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The ‘Islamophobia’ Smear Against Scruton

Hamza Yusuf in dialogue with Roger Scruton at Zaytuna College (Renovatio screenshot)

The Muslim writer Ismail Royer makes an important point:

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Read Royer’s entire thread.

He points out, among other things, that Scruton does not deny that anti-Muslim prejudice exists; Scruton only objects to the term “Islamophobia” as being nothing more than an attempt to control conversation by making any and all criticism of Islam or Muslims a social pathology. (The same is true with all these absurd, politicized -phobias.)

This is certainly true. When I was a columnist and editorial writer at The Dallas Morning News (2003-2009), I had many nasty run-ins with the local Islamic leadership, who were all Muslim Brotherhood (this may well have changed over the last decade, since I was last there). To them, it was impossible for anyone to write critically about Islam, or the deeds of Muslims, in good faith. The only acceptable angle was flattery. These guys would come into the office for editorial board meetings to complain about my columns, and I would be ready and willing to have a substantive discussion about religion. They refused to do it.

Just flat-out refused. It was clear that they didn’t actually want to talk about religion, but rather wanted to paint me as an “Islamophobe” in the eyes of my boss and colleagues. Fortunately, on at least one occasion, a new colleague had joined the editorial board, a man who had once been a Mideast correspondent, and who knew that my questions were fair and important. I learned fairly early on in my long, unpleasant relationship with these men that their goal was not to explain Islam, or even to defend it, but to assert, over and over again, “How DARE you speak ill of Islam?!”

Towards the end of my time in Dallas, over a long lunch with my bosses and the then-head of CAIR, as well as several other Muslim men, the CAIR chief — an Egyptian — admitted that yes, he believed that even today, adulterous women and homosexuals ought to be stoned to death, for their own good and for the good of the community. That was a special moment.  It was difficult for my colleagues, who understandably didn’t spend as much time as I did researching these communities, to believe that someone who was so polite, so well-dressed, and the manager of a luxury hotel, could believe such barbaric things. That statement by him, which had pretty much just slipped out at the end of the diplomatic meal, put a lot of things into perspective. The many meetings we journalist had had with him and his associates had been designed not to improve our coverage of Islamic issues — by making it more accurate — but to stop anything that wasn’t flattery.

This happened so many times, and was so flagrantly dishonest — for example, a group of four or five local Muslim leaders, all of whom were born and raised in the Middle East, pretended in an editorial board meeting not to know who Sayyid Qutb was, even though at least one of them was in the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Qutb was a prominent member — that I ceased to believe anything that CAIR said.

I haven’t really written about that field since leaving Dallas. A lot can change in a decade. As I’ve written here over the last year or so, I genuinely believe that socially and theological American Muslims and American Christians ought to try to find ways of working together in practical ways for religious liberty. I don’t know how Christians would go about finding good-faith interlocutors on the Muslim side, but the kind of Muslims I dealt with in Dallas back then, and the kind of people Ismail Royer calls out in his Twitter thread, aren’t them.

Are there people who fear Christianity for no good reason? Yes. Are there people who hate it? Also yes. Is everyone who criticizes Christianity a “Christophobe,” or otherwise acting in bad faith? Emphatically not. No community — not Christians, not Muslims, not LGBT folks, no one — gets to decide what others can and cannot say about them. Any activist who throws around these phony “phobia” allegations is not someone who is operating in good faith, and who wants genuine dialogue and understanding.

If criticism is unjust, illogical, or based on bad information or a malicious interpretation of facts, then by all means point that out. But straightforward criticism from an opponent can be a blessing. I would rather speak with a Muslim interlocutor who felt at ease to criticize Christianity for what he sees as its faults, than with one who insisted that our dialogue would be about nothing but flattering cliches. If he did not feel the same way, and be willing to take my respectful criticism of his faith, and positions he takes based on his faith, then we really wouldn’t have much to say to each other.

Royer is a consistent critic of professional Muslims who use their Islamic identities for progressive ends. Here he writes about the Wikileaks revelation that George Soros was funding programs to make both Christianity and Islam progressive.  In the case of Islam:

In “creating” Muslim organizations and leaders and “expanding their influence,” the key goals of the Soros-linked foundations are: reframing the community as primarily a racial or ethnic identity group rather than as a religious group; emphasizing the community’s support for Democrat-friendly political issues; and weakening the community’s traditional religious teachings such as defined gender roles and the prohibition on same-sex sexual relations.

Back to Scruton, Royer writes today:

Below is a video of an interview that Hamza Yusuf, the head of Zaytuna College, conducted with Scruton last year, before an audience at the Islamic college. Watch it, and try to claim with a straight face that Roger Scruton is the enemy of Muslims. You can’t do it. Similarly, if you are a conservative Christian, watch this and try to claim with a straight face that Hamza Yusuf is the enemy of Christians. You can’t do it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQoi9xPooKo]

UPDATE: A reader sends in this short audio clip of a Sheikh Yusuf lecture. Not sure where it was, but from the context, it was somewhere outside of the US. In it, he basically mainlines a conspiracy theory about the early Church straight out of Jack Chick pamphlet. Very disappointing. I don’t expect a faithful Muslim to accept Christian teaching, of course, but this is just silly.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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