Is disliking Islam a form of racism?

The debate in France this week centers on Islamophobia and is sparked by the publishing of two books. The first by Charb (1), one of the artists killed in the January 7 Charlie Hebdo attack and the second by a Journalist, Caroline Fourest(2).

Both reject attempts to stifle debate on Islam by labeling any who criticize the religion of Mohammed as “Islamophobes.” They write that in reality, the crusade against Islamaphobia is an attempt to weaken secularism; to put religion above the laws of the land.

Those who fight Islamaphobia,” writes Charb, “in reality, are not doing it to defend Muslims as individuals, but rather to defend the religion.”

Caroline Fourest believes the term itself “is not only slippery but dangerous: it aims to put targets on the foreheads of the defenders of secularism.”

’Hate speech’ is the modern term for heresy,” writes the Somali exiled author, Ayaan Hirsi Ali(3). “And in the present atmosphere, anything that makes Muslims feel uncomfortable is branded as ‘hate.’”

Of course, what is being done to “defend” Muslims against criticism is what pro-Israelis have been doing for years. Those who denounce Israel as an Apartheid regime; who denounce the inhuman and illegal blockade of Gaza; who decry the whole Zionist project (even fellow Jews like Noam Chomsky and Shlomo Sand); or those who merely call for a two state solution along the 1967 borders, are immediately branded “anti-Semites.”

In France today, criticizing a religion is more and more often equated with racism and the expression of racism in France is illegal, punishable by prison and hefty fines. The real questions should be: Why can’t we criticize religion?

Oh, the poor atheists who are everybody’s racists.

I’m a New Testament sort of guy although I am the first to admit the worst tragedies were committed in the name of Jesus, a man who preached love, non-violence and tolerance.

Why should I not be able to call the Old Testament a horrible place where genocide, murder, rape, slavery, aggression, looting, theft of land and goods and destruction are all justified. And when I look at how Tsahal, the Israeli Army, conducts itself, I can only believe that that collection of anctient tales is their Army Field Manual. Under French law, the Old Testament should be banned for apology of genocide, apology of murder and complicity in terrorism not to mention racial discrimination, all of which are illegal and punishable by prison and fines.  The Chosen People indeed!

Ah, but no Jew is going to kill me or blow up a school because I say such things.  However, there is a religion which does have many such people.  And they want to silence me.

Why should I not be able to echo the Somali exile, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who points out time and time again that “Islam is not a religion of peace.” Under French law the Qur’an and the Hadith should be banned because it calls for murder for such things as Apostasy or having an extra-marital affair. It justifies slavery and discriminates against women. It puts Sharia religious law above that of the land and may help explain why there are some ten thousand Polygamous families in France according to government estimates.

It is foolish to insist,” writes Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “as our leaders habitually do, that the violent acts of radical Islamists can be divorced from the religious ideals that inspire them.

The irony is Hirsi Ali’s book will probably never be published in France because it will be banned as “inciting to racial and religious hatred.”

Another question is whether it is Islamophobia to complain that those Muslims enjoying the freedom of our Western democracies and cultures are not doing much to denounce the atrocities being committed in the name of their religion. Let me re-phrase that: They are doing nothing!

And since when is denouncing a religion denouncing a race? (Full disclosure: I do not believe, as the Nazis did and the Zionists do, that Jews are a race)  Islam is not a race. Does saying such things make me a racist? Does the fact an atheist may hate all religions and be obsessed with exposing them for ‘frauds’ make him guilty of “hate speech?”

It is also ironic that the war on terrorism should have as one of its first casualties, the freedom of speech and thought of not liking a religion in particular or all religions in general.  This is a direct challenge to the Enlightenment of the XVIIth century.

And when it comes to religions, some in France are even fighting over which form of “anti-religious racism” is worse than the other. The Jews are winning. The Mister-Anti-Racism of the French government, Gilles Clavreul, told the daily Libération(4) “All racism is condemnable, but the anti-Arab and Anti-Black racism has not the same resiliency in its violence as anti-Semitism.”

“’Scandal!” says the leader of the French Anti-Islamophobia Movement, Marwan Mohammed. He told Libération that he regrets the government is “attempting to put a hierarchy and categories to racism.”

Professor of Sociology, Abdellali Hajjat, co-author of Islamophobia with Marwan Mohammad, told the same newspaper that the French government “seems to favor the fight against anti-Semitism to the detriment of the fight against Islamophobia.”

And this is where the wave breaks. You can denounce Judaism without hating people because they are Jewish; that is without being anti-Semite although nobody is denouncing Judaism. Maybe because they leave others alone. But apparently, you cannot criticize Islam without being … what exactly? One should think that, after Charlie Hebdo, the debate should be going in the other direction.

  1. Charb, Lettre aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racists (A Letter to the Crooks of Islamophobia who play into the Hands of Racists), Paris, 2015.
  2. Caroline Fourest, Eloge du blaspheme (An Eloge to Blasphemy), Paris, 2015.
  3. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heretic, Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, New York, 2015.
  4. Gilles Clavreul, Libération, April 17, 2015. His title is Inter-Ministerial Delegate Against Racism and Anti-Semitism.
  5. Marwan Muhammad, Spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, CCIF. His book is Islamophobia, Maspéro, Paris, 2013.