I am out of the country at the moment and I see that Ed Miliband has used the opportunity to ‘say’ in an interview with the ‘Muslim News’ that he will outlaw ‘Islamophobia’ if he becomes Prime Minister. I use ‘say’ because ‘Muslim News’ has never seemed to me an especially reputable outlet for news, Muslim or otherwise. And I say ‘Islamophobia’ in scare quotes because, well, the term deserves them.
There are many things to say about this, but allow me confine myself to three points:
If Ed Miliband does become Prime Minister and chooses to make ‘Islamophobia’ illegal would he mind letting us know what he thinks ‘Islamophobia’ is? After all a ‘phobia’ is an irrational fear. The Charlie Hebdo staff were often called ‘Islamophobes’ before (and after) two Islamists went into their magazine’s office and shot most of them in the head. If there is such a thing as ‘Islamophobia’ and it is indeed an ‘irrational’ fear, would Ed mind telling us whether it was ‘rational’ or ‘irrational’ of the Charlie Hebdo staff to be fearful of elements of Islam? An answer before 7 May would be helpful.
I cannot help noticing that some actual, serious ‘hate-speech’ occurred while Labour were last in power, yet nothing seemed to have been done. Consider this speech by Michael Adebolajo at a ‘Unite Against Fascism’ rally in 2009. What else was Adebolajo doing here other than inciting anti-non-Muslim violence and prejudice? Of course Michael Adebolajo actually followed words with deeds and went on to behead Drummer Lee Rigby. Where were the hate-speech laws that day?
And finally, I hate to grandstand, but I suppose I should point out that if Ed Miliband were to become Prime Minister and were to decide to make what people call ‘Islamophobia’ illegal then I’m very happy to test the law straight away. Indeed I will immediately put on a gathering of academics, writers, Quranic-scholars and philosophers - Muslim and non-Muslim - to discuss Islam. It is possible that some of those gathered may disagree with the foundational claims of Islam. I, for instance, may repeat my belief – not being a Muslim – that it is highly unlikely that the Quran was ‘dictated’ by God. This is not only my belief. It is also the belief of Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Christians (some Anglican priests excepted), atheists and ex-Muslims, to name only a few minority groups. And so the problem Prime Minister Ed will find is that:
a) What I am saying is true.
b) The ‘Islamophobia’ industry will continue to describe this truth as ‘Islamophobia’.
c) Ed will have made ‘Islamophobia’ illegal.
d) Ed will have made the truth illegal.
This will be a problem, won’t it?
Anyhow – I must say that I’m not at all disheartened by the news from my homeland. Indeed I now have a sneaking desire for Ed to become PM and am rather looking forward to the results.