Month: June 2017

Islamophobia or justified concern?

Islamophobia or justified concern?

Brigitte Gabriel of Act for America, and people like her, who speak out about the dangers of Muslim extremism are often branded as being Islamophobic.  Are they islamophobic or is it sensible and justified concern?  The Center for Race and Gender at UC Berkely defines Islamophobia as the “unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.”  Mirriam Webster defines it as “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam.”

Let’s think about another phobia, ophidiophobia, or fear of snakes.  I’m a teacher and have been to many presentations about reptiles to school children.  Invariably the presenter brings out a non-venomous snake, drapes it around their neck and encourages children to pet it.  One time the presenter draped the snake over my shoulders and asked me to demonstrate how harmless the snake was.  The children were taught about how this kind of snake is harmless and a few common shibboleths are dispensed with such as, “See it’s not slimy.”  Many children overcome their general fear of snakes enough to pet the snake.  I certainly had no qualms about holding the snake when assured by someone who knew more about snakes, that it was safe to do so.  The children and I  had learned that the specific snake we had just met was not dangerous and so we didn’t need to be afraid of it.   I was happy to hold the snake given to me by the presenter, but other teachers in my school were quite unwilling to even touch the snake.  They could not overcome their generalized fear of snakes, even when they knew the snake was actually harmless.  I think that’s irrational fear, because not all snakes are dangerous.  That is ohidiophobia.  On the other hand, when I’m on my own in the wild, I don’t pick up snakes that I don’t know.  Some poisonous snakes and non-poisonous snakes look similar.  If you don’t know which snakes are poisonous and which aren’t, it’s smarter to err on the side of caution.

So let’s talk about Islamophobia.  Just as it is not phobia to recognize that some snakes are poisonous, it is not phobia to point out that some Muslims wish to wage jihad against non-Muslims, to subjugate us under Islamic rule or kill us if we refuse to follow their rules.  This has happened many times in history and it is still happening today.  Brigitte Gabriel was a Christian in Lebanon when the Muslims overran her country.  She managed to escape with her life but many Christians in her community were killed by the invading Muslim soldiers.  Certainly not all Muslims are soldiers or even support what happened in Lebanon.  But it is not Islamophobia to say that some Muslims are dangerous.  Certainly the ones pictured here are.

It is also not irrational fear or prejudice to be afraid of Muslims you do not know, thinking they might be of the kind that wish to subjugate all non-Muslims.  How would you know?  I have a neighbor, who I am friends with, who is a Muslim and he is neither dangerous nor interested in subjugating us.  Him I know, and he’s great.  But some Muslims, who are dangerous supporters of jihad and the subjugation of non-Muslims, look and act like they are harmless.  And here is where the problem really lies.  Until Muslims find a way to help us non-Muslims know who is who, until the peaceful, harmless, law-abiding Muslims stand up and find a way to publicly reject the Muslims who are not, how are we to know?

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