“Islamophobia”: apples, oranges, it’s all bigotry

By Guest Columnist Aug 02, 2007

dnA originally wrote at Too Sense: Paula Zahn gave Dennis "Everyone Must Swear On The Bible" Prager a forum on Tuesday to perform a series of verbal acrobatics not seen since "weapons of mass destruction related activities." Prager uses a game of semantics to rationalize his Islamophobia as "not racist". The obvious question in response is lost to Zahn, who is unable to walk and chew gum at the same time.

ZAHN: So, let me read just a small part of what you wrote, so our viewers know what exactly we’re talking about here: "One can rightly or wrongly fear Islam or more usually aspects of Islam and have absolutely no bias against all Muslims, let alone be a racist." How can you say it is not racist to fear an entire group of people? PRAGER: Well, that’s the point. The brilliance of the term — and that’s the title of my piece, that it is a brilliant term, Islamophobia — remember, it means fear of Islam, not fear of Muslims. See, you have — there is anti-Semite. There’s racist. That is fear of people or hatred of people. Islamophobia was a brilliant term because it meant that any criticism of Islam, not of Muslims, but any criticism of Islam is equal to racism. And I gave example after example where they’re lumped together. But Islam has nothing to do with race. You might as well say that anybody who has fear of conservatism is a racist or fear of — conservatism phobia or liberal phobia, anyone who fears liberalism, is a racist. ZAHN: Would you be offended by… PRAGER: But nobody would say that. It is absurd. ZAHN: Would you be offended if someone used the word Jewophobia? PRAGER: Judaism phobia would be fear of Judaism. But they don’t use that term. There are people who may not like Judaism. There are people who could say anything they want about Judaism. That is my religion. It is criticized. Christopher Hitchens criticized it in his book. I don’t think he has an anti-Semitic bone in his body. But that’s the whole point. But, if you criticize Islam, you’re considered to be a racist. But, if you criticize Judaism, nobody thinks you’re a racist. That’s the point of the brilliance of the term. That’s why — one of the many reasons you can no longer criticize only one group. For example, to use the theme that you were using before, if you have a if you have a Koran in the toilet, which is disgusting, absolutely, and reprehensible, that’s all of a sudden a hate crime. But if you have a crucifix in a man’s pee, "Piss Christ," that’s at galleries and museums and a man makes money on it, which gives you an idea, because there is no Christianophobia, Christianity phobia, but there is Islamophobia. And, so, the word and the intimidation have been very effective in intimidating any equal reaction to the religion…

The argument that Islamophobia is not "racism" per se misses the point. It is like arguing that apples are not fruits because they are not oranges. Technically, anti-Semitism isn’t racism either, since it is a hatred based on religion, not race. But Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism are all strains of bigotry, a word that is not once mentioned in the entire exchange between Zahn and Prager. Prager’s extolling of the "brilliance" of the word Islamophobia reminds me of a child arguing that they aren’t responsible for breaking the living room lamp just because they knocked it over. After all, it was the floor that really broke it. Either way, no one is fooled. The fact that Prager thinks Islamophobia is a "brilliant" term because he believes lets him off the hook for being a bigot suggests the man should not be allowed to operate complex machinery. The question is not whether Islamophobia is "racism". The question is whether it is bigotry. And since Islamophobia requires generalizing about hundreds of millions of people because of their beliefs, it is indeed bigotry. Holding an entire group of people accountable for the actions of a few through simple association is bigotry. And Mr. Prager is an unapologetic bigot, a man attempting vainly to obscure his bigotry through childish word games encouraged by a clueless talking head.