Saturday, August 15, 2015

The fall and rise of Islamophobia: a counterintuitive view.

The Economist has an interesting - and worrying - counterintuitive argument about the decline of groups like the BNP and EDL here.

It may seem odd that The Economist finds it "alarming" that an EDL organiser who told them

"Whatever you print, don't say that we're a racist organisation, because we're not"

appeared to really mean it, or that there were signs at an EDL rally on which they were reporting of tolerance and acceptance of all minorities other than Muslims.

However, the magazine argues that although the EDL are at best "ignorant, riotous and horribly wrong" they are also  "not nearly as out of step with mainstream Britain as their opponents like to believe."

The article concludes that various aspects of the decline of the EDL are "ominous as well as heartening" because the cause of opposition to Islam "is not dying. It is becoming respectable."

The magazine's argument is that people who oppose, not just Jihadists, but Islam, no longer need to join fringe groups like the EDL to promote that view because such opposition is becoming  acceptable outside the fringe.

Given that there actually is a threat to all civilised people - including the millions of Muslims who do not agree with every word of their doctrines - from Jihadist fanatics like the Taleban, Al Queda, and DAESH (the so-called "Islamic State"), it is not surprising that there should be rising concern about Islamist extremism.

It is, however, entirely counterproductive to blame all Muslims for this or to fail to make any distinction between Islamist extremists on the one hand, and the millions of ordinary decent followers of Islam for whom the name of their religion really does mean "Peace."

Failing to pay enough attention to the threat by genuine extremists would be a grave mistake, but we should be very careful to avoid language which stigmatises those Muslims who have done nothing to deserve it. Front and centre in all measures we take to defend society against the Jihadi extremists should be an open recognition of the fact that the genuine extremists have a track record of mistreating and murdering other Muslims. The moderates, or adherents of the wrong form of Islam, are more likely to become victims of the Jihadists than to be associated with them.

For example, DAISH regards Shia Muslims - all 200 million of them - as apostates who are therefore marked for death. In the immensely unlikely event that the so-called "Islamic State" ever conquered Britain, the 10 to 15% or so of British Muslims who follow Shia rather than Sunni Islam, which is more than 100,000 people, would be among the first people they persecuted and very possibly murdered.

Treating all Muslims as the same is therefore not just unfair, but folly.

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