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!
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