The strategic construction of “Islamophobia,” which is rooted in the word Islam and not Muslim, serves more than a mere lexical purpose. It is designed foremost to associate voluntary religious belief with involuntary skin color, appealing to widespread and legitimate revulsion to racial prejudice, and further to equate bigotry against Muslims with criticism of Islam, blurring any distinction between these two very different actions. While the prejudging of all Muslim citizens as suspicious and untrustworthy is indeed comparable with other forms of racial and religious bigotry, the study and refutation of Islam’s claims to moral and philosophical authority is a just and necessary enterprise, fully compatible with a pluralistic society that values religious liberty. This is because freedom of belief, if it is to have universal and consistent meaning, must include the freedom to criticize beliefs and believers — a concept that is foreign to the social and political world view of Islam.
Beyond its intrusion upon intellectual inquiry, blind tolerance of anti-Western attitudes in the form of fundamentalist Islam has direct repercussions for the health and security of the West. For instance, the killing, assaulting, and intimidating of gay men in Amsterdam by Muslims enraged by homosexuality, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie for the offense of writing The Satanic Verses, the Danish cartoon affair, and the recent attacks upon American embassies in Libya and Egypt, are all examples of violence related to these clashes. It is doubtless that our unwillingness to pursue a battle of ideas with the Islamic religion for the sake of political correctness will lead to more physical confrontations in the future. And since the word Islamophobia implies disapproval of such critical engagement, it ought to be entirely banished from discourse.
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