The intellectual atmosphere in France suffered severe disruption last August when French philosopher Henri Pena-Ruiz set off a storm by stating, “One has the right to be Islamophobic.”
Pena-Ruiz made this statement at a conference of the French political party France Insoumise (France Unbowed). France Insoumise is a socialist party with 17 members in the National Assembly.
Pena-Ruiz’s statement appeared to cause dissension in the leftist party, arousing consternation especially among “les belles ames” (the beautiful souls). The philosopher, who is described as being close to France Insoumise, was strongly criticized on social media for his statement.
What Pena-Ruiz actually said was:
“Anti-Muslim racism is a crime. Criticism of Islam, criticism of Catholicism, criticism of atheist humanism is not one. One has the right to be an atheophobe like one has the right to be an Islamophobe.”
But in a politically correct, western society like France, of course, where all criticism of Islam is almost taboo, there were, as to be expected, outcries against Pena-Ruiz’s statement.
One municipal counselor for the Parisian suburb of St. Denis, for example, called the statement “shocking” because “Islamophobia is the hostility to Muslims and Islam.”
“Stop seeming to understand that this situation is not just…,” he wrote on Twitter. “It is the result of two years of Islamophobic sallies, notably by certain elected representatives who have never failed to belittle veiled women.”
French Minister of Housing Julien Denormandie also entered the melee against Pena-Ruiz, stating:
“Even if it was not the intention of the author, the offered words give the sentiment that it is normal to be an Islamophobe, of which many French are victims. No, it is not normal, no, one does not have the right to be an Islamophobe.”
But there were some who supported Pena-Ruiz, one of whom was the leader of the France Insoumise Party himself, Jan-Luc Melanchon, who said:
“It is a total, complete error to confuse racism and Islamophobia as racism…One has the right, and even for some among you, the duty to criticize mercilessly religions that I consider are making an extraordinary contribution to the war between human beings and to mutual detestation.”
Another who sensibly defended Pena-Ruiz was Marlene Schiappa, Secretary of State for Equality Between Men and Women, who believes: “It is not permitted to insult believers for reason of their religion. But it is permitted to debate and criticize religion. It’s the sense of his (Pena-Ruiz’s) expression. It seems necessary to me to defend these two assertions.”
Pena-Ruiz went on to criticize those who dishonestly criticized him on social media.
“Those who criticized me on social media passed in silence the fact that I put on the same plane ‘catholophobia’ or ‘atheophobia’ and Islamophobia. They made it like I set myself solely in the criticism of Islam,” he said.
What Pena-Ruiz’s words center on is that all beliefs should be freely discussed in a free society no matter what they are. No religion should find shelter from criticism and be able “to expel its critics from public life” — as appears to be happening now with Islam. As French writer Mathieu Bock-Cote notes:
“In the measure where a religion is a system of beliefs and ideas, it should not oblige those who are strangers to love or respect it. One should be able to reject it, as one would with any ideology without fear of being called Islamophobic. The dogma of one should never become the forced belief of another.”
But it is this fear of being called Islamophobic that is causing many people to censor themselves, to “forbid themselves to speak of Islam except to flatter it.” Bock-Cote sees in this “gestures of submission.” And as the Islamophobia concept advances among politicians, he sees them “kneeling and ceding to intimidation” that is “symptomatic of their intellectual destruction.”
Bock-Cote goes further, accusing western intellectual elites of disqualifying themselves morally when they accuse their own people of racism because they simply “wish to conserve their right to criticize a religion which does not conform to the compatibility of their world.”
A good definition of Islamophobia is given by the French social scientist Philippe D’Iribarne, a leading expert on Islamophobia, author of the book Islamophobie: Intoxication Ideologique (Islamophobia: Ideological Intoxication). D’Iribarne writes: “…the notion of Islamophobia is a deception forged to hinder the comprehension of reality and to prevent the critical spirit from exercising its rights.”
D’Iribarne sees the present situation analogous to moments in history when there was “a delirium of persecution” against “the enemies of the people, the Kulaks, the Jews where a fantasy enemy is diabolized.” Orwell warned us, D’Iribarne says, that the “magical capacity” of language “loses its way” when its view of the world is “guided by manipulation and lie,” even to a fabrication of proofs “to have a cause triumph,” like in the Moscow show trials under Stalin. Islamophobia “obeys this logic,” D’Iribarne asserts.
While the left passionately claims to support liberty and equality, they hypocritically and passionately denounce those as Islamophobic who point out that this is not the case in the Islamic world. The lack of freedom of conscience for those, for example, who wish to change their Muslim religion. The discrimination against women in inheritance laws and as witnesses in trials as well as the prohibition against their marrying non-Muslims. All these aspects of the Islamic world that contradict western values, which the left should be sharply denouncing, are not only conveniently ignored by it but believes that pointing them out is a “scandal” that unfairly stigmatizes a “group of citizens.”
Islamophobia has also been described as “a manipulation that disturbs the civil peace.” One of these disruptions is that the Islamophobia accusation hinders integration, perhaps absolving Muslims of the “responsibility” to do so. They can dispense with the “laborious adaptation” process that all immigrants have had to undergo. D’Iribarne writes:
“It [Islamophobia] conveys a message addressed to Muslims: the Occident is an evil empire blinded by bad passions; no matter what you do, your belonging to Islam will mark you with an indelible stigma under which you will never be accepted as a full member; the only honorable option which is offered to you is to reject a world that rejects you, refuse its seductions, gather yourselves in places where you will make the law.”
The Islamophobia accusation today is promoted by “international organizations, by governments of Islamic countries, by militant associations, universities and journalists.” But all this has done is create a suffocating atmosphere of censorship which has permitted Islam “to advance in the public space and neutralize its adversaries.” All of which, unfortunately, is very detrimental to the West.