As I See It: Confused Jews and Islamophobia phobia

The accusation of Islamophobia confuses prejudice with legitimate criticism of Islam and concerns about Islamic extremism.

A protester from a far-right organization holds up a sign which reads "Islam Stop" during a protest against refugees in Lodz, Poland (photo credit: REUTERS)
A protester from a far-right organization holds up a sign which reads "Islam Stop" during a protest against refugees in Lodz, Poland
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The great struggle against radical Islam is being complicated in the West by a phobia of Islamophobia.
Of course, prejudice against Muslims should be condemned. But the accusation of Islamophobia confuses prejudice with legitimate criticism of Islam and concerns about Islamic extremism.
An example of this has surfaced in Britain with the publication by an organization called Hope not Hate (HnH), titled, “The Counter-Jihad Movement: Anti-Muslim Hatred from the Margins to the Mainstream.”
This document profiles 920 organizations and individuals in 22 countries. It says that they make no distinction between moderate Muslims and extremists, that they are “mainstreaming” anti-Muslim hatred, and that their “anti-Muslim rhetoric poisons the political discourse sometimes with deadly effect.”
Outrageously, the document links neo-Nazi and fascist groups with Middle East scholars such as Dr. Daniel Pipes and even with courageous Muslim reformers such as Dr.
Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, and stellar counter- jihadists such as the Somalian campaigner Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
A number of these counter-jihadists already live under a permanent Islamist threat to their lives. Yet, astoundingly, HnH accuses them of spreading anti-Muslim hatred.
I, too, am included in this grotesque list, even though I have repeatedly acknowledged the many millions of Muslims who are neither extreme nor violent and emphasized that the Islamist perspective is merely one interpretation of Islam. Moreover, I am described as a “supporter of Israel” – as if it is axiomatic that Israel supporters will be Muslim-bashers.
Like several other victims of this document’s smears, I have placed this matter in the hands of my lawyers. But there is a yet more disturbing aspect to this calumny. For HnH is supported and backed by mainstream UK Jewish organizations.
Indeed, I can reveal that it has been funded by the Community Security Trust (CST) – which otherwise enjoys a stellar and deserved reputation for guarding British Jews against attack.
It appears that the CST knew nothing of this report until it was published.
Nevertheless, one has to ask how it could have funded an organization that thinks like this.
HnH was an offshoot of the anti-fascist paper Searchlight from which HnH’s executive director, Nick Lowles, split in 2011. Lowles, a far-left activist, has equated anti-fascism not with fighting totalitarian Islamists but with attacking Islamophobia.
Although he did condemn al-Muhajiroun as a “hate group,” praised the banning of a radical preacher from the London School of Economics and condemned Islamic State, most of his attacks have been directed not at Islamic extremists but at those who fight them.
Despite the message of “solidarity” Lowles offered the murdered Charlie Hebdo journalists, in 2012 he implied that the magazine was somehow asking for it by “publishing obscene cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.” These Muslim haters,” he wrote on his blog, “know that any stupid stunt is going to cause a reaction, and probably a violent one at that...”
He went further. All anti-jihadists, he claimed, were really “Muslim haters.” So he drew no distinction between those who really were prejudiced against Muslims and those who fought Islamist extremism and violence.
And he went further still. “There is a depressingly symbiotic relationship between the Muslim haters and the very people they claim to oppose. They need each other. In fact, they welcome the actions of the other to justify their own activities.”
If you think that through, you will realize that in effect this blames all jihadi violence on those who oppose Islamist extremism.
Did the CST really not know about any of this? Even now it won’t condemn HnH or its report. I asked it why it had not denounced HnH for putting courageous Muslim reformers at further risk by accusing them of spreading hatred of Islam, and for implying that Israel-supporters should be presumed by definition to hold such hateful views.
This was its reply. “CST’s past support of HnH was because of its many years of work against the far Right. We note that legal actions have begun regarding this report, and do not, therefore, wish to publicly comment on this particular matter.”
The CST is not the only UK Jewish organization to have made common cause with HnH.
Last summer, the Board of Deputies and the London Jewish Forum joined HnH in the “Golders Green Together” initiative to stop a planned demonstration by neo-Nazis in a predominantly Jewish area of north London.
Such an unholy alliance was rooted in the assumption among many Diaspora Jews, especially those on the Left, that anti-Semitism and thuggish political violence are to be found only among neo-Nazis or on the far-right. It is an article of faith that what is not Left is Right, what is Right is evil and so all that is not Left is evil.
That explains the astounding comment by Abe Foxman, former head of the US Anti-Defamation League, who told a Jerusalem conference a while back that there was no anti-Semitism on the Left in Europe, only on the far-right.
Such tunnel vision is exacerbated by the Jews’ collective memory of their long history of persecution, ethnic cleansing and exile.
As a result of this mindset, neo-Nazis are conflated with democratic nationalists who merely want to halt the mass immigration now threatening to submerge Europe. They, too, are thus deemed to be fascists.
The result is a reckless absence of self-preservation by Diaspora Jews in seeking to embrace those who would kill Jews or destroy Israel.
Hence the campaign by both Orthodox and progressive denominations in Britain to welcome all Syrian refugees, despite well-founded warnings that an unknown number of these may have been recruited by Islamic State or other Islamists.
This perverse behavior stems partly from fear and ignorance, but also from a supremely shallow identification with another religious minority whose clothing and rituals set it aside from the mainstream.
It also reflects the grip of interfaith work.
This precludes addressing any truths so unpalatable that they might cause Muslims to walk out, thus imperiling their support on issues of apparent common interest such as defending ritual animal slaughter and circumcision.
Mostly, though, it reflects the equation made by Diaspora Jews between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. This equation is utterly false. Anti-Semitism is pure bigotry, reflecting hatred of Jews not for what they do but for what they are. Islamophobia, by contrast, is nothing other than a mind-bending smear designed to stigmatize and silence all who seek to expose or fight Islamic extremism and holy war.
The result of this false equation is that UK Jewish leaders have identified the community with the campaign to eradicate Islamophobia.
This means they stigmatize as Islamophobic anyone – including Jews and courageous gentile supporters of Israel – who criticizes aspects of the religion or culture of Islam.
So even speaking of Muslim anti-Semitism – which has claimed countless Jewish lives – is deemed Islamophobic.
That is why such Jews are lending their support – so appallingly and suicidally – to an organization that promotes hatred rather than hope.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).