Is Islamophobia ‘extremist’?

22 June 2017

Theresa May described Islamophobia as a form of extremism in her response to the Finsbury Park attack on Monday. Tim Dieppe comments on the relationship between Islamophobia and extremism and the risks to freedom of speech that this poses.

Another terrorist attack in London, this time carried out against innocent Muslims, some of whom bravely protected the attacker until the police arrived on the scene. Our thoughts go out to those affected – no one should have to fear walking on the streets at any time of day or night.

The attacker is not known to be part of any group, and it has been claimed that he attempted suicide a few weeks ago and asked to be sectioned.

Such a deplorable attack only plays into the hands of Islamic extremists by sowing division, encouraging hatred and anger, and providing excuses for revenge attacks. It also provokes condemnation of Islamophobia.

Is Islamophobia extremist?

Theresa May in her statement, clearly said that Islamophobia is a form of extremism:

“As I said here two weeks ago, there has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years – and that means extremism of any kind, including Islamophobia.”

It is notoriously difficult to define Islamophobia. Strictly speaking a ‘phobia’ is an irrational fear. Is it irrational to fear the growing influence of Islamic State in the world? What about the growing influence of radical Islam more generally, or the growing incidents of Islamic terrorism?

The danger is that legitimate criticism of Islam, Mohamed, or the Qur’an is deemed to be Islamophobic. In this way criticism of Islam or the teachings of Islam, could be prevented or silenced resulting in a serious restriction of free speech.

For example, Miqdaad Versi, the Assistant General Secretary of the MCB, in an interview this week equated the views of journalist and critic of Islam Douglas Murray with those of Anjeem Choudary. He argued that Murray’s voice should effectively be silenced. “Giving a platform to people like that to spread their hate is unacceptable,” he concluded.

Silencing criticism of Islam would be a major victory for Islam in this country. It would grant Islam a privileged status in society. In a free society, no religion or ideology should be immune from criticism.


A better term could be ‘Islamomisia’.  This means ‘hatred of Muslims’, though it is also somewhat ambiguous and could be understood to mean ‘hatred of Islam’. Hatred of ideas is one thing, hatred of people is quite another. Ideas that motivate people to commit terrorist acts of whatever kind should be roundly condemned and exposed.  Ideas that encourage acts of evil are themselves evil ideas. People, whatever ideas they hold, need to be loved, not hated. As Jesus said, we should love our enemies, not just our friends. Christianity has no room for Islamomisia, in the sense of hatred of Muslims, let alone committing acts of violence against people of any kind.

So what is extremism?

Government attempts to clampdown on ‘extremism’ have struggled with how to define it. It is a vague and nebulous term. ‘Incitement to violence’ is clear and unambiguous, and always wrong. ‘Incitement to hatred’ is much more difficult. People must be allowed to criticise other people’s ideas without being accused of inciting hatred. For a free society to prosper we must allow people to describe ideas as wrong or even evil without fear of prosecution.

We need to pray for our precious freedoms to be preserved. Free speech is coming under increasing attack and needs to be protected.

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