Gendered Islamophobia: A New Assassin of the Mind

In retrospect, the acquittal recently of Noor Salman, wife of Pulse Night Club shooter Omar Mateen, revealed the intensified effort to portray Muslims as victims of Islamophobia. Salman’s verdict leaves troubling dilemmas about presumptions. Though found not guilty of obstructing justice and providing material support in Mateen’s jihadist plans, the jury remained convinced she knew of her husband’s jihadist intentions.

Spousal immunity aside, current U.S. law fails to criminalize the silent bystander even as “lone wolf” jihadist terrorism is suspended on a web of willful community blindness.

Far graver was the fallout posed by the defense’s claims of “gendered Islamophobia.” This remarkable assertion marks a turning point in the Islamophobia narrative in the United States, ensuring an Islamist narrative defines the highly contested space between Muslims, Islam, and the West. It is a space Islamism — the 20th century political totalitarianism that masquerades as the imposter of Islam, the legitimate 15 centuries-old monotheism — seeks to dominate.

As an American Muslim woman who observes Islam and objects to Islamism, I see through this deception. Gendering Islamophobia is a particularly coy move to manipulate and intimidate federal authorities including the U.S. Department of Justice, law enforcement, and public opinion.

At least one journalist was quick to pour scorn on the narratives forming around Nasim Jajafi Aghdam (the YouTube gunwoman initially thought to be a Muslim jihadist). These assumptions are considered Islamophobic even though lone wolf attacks in the United States are increasingly associated with the Islamic state.

Academics have correctly described Islamophobia as a 20th century construct, first popularized by early post-revolutionary Iran. Islamophobia is an Islamist fabrication and an important instrument in the advance of both non-violent and violent Islamism.

French philosopher Pascal Bruckner captures the fluid definitions of Islamophobia which conveniently amalgamates two distinct concepts as “the persecution of believers, which is a crime, and the critique of religion which is a right.”

Masquerading as a novel form of racism, Islamophobia seeks to be a platform equivalent to anti-Semitism such that the accusation of Islamophobia render the target’s permanent academic, social and cultural excommunication.The late Christopher Hitchens described the phenomenon aptly as a cultural fatwa and their proponents, “Assassins of the Mind.”

While anti-Semitism resulted in history’s most appalling crime against humanity — the Holocaust — and is always associated with lethal genocide, in contrast, Islamophobia (however much it strives to portray Muslim victimhood) is lethal to those who oppose it.

Both Muslims and Christians have been executed for challenging the Blasphemy Laws as un-Islamic. Put another way, they were murdered by Islamists for their “Islamophobia.”

At its heart, Islamophobia seeks to deter and ultimately criminalize any scrutiny of Islam, Islamic institutions, Muslims or other Islamic entities. When this scrutiny is by Muslims ourselves it particularly threatens to expose Islamism as an imposter of Islam.

As Bruckner notes, Islamophobia seeks the silencing of Westerners and equally important, also seeks to silence pluralistic and liberal Muslims — like me — who dare examine Islamic structures and persons.

The first manifestation of Islamophobia was the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini on Feburary 14th 1989. Following the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Khomeini deemed Rushdie eligible for execution as punishment for blasphemy and by desecrating Islam as the Ayatollah saw it, declared Rushdie an apostate.

By criminalizing not only Rushdie, but also his publishers and translators, and imposing the death penalty, the Islamic Republic of Iran breached Article 18 (the Freedom of Belief) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Not only was it a breach, but considering international law asserts “everyone has the right of the freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” Geoffrey Robertson QC in Crimes Against Humanity defined the fatwa as “an act of international terrorism.”

Only the 2011 execution of a Muslim opponent of the Blasphemy Laws, Pakistan’s Governor Salman Taseer of Punjab, stopped the 12-year drive to ban defamation of religion, lobbied by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to the UN.

Islamophobia serves not the Muslim victim of anti-Muslim xenophobia, but only the Islamists and their sympathizers.

Some Muslim scholars argue that Islamophobia has a long history in the United States. Yet they continue to conflate anti-Muslim and anti-Arab xenophobia with Islamophobia, ignoring its significant political power to silence pluralistic expression of Islam and pluralist Muslims ourselves.

While discrimination of all groups is both appalling as well as illegal under U.S. federal law and subject to penalty, it does not equate to Islamophobia. Discrimination against Muslims represents xenophobia no different than xenophobia towards any other group member for the sake of group membership. It is anti-Muslim xenophobia.

In contrast, Islamophobia is Islamist-sanctioned censorship shoring up Islamist supremacy and shielding Islamists, Islamist institutions and Islamist pseudo-democracies from exposure as totalitarian political entities, rather than revealing them as the privileged religious minority Islamism craves to be.

Cowered by accusations of Islamophobia and smeared as racists on false construct, the scrutiny, criticism, prosecution and perhaps ultimately conviction of Muslim actors in criminality — including when they are Muslim women — has just become more difficult.

Few stand up publicly against Islamophobia as those who do, risk their own silencing as Islamophobes. This is because Islamism wields the sword of Islamophobia to deliberately chill discourse and narrow the public marketplace of ideas. As a result, criticism of Islam, Muslims and related matters are censored often in favor of the Islamist.

Islamism seeks to marginalize Muslims in the West, especially where we are well-integrated. Islamism aims to pry us apart from mainstream society and isolate us within a nurtured silo of victimhood fragmenting democracy while corralling all Muslim voice into a single chorus under the banner of Islamism.

These efforts are intensifying despite the mounting evidence that Muslims in America are far from victims. American Muslims are the single most liberated and among the most advantaged Muslim populations in the world.

When surveyed, 92 percent of America’s Muslims report they are proud to be both Muslim and American. In contrast, globally, the highest restrictions on religious freedom are found in the world’s most populous Muslims nations — Indonesia and Pakistan, followed by Egypt.

Little wonder that Muslims from 75 different nations therefore make their homes here in the United States. And Muslim migrants from the world’s second most populous Muslim nation, Pakistan — 15 percent of all migrant Muslims to the U.S. — have become the most affluent first-generation migrants in the United States. I am one of them.

Despite this overwhelming data, Muslims in America are fed the false narrative of specious victimhood at the hands of the state, a narrative the defense used to powerful effect. This falsehood of American Muslim victimhood — pedaled as a perverse advocacy for the “besieged Muslim” only incites more animus against Muslims while simultaneously silencing other Americans.

This propaganda further succeeds in separating Muslims from society. In gendering Islamophobia, America has unwittingly welcomed a new assassin of the mind, this time into the courtroom.

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