Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Musings on a 'meaningless word'

One fellow Welsh blogger described it as "the most meaningless word of our age". I'm sure that for many non-Muslims it must be, just like racism must be pretty meaningless if you're part of the racial majority (or racial elite), like sexism must be pretty meaningless if you're a man (or an Amazon). To Europe's Muslim minorities, however, 'Islamophobia' is about as meaningless to us as the word 'Anti-Semitism' is to Europe's Jews.

We're only half way through July and already we've seen:

(A) The passing of the 14th anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre (the largest single act of genocide against a faith minority in Europe since WWII)
(B) The bombing of the offices of the Muslim equivalent of Christian Aid, in Glasgow
(C) The seizure of what is believed to be the largest terrorist arsenal in England (belonging to Far Right extremists) since the IRA campaign of mainland bombings of the early 1990s and;
(D) The murder of a woman and her unborn child in a German courtroom for wearing a piece of cloth on her head.

So how to classify these hate crimes? Some of them are clearly not motivated by racial prejudices but rather by religious ones. Europe's Jews, despite being considered a racial minority group nonetheless have a distinctive word for the hatred, discrimination and assaults against their persons and property - simple 'racism' is too much of a catch all term in this instance that simply doesn't acknowledge the racial/religious distinction in motivation. Muslims are definitely not a single racial minority group and it is quite possible that a Muslim in Europe may find themselves on occasion targeted by someone of their own racial background (be that black, white or brown). Of course, if anyone would like to offer an alternative word to describe the act of religiously motivated hate crimes against Muslims I'll be happy to start using it, because one term like Anti-Semitism is agreed upon by Jews and Gentiles alike and we know it when we see it. Until then, Islamophobia, a word in circulation for at least 10 years, is the only one we have to categorize for example, the kind of pathological hate that drives a man into such a violent frenzy that he could stab a pregnant woman, a complete stranger, to death.


A more accurate complaint against the word Islamophobia might be that it can be overused and also misapplied - but meaningless it certainly isn't.

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