An Analysis of Islamaphobia

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Phobia from the Greek Phobos translates as fear. By definition a phobia is an irrational fear, not based on a realistic appraisal of the feared stimulus. This is not always clear, as might be true of ailurophobia-fear of cats as a result of negative exposure. Whether it can be clinically significant depends on the degree of disability. Fear of the unfamiliar and unknown as is the case with agorophobia can be quite incapacitating. Such people are hyper designed towards survival and self-preservation.

We are biologically predetermined to deal with fears through fight or flight. This is a programmed reflex. In evaluating Islamaphobia the irrationality is not so easily dismissed. As a subset of xenophobia, it may be a quite understandable extension of human hard wiring towards fear of strangers and those outside our known and familiar social group. That is until new information arrives to dispel the danger of contact.

The current events in Paris of course do nothing to diminish the perceived risk of exposure to
Muslims. Many of the faithful engage in apologetics and maintain that terrorism is not mainstream Islam. I have previously indicated that the separation of terrorists from mainstream is only a matter of degree, a continuum in other words.

The teachings of Islam in its Sharia format are notoriously anachronistic. Islam to various degrees fears modernization and secularization. Gays and “adulterous” feminists are threats and are not just shunned  but executed in sadistic fashion.

Saudi Arabia remains a fascist state with strict adherence to a medieval morality. Not so with Muslim Indonesia. The Indonesian Constitution provides “all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief” and states that “the nation is based upon belief in one supreme God.”

The Ministry of Religious Affairs extends official status to seven faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Bahá’í. Atheism and agnosticism are not explicitly outlawed but socially stigmatized. So there is to some extent a modern separation of church and state and thus tolerance. One could say that this is mature Islam and that the form practiced by radicals and conservatives is infantile.

Infants react to frustration of their impulses with anger and rage- read violence. The brains of conservative Islamics (much like reactionaries anywhere) tend to short out the operation of the empathic based  moral centre of the pre frontal cortex.

Literal and unexamined interpretations of the Quran is as dangerous as that of the Bible. Muslim apologists like to correctly point out that Judaea Christian morality is intolerant. But in modern states, secular law assumes priority.

The Muslim apologists point out that Christian “infidels and crusaders” (note the 12th century referencing) have had their fling with stonings and burnings, the key word being had….

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A somewhat folksy response to this is…”For those criticizing Islam for not “keeping up with the times”, (for lagging behind the alleged progress of Christianity) bear in mind that the dude known as Muhammad  existed about 6 centuries after the dude known as Jesus. So give the Islamists a 600-year break, already!”

But waiting for Islam to grow up could be catastrophic.  There are very fundamentalist Jews and Christians out there but “they don’t go around cutting heads off and shit”.

The difficulty in differentiating the “Indonesian” from the “Saudi” mentality is what  fosters Islamaphobia. Consider this thought experiment: you are sitting in a transit terminal. Opposite are 4 dark-skinned bearded men. Each has a suitcase under their chair. You are told that they are  named Chaim, Okumbo, Mahmoud, and Singh. You are also reliably informed that there is a bomb in one suitcase. It will go off in 60 seconds. Which one will you toss out? 100% of people I test this out on go for the Muslim.

As long as modern Islam with some exceptions creeps along with this …Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”, there will be Islamaphobia.

Unlike nearly all of the Old Testament verses of violence, the verses of violence in the Quran are mostly open-ended, meaning that they are not restrained by the historical context of the surrounding text.  They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah.

And so these infantile rationalizations and interpretations perpetuate the danger and the justification of Islamophobia. The antidote to this might be to distinguish the individual from the group.

In 1968 I began university. I met a chap from Egypt and we became good friends. As I was pro-Israel we avoided the politics of the recent 6 day war. He tolerated my fondness for agnosticism, beer, bacon, and lust of French girls in miniskirts. And I tried to tolerate his “neolithic” world view and reluctance to attend engineering student frat parties. We got along fine.

That’s the treatment of any phobia. Exposure therapy to the feared stimulus. Not avoidance.
So invite a Muslim to dinner and conversation; just don’t serve pork roast and Chardonnay.

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One Response to “An Analysis of Islamaphobia”

  1. Carole Kocian says:

    True!

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