As a Muslim, even I would say that not all publicly expressed disagreements with Islam classify a person as a bigot. But there is a fine line between bigotry and non-bigotry; on the Internet, this bigotry - Islamophobia - is usually expressed through the tone of the person's writings. The writer usually takes an attacking, accusatory mode, and rarely allows him or herself to acknowledge that he or she is wrong, let alone that the Islamic/Muslim point has merit. Moreover, the bigot/Islamophobe has no real desire to learn about Islam or Muslims. They already know what they know, so to speak, and are content to remain in a state of ignorance. For a Muslim to correct them would be "to confuse the issue with facts."
Ironically, this is the correct tact to take with Muslims: instead of attack, attack, attack (and showing we Muslims just how ignorant and closed-minded you really are), try asking questions instead and creating a dialog. Instead of assuming that Western conventional wisdom is correct for interpreting Islam and Muslim society, try asking Why? Most often, Western conventional wisdom is wrong in that it doesn't understand why the way things are (with respect to the Qur'an, with respect to Islamic practices, with respect to Muslim society, and so on). Context matters, and most Muslims understand that context far better than non-Muslims do. So don't be afraid to admit to yourself that maybe, just maybe you don't really know the subject as well as you think you do and that you may very well be wrong, and respectfully ask a Muslim for their point of view.
Very few Muslims, if any, would think of a person who comes across as sincerely desiring to learn about Islam and Muslims as an Islamophobe.
January 3, 2010
The Fine Line
Several recent diaries over at Daily Kos have touched on the topic of Islamophobia. One question a number of people, both diarists and commenters, have wrestled with is whether Islamophobia is racism or bigotry. But even more fundamentally, one diarist asked, if someone publicly disagrees with Islam, does that make him or her a bigot? What follows is my answer: