As a brown-skinned person with a Muslim name, I can get away with a lot more than you'd think. I can publicly parade my wife or daughters around in head-to-toe burqas and be excused out of "respect" for my culture and/or religion, thanks to theracism of lowered expectations. I can re-define "racism" as something non-whites can never harbor against whites, and cite colonialism and imperialism as justification for my prejudice.
And in an increasingly effective move that's fast become something of an epidemic, I can shame you into silence for criticizing my ideas simply by calling you bigoted or Islamophobic.
For decades, Muslims around the world have rightly complained about the Israeli government labeling even legitimate criticism of its policies "anti-Semitic," effectively shielding itself from accountability. Today, Muslim organizations like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) have borrowed a page from their playbook with the "Islamophobia" label — and taken it even further.
In addition to calling out prejudice against Muslims (a people), the term "Islamophobia" seeks to shield Islam itself (an ideology) from criticism. It's as if every time you said smoking was a filthy habit, you were perceived to be calling all smokers filthy people. Human beings have rights and are entitled to respect. But when did we start extending those rights to ideas, books, and beliefs? You'd think the difference would be clear, but it isn't. The ploy has worked over and over again, and now everyone seems petrified of being tagged with this label.
The phobia of being called "Islamophobic" is on the rise — and it's becoming much more rampant, powerful, and dangerous than Islamophobia itself.
Last month, a white American man successfully convinced the Massachusetts liberal arts school Brandeis University that he was being victimized and oppressed by a black African woman from Somalia — a woman who underwent genital mutilation at age five and travels with armed security at risk of being assassinated.
That is the power of this term.
The man, Ibrahim Hooper, is a Muslim convert and a founding member and spokesman for CAIR. The woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, is an unapologetic activist for the rights of girls and women and a harsh, no-holds-barred critic of the religious ideologies (particularly the Islamic ideology in Muslim-majority countries that she experienced first-hand) that perpetuate and maintain their abuse. Having abandoned the Islamic faith of her parents and taken a stance against it, she is guilty of apostasy, a crime that is punishable by death according to most Islamic scholars, not to mention the holy text itself.
Hirsi Ali was also involved with the award-winning documentary, Honor Diaries, which explores violence against women in honor-based societies, including female genital mutilation (FGM), honor killings, domestic violence, and forced marriage. Despite featuring the voices of several practicing Muslim women, the film wasdeemed "Islamophobic" by — you guessed it — the poor folks at CAIR. Again, they feltthey were the real victims, wanting their own voices heard while silencing those of the victims of FGM and honor killing in the film.
"So what?" you say. "It's 2014. No one's going to take that kind of position seriously, right?"
Wrong. Astonishingly, this ludicrous argument was enough to convince both the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan to cancel their screenings of the film.
Earlier this year, this Islamophobia-phobia also worked successfully on Katy Perry, a singer well-known for fighting her evangelical minister parents to break out of a strict Christian upbringing. Her music video for Dark Horse enraged over 60,000 angry Muslims who signed a petition demanding that it be removed for blasphemy. The video showed a man wearing an "Allah" pendant being burned to ashes, pendant and all. The scene was visible for less than a second in the original video.
She gave in. The petition was successful, and within a day, the offending scene was edited out of the video.
Written By: Ali A. Rizvi
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