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Defining and promoting the word "antimuslimism"

Many people want a one-word Muslim equivalent of "antisemitism". "Islamophobia" is irretrievably flawed. I propose the new word "antimuslimism" be used.


Posted 4 February 2019

Many Muslims want a single word equivalent of antisemitism. It needs to be a neologism because the word Islamophobia is irredeemably tarnished.

I have explained elsewhere why Islamophobia is not a useful word to name clearly undesirable behaviours such as:

See my 2012 article "Islamophobia – a trap for unwary Muslims" and my 2018 article "Why I avoid using the word Islamophobia." Accordingly, I will not repeat those explanations here.

In my opinion, we need a new word, which does not bring with it any historical “baggage” to cover the set of undesirable anti-Muslim behaviours listed above. The word I propose is “antimuslimism.”

Is this a new word?

They say that there is nothing new under the sun. However, my Google search for the word “antimuslimism” returned only 11,600 results, when one excludes “anti-Muslim” which of course is a different word.

This is a relatively trivial number of results. For example, anti-Semitism returned 24.2 million, antisemitism returned 34.9 million and Islamophobia returned 7.7 million.

However, since I have not invented the word, I have checked for existing definitions. Amongst the first 50 search results, I found only one proper definition which is on Wiktionary (a project of Wikimedia, the publishers of Wikipedia.)

Wiktionary defines it as “Rare form of anti-Muslimism.” and on a separate page defines anti-Muslimism as “The practice or attitude of opposing Islam or Muslims; Islamophobia.”

While I regard the above Wiktionary definitions as flawed and inadequate, they are not a serious problem as the existing usage of the word is so tiny. If the word “antimuslimism” is to enter common usage, it needs a well-crafted definition.

I have suggested one below, deliberately plagiarised from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism.

Criticising Islam and criticising historical Muslim figures as disguised antimuslimism

Before looking at the definition of "antimuslimism", we need to recognise that, just as antisemites often seek to disguise their antisemitism as criticism of Israel, anti-Muslim bigots also often seek to disguise their antimuslimism as criticism of Islam and criticism of historical Muslim figures, particularly the Prophet Muhammad.

See my article "Criticising Islam as disguised anti-Muslim hatred."

A definition of antimuslimism

As mentioned above, the definition below is closely modelled on the IHRA definition of antisemitism. However, in addition to changing the target and necessarily offering different examples, I have also amended the IHRA’s wording where I considered that appropriate.

The definition itself

“Antimuslimism is a negative perception of Muslims, which may in extreme cases be expressed as violence toward Muslims, and in less extreme cases as hatred of Muslims, discrimination against Muslims, and abusive language against Muslims.

Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antimuslimism may be directed toward Muslim individuals. They may also be directed against non-Muslim individuals either because they are wrongly believed to be Muslims or because they are considered sympathetic to Muslims. They may also be directed towards the property of such Muslim or non-Muslim individuals, or towards Muslim community institutions and religious facilities.”

Guidance on the use of the definition

The following examples may serve as illustrations.

Manifestations of antimuslimism might include extreme, and repetitive attacks upon the religion of Islam, asserting that it is a uniquely violent religion, or that Muslims have historically sought to exterminate all non-Muslims or sought to compel all non-Muslims to convert to Islam.

However, criticism of Islam similar to that levelled against any other religion, including asserting that Muhammad created the Quran from available extant sources, or other academically argued challenges to the history or theology of Islam, cannot be regarded as anti-Muslim. Nor is it anti-Muslim to point out that at specific times in specific places some Muslim rulers have practiced forced conversion.

Antimuslimism frequently charges the generality of Muslims today with seeking to harm humanity, or with seeking to impose Islam on others. It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antimuslimism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, [emphasis added by Mohammed Amin as these words are often ignored in arguments about the IHRA definition of antisemitism] include, but are not limited to:

  1. Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Muslims in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  2. Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Muslims such as the claim that Muslims wish to take over countries into which they have immigrated by demographic expansion.
  1. Accusing Muslims as a category of religious people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Muslim person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Muslims.
  1. Denying the fact, scope, or intentionality of genocides where Muslims are the victims as in the case of Srebrenica or more recently in the case of the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar.
  1. Accusing Muslim citizens of being more loyal to Muslim majority countries, or to the alleged priorities of Muslims worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  1. Applying double standards by requiring of Muslims a behaviour not expected or demanded of other religious groups.
  1. Using the symbols and images associated with terrorists who are Muslims (e.g. swords dripping blood, images of Jihad) to characterize Muslims generally.
  1. Holding Muslims collectively responsible for the actions of terrorist groups such as ISIS or Al Qaeda.
  1. Seeking to demonise the Prophet Muhammad by using abusive language such as “paedophile”. (Simply pointing out the widely believed age of Aisha at the time of her marriage is not anti-Muslim, as many Muslims also believe that she was very young when she was married. It is the type of language used, and an obsession with this issue, that is an indicator of probable anti-Muslim attitudes.)

Anti-Muslim acts are criminal when they are so defined by law. For example, Austria has a blasphemy law which has been used to convict someone of anti-Islamic blasphemy.

Criminal acts are anti-Muslim when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Muslim or linked to Muslims.

Anti-Muslim discrimination is the denial to Muslims of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

A note on syntax

Antimuslimism is a single compound word. As such, it should not be hyphenated into the form “anti-Muslimism”, just as the IHRA specifies that antisemitism should not be hyphenated into “anti-Semitism.”

However, as Muslims are a real category of people, the appropriate adjectival term is “anti-Muslim” and not “antimuslim.”

This contrasts with the Jewish case, where the equivalent adjective is “antisemitic” as a derivative of the compound word antisemitism, as “Semite” is not a word used to describe exclusively Jews in modern English.

The natural derivative word to describe a person who holds anti-Muslim views would be an “antimuslimist”, to mirror the word “antisemite” for a person who holds antisemitic views. However, promoting one neologism at a time is probably enough!


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