This is a guest post by Muhammad Islam
My name is Muhammad Islam and, as my name suggests, I was born and raised a Muslim. I come from a devout religious family in which my sisters wear hijab and strictly observe Islamic rituals whilst my parents do their best to encourage their children to live according to strict Islamic principles. I was also raised in a large Muslim community and so most of my childhood friends and class fellows were Muslim.
I love my parents, my siblings and my many Muslim friends. I respect their right to believe and practise Islam in any way they like but, personally, I hate the religion of Islam. I regard Islam, like other Abrahamic faiths, to be an anachronistic, regressive and damaging force in the world. I don’t like its teachings, I don’t like its Prophet and I don’t like its holy book. I regard myths dreamt up illiterate and ill-informed stone-age tribal leaders as dangerous, especially if they are adhered to in the 21st century. As such I am Islamophobic.
I am also communistphobic, fascistphobic, Hinduphobic, Christophobic and phobic of many other political and religious ideologies. I think I have a right to hold this view, and the right to reject and criticise other ideas and belief systems that I don’t like or disagree with. However, I am a strong believer in equality and liberty, I believe all humans should be given the same legal, civic and human rights and no discrimination on the basis of creed, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation should be tolerated.
I have increasingly felt the need to clarify my personal views on religion because every time I have criticised the religion of Islam in recent years, I have been accused of Islamophobia, in many cases by non-Muslims. I have often responded to such accusations by saying ‘yes I am Islamophobic and phobic of many other ideologies and belief systems that I think stunt intellectual growth and human progress’. However, what my critics perhaps mean to say is that I am anti-Muslim in the sense that I hate all people of Muslim background and wish to discriminate against them.
Although I would describe myself as an atheist I don’t hate Muslims and would oppose any form of discrimination against Muslims on the basis of creed. Culturally I am a Muslim in that Islam does inform my identity, to some extent, and many of my loved ones are Muslim. The usage and popularisation of an inaccurate term like ‘Islamophobia’ has led by people being maligned merely for expressing an opinion about a belief system. This is an extraordinary and bizarre set of circumstances where people of a Muslim background are not able to criticise and open express views about a religion that has influenced their life.
The use of Islamophobia as a tool to stifle anti-religious and anti-theocratic dissent is a very deliberate strategy used by Islamists and sections of the far-left as well as activists within the anti-racist scene. When used by Islamists the intention is to brand all criticism of Islamist politics discriminatory in nature whilst all criticism of Islam as a faith is deemed bigoted since it is inspired by hate. When used by non-Muslims the intention is to use Muslim causes to drive through an anti- capitalist agenda in which Muslims are the new victims of western imperialism. In the process, short-comings of Islam and extremism within Muslim communities must be over-looked because, in the grand scheme of things, the leftist struggle against the right and the forces of evil capitalism are the greater enemy.
This grand-strategy also has very real implications for the Muslims that leftists are supposedly interested in defending. It means gender inequalities and gender-based discrimination within Muslim communities is not adequately tackled. It means practises such as FGM, forced marriage, honour killings and forced veiling are able to proliferate because western liberals who are supposed to care about these issues chose to ignore them out of fear of losing the support of reactionary Islamists. It means hate preachers are free to roam British university campuses and openly promote homophobia, anti-Semitism and the death penalty against free-thinkers like me.
When the term Islamophobia is used as a slur against those who are critical of Islamist extremists and Islam as a belief system, the reactionary forces within Muslim communities are empowered and able to aggressively promote their hate and bigotry. Hence, a supposed attempt to stamp out bigotry and hatred actually leads to more bigotry and hatred. The selective moral outrage of many British anti-racism campaigners, who put so much effort into challenging the EDL yet are completely silent about the far more extreme Anjem Choudary network, empowers extremists and makes life difficult for ordinary Muslims.
The champions of Islamophobia are the real bigots and discriminators here since they are prepared to overlook a whole host of serious problems within Muslim communities for their own narrow political ends. It is they who encourage Muslim extremists by allying with them and attacking those within Muslim communities who criticise them. They champion the most reactionary elements within Muslim communities because for them the angry, reactionary and anti-western Muslims are the only authentic Muslims. Only angry Muslims that air a victimhood narrative can be instrumentalised for the far-left cause and those that challenge their worldview are seen as inconvenient obstacles to be smeared with charges of Islamophobia.
Take, for example, Amnesty International’s promotion of Moazzam Begg, a man with a long track record of promoting jihadism who is now in police custody on terrorism charges. Moazzam may have been the victim of human rights abuses but that doesn’t make him a champion of human rights. Take the left’s adoption of Mehdi Hasan as one of their spokespersons, a man clearly imbued with hatred for non-Muslims who chooses to compare non-believers with animals. A man with a very clear socially conservative agenda with no left-wing credentials whatsoever, other than his dislike for western capitalist governments. Then we have Unite Against Fascism (UAF) a supposedly anti-racism group that has Islamist extremist like Azad Ali in its management structure.
Life for many outspoken atheists of a Muslim background today is very difficult, especially since many of them, like me, are on the Left. Not just because conservative Muslims want us dead and our families and communities shun us, but because so-called liberals accuse us of bigotry and discrimination. It seems the age of reason and science was not meant for us, it was just for white Europeans. We are supposed to remain mired in ignorance and superstition whilst westerners observe and study us like zoo animals.
Our right to criticise Islam is effectively criminalised and we are supposed to sit back and watch reactionary Muslims become the spokespersons for Muslim communities. We are supposed hinder progress within our own communities because it’s not convenient for some. I want to reclaim my right to be Islamophobic , I want to proudly declare my Islamophobia and make it clear that I will fight for my right to criticise, ridicule and even mock Islamic dogma.
My Name is Muhammad Islam and I am an Islamophobe.