What is Islamophobia?

April 17, 2010

What is Islamophobia? The need for a continuous critical scrutiny of Islam.

A phobia is fear, aversion or hatred, especially morbid or irrational of something, from spiders to wide open spaces. Islamophobia is fear of Islam. Yes I do fear it, but it is not irrational; my life and the life of my family is at stake. As an apostate from Islam I am at risk of being assassinated- all the Islamic schools of law whether Sunni or Shia prescribe the death penalty for apostasy. As a public speaker critical of many aspects of Islam I am also risking my life since I am on the death list of many Islamists. But, again, I repeat I am not irrational: I give reasons, arguments and evidence for my views. Criticisms of Islam are not just some empty parlour game but matters of life and death. It is irrational for liberal journals and newspapers to lament the lack of an Islamic Enlightenment and then refuse space to dissidents that criticise Islam as a dangerous ideology. How do these liberals think an Enlightenment will come about without criticism? Islamophobia is a vague term of abuse used to silence criticism of Islam. Islamic nations have also taken up the term Islamophobia to silence any criticism not just of Islam but any discussion of the human rights abuses in Islamic countries. Just to quote the Koran is now considered Islamophobic, and forbidden in the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

I still receive letters from the Islamic world particularly from women telling me to keep up my good work since it was helping them to liberate themselves from an oppressive ideology. At the Secular Islam Summit in Florida a few years ago, I was interviewed by the Arabic language television network, Al Jazeera. I was a little hesitant but went ahead and answered their questions. At the end, the journalists and the camera crew shook my hands and confessed that they agreed with my views but were unable to express them; they also encouraged me to keep up the good work. A few years ago at CFI Conference in Buffalo/ Amherst, for once I had my Ibn Warraq name tag pinned on my lapel. As I was walking along a darkish corridor three South Asian males came towards me, bent down and peered at my name tag and asked in astonishment, "Are you Ibn Warraq. The Ibn Warraq?" I suddenly realised what Salman Rushdie must have felt during his years of hiding: absolute fear. They asked to shake my hands and said that my books had changed their lives.
Dr. Ali [a pseudonym] fom Iraq stayed at the Center for Inquiry for three months, sleeping in one of the guest houses next to my house. I spent much time with him. He revealed that there had been an "Ibn Warraq Fan Club" in Baghdad for many months but had to be disbanded because of threats of violence. Nonetheless, various fan club members are busy translating the works of Dr. Kurtz and Ibn Warraq.

The moral of all these tales and anecdotes is: we must continue criticising Islam-despite charges of Islamophobia- in a responsible way, without demonising all Muslims; there is an obvious need for it, and it seems to have helped countless men and women, and may even help eventually bring about an Enlightenment.