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Melanie Phillips on Islamophobia

Over the weekend Melanie Phillips made comments alleging that anyone who claims islamophobia is arguing from a position of bad faith.

The accusation of Islamophobia covers legitimate criticisms of the Muslim community, any criticism of the Muslim community is considered Islamophobic. There is no equation between islamophobia which is used as a means of shutting down legitimate criticism of the Muslim community and antisemitism for which there is never any excuse at all. Antisemitism is not just a form of racism it is a unique derangement it is based entirely on lies and demonisation the same cannot be said of what is considered islamophobic…(interrupted) I didn’t say there were grounds for Islamophobia I said the term islamophobia itself is used to cover legitimate criticism of Muslims or the Muslim community.

The sociologist David Hirsh rightly criticised her for this:

She explained herself further in her column in the The Times. One thing that hit me from the article was this:

A phobia is not a prejudice but a mental disorder. An irrational terror, it debilitates the victim for whom we feel sympathy. Yet Islamophobia is used to turn people into social pariahs. This is why. A mental disorder has no rational basis. A prejudice is merely a hateful viewpoint. Unlike a phobia, prejudice does not lie outside reason altogether — which makes a phobia literally unthinkable.

There are few things that irritate me more than seeing people make comments like “antisemitism is being against semites not Jews” or some other such derivative,

By doing the same thing here regarding islamophobia Phillips ignores the obvious fact that islamophobia means hatred of Muslims in the general parlance. It is used to mean such by government and anti-racism groups as well as Muslim victims of prejudice and hate crime. In her op-ed Phillips quotes Fiyaz Mughal to prove her point:

“Director of the British anti-extremism group Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal, draws urgent attention to the way in which parts of the left are seeking to “build a bridge based on antisemitism” with “some sections of Muslim communities where it is entrenched and mixed up with 9/11, 7/7 and other geopolitical conspiracy theories”

In response Tell Mama, released a statement distancing themselves and Mughal from Phillips’ opinions. Indeed it’s a shame they had to and it’s a shame that their good work is overlooked thanks to the rather silly, in fact dangerous views Phillips has espoused. Islamophobia is a word Tell Mama uses, it’s a term they appear quite comfortable with, though they also use the term “anti Muslim hatred”. If you’re going to use Fiyaz Mughal as a source for your argument it might be worth checking these things first.

Phillips specifically states that:

“No matter that I acknowledged the existence of prejudice against Muslims, just as against Sikhs, Hindus and others. In denying Islamophobia, I was an Islamophobic bigot.”

Yes that’s about right. Phillips is against Muslim hatred but is also strongly against anyone who uses the word islamophobia as, according to her, this is just a way of shutting up people who are “criticising the Muslim community”. In a stroke Phillips has empowered extremists like Hizb ut Tahrir, who have put out a wonderful press release entitled Criticism of the Zionist entity is not Anti-Semitic the close correlation between their argument about antisemitism and her own regarding islamophobia should provide some food for thought. But it won’t, any more than our criticism of antisemites has offered them the opportunity to reflect on their words.

In Great Britain in 2018 there is too much racism but also a great many good people working very hard to tackle that racism. Melanie Phillips isn’t one of them, in fact she’s part of the problem.