Recently, I think I was accused of being an Islamophobe. I’m not sure how the word is spelt as Microsoft Word spell-check doesn’t seem to recognize it, nor to the best of my knowledge has this supposed disorder been recognized by any academic journal or body. It appears to be a kind of catch-all answer to be used in any cases where the religion Islam or any Islamic group is criticized.
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz was born (in 1948) of a Jewish father and protestant mother.
He began life following in Dad’s footsteps as a Stalinist, but later became a Trotskyite. By the 1990s, his barmy journey led him to support the US’s Iraq War (apparently many Trots did) and also to convert to Islam in 1997. Today he describes himself as an adherent of the Hanafi school of Islam religiously and a Neoconservative politically.
Not surprisingly, Schwartz does not mention any of this when writing as Stephen Schwartz. describing Islamaphobia sounds far more credible than Abu-Trotsky. Here’s a nice Jewish boy writing about Islamophobia. What axe could he possibly have to grind?
After starting well:
“It is seldom noticed, however, that the Wahhabi lobby engages in its own forms of profiling, which mainly consist of branding every opponent of Islamist radicalism an “Islamophobe.” In addition, the charge often includes labeling of such critics as Jews, Zionists, and Israeli agents…”
Who could argue with any of that? He has both our attention and trust, so now he gets to his real point:
“Notwithstanding the arguments of some Westerners, Islamophobia exists; it is not a myth.”
And now the good bit. What are the symptoms of this appalling ailment?
Again, if you want to convince somebody of crap, then mix it up with sensible statements. Your reader will say, “Well, the first and second bits were fine, so I guess the third one must be correct too.” Indeed, symptoms one and two seem quite rational:
- attacking the entire religion of Islam as a problem for the world;
- condemning all of Islam and its history as extremist;
Islamophobia is not really a recognized condition, but who would dispute the fact that these two crass generalizations are wrong? Then the barmy one is fiendishly slipped in:
- denying the active existence, in the contemporary world, of a moderate Muslim majority;
Nobody would deny that there are both moderates and extremists in the Moslem world. These are not absolute, but relative terms and an Ayatollah in Iran may well see himself as a moderate, while somebody else may describe a Harvard lecturer in Islam as an extremist. It is impossible to objectively count off how many extremists and how many moderates there are until universally recognized definitions of both terms have been reached. Ask me whether to my mind the majority is extremist or moderate and I instinctively feel it may be the latter.
However, that’s all it is, an instinct or a feeling, a guess. Nobody can prove it anymore than they can establish whether the majority of Christians are good or bad, the majority of US citizens are clever or stupid or whether the majority of Jews are happy or sad.
Schwartz believes that the majority of Muslims are moderate, fair enough. He may be right and he may be wrong. A cynic might say that the question hardly matters since most Islamic states are rarely democratic and therefore their decisions are not determined by a majority anyway, but that’s not the point. In Schwartz’s book if you don’t agree with him about an unprovable demographic fact, then you’re an Islamophobe.
Things become clearer when we realize that Schwartz believes himself to be a moderate and an opponent of extremism. In other words, if you disagree with me about the fact that I’m in the majority I’ll brand you an Islamophobe. From that point onwards I don’t have to refute your argument. After all you’re suffering from Islamophobia – and that’s your problem. Get help, I know a good Islamophobia-therapist.
As a footnote I tried to modify Schwartz’s method by classifying any spouse or offspring not bringing their husbands and fathers iced coffee and muffins as settlerphobes. It seemed like a good idea at the time, however, this not being a Moslem household I got less agreement than I might have hoped for. Or am I just being an Islamophobe again?