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So Is Islamophobia a Weasel Word?

Ville Kokko

Posted on December 2, 2021 08:32

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Khadija Khan's article on Areo raises an important possibility that claims of "Islamophobia" are being used as an excuse for extremism and misogyny. However, the specific examples only seem to undermine the case.

In an article on Areo magazine, Khadija Khan argues:

False accusations of Islamophobia are launched to suppress criticism of Islam, and to smear critics of religious laws and rituals.

The conflation that the word represents—between valid criticism of religious beliefs and bigotry against Muslims as people—provides Islamists with the cover they need to foster hatred and prejudice, and to justify their nefarious ends without facing any resistance from within the community.

I should say I find this perfectly possible and plausible. It's exactly the kind of thing I'd expect to happen, and the claim may well be true.

Nevertheless, I want to raise up some points about the specific details in the article. It's odd what kind of examples Khan uses to support her point.

There's little question that the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan is likely a strong setback for the rights of women there, or that extremist Islam specialises in kicking women in the head in general. The Left Hand of God trilogy brutally but not unfairly satirises this with a fictional religion where the men hate and despise their women, but also believe that their own honour is contained within the women so they have to guard it by guarding them.

Further, I know that wearing the veil is a forced and oppressive act for many Muslim women.

It's just that when it comes time to give examples of how the accusation of Islamophobia is used to stop the struggle against religious oppression, Khan talks almost exclusively about protests that forbidding the wearing of the veil is Islamophobic.

This example doesn't really carry the argument. Are all those women who are controlled by their male relatives going to be more free if someone else forbids them wearing the veil? I also don't think it's implausible that bans on "religious symbols" could really be an excuse in a tug-of-war of who gets to control how Muslim women dress rather than a genuine attempt at religious neutrality.

I also know some Muslim women choose to wear the veil of their own accord. It's perfectly possible for this to coexist with its being oppressive for others, and even some of the same people. Forbidding it is just another form of control from the outside.

Maybe Khan is concerned with the rhetoric that the veil is always benign or a symbol of emancipation, and I can certainly share that concern.

Khan complains that certain extremists want to hijack Islam in their image, but she also complains about comment such as that "This is not Islam." Wait, so should Islam be identified with the extremists or not? I can kind of see this point too, though, since Khan writes that it's not good to totally dissociate the oppression from the religion. It's a kind of double-edged sword, since being a moderate Muslim is going to involve that dissociation by definition.

I guess this shows that it's a fine line to walk between oppressing and letting oppress.

Ville Kokko

Posted on December 2, 2021 08:32

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Source: NME

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