After seeing article after article claiming Sam Harris and the New Atheists who criticized Islam were guilty of “Islamophobia,” Andrew Zak Williams at New Stateman argues that the atheists have a point. It’s possible that criticism of Islam could be perceived as criticism of Muslims, it’s possible that the statements they make are wrong, but none of that should deter anyone from pointing out that the beliefs of religious people, whatever they are, may be (a) wrong and (b) harmful:
Surely, rational discourse should be permitted to tiptoe cautiously along the hallowed corridors of the house of Islam without the guards frogmarching it out, bellowing allegations of racism and bigotry. Cannot we not agree that the real issue is whether the critiques of Islam proffered by today’s prominent atheists are correct? For instance, does Islam fall short when it comes to women’s rights? Does it trample free speech while enforcing its own precepts, by the sword if necessary? By all means, apologists may disagree with the likes of [Sam] Harris and biologist Jerry Coyne. But what signal is sent by a refusal to permit the issues to be even debated?…
… to resort to the tag “Islamophobia” is justified only if you adapt a bizarre definition of the word that is satisfied merely if the religion is held up to scrutiny, rather than its people being held up to prejudice.
Finally, some common sense on the matter.