having multiple wives(polygamy) enforce apostacy laws that ensure their descendents also adhere to their parent’s uniform ethical centerpoint. Consider this, Osama Bin Laden has more than 20 children. That group will attain domination through a “cultural genocide” by laws restricting dissent and 2nd class citizenship to those who do not subscribe. This, sirs and madams, is the story of the Islamic Expansion, or more accurately called, Islamic Crusading, or Jihad.
    Pedophilia is wrong, if you have Pedophilic thoughts it is unhealthy for obvious reasons and you should seek help before your “attractions” bring forth action(See Catholic Priests).
    Globalism is unethical and wrong, as a diverse nation will fight a civil war, a global government will lead to a world wide “civil war” or WW3 unless there is absolute and explicit agreement on universal human rights.
    Islamophobia does not exist as history, current events, and and the Hadithic and Quranic verses all show that there is an agenda for the global dominance of Shariah Law through any means necessary to achieve it. Which is clearly shown in Muhammed’s example and teachings, and YES I have read several of the more accepted Hadithic books and the Quran, with the help of Arab speakers for interpretation.
    My point is that those with the strongest “belief” in a central ethic in which to source their law, rather than a “relativistic” or flaccid ethic, will ultimately rule the world whether that be Atheist, Humanist, Christian, or Islamic. So I ask…which group has the most “faith.” Is it irrational or “bigoted” to point this out? No. Is it irrational or bigoted to call someone “Phobic” only when they criticize Islam? Rubbish.
    Timothy McVeigh is a monster to nearly all Christians, the KKK is viewed as evil to nearly all Christians. Nearly all Christians reject the idea of Crusading by Jesus’s teachings, nearly all Christians reject a new Inquisition(Christian Shariah courts).
    Yet being scared of Christians is rational, and you never hear “Christophobia” mentioned.
    Lets look at the facts. Hamas is popular and elected and supported all over Muslim world by a clear majority. The MB was clearly elected by Egypt. There are MANY MANY Muslims who now view Al Qaeda and Bin Laden as heroes.
    There is near silence from moderate Islam on the use of Islamic Shariah to wrongfully murder non muslims in largely unsupported claims of “insulting their religion.”
    Fearing Islam as a religion is very rational, Ayan Hirsi Ali is correct, and any use of the term “islamophobia” is an immoral attempt to stifle legitimate concerns that I’ve listed above. Globalism will enslave the world, not free it. If you don’t care about the future or your descendents, then you should not worry, and globalism will fill your pockets and help trade. If you do care, then look to the Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Animists and other groups that have been erased and continue to be erased as we speak with minimal news coverage of such events. Because that is the future for your descendents at our current pace provied we don’t destroy our planet and environent with our secular capitalistic and selfish greed first.

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