Last weekend the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, described the massacre in Christchurch as the result ‘of failing to root out Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment from our society’. His intention is to crack down on Islamophobia and give it a formal definition. He is right about anti-Muslim sentiment. But he is dangerously, terrifyingly wrong about Islamophobia.
It has become common to hear the New Zealand atrocity described using this word, but it is loaded with sinister implications that the vast majority of well-intentioned people will simply not understand. And the reality is that it plays straight into the hands of the jihadis.
The Christchurch attack was not an act of Islamophobia. It wasn’t a religion that was gunned down in Christ-church, but the followers of that faith. The mass murderer hated Muslims, and wanted to kill as many people like me as possible. He acted from virulent, lethal, anti-Muslim xenophobia — not from Islamophobia. The difference between these two terms is not one of semantics. This is about the fight between mainstream Islam and the jihadist imposter, a fight in which words are weapons.
Islamists deploy ‘Islamophobia’ as a political and judicial shield to protect them and defame their critics. Their creed is Islamism, a modern-day political agenda masquerading as religion. Its artefacts take the form of permanent war with secularism and an obsession with purity as the external symbol of overt religiosity: the untrimmed beards, the women forced to wear the niqab and the abbayah — along with the profoundly undemocratic and un-Islamic concept of blasphemy
These are drawn not from Islam but a 20th-century totalitarianism. The notion of prosecuting blasphemy or even apostasy has no scriptural basis in Islam: while disbelief is mentioned more than 150 times in the Quran, an earthly punishment is not.