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October 16, 2006

On Bad Faith - 'The Grievance Reflex' And Islamophobia

David Thompson, a freelance writer whose work appears in The Observer, The Times and The Guardian, has an interesting piece at 3AM Magazine, addressing the growing list of "isms and phobias," in what he refers to as "The Grievance Reflex." Thompson says that in his experience the people who are most obviously scared and irrational are often those who wear their cultural 'sensitivity' like a badge and shy away from any supposedly contentious comment for fear of being defamed on the basis of nothing whatsoever. Of the "isms and phobias" he refers to, he speaks directly of one we've all heard all so frequently lately, and one you'll instantly recognize as one that fits well into the "basis of nothing" category - Islamophobia:

In his recent Civitas report, We're (Nearly) All Victims Now, the criminologist Dr David Green argued that "politically-recognised victim status... has begun to do lasting harm to our liberal culture. Groups who have been politically recognised as victims are starting to use their power to silence people who have had the cheek to criticise them." Green went on to argue: "Modern victim groups create entrenched social divisions by defining opponents as oppressors who not only must be defeated by the state, but silenced by the state." The term 'Islamophobia' was cited as one example of how legitimate questions can be demonised and swept beyond the pale: "The pseudo-psychiatric term Islamophobia is a statement that any criticism of Muslims is evidence of clinical pathology. Yet the label is often attached to valid criticisms of particular Muslims whose behaviour has laid them open to legitimate censure."

... This refusal to offer any rationale for accusations of malign intent takes us to the heart of Dr Green's objections, and of my own mild surprise. Many of those who wield the phrase 'Islamophobe', like some fearsome talisman or hex, fail to provide any substantive argument for the charges being thrown around so readily. Nor, it seems, do they feel remotely obliged to do so. Instead of a coherent argument grounded in evidence and specifics, what we typically find is silence, and, almost inevitably, a demand for more silence.

The recent media-fest surrounding Jack Straw's innocuous and carefully qualified comments about the niqab highlighted this phenomenon. The Lancashire Council of Mosques, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and the Islamic Human Rights Commission promptly characterised Straw's comments as "offensive", "insensitive" and "unwise", while elsewhere the former foreign secretary was roundly denounced as "prejudiced", "racist" and, yes, "Islamophobic". Evidence to support these damning accusations was somewhat hard to find, though some commentators took it upon themselves to hallucinate unspoken motives to suit their assertions, including sexual inadequacy.

It seems the word "Islamophobe" -- and its pseudo-synonym, "racist" -- has acquired the status of a declamatory WMD. Deploying the term, even by vague insinuation, can generally be counted on to shut down the frontal lobes of any left-leaning 'culturally sensitive' person, like some rhetorical kryptonite.

Continue reading, "BAD FAITH."

Cross posted from Hyscience

Posted by Richard at October 16, 2006 3:55 PM

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