By Atheist Freethinkers
Position adopted 2021-03-20. Minor corrections 2022-04-29.
We, Atheist Freethinkers, strongly support the End Blasphemy Laws campaign whose goal is the repeal of all laws, in all countries of the world, which criminalize “blasphemy” or “insult to religion” or “hurting religious sentiments” or which impose restrictions on questioning, criticizing or ridiculing religious concepts.
Nevertheless, that list of priorities is missing an important element: we must also oppose any repression of so-called “Islamophobia.” Any law or resolution which condemns such “Islamophobia” must also be repealed, because in the final analysis, “Islamophobia” is nothing more than simply blasphemy against a particular religion.
To be precise, if we interpret the suffix “phobia” in the strict sense of an irrational fear, then “Islamophobia” does not exist, because to fear a religion is not irrational. If, on the other hand, we interpret this suffix in the more general sense of any fear, then “Islamophobia” is just fear of Islam which is rational, reasonable and necessary, especially if we consider its fundamentalist variant “Islamism” or “political Islam.” Thus, if “Islamophobia” exists, it is a virtue. It is necessary to fear all religions—or at least their fundamentalist versions, especially those having political designs—where by “fear” we mean the maintenance of a vigilant stance towards them, because religions are the greatest threat to freedom of conscience.
Furthermore, the expression “Islamophobia” is often misused to indicate a prejudice against Muslims. This usage is erroneous, not to say dishonest, because it conflates an ideology, Islam, with a group of persons, Muslims. It is a key principle of human rights and secularism that ideologies do not deserve protection, but that humans, on the other hand, do indeed deserve respect, that is, respect for their human rights.
Proponents of the term “Islamophobia” refer to it as a form of racism, but this is an imposture. Islam is a religion, i.e. an ideology, a set of ideas and beliefs which an individual may adopt or not, according to his or her conscience. To conflate religion and race is particularly dishonest, because that conflation puts changeable ideas on a par with innate and immutable attributes, as if there were no such thing as freedom of conscience, as if every believer were the prisoner of the religion in which he or she was born.
In particular, we denounce the false parallel which some people attempt to draw between “Islamophobia” and antisemitism. The latter is indeed a form of racism, because it is a prejudice against Jews as an ethnic group, not as believers. It is also important not to confuse antisemitism, as some do, with criticism of the policies of Israel, criticism whose target is a State and not a people.
Moreover, it is no secret that accusations of “Islamophobia” constitute one of the principal strategies of Islamists—promotion of the veil being another such strategy—whose purpose is to stifle criticism of Islam in order to gain territory, anywhere they can, in which they can impose their radical version of that religion.
We are located in Quebec, a province of Canada, a country which presents an obvious example of the importance of this issue. In December 2018, the Canadian parliament repealed old article 296 of the Criminal Code which banned blasphemy (without defining it). Excellent! However, the same parliament had adopted, in March 2017, a resolution, motion M-103, which condemned so-called “Islamophobia” and made the false conflation of race and religion. Although this resolution does not have the force of law, it nevertheless represents a serious threat to freedom of expression and conscience for the citizenry, as serious as an anti-blasphemy law. Without being a criminal statute, it creates a precedent which may eventually lead to such legislation, it encourages social censorship and it creates confusion between race and religion with the consequence that taxpayer money earmarked for anti-racism efforts may be diverted to support religious privilege.
Even worse, several organizations which claim to support secularism, atheism, humanism or free-thought have been duped, whether out of conformism or foolhardiness, and have taken up this Islamist propaganda and made it their own, thus contributing to the stigmatization of those whose denounce this scam.
There is one way in which the “Islamophobia” scam is even more serious than anti-blasphemy laws: it targets one religion in particular, Islam, thus providing a privileged status to that religion.
For all of these reasons, we are of the opinion that the End Blasphemy Laws campaign must take a formal position against use of the term “Islamophobia” as an accusation. The campaign should declare explicitly that “Islamophobia” is neither an offence nor a crime, just as blasphemy is neither an offence nor a crime, and that both are simply two sides of the same phenomenon: strategies used by religious obscurantists in order to stifle any criticism or questioning of their religion. The End Blasphemy Laws campaign must oppose any measure, any law, any resolution whose purpose is to repress criticism of religions, regardless of which term—“blasphemy” or “Islamophobia”—is used.
As a substitute for the expression “Islamophobia” we suggest the use of the term “anti-Muslim prejudice” to refer to behaviour which attacks the person rather than his or her belief. We consider that it is eminently reasonable to adopt a position against Islam because, if it is interpreted strictly and in its entirety, Islam represents an extreme right-wing totalitarian ideology, incompatible with our modern democracies. In such a case, the expression “Islamofascism” constitutes a very good description of this rigorous interpretation of Islam.
Finally, we note that it is reasonable to consider that use of the term “Islamophobia,” thus granting undue privilege to Islam, only serves to fuel anti-Muslim prejudice, which instead we should be working against. In addition, it encourages one harmful aspect of Islam, i.e. the hostility towards non-Muslims which some Muslims maintain. It fans the flames of intolerance. Instead, we should work towards secularism—true secularism and not a certain weakened version known as “open” secularism—in order to attenuate tensions and favour the inclusion and social harmony which we seek.