Islamistsâ€™ reflexively respond to criticism of their extremism by accusing their opponents of attacking their religion. This tactic has long been used in the Muslim world against fellow Muslims and, like the boy who cried wolf, it is largely brushed off. However, in the West, it still worksâ€”and thatâ€™s why moderate Muslim voices are speaking out against the false labeling of Islamist critics as â€œIslamophobes.â€
In every case where Islamists are called to task for their extremism, those opposing them — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — are accused of contributing to a war on Islam.
Yet, as seen in Bangladesh, Tunisia, Egypt, Iran and elsewhere, this overused line fails to deplete the anti-Islamist crowds. If anything, the insulting of their integrity strengthens their resolve.
In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood incessantly accuses the Egyptian military and its Muslim supporters of being part of an anti-Muslim conspiracy. The leader of Brotherhood-linked group, American Muslims for Palestine, Hatem Bazian, likewise condemned the â€œcampaign against the Brotherhood and its supporters that was highly Islamophobic, deploying a barrage of anti-Muslim tropes to achieve the desired outcome.â€
American Islamists â€“ specifically the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups — use the same rhetoric, but it works more effectively for two reasons: their targets are usually non-Muslims and their American audience unfamiliar with the tactic.
In America, this line of attack is a kind of toned-down version of the conspiracy theory found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy theories, where Â Islamists accuse their opponents of being part of an Israeli/Zionist conspiracy. This conspiracy includes a war-hungry military-industrial complex and an â€œIslamophobia Network.â€
The strategy isnâ€™t new. Witness a video taken twenty years ago where Siraj Wahhaj â€“ an imam who is a notorious Islamist and still a popular speaker at Muslim-American events — was preaching this view of the world. At the time, Wahhaj claimed that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was part of this anti-Muslim conspiracy and that the FBI was sending agent provocateurs into mosques. The FBI faces this same accusation from Wahhajâ€™s allies today yet in much greater volume.Â
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a Brotherhood derivative, was earning political influence as far back as 1996 by claiming that Muslims are a persecuted minority. First Lady Hillary Clinton even met with the group and expressed her concern about anti-Muslim influences in the country.
Since 9/11, assisted by genuine expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment, American Islamists have gone into overdrive in using this tactic. Now itâ€™s even used on fellow Muslim-Americans, like in May when the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) lashed out at a non-Islamist Muslim group without any kind of provocation.
Thankfully, moderate Muslims are tired of seeing their friends unfairly attacked in this way and are speaking out.
A former member of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood network, Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, has gone on record about a private meeting in the early 1990s with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity. The participants, he recalls, agreed to use the term â€œIslamophobiaâ€ as a political weapon.
â€œThis loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics,â€ says Muhammad.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism has released a video report showing how this tactic has been used against the organizationâ€™s new documentary, The Grand Deception.
â€œAny critic of the radical Islamic wing is branded as an enemy. You cannot disagree with them â€¦ There is no debate with these people,â€ Muhammad says in the video.
â€œAny time you condemn them, any time you point out their machinations or their deceit, they are going to label you an Islamophobe and who wants to be that? It is just a technique to stigmatize their critics.â€
Author and activist Dr. Qanta Ahmed, who challenged the “the fallacy of Muslim victimhood” in an interview with the Clarion Project in June 2012, is also seen in the video.
â€œThere is a tremendous fear of being labeled a bigot or a racist or an Islamophobe, which, by the way, applies to you whether you are inside Islam our outside Islam,â€ she says.
Dr. Bassam Tibi, a scholar of Islamic politics and author of Islamism and Islam, talked with the Clarion Project in June and explained, â€œIslamists say there is only one Islam, which is their Islamism, and they taint critics with â€˜Islamophobiaâ€™ in the war of ideas.â€
Last month, Tahir Gora of the Progressive Muslims Institute Canada, discussed the same problem, saying, â€œThis â€˜Islamophobiaâ€™ term is another tactic used by traditional Islamic organizations to overlook their responsibilities in terms of intermingling in the U.S., Canada and other Western countries.â€
Gora wrote an article in the Huffington Post titled, “How Muslims Created Islamophobia.” In the piece, he warns against the â€œpreaching of the addiction of victimhood.â€
â€œ[T]he incessant drumbeat by Islamists and Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups in the U.S. about rising Islamophobia is reflecting the mindset of the mulla and his scant followers in America, not me or the 90 per cent who have little interest in praying behind misogynist and homophobic clerics,â€ Gora wrote.
Walid al-Kubaisi, the producer of an excellent Norwegian documentary about the Muslim Brotherhood titled Freedom, Equality and the Muslim Brotherhood, gave an interview to the Clarion Project in November 2012.
He argues that the Islamists who rush to cry â€œIslamophobiaâ€ are responsible for contributing to genuine anti-Muslim sentiment.
â€œI believe that we must learn to distinguish between Muslims and Islamists, and we must show that Islamist aspirations will create more hatred and Islamophobia if they are not being debated,â€ al-Kubaisi said.
Muslims in the U.S. and in the Muslim world have more experience in dealing with the Islamists and their propaganda. They see the pattern in how the term â€œIslamophobiaâ€ is used. In short, they are able to see it right through the term. Hopefully, one day, so will the American public, media and government.