I put this term in quotes because it's impossible to define. Does it mean criticism of the faith, or of any single adherent, or all adherents? Or is it implied criticism of any of the latter? Because the term is so hard to define, it will be judged arbitrarily to scare people - and probably subjectively too. Will there be a report of islamophobia - fair or not - every day, tying the police up?
Quite simply, is there anything we can safely say about Islam, apart from the most servile praise, that won't attract the interest of the Thought Police?
Freedom of speech RIP
The result of this crackdown will be that Islamist extremists will have succeeded in damaging one of our key liberties - freedom of speech. No faith or group should be exempt from criticism. This would be a victory for the enemies of our way of life.
If the rationale for all this is that government is afraid that the wider Muslim community are in danger of being "offended" or alienated then this approach is feeble. Some Muslims are shocked by the atrocities committed in the name of their religion. They feel responsible.
But too often the first response from many Muslims to terrorist attacks seems to be "oh great, we're going to be blamed for this. We're the victims". This attitude is extremely disturbing, and needs to be challenged. Unfortunately the British Left often encourage it, and I think this is criminal stupidity on their part. We should be tougher on this, treading on eggshells makes us look weak.
A further problem is with making Islamophobia a crime when one can say anything one likes about Christianity, or any other religion. I know people who are exceptionally rude about Christianity, but worry that they'll be seen as racist if they say the same about Islam. There is no reason why Muslims should expect or receive special status
About 40 years ago the film The Life of Brian was released, one of the funniest films I've seen. Proponents of free speech asserted - sometimes vehemently - that we should be able to say whatever we liked, even about things society holds dear. Where is that belief now?
People don't criticise Islam so much (although some point to disturbing passages from its holy book), because of two fears: the fear of being called "racist" (or "xenophobe" or "Islamophobe"), and the fear of being killed by a fanatical believer for making the criticism.
Context and censorship
- We have had 3 major Islamist attacks in as many months.
- Apparently there have been 5 foiled plots.
- A nursery nurse has been attacked in London recently by women making reference to Allah (although some broadcasters seem to have forgotten to report that last detail).
- A video has gone viral of a London youth being arrested in possession of 3 machetes.
- We read that there are 23,000 potential jihadis on our Security services' watchlist.
- There has been another attack in Paris in the last few days,
- ..and another in Brussels yesterday.
Some anger is therefore entirely rational from non-Muslim communities in the UK. To make expression of that anger illegal is unjust, and will lead to voter apathy and resentment. It seems that Darren Osborne has targeted Muslims in a serious crime, and will rightly be punished. But the attack on freedom of speech is a dangerous mistake, that will exacerbate tensions rather than ameliorate them.