As explained previously, I consider that 22 years of poor-quality definitions of Islamophobia have made the word incapable of being rescued.
However, in Parliament during May, James Brokenshire committed the Government to coming up with its own definition. To save it work, I am supplying one.
In my view, the key goal of any new definition must be to make it clear that, like antisemitism and homophobia, Islamophobia is about how you treat other people, and not about your views regarding an abstract noun (Islam).
I have intentionally used the structure of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism, since it has become an industry standard. I have also added some emphasis, as there are certain words in the IHRA (Interntional Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition which many people regularly ignore or forget about.
The definition of Islamophobia
The definition below is intended as a complete, self-contained, replacement for all previous definitions. Accordingly, any commentaries on those earlier definitions should be ignored when construing this definition.
“Islamophobia is a negative perception of Muslims, which may in extreme cases be expressed as violence toward Muslims, and in less extreme cases as hatred of Muslims, discrimination against Muslims, and abusive language against Muslims.
Rhetorical and physical manifestations of Islamophobia may be directed toward Muslim individuals.
They may also be directed against non-Muslim individuals either because they are wrongly believed to be Muslims or because they are considered sympathetic to Muslims.
They may also be directed towards the property of such Muslim or non-Muslim individuals, or towards Muslim community institutions and religious facilities.”
Guidance on the use of the definition
The following examples may serve as illustrations.
Manifestations of Islamophobia might include extreme, and repetitive attacks upon the religion of Islam, asserting that it is a uniquely violent religion, or that Muslims have historically sought to exterminate all non-Muslims or sought to compel all non-Muslims to convert to Islam.
However, criticism of Islam similar to that levelled against any other religion, including asserting that Muhammad created the Quran from available extant sources, or other academically argued challenges to the history or theology of Islam, cannot be regarded as Islamophobic. Nor is it Islamophobic to point out that at specific times in specific places some Muslim rulers have practiced forced conversion.
Islamophobia frequently charges the generality of Muslims today with seeking to harm humanity, or with seeking to impose Islam on others. It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of Islamophobia in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
- Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Muslims in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
- Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Muslims such as the claim that Muslims wish to take over countries into which they have immigrated by demographic expansion.
- Accusing Muslims as a category of religious people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Muslim person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Muslims.
- Denying the fact, scope, or intentionality of genocides where Muslims are the victims as in the case of Srebrenica or more recently in the case of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar.
- Accusing Muslim citizens of being more loyal to Muslim majority countries, or to the alleged priorities of Muslims worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
- Applying double standards by requiring of Muslims a behaviour not expected or demanded of other religious groups.
- Using the symbols and images associated with terrorists who are Muslims (e.g. swords dripping blood, images of Jihad) to characterize Muslims generally.
- Holding Muslims collectively responsible for the actions of terrorist groups such as ISIS or Al Qaeda.
- Seeking to demonise the Prophet Muhammad by using abusive language such as “paedophile”. (Simply pointing out the widely believed age of Aisha at the time of her marriage is not Islamophobic, as many Muslims also believe that she was very young when she was married. It is the type of language used, and an obsession with this issue, that is an indicator of probable Islamophobic attitudes.)
Islamophobic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law. For example, Austria has a blasphemy law which has been used to convict someone of anti-Islamic blasphemy.
Criminal acts are Islamophobic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Muslim or linked to Muslims.
Islamophobic discrimination is the denial to Muslims of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.
I am not expressing a view in this article about under what circumstances, if any, Islamophobic acts or discrimination should become criminal acts: that will be for a later piece which I hope ConservativeHome will carry.