The dishonesty of the ‘Islamophobia’ debate

The attack on that Tory Party conference event was completely unfair.

Emma Webb


The past few weeks have shown how dishonest political debate can be. Leading Remainers who happily call Leavers Nazis, fascists and idiots are now concerned about the divisive tone of our politics. Accusations of ‘disingenuousness’ are made by those who are… disingenuous.

But the backlash to an event on Islamophobia, held this week at the Tory party conference, shows that this kind of point-scoring is not limited to debates around Brexit.

Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi, a long-time critic of the party leadership over the issue of ‘Islamophobia’, has written a piece in the Guardian, venting about how utterly appalled she was at the event, which was hosted by the think-tank, Policy Exchange.

She was apparently disappointed to find that the panel discussion, titled ‘Challenging “Islamophobia”’, was not about challenging Islamophobia, as she defines it. It was about discussing the concept critically. She was ‘appalled’ by the event’s ‘content and conduct’, adding that it made her ‘sick to [her] stomach’.

In the piece, she seems blissfully unaware that, unlike anti-Muslim bigotry and prejudice, which everyone condemns, ‘Islamophobia’ is a far more contested concept. Many rightly fear it is being used by extremists to shut down criticism of Islam.

She is particularly critical of an exchange that took place between the panel’s chair, Trevor Phillips, and human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. Phillips said he was once named ‘Islamophobe of the Year’, and Tatchell apparently said he was jealous. ‘Welcome to todays @conservatives [sic]’, she tweeted. (Neither Tatchell nor Phillips are Conservatives.)

In fact, her reference to the ‘Islamophobe of the Year’ award is a reminder that ‘Islamophobia’ is not simply a byword for anti-Muslim prejudice. The award is run by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). In 2015, it gave the award to the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, just two months after 10 of its employees had been massacred by Islamist militants over its depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. During the awards ceremony, an IHRC presenter joked that ‘No one from Charlie Hebdo could make it’.

According to a recent report by the Henry Jackson Society, the IHRC was ‘established by Khomeinist activists’ and has gained attention in recent years for its ‘pro-Hezbollah’ stance. The IHRC is an ‘institutionally pro-terrorist and anti-Semitic organisation’, the authors conclude. Is it not a badge of honour to be singled out as an opponent of such a group?

Warsi is also concerned about how critical the panellists were of the definition of Islamophobia recently put forward in a parliamentary report. But as I have written previously on spiked, that definition would limit freedom of speech and civil liberties. It would chill our ability to criticise aspects of Islamic belief, practice and history, as well as our ability to report on the actions of Islamists.

For the avoidance of doubt, the report doesn’t only dismiss concerns about censorship – it also suggests that criticising Islam is, in effect, racist. ‘[R]ecourse to the notion of free speech and a supposed right to criticise Islam results in nothing more than another form of anti-Muslim racism, whereby criticism humiliates, marginalises, and stigmatises Muslims’, it says.

Warsi and others are blurring the line between anti-Muslim discrimination and the far more nebulous idea of ‘Islamophobia’. When Tatchell responded to Warsi’s criticisms on Twitter, saying he supported calls for an inquiry into ‘anti-Muslim attitudes’ in the Conservative Party, Warsi hit back, insisting he use the word ‘Islamophobia’. ‘As a British Muslim give me the dignity of defining my own experience’, she said.

This debate, it seems, can only take place on one side’s terms; they will decide which words you are allowed to use.

Just because the word ‘Islamophobia’ is widely used, that does not make it suitable for legislation and policy. The current law is sufficient to deal with discrimination against an individual on the basis of their religion. Enshrining in law the idea that criticising Islam constitutes discrimination against Muslims is a dangerous road to go down.

But proponents of the definition dismiss these concerns. As the parliamentary report says: ‘[G]iving up the term Islamophobia – and with it the possibility of creating legal instruments to tackle it – simply because of the perceived risk that it may limit free speech would be highly misguided.’

Public debate on all manner of issues is suffering because the participants are unwilling to be reasonable and fair. Constructive debate requires humility and honesty. Instead, we have semantic Twister. When can we just have an honest debate?

Emma Webb is director of the Forum on Integration, Democracy and Extremism (FIDE), a project of Civitas. She is the editor of Islamophobia: An Anthology of Concerns.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.



4th October 2019 at 5:49 pm

There’s no such thing as ‘Islamophobia’, it’s a phoney made-up word and is no more of a word than ‘Christianophobia’ or ‘Jewophobia’ or ‘atheistophobia’.

‘Islamophobia’ is actually a control word and used by the Liberal/Left and by Muslims to try and silence and shout down any criticism of Islam by inferring that there is something wrong with you.

A phobia is an irrational fear or hatred but there is nothing irrational or wrong or (illegal) with fearing or hating Islam. Islam is an ideology, and there is no legal requirement to embrace or to like any ideology, it is not against the law to reject it.

Women, Jews, gays and non-believers have good reason to fear Islam, it is an intolerant, divisive, violent, supremacist, hateful, backward and misogynistic ideology with a track record of intolerance and actual violence, and threats of violence to anyone who dares to challenge or criticise it. Opposition to Islam is entirely, and demonstrably, rational. Indeed, given the irrationality of Islam, opposition is actually a defence of rationality.

Ghulam Faruki

3rd October 2019 at 8:31 pm

Islamophobia, by definition, is: “An exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political, and civic life.”

Confusion and controversy about the validity and usefulness of the concept are created by Islamophobes themselves!

End PC

4th October 2019 at 2:18 am

No, the neologism “Islamophobia” defines itself as an irrational fear (phobia) of Islam. Not only is there no such phobia in psychiatry, it’s a sign of ignorance of the extremely violent Islamic texts and history of this religion NOT to fear Islam. You simply can’t deny the existence of the history of Islam’s attempts to conquer, plunder and subjugate all of Europe, and anyone can read the militant Koran (especially surah 9) and the Sunnah. This whole conversation about “Islamophobia” as some existing evil is absurd.

Andrew Leonard

5th October 2019 at 7:18 am

The capacity to associate an arbitrary definition with a made up word proves nothing beyond your ability to do just that. All you are saying is that Islamophobia means Islamophobia – it does not mean one, two, or three other things, as you would like it to. Nor is the world obliged to conform to your definitions.

Perhaps instead you should ask yourself why, of all the worlds “great” ideologies and religions, only Islam requires special protection and ring-fencing, and the invention of special terms to smear its critics. We do not speak of Christianophobes, Communophobes, or Capitalistophobes, do we? Only Islam requires the invention of a phobia, to protect it. Why is that, do you think?

christopher barnard

3rd October 2019 at 1:39 pm

We can’t have an honest debate because the facts are not politically correct.

That’s why we didn’t have honest police and council investigations about some very serious criminal allegations in some northern towns.

Jerry Owen

3rd October 2019 at 4:30 pm

Agree with your , but it’s not just northern towns . Oxford and Slough are here in the South and they had / have the same issues. We have to acknowledge it happens in all Muslim dominated areas to one degree or another.

Amos Bahiri

3rd October 2019 at 12:20 pm

I am an Islamophobe in the sense that I fear/hate the doctrine of Islam.
The problematic phenomenon is Islamophilia, q.v. Doglas Murray’s book:

Richard Haynes

3rd October 2019 at 10:43 am

Islamaphobia… spell check says that this isn’t a word, and neither should it be. Anyway, in my opinion the problem would solve itself if Muslims worldwide and in Britain in particular could please stop appearing so threatening. They frighten people, and we hate that which we fear, wasps for example. I don’t give a hoot what race someone is IF they behave as a civilised and integrated member of our society. And in general, I imagine that would be true of the vast majority of Brits. The whole religion needs bringing into the 21st century. I mean honestly, I know that it’s not everyone… but terrorism, beheadings, burkas, rape gangs (oh yes they are), women following along behind there ‘betters’, and the general sense of threat from a religion that, in some quarters, openly indicates a desire to tear down the values and institutions of countries kind enough to offer them a home. You could try to solve the problem 2 ways, you could try, as you currently are, and force everyone not to object to all these outrages against decency by closing down discussion and attacking anyone who objects, because, after all, nothing is too heinous when you have ‘right’ on your side, and this will result in a ‘pressure cooker’ of growing anger in the majority which WILL eventually EXPLODE; or you could start actively removing idiotically medieval religious practices that certainly have no place in Britain, and Islamaphobia will simply disappear.

Stef Steer

3rd October 2019 at 6:52 am

Identity politics just leads to endless narcissistic appeals to be a special case and jostling to move up the hierarchy of victimhood/specialness. We need the focus to move to commonalities and all the crappy divisive legislation such as the equality act to be repealed. If democracy is about one person one vote then citizenship should be one person same rights, no special cases end of.

Tim Hare

3rd October 2019 at 5:25 am

As soon as someone cries ‘Islamophobia’ we should refuse to engage with them in any reasonable debate about Islam. Civilisation advances by reasonable and logical discussion and not by focusing on the perceived feelings of those who oppose you. Islamophobia is a feeling – an expression of fear or repulsion. Feelings should not enter into any debate about Islam and its practices. Once the discussion moves to the area of feelings we should stop until such time as the Muslim person returns to reasonable and logical debate.

The term Islamophobia is an attempt to hijack the debate away from any reasonable examination of Islam and the only way to stop that from happening is to refuse to become involved with anyone who uses that term when there is any criticism of Islam.

Asif Qadir

2nd October 2019 at 5:30 pm

There were thirty-six public executions and a crucifixion in Riyadh in just one day, recently. There are already sharia courts in Birmingham and Bradford, and l was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam and embracing Christianity. I was beaten to within in an inch of my life outside my home, and the Bradford police basically swept it under the carpet, much like the grooming gang cases.
Both political parties are determined to appease Islam, and Boris even shares an affinity with it through his Muslim great-grandfather. Islam has been proven throughout history to be an enemy of Western freedom, and so it’s of great concern that our government seems so oblivious to the social ills that islam is creating.

Dominic Straiton

2nd October 2019 at 5:50 pm

Good for you. I oppose the teaching of mohamed but have family who are muslim. Its not muslims that are the problem its the immoral Beduin who brought 4th century Christian heresy into the world without redemption or forgiveness.It links perfectly with todays new religion.

jessica christon

2nd October 2019 at 11:35 pm

As far as Qadir’s story goes, Muslims were the problem. That’s who gave him a death sentence and almost killed him. That it isn’t all Muslims who behave like this doesn’t negate the fact that those who do are all Muslims, and so are their supporters (a much wider pool).

jessica christon

2nd October 2019 at 11:36 pm

Apologies, I meant to say “Asif Qadir”.

Hana Jinks

3rd October 2019 at 4:19 pm

@Dominic. Whenever I’ve made the acquaintance of Chinese people and the subject turns to politics, I’m always amazed at their defence of their government’s authoritarianism, and the kind of conditioning that must be behind that blind loyalty, and it really isn’t much different with muslims and islam to me.

@Jessica. Part of the problem is that it basically is the entire muslim community that are complicit in this. It started for me with losing my immediate family. I was basically disowned by them, and to them, they really don’t have any choice if they want to continue being a good muslim in the eyes of allah. Apostasy is punishable by death in islam, and the people of my neighborhood would’ve been denying their faith if they didn’t act in the way they did.

jessica christon

3rd October 2019 at 9:16 pm

@ Hana, I’m sorry to hear that. When I was growing up, Islam wasn’t a controversial topic; most of us didn’t even know what it was until the Rushdie affair happened. As you say, Muslims do what’s necessary to remain a part of their faith – ok, that’s one thing – but now it’s also being supercharged from the outside by identity politics in a way that never used to happen before, and it’s like a perfect storm.

A Game

3rd October 2019 at 5:26 am

A: Qadar
So you failed to get justice for a crime that, at the very least, had physical evidence.
So the British Police still haven’t learnt from their previous excursions into racist policing.
They don’t want their bobbies to feel vulnerable on the streets so they are handing absolute power over to zealots.
You must be despairing.
Reformers are being thrown to the wolves with this mentality.
Sharia law. They are indulging those with a vested interest in undermining the state’s rule of law. The very nature of an Imam’s power rests in not having police/government/law. So what are our governments doing? Appeasing the vested interest and betraying the people they now command.
How many muslims would have left their old country because, whilst still loving their god, their religion, wanted a freer, fairer life? And white idiots have just handed them over on a plate.

Cedar Grove

4th October 2019 at 10:02 pm

Nissar Hussein, a Christian convert, had 7 years of persecution before he fled from Bradford. The police refused to recognise it as a hate crime, even though he ended up in hospital after one attack. I’m sorry that you didn’t get the protection to which you have a right, either. I hope you’ve found a sufficiency of people you can rely on.

Like others, I’m highly resistant to the concept of Islamophobia, because it blurs the distinction between persons and ideology. Dogma doesn’t have human rights and has no claim to be protected. And when the doctrine in question is so absolutist, dictating one’s every move from waking to sleeping, it’s all the more important to emphasise that.

This reification of a concept invented by the insidious Muslim Brotherhood means that the struggle against theocratic bullying and blasphemy laws will have to start all over again.

Marvin Jones

2nd October 2019 at 1:52 pm

A British Moslem as a description of one’s status in a country, surely is Oxymoronic. There are so many differences in our beliefs and cultures, that they will never be compatible living in our horrible, sinful, erotic and racist ways. SO! why are they so determined to come here in unlimited and incessant numbers, and succeeded in having so much power merely because of the primitive and barbaric genetics of violence in their religion, culture and primary instincts.

Andrew Leonard

2nd October 2019 at 1:20 pm

All individuals, organisations, governments and groups should be subjected to at least mild criticism, and possibly ridicule, from time to time – possibly often, if they are or are becoming highly anti-social.
This is what keeps us all sane, and reasonably well behaved.
No group should be quarantined from criticism, offence, unpleasant feedback, or written critiques.
To remove and outlaw these inhibitors of bad behaviour is to invite mutation, of a very malignant kind.
Far from Islamophobia being a threat to Islam and Muslim people, it is in fact a necessary component of multicultural society.
Islam without Islamophobia is not Islam – it’s something else, something worse.

Dominic Straiton

2nd October 2019 at 12:45 pm

“islamophobia” is a term invented by the muslim brotherhood and it aint going to shut me up.

In Negative

2nd October 2019 at 12:42 pm

“Public debate on all manner of issues is suffering because the participants are unwilling to be reasonable and fair. Constructive debate requires humility and honesty. Instead, we have semantic Twister. When can we just have an honest debate?”

Dunno about y’all, but I felt a bit like this around the Labour anti-semite debarkle. Any one remember that?

I think this article is anti-semantic.

Jane 70

2nd October 2019 at 11:59 am

@ Jim Lawrie. The group think is also iniquitous.

Jim Lawrie

2nd October 2019 at 11:04 am

A Pakistani, Muslim, Woman who thinks power is for shutting us up and criminalising debate. She is partisan to her race and religion, not Britain or our way of life. Is anyone surprised?

She is to stupid to realise that she is proclaiming to all exactly why we do not want her and hers here.

Jane 70

2nd October 2019 at 12:00 pm

How would she fare in Pakistan I wonder? What freedoms would she enjoy? Would she achieve an equivalently elevated position?

jessica christon

2nd October 2019 at 4:55 pm

Possibly, as I believe she is from a high class family, but Muslim extremists don’t like Varsi and she could easily end up like Benazir.

James Green

2nd October 2019 at 11:03 am

What does one say about the way that Dalits and other Untouchables are/were treated by those who had enough money to get to the lands of the whiteman–and who now define how we should behave towards them?

Michael Lynch

2nd October 2019 at 10:53 am

Warsi is only ramping up the debate, becoming hysterical in process, because she and her ilk are loosing it. The Emperor has no clothes!

Mark Lambert

2nd October 2019 at 10:51 am

On being told which words should or should not be used……

An imam who is used by just about all popular media outlets told three LBC presenters that they should not use the words “Islamism” or “Islamist”. All three asked how they were supposed to report on specifics.
“Just use terrorists” was the reply.
Out of the three, two were very wobbly being taken aback and one even said, “I will change my words”. The other probably knew what was going on.

And of course those who put together witch hunt lists of UK radio presenters, journalists and politicians after the New Zealand mosque massacre.

Mark Lambert

2nd October 2019 at 10:40 am

There is a chance that she’s a bit dim.

It’s either that, or something else……..

Amelia Cantor

2nd October 2019 at 10:34 am

You know, I sometimes wonder whether Spiked are insane. Or just stupid. On the one hand, they luuuuuuuv “free speech” and announce a) that “‘Islamophobia’ is a far more contested concept”; b) that “Many rightly fear it is being used by extremists to shut down criticism of Islam.”

And on the other hand, they want open borders and millions more Muslims in the UK. Oh, sorry: they don’t want open borders: they want “a liberal immigration policy” and millions more Muslims in the UK.

The more Muslims in the UK, the more pressure there is for tough action against the toxic scourge not just of Islamophobia and “criticism” of Islam, but of “free speech” as a whole.

Why can Spiked not understand this simple equation? More Muslims = less “free speech”. When Salman Rushdie spewed his Islamophobia and obscenity, it was Muslims who led the fight-back. When Charlie Hebdo spewed their Islamophobia and obscenity, again it was Muslims that led the fight-back. Etc.

Obviously, as a fully signed-up member of the Woke Community, I want “free speech” stamped out for good, which is why I fully support open borders and maximal expansion of the Muslim community in numbers and power. We in the Woke Community are both sane and intelligent in our political aims.

Spiked are either insane or stupid. Or possibly both.

Andrew Leonard

4th October 2019 at 3:09 pm

“Obviously, as a fully signed-up member of the Woke Community, I want “free speech” stamped out for good, which is why I fully support open borders and maximal expansion of the Muslim community in numbers and power.”

I’m free speechless

A Game

7th October 2019 at 2:12 am

Lol, lol, lol.

I don’t understand what our militant islamist here is worked up about. There are how many countries on the planet that are as woke as she can stand… what’s holding her back? Its like she doesn’t know Theocracies abound. But she’d better curb her woke queer streak… I don’t wish death by stoning on anyone.

Andrew Leonard

7th October 2019 at 9:48 am

I think the idea is to grab power before the Islamist’s do.
It’s sort of a race, like the Americans and Soviets, racing to Berlin.

Robert Spowart

8th October 2019 at 7:04 am

But what is “Islamophobia”?
If, as is claimed, its origins lie in racism, then why is Islam the only major religion to have it’s own, personal ~ophobia?
Other than Judaism’s problems with the institutionally antisemitic & increasingly Islamised Labour Party, (perhaps there may be a connection there) no other belief has such a suffix or apparent slur added to its name.

There is,to the best of my knowledge, no Sikhophobia, Hindophobia, Jainophobia nor Buddhistophobia.
So what is it about Islam that engenders such ill feeling?
Perhaps the problem lies not with the so called “Islamophobes” but with Islam its self?

Danny Rees

2nd October 2019 at 9:29 am

Yes there is a lot of dishonesty of the Islamophobia debate.

Like those who dishonestly claim if you want to stop Islamophobia you want to bring in blasphemy laws and shut down criticism of Islam.

Mark Lambert

2nd October 2019 at 10:40 am

Dishonest? And you put it in a strange way.
If you have read the APPG definition of “Islamophobia” you might be more receptive to the point.
The definition says that and criticism or challenge etc of Islam must be “fair and reasonable” and if it isn’t, the words are “Islamophobic”.
That is a wide-open door for anyone to use at any time.
Yes, a de-facto blasphemy law.

Cedar Grove

4th October 2019 at 10:22 pm

Public Order Acts & their emendations over the last decade have progressively focused on words or actions which are abusive, threatening or insulting. What is insulting is a purely subjective matter.

The South Yorkshire police, who failed to notice the industrial-scale rape and trafficking that was occurring under their noses, nevertheless found the time and resources to announce that they are now monitoring “non-crime hate speech”, defined as anything somebody cares to claim to be offended by, on their own behalf or someone else’s.

A BNP member was convicted for having a poster that said “Islam out of Britain”. That is different from saying “Muslims out of Britain”.

In my opinion, the second should have come to the attention of the law, because it expresses hostility to a group of people. But the first is no different from saying “Communism out of Britain” or “Paganism out of Britain”. It’s an expression of dislike for a set of ideas. And our country was one of the world leaders in creating a society in which that’s not only allowed, but encouraged. Any idea ought to be exposed to critical scrutiny. People are right to say the concept of Islamophobia is the reintroduction of blasphemy laws, wearing a new coat.

Jerry Owen

2nd October 2019 at 8:32 am

Any news on the enquiry into the ‘Jewish problem’ within the labour party by the ECHR .. all seems a bit quiet despite the diversions of the tory party conference and Brexit ?
When Warsi fIrst appeared on the scene I always presumed she was Labour, which just goes to show the total lack of direction and cohesiveness the tory party now has.

Stephen J

2nd October 2019 at 8:21 am

Sometimes I wonder if such fierce defence of such shibboleths is borne out of insecurity.

Faith never beats facts, so the faithful have to seek legal protections for their strangeness.

The fact is that once a bunch of facts descends to the level of a bunch of beliefs, the writing is on the wall. They have to defend themselves, even if their beliefs are clearly dumb.

It never rains because god is displeased.

The reality of these things is that they are regionalised versions of lifestyle and community, and there are many good reasons to cherish ones traditions. Indeed it is what Brexit is about, along with war against self righteous governments everywhere.

I don’t really understand why either side of this argument get excited, since intelligence and a couple of generations will almost certainly change lifestyles. People do this in their own time and they don’t need people like warsi to be offended on their behalf. It really is time that we stopped giving the SJW’s from every walk of life, the oxygen of publicity.

People might claim to be different, but their sh*t still stinks in the morning.

Eliot Jordan

2nd October 2019 at 8:02 am

This has been coming from the second the Labour Party got caught out for it’s anti-semitism.

The left thinks it is the side of tolerance and when it is of course proved wrong just lashes out

Geoff Cox

2nd October 2019 at 7:21 am

‘As a British Muslim give me the dignity of defining my own experience’, she said.

There are death and taxes, then there is Baroness Warsi who never fails to play the “I am a Muslim” card.

Ven Oods

2nd October 2019 at 7:34 am

Warsi’s a plank, but then again, how many intelligent baronesses are there? When a title is bestowed for poltical reasons, expect the inevitable axe-grinding.

H McLean

2nd October 2019 at 4:18 am

That such a politically correct identitarian gained such recognition and power only highlights the intellectual and cultural demise of the Tory party. No wonder voters are looking for alternative parties to support.

Ian Wilson

2nd October 2019 at 5:33 am


Mark Lambert

2nd October 2019 at 10:53 am

How about Shameless Chuckmeapeerage ?
It is not confined to the Tories.

Jerry Owen

2nd October 2019 at 11:04 am

Mark Lambert
You mean Shami the sham , the one that shouts ‘Islamophobe’ at the drop of a pork scratching , yet finds after a several month investigation there is no anti Semitism in the labour party !!

Jim Lawrie

2nd October 2019 at 11:09 am

Exactly Mark. She could sit under any of the main three banners, or green or SNP. The groupthink is ubiquitous.

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