The Real Islamophobia

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While attending a vigil for the shooting victims at two New Zealand mosques last Friday evening, a visibly pregnant Chelsea Clinton was accosted by a pair of left-wing “activists.” The two specifically blamed Clinton for the atrocity.

This was a stunning charge. In his 72-page manifesto, the shooter, an Australian national and self-described “eco-fascist” who had previously worked at a gym, never referred to Clinton. Unlike her parents, she has never been much of a polarizing figure.

So what was the basis of the accusation that she instigated this evil? The “activists” explained in an opinion column for BuzzFeed: Clinton had “stoked” Islamophobia with her “rhetoric,” having encouraged “a bigoted, anti-Muslim mob coming after Rep. Ilhan Omar for speaking the truth.”

According to these activists, Omar did not need to apologize for her vicious and repeated anti-Semitic attacks upon Jews, Israelis, all Americans who support Israel, and her colleagues in the U.S. Congress. On the contrary, they claimed, it was Clinton who needed to apologize—for having condemned anti-Semitic expression with no reference to Omar’s race or religion.

But the undeserved tongue-lashing Clinton received does not compare to the fate of Jeanine Pirro.

In her opening monologue of March 9, Pirro launched into Omar. She called upon Democrats to recognize that Omar’s values did not reflect those of the Democratic Party. From where, Pirro asked, did Omar obtain her values?

And then Pirro said something very unfortunate. She drew a line connecting Omar’s headscarf to sharia law, and said sharia is not consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

Without question, it was inappropriate to equate Omar’s choice of religious garb with a lack of loyalty to American laws and values. On its face, that sounds awfully similar to what Omar had to say about Jews.

Yet the instinctive hostility of Americans to sharia law for being at odds with American values is not a “phobia.” Look at the countries who base their legal systems upon sharia: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Brunei, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan and Mauritania. None are paragons of human rights and civil liberties—to put it mildly.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, women—by law, not by choice—must cover their bodies and faces, and have a male “guardian.” Bloggers have been imprisoned and flogged for “insulting Islam.” In 2002, 15 girls died when religious police prevented male rescuers from entering their burning school—as the girls were not wearing veils. So while it is indeed offensive to use Omar’s hijab as a starting point, Pirro’s comments about sharia should not be dismissed out of hand.

It is thus truly embarrassing that Fox News responded to the complaint not merely by condemning the confused part of Pirro’s remarks, but by suspending her program. Omar faced no consequences for her repeated expressions of classic anti-Semitism; yet Pirro, for her off-hand offensive remark about Omar’s headscarf, was suspended.

Did this happen because Pirro’s comment was so outrageous, or because she is a tireless defender of Israel and America?

Neither did the complaint against Pirro come from an unbiased source, legitimately bothered by her comment. Rather, it was filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a purportedly peaceful cause whose founders are tied both to Hamas and the Islamic Association for Palestine, described by the Anti-Defamation League as “a Hamas-affiliated anti-Semitic propaganda organization.” The United Arab Emirates lists CAIR itself as a terrorist group.

CAIR responds to criticism by claiming to be the victim of an “Islamophobic smear campaign.” Think about it: the United Arab Emirates, a Muslim-majority nation that operates under sharia law, is called “Islamophobic” when necessary to protect CAIR.

One could hardly seek a more succinct description of “Islamophobia.”

There is no fear of Muslims in America. Not really. There is xenophobia, of course, but no one is inclined to view Muslims differently from Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, or others . . . at least until terrorism is taken into account. Yes, many are concerned that there are more than three-dozen international terrorist organizations anxious to commit acts of barbaric violence in the name of jihad—but fear of dismemberment is not a “phobia.”

“Islamophobia” is merely a tool to shield bigots from criticism because they happen to be Muslim. It is also used to slander and muzzle those who would dare to speak out against bigotry.

The true Islamophobia in America is the fear of speaking against bigoted expression from a Muslim, lest one be falsely accused by CAIR and other groups of being a bigot.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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About Rabbi Yaakov Menken

Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, the largest Rabbinic public policy organization in America.