You hear that, and bad things come to mind. Claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and other similar extreme anxiety conditions disabling people. Judeophobia, which is a more precise synonym of antisemitism. Phobia is an irrational, intense fear/hate and avoidance of something that poses little or no actual danger. There are phobias related to animals (e.g., spiders), environments and situations (heights, storms). There are some phobias peculiar to a culture, such as taijin kyofusho, specific to Japan - an exaggerated fear of offending somebody. Most if not all phobias appear to be extreme variants of normal human fears and apprehensions. It follows that once this word is attached to an entity, you know that the latter is really nothing to be afraid of, let alone hate. It is a disease or extreme prejudice not to see that.
Is that what we are dealing with, when the word "phobia" is attached to "Islam"? Is there indeed an irrational fear or hate of Islam? If so, is it as grotesque and morbid as agoraphobia, or perhaps as dangerous and murderous as Judeophobia? I won't delve much into the ancient history, because the fears or comfort of the living are not so much influenced by what happened centuries ago, unless the same events occur in the present, and then the present may not connect with the past. For instance, in the Russian language there is an archaic word, бусурманин (busurmanin), that is derived from "Muslim" and was used as recently as in 19th century to scare children and designate any enemy. The origin of that scare is in the times of Muslim raids on the Russian territories and in the centuries of Muslim khans' domination and enslavement. The word was not revived, however, when the children of Beslan were murdered by Muslim terrorists, or hostages of suicidal Muslims died in a Moscow theater, or Muslim "Black Widows" blew themselves up in the Moscow metro. Indeed, even though Chechens are Muslims, and it is hard not to see Islam's involvement in their cause, that cause is more nationalist than Muslim. Nowadays, the language is either more specific - "Chechens", "Wahhabites"; or more generic - "terrorists". Muslims comprise a large proportion of the population in Russia, and are not persecuted for their religion. Russia, like the Soviet Union before, is good friends with Islamic countries. Interestingly though, devout Muslims to this day call Christians "Crusaders". They also jumped at the word "crusade" (against terrorists), used by Bush in the wake of 9-11 in no connection to a Christian cause. Of course, because for Muslims the suicidal mass murder of 9-11 was an act of their faith, they considered any response to be religious as well - Jewish and Christian. Never mind that Bush became a spokesperson for Islam, "religion of peace".
According to Obama, the explanation of 9-11 is in the "tension [that] has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies". Not according to Osama. His "fatwa" was titled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places" - his grievance was in the violation of Muhammad's prohibition of any religion but Islam in that land, one of the early manifestations of Islamic tolerance. That's why the Saudi monarchy that allowed the American/non-Muslim presence on the Arab soil is Osama's enemy as well. According to Obama, "America and Islam ... overlap, and share common principles -- principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings." Not according to Islam, which denies justice and dignity not only to other faiths (unless you consider dhimmitude just), but to even Muslim women and children. OK, let's assume that Islam is not defined by Muhammad's "marrying" a six-year old Aisha and raping her at the ripe age of nine, by his genocide of the Jewish tribes in Arabia, by the bloody conquests and Islamization of North Africa, Asia and large part of Europe - that's all ancient history. There is a lot, they say, bad stuff in any religion's past. What good is Islam defined by in our times? What is coming out of the Muslim world that serves, or at least does not hurt and promise to hurt more, humanity? These questions are rhetorical. No, I take it back. There is good coming out of Islamic world - people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who leave us hope that Islam's hold on its adherents is not absolute even in the darkest places of Dar al-Islam.
Ancient history aside, it's hard to miss Islam's influence in present-day events. The negative stuff in the name of Islam, by Islam and for Islam happens - well, every day. Everybody knows about that, so I'd like first to consider the positive. Let's see. Can you? I can't. What I can see is that the only way for a Muslim not to think or do horrible things - not just to others but to family members - is to become a "bad" Muslim and neglect the Koran of Allah and the Sunna (tradition on the conduct) of the Prophet, which a "good" Muslim is supposed to dutifully follow.
Inconsistent with the definition of phobia, the fear of Islam is not irrational - it is well justified by the actions of Muslims in the name of Allah, whether it is a stoning of Muslim "adulterers" or Jewish children, a decapitation of a captive, or incessant murderous attacks on anybody, any group, or any country that Muslims view as a problem. It does not matter how small the proportion of the 1.5 billion of Muslims that commit those actions is, as long as they are committed, not prevented, and condoned or even celebrated by the majority of the Muslims. It is those actions that are justifiably hated - not Muslims, who are the first victims of the cult of Allah. As a real phobia is a mental disorder, so is a lack of fear of something that presents clear, present and mortal danger - this is the other side of the same psychological coin. It is pathological or at least not very smart not to fear a lion and jump into his cage in a zoo. It would be pathological not to fear Islam.
Attaching "phobia" to "Islam" does not make the fear of Islam prejudicial, bigoted, or morbid. It is an attempt to subvert reality and turn the norm into pathology. In the same manner, Russian fascists invented the word Russophobia, serving a similar purpose - to render pathological the fear of the antisemitic and repressive Russian nationalism. Many Russians see through that and use the term only ironically. Those who use it seriously are known for what they are - fascists, who often are so transparent as to use swastika in their symbolics. I hope, the Americans are able to hold on to their rational fears, including that of Islam. The alternative is too dire - and scary.
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