Times column and exploding brains

While my Times column this morning has attracted much support (for which, many thanks to all) other brains appears to have been exploding over my argument that there is no moral equivalence between antisemitism and Islamophobia.

The New Statesman has devoted an entire article, no less, to what it calls my “terrible column on the ‘fiction’ of Islamophobia, annotated”.

Writer Nicky Woolf laboriously holds up paragraph after paragraph for scrutiny. Presumably she intends to demonstrate that not one of my arguments can withstand the force of such forensic analysis. Alas, all she succeeds in doing is demonstrating over and over again, paragraph by paragraph, her inability to comprehend the essential point, along with some egregious ignorance and distortions.

This absurd diatribe certainly merits no detailed discussion. But one point did stand out. I had written:

“A phobia is not a prejudice but a mental disorder. An irrational terror, it debilitates the victim for whom we feel sympathy. Yet Islamophobia is used to turn people into social pariahs. This is why. A mental disorder has no rational basis. A prejudice is merely a hateful viewpoint.”

Ms Woolf writes in response:

“Obviously, Islamophobia is not rooted in the same psychological basis as true phobias like arachnophobia (irrational fear of spiders), or coulrophobia (irrational fear of clowns); it is simply a shorthand word for a racial prejudice, just like anti-Semitism is. Islamophobia is not a medical diagnosis. Phillips, who is not stupid, must on some level surely know this. But this makes her misattribution of the word’s meaning all the more egregious and dishonest.”

For Ms Woolf, it seems, like Humpty Dumpty after some racial awareness training, the meaning of a word is what she chooses it not to be, neither more nor less – while it’s the person who points out the true meaning of the word who is dishonest. Just ponder that thought process for a moment – and then weep for what was once the British education system.

Readers can judge Ms Woolf’s effort for themselves – if they have the strength – by reading it in conjunction with the essential points I was making, which I provide for your convenience below.


… Criticism is legitimate because it is rational and grounded in evidence. Antisemitism is not criticism. It is instead a unique form of bigotry.

Irrationally, it holds that both Israel and the Jewish people possess a demonic power to control the world. It accuses both of crimes of which they are not only innocent but are themselves the victims. It treats them in ways which it applies to no other people, nation or cause.

Now consider Islamophobia. Anyone who calls out Islamist extremism as a fanatical or primitive interpretation of Islam currently dominant in the Muslim world is called an Islamophobe. Anyone who says the Muslim Brotherhood is a conspiracy to Islamise the world is called an Islamophobe.

Yet evidence abounds to support such observations. Numerous Islamic religious authorities have upheld the uncompromising precepts behind Islamic fundamentalism and holy war.

Muslim Brotherhood documents relating to Britain, Europe and America talk about changing “the very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order, and its creed from ignorance to Islam” and “eliminating and destroying the Western civilisation from within”.

Yet anyone sounding the alarm about this is called Islamophobic. These include the former Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian victim of genital mutilation and prominent critic of Islam who now lives under permanent police guard because of Islamist threats to her life.

Or there’s the Iranian human rights activist Maryam Namazie, whose meeting at Goldsmith’s college London about the rights of ex-Muslims was broken up by the Islamic Society on grounds that any such discussion was “Islamophobic”.

Where the equation between antisemitism and Islamophobia really goes belly-up, though, is over Muslim antisemitism.

According to statistics published by the Jewish Community Security Trust about last year’s record number of antisemitic attacks, the ethnic appearance of the attacker was described in around one third of cases. Of those, around 25 per cent were of Asian, Arab or north African appearance. Many if not most of those are likely to have been Muslims, grossly disproportionate to the community’s estimated four per cent of the population.

Of course not all Muslims are antisemites, just as many Muslims have nothing to do with Islamist extremism and are committed to western norms. And all attacks on Muslims are deplorable.

Nevertheless, medieval and Nazi-style antisemitic texts and images pour out of the Muslim world.

Some Muslims themselves are now calling this out. In an article in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz, the director of the British anti-extremism group Faith Matters Fiaz Mughal draws urgent attention to the way in which parts of the left are seeking to “build a bridge based on antisemitism” with “some sections of Muslim communities where it is entrenched and mixed up with 9/11, 7/7 and other geopolitical conspiracy theories”.

Yet such evidence is generally suppressed because to admit it would invalidate the very basis of the term Islamophobia.

A phobia is not a prejudice but a mental disorder. An irrational terror, it debilitates the victim for whom we therefore feel sympathy. Yet Islamophobia is used to turn people into social pariahs. This is why.

A mental disorder has no rational basis. A prejudice is merely a hateful viewpoint. Unlike a phobia, prejudice does not lie outside reason altogether – which makes a phobia literally unthinkable.

Antisemitism is in fact the only prejudice which can be viewed as a derangement of reason. Islamophobia seeks to arrogate that status to itself.

That’s why the Muslim world invented the term: to turn any criticism of the Islamic world into a pathology. Not only would this silence debate but it would serve a yet deeper project.

For the cause dating back to the Muslim wars against the Jews in the seventh century, now heard again from Islamists and their supporters, is to turn the Muslims into “the new Jews”. But they are not. The new Jews are still the old Jews.

Islamophobia is a mind-bending attempt at thought control. Equating it with antisemitism isn’t merely itself an attack on the Jewish people. Through its rebranding of totalitarian ideology as conscience, promoted by cowards, ideologues and imbeciles, it endangers us all.

Related posts