Bear with me as I use the etymologically absurd word "Islamophobia" in the way that it has been misused by the mainstream media. That is, to have it mean "hatred of Muslims" rather than what its etymology should mean as fear of Islam or those practicing Islam. It's a nonsense word, but it has common usage so I'm running with it for now. Literally, Islamophobia, as a fear, is rational for many....
Just like with 9/11, 7/7 and every other terrorist attack in the West, the narrative that the so-called "liberal" left presents is familiar. It goes like this:
1. The use of violence is never justified and we empathise with the victims and their families, this should never happen again; but..
2. We have to realise that US foreign policy and/or poverty and disenfranchisement and/or the plight of the Palestinians and/or anything else other than the declared motives of the terrorists, can incite these sorts of reactions. If only we change those policies, we can stop this happening; and
3. We must first and foremost guard against mass Islamophobia. This isn't the fault of Muslims or anything to do with Islam, it's a perversion of Islam.
So after showing faux concern for terrorism, and blaming anyone but the perpetrators for it, the key concern is that there will be mass violence or threats against Muslims.
Tim Black at Spiked points out that after past events, there is barely any such response, and most of what is recorded involves abuse online, which while vile and inexcusable, is not anything like the pogrom of attacks Jews now fear in France.
Quite simply, the numbers of people who blame other people for the actions of the terrorists are very few. Most people reject the immoral notion of collective guilt, or in any way diluting or transferring blame for crimes from the perpetrators to those who had nothing to do with it. In France, of course, there may be more reason for concern, given the popularity of the fascist Front Nationale, although it has tried to distance itself from those who would undertake such attacks.
After the Boston Marathon bombings there were loads of media panic about the“ignorance and prejudice [that arise] in the aftermath of a terrorist attack” and concern that Muslims in America would get it in the neck. But Muslims have not been assaulted en masse by stupid Americans in recent years, including in the wake of 9/11. According to federal crime stats, in 2009 there were 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes; in 2010, there were 160. In a country of 330 million people, this is exceptionally low. After the Lindt café siege in Sydney at the end of last year, there was once again heated fear on the pages of the broadsheets about dumb Aussies going crazy and attacking brown people. Nothing happened. No mob emerged. Muslims were not attacked.
Those warning against so-called Islamophobia may be well motivated. Who can argue against calls for there to be no attacks against innocent Muslims or their property? However, there is something more to all of this. It's the application of the Orwellian post-modernist doctrine of structural identity politics, a theory that makes all politics and relations about power, and classifies everyone into pre-defined groups that either have power or don't.
Under that ideology, Muslim immigrants or descendants of Muslim immigrants (remember they aren't defined by race, because Muslims can be any race) in predominantly European countries are deemed to be "disenfranchised", and so "powerless". So automatically, it is presumed that compared to non-Muslims, they are "victims" of a system that isn't "fully representative" of their views (which are presumed to be unified, not diverse) because there aren't proportionate numbers of Muslims in every political, commercial, bureaucratic or other position of power.
Adherents to structural identity politics also presume that those who do have more power (remember we're ignoring the Muslims who own businesses, or are wealthy, or are politicians or professionals, because that doesn't fit the narrative), i.e. non-Muslim Europeans, want to keep that power (even if they may individually be poorer, or have lower skilled jobs) and so would act to confront Muslims if given half the excuse. It's a construct of power and relations that bears little parallel to reality, but fits the narrative of "the powerful" (racist business owning Europeans who get to choose the government, who don't tolerate other religions) vs "the powerless" (innocent poverty stricken "others" who don't vote, who feel disenfranchised and just want to live in peace).
Yet it is even more insidious than that, as Brendan O'Neill writes:
Islamophobia is a code word for mainstream European elites’ fear of their own populations, of their native hordes, whom they imagine to be unenlightened, prejudiced, easily led by the tabloid media, and given to outbursts of spite and violence. The thing that keeps the Islamophobia panic alive is not actual violence against Muslims but the right-on politicos’ ill-founded yet deeply held view of ordinary Europeans, especially those of a working-class variety, as racist and stupid. This is the terrible irony of the Islamophobia panic: The fearers of anti-Muslim violence claim to be challenging prejudice but actually they reveal their own prejudices, their distrust of and disdain for those who come from the other side of the tracks, read different newspapers, hold different beliefs, live different lives. They accuse stupid white communities of viewing Muslims as an indistinguishable mob who threaten the fabric of European society, which is exactly what they think of stupid white communities.
Yes, it is the belief that the vast bulk of the European population are actually racist and aggressive, and incapable of realising that most Muslims in their communities are as appalled by terrorist attacks in the name of their religion, as anyone else. Evidence of some support for political parties that are anti-immigration is seen to prove that.
Fortunately, the truth is much more optimistic, for Muslims. Very few want to hound them out of European countries, or will threaten them with violence or vandalism against their property or mosques. However, quite a few will be fearful that, amongst the peaceful majority of Muslims, there are a few who will threaten them with violence. A fear the structural identity politics peddling left dismiss as being "ridiculous", mainly because those who peddle this nonsense are rarely a target themselves.
However, there is a real issue with Islam. The issue is that whilst most Muslims living in the West generally embrace the principle "live and let live", recognising that their freedom to live their life as they see fit only exists because they also recognise that with others, there are some who reject this. Not only do they reject this, but they are willing to do violence to the rest of us when we offend them, or they are willing to dish out collective revenge, with members of the armed forces or Jews or simply citizens going about their daily affairs, legitimate targets for murder.
It is lazy and far from helpful to simply say they have "nothing to do with Islam", for that is not what they think. It is as stupid as saying that Nazis have "nothing to do with German nationalism" or that the Khmer Rouge have "nothing to do with Marxism". For a start, with no centralised authority on Islam (but rather many different competing ones), the simple truth is that it is all up for debate, among those who claim to be Muslims. Clearly there are Muslims, going to mosques, promoting Islamist violence and values.
Clearly the Charlie Hebdo murders were an attempt to enforce Islamist blasphemy law, just as exists in most Muslim majority countries. To claim the motive to kill those who have "insulted the Prophet" is nothing to do with Islam, is blatantly evasive, given that so many Islamic countries do exactly that, albeit within the rule of law.
So, whilst there is value in warning about conducting reprisals against Muslims because of the terrorist attacks, focusing so much on this conceals the much more important issue - which is talking about Muslims who seek to use violence to enforce their beliefs on others.
Right now, Jews in France may feel like victims, and fear attacks. Journalists in Denmark, France, and now Germany, may feel like victims, and fear attacks.
They fear it because there are a few people, who identify as Muslims, who want to use violence to change people's behaviour.
If European governments cannot assert, clearly and unequivocably, as the Muslim Mayor of Rotterdam has done, that to be a citizen of a Western European country, you must respect the free speech of others or leave, they will fail us.
Sadly, there is little real evidence that any European leaders will make such a bold statement, or indeed amend their laws on speech to ensure free speech is. unequivocably, defended.