LETTER TO SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST
Associate professor Cherian George attacks what he sees as a vast right-wing islamophobia industry. [SCMP, 28 February].
But he should get his targets straight. He conflates Muslims (people) and Islam (an idea).
Hateful actions towards Muslims certainly need to be criticised or prosecuted.
Islam, the idea, (the ideology, the religion) must be subject to scrutiny and criticism, just as catholicism, communism, fascism or capitalism are. Ideas cannot take offense no matter what the criticism. I criticise communism. That doesn't mean I'm a Sinophobe.
Yet George mixes people and ideas so that any critic of Islam (as I am) becomes a Muslim-hating islamophobe (which I am not).
He sees his targets as part of an "Islamophobic right-wing network".
I can't discern any "network" despite having followed the issues for twenty years. Moreover critics of problematic aspects of Islam range across the field: on the Left, there's Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Maajid Nawaz, Hirsi Ali, Ali Rizvi Myriam Namazie, and many others. True liberals will find fault with misogyny, homophobia, sectarianism, intolerance, lack of religious freedom and so on, wherever it appears, in Islamic doctrines and practices or not.
Concern about new mosque building may be rational. Four separate studies in the US, including one by the NYPD and one by a Muslim sheik, have shown over 80% of American mosques promote disturbingly violent sermons and literature.
An undercover (Muslim) photographer recently went back to Regent's Park Mosque in London. She found imams teaching the subjugation of women, hatred of non-Muslims and killing of homosexuals. This, years after mosque officials had promised to improve since the first "undercover mosque" exposé. Nothing had changed.
In my own country, Australia, authorities are right now dealing with state-run schools that have allowed Muslim male pupils not to shake hands with females and excluded female teachers from public activities such as graduation days. All done under pressure of Islamic values.
Surely these are illiberal things that must be resisted by liberals everywhere, without being branded "Islamophobes". We have fought for centuries to develop inclusive, fair and tolerant societies. We don't want to give up those values.
Criticisms of illiberal values by people Left, Right or centre is only proper.
It is not islamophobia, no matter how much apologists like associate professor George may say so.