‘Some people attack Islam as a way of attacking Muslims’ asserted @TellMamaUK on Twitter recently. I expect they thought their point had rather been proved when their interlocutor replied ‘it’s like rabies, doesn’t mean we hate the rabid’. You could argue that, strictly speaking, that statement does indeed differentiate between Muslims, who might be ‘cured’ and Islam, the disease, but it’s an extremely aggressive analogy, to put it mildly.
I’d joined that conversation in order to respond to accusations that monitoring bigotry against Muslims was a threat to free speech – I noted that something might be reported as an example of hateful discourse without any attempt being made to ban it. (Of course I am not denying that some do want to ban, or limit, criticism of Islam.)
Many Muslims may be less concerned by random extreme comments on Twitter than by rather more subtle hostility in mainstream publications. How things are said, as well as what is said, matters a great deal. The inflammatory effects of a souped up or distorted headline aren’t cancelled out by a more reasonable tone in the article itself. So even though the writer of this cover story in Le Point, Franz-Olivier Giesbert, ends up conceding that most Muslims are ok really – the damage will have been done, particularly from the perspective of those worried by the very unfavourable views of Muslims held by many in France. (The Le Point headline, ‘Cet Islam sans gêne’ might be translated ‘This shameless Islam’ although ‘brazen’ or ‘unrestrained’ are alternative possibilities.)
Some of the points the writer makes may have some validity. There is nothing wrong in saying you think halal meat should be labeled – although I think claiming it was ‘the issue which most preoccupies the French’ was both eccentric and divisive. However it seems that Giesbert was incorrect to claim Christmas had been replaced by Winter in the name of a festival in Amiens in order to pander to Muslims.
The writer ends by bemoaning the fact the silent majority of Muslims don’t do more to differentiate themselves from the radicals. But this kind of tendentious piece is probably going to alienate many reform-minded Muslims – make them feel their priority should be standing up for their co-religionists rather than speaking out against the extremists.
There’s more about this in the Independent – in a piece I first read via Loonwatch, and I’ll just note that they have come in for some nasty criticism themselves recently. Even those who are more hostile to Loonwatch than me (and I have certainly had reservations about some of their posts and positions) will I hope acknowledge that these accusations, as well as being made in a threatening manner, represent a distortion of the site’s views.