Islam is Privilege

You cannot both purport to support social justice and attempt to protect privilege from criticism.

#JeSuisCharlie — Ann Telnaes/The Washington Post
Ann Telnaes/The Washington Post

This Wednesday, Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French newspaper was attacked by two jihadists. Shouting “Allahu Akbar”, they proceeded to murder 12 people, including nine journalists and two police officers, for offending their religion.

It’s important that we understand this tragedy for what it is: the latest chapter in the clash of two incompatible ideologies; liberalism and Islam.

It is ironic, sad, and quite possibly catastrophic for the future of our freedoms and human rights that those who should be most outraged by this, my fellow liberals, are often the very same ones who do not understand it.

Islam is an ideology, Muslims are people.

The first mistake many liberals make is to confuse Islam (an ideology) with Muslims (people).

Islam is a set of ideas. It is an ideology. It inherently deserves no more or less respect than any other ideology. That is to say, it inherently deserves no respect whatsoever.

Just like any other idea or ideology, Islam also deserves no special protection from criticism or critique. Affording it any such privilege just because it has a supernatural origin story is not compatible with reason.

Muslims, on the other hand, are people who have adopted Islam as dogma.

It should really go without saying (but, unfortunately, needs to be said repeatedly because idiotic right-wing fascistic nutjobs exist) that just like any other person, Muslims inherently deserve to be respected as people, treated with dignity, and have their rights protected.

Those rights, however, do not include special privileges that render their adopted dogma or any actions stemming from the exercise of that dogma free from criticism.

Islamophobia is a homeopathic phobia

Criticising Islam is no more Islamophobia than criticising capitalism is Capitalophobia or criticising the patriarchy is Patriarchyophobia.

When you equate Islamophobia with homophobia, you are doing the cause of gender equality the greatest harm. I can choose to adopt a certain dogma or other, I cannot choose to adopt my sexuality. Homophobia is fear of a group of people because of who they are. Islamophobia is a made up, meaningless word invented by those with religious privilege who want to stifle criticism of said privilege.

If you want a label to use for the right-wing fascistic nutjobs who target Muslims in hate crimes, call it what it is: Muslimophobia.

We cannot hope to have a meaningful conversation about an ideology that is diametrically opposed to human rights, equality, and democracy if we constantly conflate the criticism of ideas with the discrimination of people.

Criticising Islam is not racism

Islam is not a race. Islam is an ideology that can be (and is) adopted as dogma by anyone regardless of age, sex, or race.

Take me, for example. Both my parents are Turkish. I was raised Muslim. I am no longer Muslim (I no longer believe in any form of supernaturalism).

As an apostate, although I might lose my right to life or liberty in some Islamic countries, I am quite sure I’m not at risk of losing my race. In fact, I’m rather confident that I’m still the same race I was while I was Muslim.

In the future, while I can easily adopt the dogma of Christianity, Judaism, or Buddhism, I can’t quite as easily become Hispanic or Black. That’s because religion is ideology and dogma, not race.

Calling Islam a race only helps to elevate its privilege.

Islam is an ideology that is adopted as dogma by over 1.6 billion people, roughly a quarter of the world’s population. It is the second most popular religion in the world. It enjoys a huge amount of privilege; privilege that it uses daily to stifle basic human rights and freedoms especially in those countries in which it has the power of law.

Criticising Islam is not punching down. It is punching up against an ideology that enjoys the dogmatic devotion of a quarter of the world’s population and whose endgame is to attain ultimate, unquestioned privilege in a world where men are in charge of women, homosexuality is persecuted, and anyone who doesn’t believe in your dogma is your enemy.

I’ve lived under the judgement, xenophobia, and sexism of this toxic, repressive, ideology. I’ve felt the suffocating grip of its privilege. So check your privilege before calling a Middle-Eastern Ex-Muslim “Islamophobic” or “racist”. Stop trying to Whitesplain to me what Islam is based on a Ben Affleck video you watched on YouTube from the comfort of your ivory tower.

If you still want to call me “Islamophobic” and “racist” for unapologetically criticising the ideology of Islam, that is your right. But what you absolutely cannot do is to also call yourself a champion of social justice.

At the heart of social justice lies equality and human rights, including the right to freedom of expression. Privilege is the natural enemy of social justice.

And Islam is Privilege.