On Sunday, Richard Dawkins tweeted the following:
Decent, nice, liberal people must stop being so terrified of being thought “Islamophobic” and stand up for decent, nice, liberal values.
Our friend Gretchen responded:
@RichardDawkins That’s sort of like saying that people should stop being terrified of being thought racist and stand up for anti-racism.
We hear variations on this fairly often, but it’s based on a false dichotomy. One can be opposed to both Islam (especially in its reactionary forms) and opposed to Islamophobia, which is real and does exist — especially in the United States. Reactionary Islam is a vile, barbaric belief system that is astonishingly repressive and dangerous, probably the most malevolent belief system on the planet at the moment (at least that has any real influence). But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t genuine Islamophobia that decent, nice, liberal and rational people should oppose.
We see it particularly on the American far right, where people like Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney, David Yerushalmi and others refuse to make any distinctions at all between different types of Muslims. In their world, every Muslim is a violent jihadist and anyone who does not share their ideology and policy preferences — meaning official repression of any rights of Muslims — is a terrorist sympathizer. Not only are they wrong, they’re blatant liars, as with their fraudulent study claiming that Sharia law has invaded America and is being imposed by the courts when, in reality, every single case they cite is the exact opposite of that.
Any rational liberal should be opposed to both the imposition of Sharia law and to the vastly exaggerated fear and paranoia being advocated by the Islamophobes to justify repressive, unconstitutional policies like denying the right to build mosques or forbidding Muslim immigration into the country. Both of those things are violation of liberal values and both should be fought against with equal vigor.