SOMETHING rare happened last week: I turned to Richard Dawkins for a dose of reality.
When Dawkins writes on science he is clear, precise, almost lyrical; unfortunately when he turns to philosophy he sounds like a know-it-all fourth-former, and when he touches on theology you could get greater insight and depth from your congregation’s Sunday School.
However, Dawkins sometimes talks common sense. I turned to him after reading that an analysis by the Civitas think tank revealed that 52 local authorities in England have passed a motion to adopt a definition of Islamophobia rejected by the government because of free speech concerns. Thirty-four of these authorities are Labour-led, with nine having no overall control, five run by the Liberal Democrats and four Conservative-led.
In 2018 a cross-party group of MPs led by Anna Soubry, a former Tory minister, and Wes Streeting, a Labour backbencher, influenced by radical Muslim groups, issued a report stating that organisations should formally adopt a definition describing Islamophobia as ‘a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’. In 2019, the all-party parliamentary group accepted this definition.
The Government rejected it amid claims that it would limit free speech. Even liberal Muslims have rejected it as it would prevent criticism of radical Islam. Nevertheless, it has been adopted by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Mayor of London and all major political parties in Scotland.
The Civitas report was written by Hardeep Singh, deputy director of the Network of Sikh Organisations and assistant editor of the Sikh Messenger. He argued: ‘If we are not careful, we may soon find ourselves in the rather peculiar situation in this country where we can talk freely about the crusades but may choose to self-censor when it comes to the jihads. Council employees – like history teachers – should especially take note.’
In a YouTube video response to the report released on September 9, Dawkins goes right to the heart of the situation: ‘If your belief is indefensible, your ignominious last resort is to accuse your critics of “phobia”.’
Dawkins has consistently decried the existence of the word Islamophobia, describing it as ‘an otiose word which doesn’t deserve definition’. In the video he states that ‘Islamophobia is a deeply silly and pernicious abuse of language, and is not the only fashionable word ending in “phobia” that condemns itself as a last-resort substitute for rational discussion.’
It is not only the use of the word which offends Dawkins, it is also the hypocrisy of the left and left-leaning who are perfectly willing to entertain and welcome criticism and attacks on Christianity but call for the smelling salts if anyone criticises Islam.
He notes that while most of his attacks on religion have been against Christianity, the religion he knows best, he has never been accused of ‘Christophobia’ and yet he is ‘regularly berated for Islamophobia’.
Dawkins tells of how he had a radio broadcast in California about a totally unrelated subject cancelled ‘because of my reputation for Islamophobia’. He was cancelled ‘not by Muslims but by American so-called liberals’. The left are supportive of Islam and the LGBTQ+ community because they see them as oppressed minorities. They don’t appear to have a problem with the fact that one group utterly rejects the other and, given the right circumstances, are willing to stone them to death and throw them off rooftops.
‘I am not Islamophobic,’ declares Dawkins, and yet if we ‘temporarily redefine “phobic” not as irrational fear but as rational detestation, then I am phobic about the following . . .’ He proceeds to list practices such as stoning women accused of adultery, female genital mutilation, killing cartoonists, and the death penalty for apostasy.
Dawkins concludes: ‘What is especially galling is those Western “liberals” who think Islam is a race, and are so terrified of being thought racist, that they refrain from criticising the above horrors.’
Like Christianity, Islam is a proselytising religion which aims at the conversion of the whole of humanity. As such it inevitably enters a world in which its beliefs and practices will be challenged, sometimes robustly.
Muslims call Christians ‘cross-worshippers’ because we believe Jesus died on the cross whilst Muslims reject this core belief. Christians reject the idea that Muhammad is the last and greatest prophet. Muslims and Christians profoundly disagree on matters which each group sees as central to our understanding of God, the world in which we live, and ourselves.
Muslims and their supporters appear to wish to shut down debate on the grounds that criticism can be offensive to Islam. Christians welcome the interchange of ideas as we see this as an opportunity to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. This is not ‘phobic’, and any attempt to stifle criticism of Islam is deeply worrying.
The taunt of Islamophobia is used to silence any critique of any aspect of the entire Islamic world, including Islamic extremism. As well as the assault on free speech, the growing acceptance of this deeply flawed definition of Islamophobia heralds the backdoor introduction of a blasphemy law in the UK where all religions except one are open to criticism, as they should be, but there is one which must never be mentioned except in terms of acceptance and praise.
We should treat accusations of Islamophobia with the contempt they deserve as a form of cultural thuggery.
This article appears in A Grain of Sand and is republished by kind permission.