My column in last week’s Jewish Chronicle, which you can read here, ignited a firestorm of controversy – most of it abusive, much of it tendentious, and all of it missing the point of or actively misrepresenting what I actually wrote.
In the piece I argued that, while attacks on Muslims should be condemned, the specific charge of Islamophobia was designed to silence any criticism of the Islamic world. I further argued that it was terribly wrong to equate antisemitism with Islamophobia, the accusation of which provided cover for Muslim antisemitism.
I will be analysing the furore in my column for the Jewish News Syndicate, which will be posted on this website tomorrow.
In this week’s issue, however, the JC has published a letter signed jointly by the president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, the head of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jonathan Goldstein, and the Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust, David Delew (letter not yet on line).
In their letter, they say they object to my reference to “Islamophobia” being “profoundly anti-Jew”.
This was what I wrote:
“‘Islamophobia’ was invented by the Muslim Brotherhood to mimic antisemitism, the concept which these Islamists falsely believe immunises Jews from criticism — itself an antisemitic belief. So ‘Islamophobia’ appropriates to itself the unique attribute of antisemitism — that it is deranged — in order falsely to label any adverse comment about the Islamic world as a form of mental disorder. The concept of ‘Islamophobia’ is thus profoundly anti-Jew. To equate it with the dehumanising, insane and essentially murderous outpourings of Jew-hatred is obscene.”
I stand by this argument (although the term “Islamophobia” is said to be of older provenance, it was unknown in the west until the Brotherhood deployed it to render the Islamic world immune from criticism). The three leaders do not provide any evidence that it is wrong, nor indeed do they engage with it at all. Instead, they say this:
“We know how hurtful it is when people claim that allegations of antisemitism are just as smear to silence any and all criticism of Israel or when they say they oppose genuine Jew-hatred before then picking apart the word antisemitism as if implying that no such thing really exists. Essentially, Phillips’s article did just that, but there is plenty of survey evidence showing that anti-Muslim prejudice is widespread this country, and it is clear that Islamists’ use of ‘Islamophobia’ has not somehow resulted in ‘the Islamic world’ escaping criticism, regardless of how fair or harsh that criticism may be”.
This is a truly shocking paragraph.
First, it falsely suggests I implied that anti-Muslim prejudice does not exist. I wrote precisely the opposite: “Of course, true prejudice against Muslims should be condemned, just like prejudice against Hindus, Sikhs or anyone else”.
Not only do the three thus misrepresent the whole point of my piece, but they use my own words above to impute to me bad faith in writing them – and imply that I am therefore the equivalent of an antisemitism-denier.
Now, this is becoming quite the new meme favoured by the “antisemitism equals Islamophobia” crowd – that denying Islamophobia is the equivalent of denying antisemitism.
A moment’s thought will tell you how vile and false this is. Denying antisemitism is to deny Jewish victimisation. Rejecting the term “Islamophobia” is not to reject the reality of Muslim victimisation, but instead to reject a term designed to silence legitimate criticism of the Islamic world.
Denying antisemitism is to deny something that is patently true. Those who deny it are themselves antisemites, because in denying that Jews are the victims of prejudice they reveal inescapably that they themselves harbour that prejudice.
I do not deny the existence of anti-Muslim prejudice; my point is about the real purpose of using the term “Islamophobia”. But by making the questioning of “Islamophobia” the equivalent of denying antisemitism, the implication of the leaders’ letter is that I am the equivalent of an antisemite as an anti-Muslim bigot.
In making such a false insinuation about not just me but all those who call out the term “Islamophobia” for what it is – a weapon of holy war – van der Zyl, Goldstein and Delew have thus destroyed any moral claim to speak up for truth and against victimisation on behalf of decent people anywhere.
One further point. Their letter claims that the “use of ‘Islamophobia’ has not somehow resulted in ‘the Islamic world’ escaping criticism”.
This is, to put it mildly, disingenuous. Given the scale and nature of worldwide Islamic jihadi terror and incursion, the amount of properly informed, truthful analysis in the public square of its foundations, strategy and aims has been miniscule.
That’s because, ever since the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and then the violence and multiple murders following the publication of the “Mohammed” cartoons, the western media has been censoring itself over the issue of Islam. Speakers and writers who tell blunt truths about all this find themselves de-platformed, spiked or professionally ostracised by people who are terrified of being labelled “Islamophobic”.
Indeed, the Board of Deputies itself tweeted that the publication of my piece was “an error”. It did not just object to my argument. It objected to the fact that it had been published at all. So in objecting to my argument that “Islamophobia” was used to silence those telling the truth, the Board actually suggested I should have been silenced.
Given the statement to which its president subsequently put her name that the “use of ‘’Islamophobia’ has not somehow resulted in ‘the Islamic world’ escaping criticism”, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
For that disgraceful tweet, the Board should have apologised to me. Instead, we can now see from this letter that Britain’s Jewish community has a crisis of degraded leadership wider and more profound than even its critics could hitherto have imagined.