Friday, November 16, 2007

"Islamophobia" and antisemitism

There is no such thing as Islamophobia. Phobias are irrational fears. There is nothing irrational about fearing and disliking people who blow up your buildings, trains, buses and nightclubs. And since the 7/7 atrocity in Britain -- which was committed by Muslims who seemed to be well-assimilated into British society -- it is reasonable to fear or be wary of ALL Muslims. Nobody can tell which Muslim might be the next mass-murderer. It could be your neighbour or workmate and you could be among the victims.

So the term "Islamophobia" is just another attempt by Leftists to stigmatize normal attitudes. "Homophobia" is similarly misapplied. People who dislike or disapprove of homosexuality do not at all need to FEAR homosexuals. They may simply be disgusted by the thought of it -- as many are -- or they may think that the behaviour is simply wrong for one reason or another.

The term "Islamophobia" is useful for Leftists in many ways, however. There seems to be a fashion -- particularly in Europe -- to equate "Islamophobia" with antisemitism -- which is brain dead. I concede that many antisemites are perfectly rational people in general but it remains true that antisemitism is roughly as irrational as "Islamophobia" is rational. Only a Leftist would be unable to see the difference. Where Muslims are largely parasitical on Western civilization, Jews are great contributors to it, for instance.

A recent article in the WSJ makes similar points to what I have said above but makes that a jumping-off-place for discussing yet again the origins of antisemitism. The explanation favoured by the author -- Uriya Shavit -- is however a rather fanciful one. It is, somewhat amazingly, an attempt to show that there ARE important commonalities between "Islamophobia" and antisemitism. Shavit claims that both Jews and Muslims have territorial loyalties as well as religious loyalties. Jews are loyal to the land of Israel and Muslims are loyal to the Muslim "world" or "Ummah".

It is difficult to know where to start in commenting on that. For a start, it is a classic antisemitic slur to say that Jews have dual loyalties. I suppose it is true of some Jews to an extent but Shavit seems to be endorsing it as being true of Jews in general. And the claim that people are fearful of Muslims because of dreams in Muslim heads rather than because of what many Muslims actually DO is extraordinary.

I wonder if Shavit and A.B. Yehoshua (the writer to whom Shavit attributes his ideas) have ever talked to any actual antisemites. I spent some years doing so (see here, here and here) and found that most of the usual explanations for antisemitism were correct: Envy, scapegoating, a need for explanation etc. I also however found that the rather tribal morality that a subset of Jews practice was known and objected to (See here). So there is some minor rationality in antisemitism of that sort. Anybody who cannot see the difference between peaceful Jews and the actively hostile Muslims is not being serious, however.

As always, reality is complex but the reality Shavit discusses is one of the central issues of the day so dreamy simplifications of it do us all a great disservice.

So if "Islamophobia" is a myth, what expression should we use to describe wariness towards Muslims? Perhaps not surprisingly, we lag behind Germans in the matter. The two German terms "Judenhass" and "Muslimhass" are short and to the point: Translatable as "Jew-hate" and "Muslim-hate". Both terms are however exaggerations. I do know some antisemites who really do hate Jews and I have no doubt that some Germans hate Muslims but there are also many people who are simply wary or distrustful rather than actively hating anybody.

I think therefore that we should avoid ALL simplifications of this important matter. If we are talking about hatred of Muslims we should say "hatred of Muslims" and if we are talking about distrust of Muslims we should say "distrust of Muslims". Treating all negative attitudes towards Muslims as the same is a denial of reality.

I have also gone to great length to distinguish different negative attitudes towards Jews (See here and here) but I acknowledge that the term is too useful as shorthand for it to be abandoned.

Leftist "anti-Zionists" do however object to being called "antisemites" and they are correct in doing so. Some of them are stupid enough to believe all the old conspiracy theories of classical antisemitism but most hate Jews and Israel simply because both are successful and flourishing. They hate America and "the rich" for the same reason. So even use of the term "antisemitism" does obscure important truths. Unlike "Islamophobia", however, "antisemitism" does not embody false claims about mental health, so is much less pernicious.

Footnote: Being an incorrigible academic, I cannot resist noting that the term "antisemitism" (Antisemitismus) was coined in 1879 by a German (oddly enough!) named Wilhelm Marr -- who was hostile to Jews even though (because?) he was married to one!



Media ignores Iraq because of success of surge: "Last weekend's news coverage of our veterans was welcome, but deceptive. The "mainstream media" honored aging heroes and noted the debt we owe to today's wounded warriors - but deftly avoided in-depth coverage from Iraq. Why? Because things are going annoyingly well. All those reporters, editors and producers who predicted - longed for - an American defeat have moved on to more pressing strategic issues, such as O.J.'s latest shenanigans. Oh, if you turned to the inner pages of the "leading" newspapers, you found grudging mention of the fact that roadside-bomb attacks are down by half and indirect-fire attacks by three-quarters while the number of suicide bombings has plummeted."

IEDs in Iraq drop sharply: "The number of roadside bombs found in Iraq declined dramatically in August and September from earlier this year, and U.S. officials say the discoveries of thousands of ammunition caches might explain the drop. Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are responsible for at least 60% of U.S. casualties in Iraq... The numbers of IEDs found and the deaths they caused have declined steadily since June. In September, coalition forces found 2,022 IEDs. That's down 38% from March, this year's peak. On Monday, the U.S. command in Baghdad also said rocket and mortar attacks have dropped to their lowest levels in 21 months. The tallies were issued a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said suicide attacks and other bombings in Baghdad also declined."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist". Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party".


No comments: