By LSS member Daniel Anderson *
“Phobias are more pronounced than fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object.”
(NHS website; my emphases in bold.)
Having a phobia must be terrible. According to medical experts it can cause a sufferer to go to irrational lengths to avoid whatever the perceived danger is. Those unfortunate to have a phobia can suffer symptoms including dizziness, nausea, sweating, increased heart rate, trembling, and stomach problems. Treatment is often necessary and usually involves counselling or psychotherapy.
But is it possible to have a phobia in relation to ideas? Put another way, is it possible to have an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger from mere words? I would argue that it is not possible.
When, for example, I have (often heated) political disagreements with friends I don’t suddenly blurt out that they are a Socialistophobe. I cannot also recall them retorting back and calling me a Libertarianophobe. Furthermore, has anyone ever heard of these following terms:
I could go on indefinitely…but the point is now made. The ridiculous made-up examples above show that it is impossible to have an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger from ideas because ideas, unlike situations or objects, are flexible concepts that are open to adoption, adaptation or rejection by us all.
Despite this, there is one notion of a phobia in relation to ideas which has now entered the mainstream and gained public acceptance: Islamophobia. I am not sure exactly how this was allowed to happen. But what I do know is that the term Islamophobia – which has nothing to do with exaggerated or unrealistic senses of danger about a situation or an object – is now being used to bully and silence secular Muslims and women’s rights advocates who believe that all people deserve the same basic legal rights.
Unfortunately the legal profession has caved in to this bullying too. Worries about being accused of Islamophobia explains why the Law Society drafted its sharia practice note. And worries about being accused of Islamophobia explains why “Women in Law London”, a group recently set up with the apparent aim of “promoting and engaging the next generation of women leaders in law”, cannot raise a squeak of dissent (see here and here) against a Law Society practice note that states at section 3.6 that women are to be regarded as worth half of men (keep up with the City networking to get those six-figure salaries though ladies!)
Islamophobia is a sinister term which must be pushed back out of the mainstream and removed from the public consciousness. Islamophobia deserves as much credibility as those ridiculous terms I have made up above. We must recognise the value of all ideas being publicly challenged. Challenging the ideas of Islam is not the result of an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger. Instead, challenging the ideas of Islam is simply the same as rationally challenging any other ideas – be they religious, political, economical, philosophical, or scientific.
So, does being critical of the Law Society’s sharia practice note make me Islamophobic? I would say that the term is meaningless and that those supporters of the practice note had better come up with some actual ideas of their own if they want to continually defend its publication and all the discriminatory endorsements that go along with it. I haven’t heard any ideas from them yet. In fact all I continue to see is laziness and cowardice from the Law Society and others in the legal profession in not promoting the rule of law. For shame.
I started with a quote so I’m going to end with one. It’s a quote that is often incorrectly attributed to the late Christopher Hitchens but in fact it originates from a humble tweeter called Andrew Cummins who goes by the Twitter handle @Vodkaninja:
“Islamophobia. A word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”
Which one (or which ones) are you?
* Daniel Anderson was an LSS member from Oct 2014 to Jul 2015
Views expressed are not necessarily those of the LSS
Image credit above: Phobics Society
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