I wouldn’t normally feel the need to have to clarify the intent behind any of my comics, but after seeing how wildly some people missed the point of my strip on catcalling, I thought that this post might be necessary.
Let me be absolutely clear. Islamophobia exists. I’d like my position on that noted right off the bat. It would be entirely dishonest to argue otherwise. But the question is not whether or not Islamophobia exists, but rather what Islamophobia is and, perhaps more importantly, is not.
When a Muslim woman is attacked or harassed on the street for wearing a headscarf, that is Islamophobia. When a follower of Islam is assumed to be a terrorist or religious extremist, that is Islamophobia. When mosques are bombed or otherwise defaced, that is Islamophobia. The widespread sense of fear, hatred, and general distrust of Muslim people in Western society is Islamophobia. Islamophobia is an irrational fear or hatred of Muslim people and culture. That is it’s definition. It is petty, ugly, and harmful to everyone.
Islamophobia is not, however, synonymous with racism – though this isn’t to say that the two are not often linked. Islam is a religion, not an ethnicity. It would be racist to assume that a bearded, middle-eastern looking man is a Muslim, and Islamophobic to then take that one further and assume that because he is Muslim he is part of a terrorist cell or something similarly ludicrous. To hurl around accusations of racism wherever possible Islamophobia presents itself, however, is to ignore that Muslim’s are a diverse group of two billion or more people representing every ethnicity and nationality across the globe.
Islamophobia is also not the same as being critical of Islam as a religion. There is a vast difference between disdain for an entire peoples and disdain for an ideology. The problem we have is that people often seem unable to separate the two. There is an unfortunate tendency as of late to label anyone who is critical of Islam as being bigoted, Islamophobic, and a racist. Of all religions, Islam seems to have reached a privileged status in this regard as I rarely see the same accusations being levied at people who are openly critical of, say, Catholicism or Hinduism.
As an atheist, I regard all religions and their associated myths and doctrines to be rather silly. I don’t say that as a source of some sort of pride, it just is what it is. However, whilst I may dislike religion – of which Islam is included – this does not make me an intolerant person, nor behave in a bigoted way toward those of faith. I do not hate or fear Muslim people, nor would I consider someone who is Muslim to be inferior to me and other such nonsense. Criticism of religion is not akin to hatred for the religious, and in the case of Islam it certainly is not akin to racism.
The TL;DR version of this post? All ideas, be they religious, political, philosophical, or otherwise, should be subject to open discourse, debate, and criticism, and to engage in such activity is not necessarily a hateful endeavour.