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The most dangerous and damaging Islamophobes are violent Muslim extremists

If Islamophobia means anything, it must be the fear and hatred of Muslims that makes it harder for them to live in diverse societies and operate effectively in the globalized economy and culture. But by that standard, who really are the worst Islamophobes?


Counterintuitively, it isn’t those who make a career out of demonizing Islam and Muslims like the self-appointed Catholic holy warrior Robert Spencer. Nor is it those for whom raw hatred is some sort of demented hobby like Jewish extremist Pamela Geller. Nor is it even the softer bigotry of the liberal American agnostic comic Bill Maher, who doesn’t like any religion but singles out Islam for particular opprobrium. It isn’t even the politicians in the United States and other Western countries like Peter King or Michelle Bachmann who have tried to win votes by presenting themselves as defenders against a Muslim fifth column.

For all the harm purveyors of the standard Islamophobic narrative undoubtedly cause, the worst Islamophobes – indeed in many ways the real Islamophobes – are the violent Muslim extremists who seem bent on providing Islamophobic narratives with some basis in fact. It’s ridiculous to equate Islam with terrorism as if the two are synonymous. There are any number of other terrorists and practitioners of political murder. And, of course, the violent Muslim extremists are not only a fringe in the Islamic world, they are a fringe of a fringe.

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