This talk was accompanied by a presentation of some thirty slides which we suggest you consult while reading through the text below.
This talk is an English translation of a talk first given in French on 2021-04-10, entitled L’arnaque de l’« islamophobie ». The content has been updated somewhat.
Our Paper “‘Islamophobia’ is Blasphemy”
- Accusations of “Islamophobia” are the 21st century equivalent of accusations of “blasphemy.” The purpose of both types of accusation is to condemn and repress criticism of religions.
- If the suffix “phobia” is interpreted 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, that suffix is given the more general meaning of simply a fear, then “Islamophobia” is just a fear of Islam, a fear which is rational, reasonable and necessary, especially if we are talking about the fundamentalist variant of Islam known as “Islamism” or “political Islam.”
- Thus, if “Islamophobia” exists, it is a virtue.
- Our goal: to inform those organizations which fight for the repeal of anti-blasphemy laws (such as the End Blasphemy Laws campaign) of this equivalence between “Islamophobia” and “blasphemy.”
The End Blasphemy Laws Campaign
- The goal: Repeal of all anti-blasphemy laws, globally, in all countries.
- A partnership between Humanists International (formerly IHEU) and the European Humanist Federation
- This campaign focuses on legal censorship, not social censorship.
Charter of the End Blasphemy Laws Coalition
A quotation from the Charter
We argue that blasphemy laws are harmful:
- They violate freedom of expression and deny equality.
- Actively enforced blasphemy laws infringe on and violate human rights around the world.
- Passive blasphemy laws reinforce active blasphemy laws.
- They have been repudiated by international law and governance bodies.
- Blasphemy laws are sometimes hidden under other language.
The last point is significant: The term “Islamophobia” hides a form of prohibition of blasphemy!
Declarations of the IHEU about “Islamophobia”
Declarations before the United Nations Human Rights Council
The accusation of “Islamophobia” is now widely used as an ad hominem weapon to silence opponents by equating any criticism of Islam with racism.
The isolationist term “Islamophobia” encourages divisive identity politics.
- Two very good declarations, although not perfect.
- Declare that criticism of Islam is not racist.
- Failure to make the link between “Islamophobia” and blasphemy.
- Failure to explain the link between the racialization (i.e. essentialization) of religious affiliation and freedom of conscience.
Book « L’Islamophobie » (2016)
The collective work « L’ISLAMOPHOBIE » is a France-Quebec collaboration, directed by Jérôme Blanchet-Gravel, with a preface by Waleed Al-husseini and articles by about ten other authors.
Observations by Claude Simard, professor retired from Université Laval (Quebec City), who carries out a lexical analysis of the French words islamophobie and islamophobe. Simard notes that the word « islamophobie »
- first appears at the beginning of the 20th century, in colonial times, to indicate a prejudice, held by European Christians, against Islam and against Muslims. (The term was coined in French in 1910 by Alain Quellien of the French Ministry of Colonies, who apparently considered Islam to be an excellent stabilizing influence, thus facilitating colonization. Quellien considered Islam to be a religion very useful to the colonial regime, as he saw black African natives who practised animism to be unproductive, whereas Islamicized black Africans were productive and obedient servants of their colonial masters. Although he apparently saw Islam as inferior to Christianity, it was better that the native religions and should be promoted among natives.)
- then disappears for most of the 20th century.
- then re-appears in the 1990s and used with increasing frequency—especially after 2001—with its current meaning.
Thus, although Islamists did not invent the term, they re-invented it.
“When the notion of Islamophobia does not serve to censor any criticism of Islam by restoring the crime of blasphemy, it serves to prevent any reform or modernization of this religion. […] the Islamists skillfully use this concept to undermine the integration of people of Muslim culture in Western countries. Reestablishing tribalism when the democracies had neutralized it is one of the primary objectives of these theocrats.” (emphasis added)
— Jérôme Blanchet-Gravel, Foreword, page 10
Quotation from Hassan Jamali
Hassam Jamali, of Syrian origin, teaches at Collège Ahuntsic in Montréal.
“The notion of Islamophobia exists for the sole purpose of restricting freedom of expression and scaring those who defend secularism and dare to speak out against religious accommodation. The followers of the victimization of Islamophobia have multiplied the interventions in the West (including in Quebec) and even within the UN so that laws and resolutions prohibiting blasphemy and hate speech against religions are approved. Public institutions in Quebec have fallen into the trap. Islamophobia is used in official documents published by the Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion to justify the high unemployment rate among North Africans. The City of Montreal also uses it. In its report, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission also mentions Islamophobia while refraining from mentioning it in the glossary.”
— Hassan Jamali, “‘Islamophobia,’ a weapon to counter any reform of Islam,” pages 82-83
Quotation from Henri Pena-Ruiz
Henri Pena-Ruiz is a French philosopher and writer and an authority in matters of secularism. His approach is universalist and he opposes the essentialization of religious affiliation.
“But no one can be reduced to just one’s religion. One has a religion, But one is not one’s religion. The same is true for a people. Even if one belongs to the majority, a religious or spiritual affiliation is necessarily an individual attribute and may not be forced upon everyone in the group.”
— From the entry « Islamophobie », in his Dictionnaire amoureux de la Laïcité
Quotation from Zineb El Rhazoui
Zineb El Rhazoui is a French-Moroccan writer and journalist, formerly with Charlie Hebdo. She is the author of several books including Détruire le fascisme islamique (To Destroy Islamic Fascism).
“But the fear of Islamism is… eminently justifiable, natural and normal. So Islamophobia is in my opinion an ideological imposture which, in Western democracies, ultimately amounts to imposing the crime of blasphemy.”
Quebec Bill 21 and “Islamophobia”
The following are examples of accusations of “Islamophobia” made against Quebec Bill 21 (Loi sur la laïcité de l’État) which was adopted by the National Assembly on 16th June 2019:
- 2019-04-26: Projet de loi sur la laïcité: des implications sur la santé des Québécois. According to two health professionals at McGill University, Bill 21 could have regrettable consequences for the Quebecers’ health. In particular, “racism” and “Islamophobia” (which the authors fail to distinguish from each other) may cause depression, anxiety and psychological stress.
- 2019-03-29: Michael Coren writing in the pages of Maclean’s magazine asserts that Bill 21 is “repugnant” and that “The strain and stain of Islamophobia runs deep in Canada, and arguably stronger in Quebec than elsewhere.”
- 2019-03-28: Dan Bilefsky writing in the New York Times associates Bill 21 with murderous anti-Muslim violence, fomenting hatred and—you guessed it—“Islamophobia.”
- November & December 2020, during the court challenge to Bill 21 before Quebec Superior Court:
- Sociologist Paul Eid, expert witness for the FAE (Fédération autonome de l’enseignement) and for the English Montreal School Board, both of which oppose Bill 21, used language replete with terms such as “Islamophobia” and “racialized.” The judge asked him how one can equate hostility against religious minorities with racism. He replied that he rejects this distinction and that he did not even understand the question. (Note that, in his question, the judge was already conflating a religion with a religious minority—by interpreting “Islamophobia” as a prejudice against Muslims. But the sociologist was doing even worse, conflating race and religion.)
- Maître Azim Hussain (representing several opponents of Bill 21) declared that “Islamophobia” is a form of racism and claimed that Quebecers strong support for secularism (as compared to Canadians outside Quebec) is not explained by their lower religiosity but rather by their “Islamophobia.” Recall that Hussain was also the lawyer who compared Bill 21 to the Nazi’s Nuremberg Laws. Even worse, he was named as judge to that very court—Quebec Superior Court—a year later, in December of 2021.
Oganizations which Promote the Idea that “Islamophobia” Should be Criminalized:
- CCIF = Collectif contre l’islamophobie en France (Collective Against Islamophobia in France)
- CCIF had affinities with the Muslim Brotherhood.
- It published dubious statistics about acts of alleged “Islamophobia.”
- It disbanded itself in 2020, shortly after the assassination of Samuel Paty and the annoucement by the Ministry of the Interior that it intended to dissolve the CCIF.
- CCIB = Collectif contre l’islamophobie en Belgique (Collective Against Islamophobia in Belgium), the reincarnation of the CCIF.
Quotation from Hani Ramadan
Hani Ramadan is a Muslim preacher in Switzerland and brother of Tariq Ramadan. Like Tariq, he is a grandson of Hassan el-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928.
“Muslims have the right to draw up a list of those who encourage Islamophobia in France, under the pretext of attacking Islamism, a dangerously catch-all concept. Including by noting the names of elected officials who stand out in this regard. Islamophobia is a crime”
— Hani Ramadan, in a tweet from 2021-03-27.
Note that “Islamophobia” is not a crime in France, except in the wishes and delusions of Islamists.
Quotation from Mohamed Sifaoui
Mohamed Sifaoui is a Franco-Algerian investigative journalist and writer who specializes in reporting on Islamism and organized crime. He has been living under police protection for several years.
“Islamophobia is an intellectual scam that aims to atrophy debate.”
Les Fossoyeurs de la République, Islamo-gauchisme : l’enquête inédite (Gravediggers of the Republic, Islamoleftism: an original investigation), Éditions de l’Observatoire.
Quotation from Céline Pina about the President of Turkey
Céline Pina is a French journalist, essayist and politician. In 2016 she founded, in collaboration with Fatiha Boudjahlat the organization Viv(r)e la République to combat Islamism and defend secularism.
“‘tomorrow, no European, no Westerner, will be able to take a step in safety, with peace of mind in the street, anywhere in the world,’ this is what Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared in March 2017 […] The Turkish President takes more and more seriously his role as Caliph, taking on the costume of the protector of Muslims against a Europe that he qualifies as Islamophobic and racist and that he accuses of trampling on human rights because it refuses Sharia and the veil on its soil, while Erdogan is allied with the militias of Daesh and massacres the Kurdish people in Iraq and Syria.”
— Céline Pina, « L’Hypocrisie de la maire de Strasbourg face à l’entrisme islamiste » (“The hypocrisy of the mayor of Strasbourg in the face of Islamist entryism”), 2021-03-25
Demonstration Against “Islamophobia” in Paris, 2019-11-10
Point of view of Riss, editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo
“The so-called demonstration against Islamophobia, where part of the left met last Sunday, is a significant date in the history of the left. In the story of its disintegration. The fight against racism and discrimination is a key issue for democracy. But to be combated effectively, racism and discrimination must be precisely identified. It is not enough to wrongly designate supposed racists to obtain an anti-racism certificate. Nor is it justified to point the finger at all Muslims for fighting Islamism, as unfortunately far-right parties in Europe do. ‘War is too important a thing to be entrusted to soldiers,’ said Clemenceau. When we hear certain self-proclaimed anti-racism activists accuse anyone of anything, we think that the fight against racism is too important a thing to be entrusted to such irresponsible people.” (emphasis added)
— « Un bel enterrement de la gauche » (“A lovely burial of the left”), Charlie Hebdo, 2019-11-12
Two Types of Censorship
- Legal censorship is imposed by the State, using laws against blasphemy, against hate speech, etc.
- Social censorship is imposed by gratuitous accusations of “xenophobia,” “Islamophobia,” etc. in the traditional media and social media and in social interactions, accusations which lead to self-censorship.
Canada’s notorious Motion M-103, which condemns so-called “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism,” is a hybrid of legal and social censorship. It does not have force of law, so it is weaker than most legal censorship. However, it indicates that the State endorses social censorship of criticism of Islam or Islamism. Worse, it endorses the conflation of race and religion.
Social censorship is enforced socially by one’s peers, that is, by individuals who—often through social media—try to shame and silence others, usually by claiming that their speech is morally wrong in some way—that it is “racist,” “Islamophobic” or “far-right” or comes from a morally questionable source, in which case the speaker is suspected of guilt by association. Social censorship is an expression of ideological puritanism.
Motions Against “Islamophobia”
These resolutions do not have force of law. Nevertheless, they add to the social climate and encourage social censorship and self-censorship of criticism of Islam.
- 2015-10-01: National Assembly of Quebec, resolution proposed by Françoise David of the political party Québec Solidaire (QS). The Rassemblement pour la laïcité (RPL) declares its disagreement in these words:
“To refer to Islamophobia, a hazy concept, is called ideological misappropriation. The RPL reiterates that the concept of Islamophobia has been conceived and conveyed since the 1980s by the global Islamist movement and its organizations in order to cover up their abuses and to counter the criticism of which they were the target.”
- 2017-03-23: Parliament of Canada: Motion M-103 which condemns “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”
I have been personally ordered by the director of a “humanist” organization, on Twitter, to refrain from criticizing M-103 because that is what the “far right” does.
- “Taking Action Against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination Including Islamophobia” is a report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage which was mandated by Parliament to follow up on Motion M-103.
In the words of Louise Mailloux in her blog “Ottawa Throws its Doors Wide Open to Religions”
“Even though we know full well that a religion is not a race—because one does not choose one’s race, while on the other hand one’s religion is indeed a choice—this recommendation, by conflating race and religion, allows different religious groups to hijack anti-racist programmes and measures, and to use them to their advantage. It would be difficult to find a more effective form of opportunism!”
Accusations of “Islamophobia” can have Very Serious—Even Deadly—Consequences
Examples in France:
- Mila: A teenage girl who, in January 2020, harshly criticized Islam in a video posted on social media and refused the sexual advances of an Internet user. She became the target of numerous threats of violence and death, as well as homophobic and misogynistic messages. She was forced into hiding and has to live under police protection. The controversy resumed in November with a new video by Mila. The controversy over issues of blasphemy and “Islamophobia” rages on. Yet neither is a crime in France. Mila affair on Wikipedia.
- Samuel Paty: A high school teacher, assassinated and decapitated in October 2020 by an Islamist because he used cartoons of Muhammad, taken from Charlie Hebdo, in a lesson on freedom of expression. After this lesson Paty was the target of threats and harassment, as well as calls for him to be fired. The schoolgirl who triggered this wave of accusations against Paty later admitted to lying, that she was not present during the lesson. Her father had contacted the CCIF, asking them to help. Fourteen people have been indicted in this case for “slanderous denunciation” or “complicity in assassination” or etc. Murder of Samuel Paty on Wikipedia.
UPDATE: In April 2022, the family of Samuel Paty registered a complaint against the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of the Interiorformal, alleging that the authorities could have prevented the assassination.
In a country where neither the crime of blasphemy nor the crime of “Islamophobia” exists, a violent or even deadly repression of these non-crimes can occur. There is no legal censorship here. Rather, the two cases described above are extreme examples of social censorship.
Extrajudicial Violence Against “Blasphemers”
- Pakistan: The number of extrajudicial executions of people accused of blasphemy, without even reaching court, is said to be more than 75 between 1987 et 2017.
- A few examples:
- Sajjad Maseeh and Shama Bibi (pregnant): In 2014, a Christian married couple is accused of burning verses from the Koran. They are attacked by a mob who break their legs and burn them in an oven.
- Rashid Rehman: Lawyer for a university professor accused of blasphemy in 2013. He is alleged to have insulted Muhammad on Facebook. In 2014, Rehman was murdered in his office by two men who were never apprehended.
- Mashal Kahn: In April 2017, this journalism student was beaten to death by a mob of other students after being falsely accused of blasphemy.
- Recent example: Deborah Yakubu killed by mob in northern Nigeria, for “blasphemy.”
In a country where the “crime” of blasphemy exists, violent extrajudicial repression of this [non-]crime can also occur.
Apostasy (to renounce one’s religion) is forbidden in Islam and severely punished, sometimes even by the death penalty, in several Muslim-majority countries. Thus, Islam has no respect for freedom of conscience.
Those who make accusations of “Islamophobia” are using that term as an approximate synonyme of “racism.” They conflate race with religion. That is, they essentialize (racialize) religious affiliation. This is similar to the ban on apostasy, amounting to a denial of freedom of conscience, as if the believer remained prisoner, during his/her entire lifetime, of the religion in which he/she was born.
Race-Islam conflation is the light version of Islam’s ban on apostasy.
Justin Trudeau confuses “Islamophobia” with Homophobia
“But why does the word Islamophobia scare us? No one complains about the word homophobia. There’s even a day for that. But Islamophobia bothers us, why?”
— Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 2018-01-29
Press Release, 2018-02-02, AFT denounced Trudeau’s assertion:
- Islam and its variant Islamism are ideologies. Homosexuality is not.
- Trudeau’s declaration is an insult to the dignity of homosexual persons.
- His words are demeaning for Muslims, preventing them from criticizing their own religion.
- Trudeau essentializes religious affiliation, as if it were biologically determined. This amounts to an endorsement of Islam’s ban on apostasy and thus a denial of Muslims’ freedom of conscience.
Definition of “Islamophobia” by the British APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group)
“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
Note that this definition presents at least two major problems:
- It confuses an ideology (Islam) with people (Muslims)
- It essentializes (i.e. racializes) religious affiliation by conflating it with race.
Batley Grammar School and the Abject Cowardice of Authorities
In March of 2021, a teacher at Batley Grammar School, not far from the British city of Leeds, was suspended after presenting a cartoon of Muhammad in class during a discussion on press freedom and religious extremism. This sparked protests outside the school, demanding the teacher’s resignation. The headmaster apologized in a cowardly manner. The teacher fears for his life. For all intents and purposes, his career is over.
The foolishness of the APPG (previous slide) and the cowardice of the school authorities are two manifestations of the same Islamolatric madness.
Islamolatry = an extreme attitude of respect for, admiration of or submission to Islam or even Islamism, but not as a believer; rather, as a non-Muslim who opposes frank criticism of Islam and who tends to vilify anyone who does criticize Islam, usually by accusing such critics of “Islamophobia.” Closely related to Islamocomplacency and a characteristic of Islamoleftism.
Islamocomplacency = an attitude of complacency with regard to political Islam, underestimating or ignoring its danger.
Islamoleftism = A degenerate form of left-wing politics in which the priority which the left traditionally accorded to questions of class is now replaced by the defence of minorities, especially Muslims, as if Muslims constituted the new working class (as in Marxist ideology) or the new chosen people (as in Abrahamic mythology). The concern for Muslims tends to be strongly biased towards the most visible, pious and fundamentalist Muslims while ignoring secular Muslims and sometimes denigrating ex-Muslims.
United Nations: A Victory in 2011, but a Major Step Backwards in 2022.
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), formerly the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, is an intergovernmental organization consisting of 57 member states with a permanent delegation at the UN. Between 1999 and 2010, the OIC succeeded in getting the UN, or its Human Rights Council, to adopt a series of resolutions that condemned criticism of religions, using expressions like “defamation of religion” and “Islamophobia,” which amounted to a kind of offense of blasphemy, that is to say an international anti-blasphemy law. These resolutions were generally supported by the Islamic bloc and developing countries, but over the years and in particular with the diligent work of Roy Brown of IHEU, support for these resolutions was eroded. The last in 2010 was adopted, but with only 20 countries for, 17 against and 8 abstentions. The OIC then decided to change its strategy and propose resolutions whose aim was to protect human beings instead of protecting religions.
On March 24, 2011, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations unanimously adopted Resolution 16/18 whose purpose is to “Combat intolerance, negative stereotypes, stigma and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief.”
In July 2011, the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations adopted a declaration which states that any ban on manifestations of disrespect for a religion or other belief system, including anti-blasphemy laws, is incompatible with the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This means that any criminalization of blasphemy in a signatory country violates the pact.
Resolution 16/18 was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in December 2011. It was reaffirmed by the Human Rights Council in 2012 and 2013.
However, in 2022,
“A resolution proclaiming 15 March as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia was unanimously adopted by the General Assembly…”
The resolution was introduced by Pakistan, whose representative asserted that “Islamophobia has emerged as a new form of racism that includes, among others, discriminatory travel bans, hate speech and the targeting of girls and women for their dress.”
Thus, we see that secular legislation such as Quebec Bill 21 and French bans on religious symbols in several contexts are targeted by this retrograde measure.
— General Assembly Unanimously Adopts Texts…
New US Law Against “Islamophobia” Internationally
A new law, proposed by representative Ilhan Omar has been passed by the US House of Representatives, but at last report has not yet been adopted by the Senate. The bill H.R.5665 – Combating International Islamophobia Act “establishes within the Department of State the Office to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia and addresses related issues.” It also declares that “The office shall monitor and combat acts of Islamophobia and Islamophobic incitement in foreign countries. The bill establishes the position of Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Islamophobia, who shall head the office.”
Note that congresswoman Ilhan Omar wears the hijab, including when she is sitting in the House. Moreover, headgear was banned in the House of Representatives for almost two centuries, between 1837 and 2019. It is because of Omar that this rule now allows exceptions for religious reasons, thus violating the principle of separation between religions and State.
- “Islamophobia” is like criminalization of “blasphemy.” (See our position paper “‘Islamophobia’ is Blasphemy”)
- Social censorship and threats of extrajudicial consequences add to threats from legal (judicial) censorship.
- We denounce the conflation of race and religion which amounts to the denial of freedom of conscience: Racialization of religion.
- Importance of the right to apostasy and the defence of ex-Muslims.
Resources in English
- “Islamophobia” in the Atheist Repertory
- “Islamophobia”: a weapon against reforming Islam, Quotes from Hassan Jamali
- Blog 022: Rethinking “Islamophobia” by J. Doughart & F. S. Al-Mutar.
- Blog 094: Islamophobia: There Is No Such Thing by Bio.
- Blog 109: British Secularists Reject “Islamophobia” Definition by D. Rand.
Ressources en français
- « Islamophobie » dans le Répertoire athée
- Livres :
- L’ISLAMOPHOBIE sous la direction de Jérôme Blanchet-Gravel, Éditions Dialogue Nord-Sud, 2016—Recension
- Un racisme imaginaire : Islamophobie et culpabilité, Pascal Bruckner, Grasset, 2018.
- Islamophobie : Intoxication idéologique, anatomie d’une imposture, Philippe D’Iribarne, Albin Michel, 2019.
- « Islamophobie imaginaire » de Hassan Jamali
- Blogue 022 : Repenser l’« islamophobie » de J. Doughart et F. S. Al-Mutar.
- Blogue 094 : L’islamophobie, ça n’existe pas de Bio.
- Blogue 109 : Des sécularistes britanniques rejettent la définition d’« islamophobie » de D. Rand.
- Nouveau livre de Djemila Benhabib: Islamophobie, mon œil !