The very day following the terror attack in Paris in which Islamists claimed 130 lives, the following tin-rattling post by the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) appeared on Facebook: “CAN YOU HELP? The Online Hate Prevention Institute's Spotlight on Anti-Muslim Internet Hate campaign (SAMIH) is gathering the world's largest record of anti-Muslim hate content on social media. So far we have 451 unique items collected. We will keep taking reports until the end of November, but the crowd funding campaign supporting this project ends in 54 hours time. So far we have only raised 49% of our crowdfunding goal. Time is rapidly running out to support this vital project. Please help?” A more specific link was provided: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/samih-spotlight-on-anti-muslim-internet-hate#/ On November 15 the appeal closed, having met 68 per cent of its target.Despite the timing of the OHPI’s post the comments beneath the Facebook appeal – mainly written by non-Muslim women, it seems – were singularly free of “anti-Muslim hate”. Virtually the first person to set the comments rolling ventured: “Sorry but after Paris event unfolding it is hard not to be angry”. Immediately challenged by another commenter with “Angry at who?” she explained: “The terrorist and the people who support them. This will only exacerbate the distrust of the Muslim people”. A little later she was obliged to clarify that with “…what worries me [is] that the average person will not be able to differentiate between Muslims and terrorists its so sad that so many will suffer the wrath because of the actions of those who say they are doing this in the name of "Allah".’
Despite these reasonable enough observations she was lectured almost to the point of harassment by other commenters.
Observed another woman: “Hatred against Muslims has no place .... online or anywhere. Speaking out against acts of violence and terrorism which are supposedly carried out by fanatics in the name of ISLAM or Allah does have a place....everywhere. Unfortunately, many people don't understand the difference between the peaceful principles that underpin the Muslim faith and the idiotic acts of violence by those who can't possibly be true Muslims. I urge all true believers of the Muslim faith to proclaim loudly and constantly that you do not condone these acts of violence. You must speak and act now. This will help to turn the tide of growing misplaced hatred against ALL Muslims. Show that you are united with the world and declare your outrage against all acts of violence done in the name of Allah. We will stand with you, will you stand with us ??”
Not exactly “Islamophobic” was she? Indeed, rather too naïve. But, boy, did she cop a scolding from others. This for instance, from someone with a female western name: “Remind me again when i was supposed to apologise for Westboro Baptists? Also, have you noticed we dont need a Spotlight on Christian Hate Campaign because of Westboro Baptists filthy behaviours? Christians did not need to seek the spotlight to publicly vocally condemn Anders Brievek [sic]? I didnt notice any Pagans apologising for the extreme right wing Pagans that were arrested through the week? I dont see a lot of Jewish people being expected to condemn Israel's treatment of Palestinians? (but hey, wouldnt it be nice if so many stopped defending them..) … It is not your place to tell Muslim people what to do. Speak up on their behalf, but stop placing your expectations on other people. They already speak out and they do enough… Have you asked Muslim people what you can do to help? Have you considered that it may mean you need to speak out more publicly to condemn the terrorism of your own people - the west? Do you have a right to tell others to condemn terrorism if you don't do it sufficiently yourself? Do you speak out to condemn terrorism when it is directed at thousands of people in Africa or Beirut or Baghdad or just when it is directed at "us"?’
“Not even 24 hours and the Arabs are blaming Israel and America for the terrorist attacks in Paris” observed somebody archly.
The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) was founded by forces within the Australian Jewish community in 2012 to counter antisemitism, and with exceptions, members of that community, including the current head of the Zionist Federation, constitute its present Board, while its International Advisory Board is composed mainly of Jews. Since its foundation, though, it has considerably widened its sphere, as its website shows:
‘[It] is Australia’s National Charity dedicated to tackling the problem of online hate including online extremism, cyber-racism, cyber-bullying, online religious vilification, online misogyny, and other forms of online hate attacking individuals and groups in society. We aim to be a world leader in combating online hate and a critical partner who works with key stakeholders to improve the prevention and mitigation of online hate and the harm it causes. Ultimately, OHPI seeks to facilitate a change in online culture so that hate in all its forms becomes as socially unacceptable online as it is in “real life”… OHPI monitors all forms of online hate. This includes both “hate speech” directed against groups, or against individuals because of they belong to an identifiable group, and cyberbullying which can involve hateful content directed against an individual for any reason, or for no apparant [sic] reason at all… Our definition is wider than both that of the law and that of platform providers. We aim to promote debate about the type of society we, the internet-using public, wish to see. We also seek to raise awareness about the dangers that hate, whatever form it takes, can have on individuals and their physical and emotional health.’
Having myself endured four years of appalling and sustained cyberstalking and online abuse by an repugnant anti-Israel (male) leftist in the UK on various web forums (a major reason why I use an alias) I fully realise how extremely worthy many of OHPI’s aims are.
Nonetheless, despite its good intentions, its adoption of the term “Islamophobia,” and its consequent zeal for exposing and suppressing instances of what it considers “Islamophobia” smacks of authoritarianism and thought control – and, crucially, legitimate and necessary debate on perhaps the most pressing problem of our time.
Take, for instance, the report “Islamophobia on the Web” issued in 2013 by the OHPI in collaboration with the Islamic Council of Victoria. According to the OHPI’s website, “The authors divide the hate messages appearing in several different categories around which focuses Islamophobic activity of Internet users: Muslims as a threat to safety or a threat to public safety; Muslims as a threat to culture; Muslims as a threat to the economy; Content dehumanizing or demonizing Muslims; Threat of violence, genocide, and direct hatred directed at Muslims; The hatred directed at refugees or asylum seekers; Other forms of hatred.”
And take this pronouncement of the OHPI regarding these Facebook groups in parentheses (The United Patriots Front; Crusade against the Islamisation of the World; 1 Million Aussies Against ISLAM by Election Day 2016; Aussie Pride – No Islam – No Shariah Law; Australian Defence League; Exposing islam; Australian Patriot; Australians Against Islam – Melbourne; Australian Infidel Resistance Fighters; Stop the mosque in Kalgoorlie Boulder; All countries together against radical ISLAM; English Defence League; Britain First; BAN the Islamic Extremist Group ‘Sharia4Australia’):
“These pages promote hatred of the Muslim community, many of them focused specifically on the Australian Muslim community. Please take a moment to look at the pages and their content, and to report both to Facebook and to FightAgainstHate.com… Pages promote the idea that one group is [sic] society should dictate how others conduct themselves, which make them a fertile ground for a minority who wish to promote vilification and engaging in bullying.”
Does this foreshadow shutting down debate on the effects on Western nations and society of mass Muslim migration? And what of the very misogyny that the OHPI purports to fight when the misogyny emanates from and exists within Muslim communities? One example of anti-Muslim hatred shown on OHPI’s website is a poster showing the words “Sharia Law” with a traffic stop sign superimposed upon it. Does the OHPI deny that the supposed inferiority and the subjugation of women in all sorts of ways is endemic in that law? Does it consider as “hate speech” criticism of that law and of the sharia courts that are springing up around the Western world as “Islamophobia?” Do the writings of online experts on Islam, such as the distinguished Australian scholar of Islam Dr Mark Durie, constitute “Islamophobia” in the OHPI’s eyes?
Yes, the OHPI’s road is paved with good intentions. But we all know the old adage that warns where that road leads.
As the splendid Brendan O’Neill wrote in Saturday’s The Australian:
…The Islamophobia industry, funded by officials, uncritically fawned over by much of the media, does two really bad things. First, it gives Muslims the impression that criticism of their religion is wicked. Indeed, when the idea of Islamophobia was invented in the 1990s, primarily by aloof think tanks such as the Britain-based Runnymede Trust, the concern was entirely with policing criticism of Islam and shooting down the idea that Western values are superior.
The second bad thing this industry does is convince Muslims that the world hates them.
With their bumped-up stats and often shrill claims, it’s surely the Islamophobia-obsessed think tanks and journalists, not isolated Islamophobes, who have made some Muslims feel like aliens. The consequences of the elite project of cultivating Muslim fear are dire. The Islamophobia industry censors and divides, making whites feel they can’t express moral concerns about Islam and making Muslims feel like an utterly removed group. It may not cause but it certainly contributes to a feeling of injury among some Muslims, especially younger ones. I’ve seen this on campuses in Britain, where radical Islam is growing. When I speak for Islamic societies at universities, I’m often shocked by people’s attitudes. Their capacity for self-pity is profound; their suspicion of Western society is palpable…
Runnymede, whose 20-year-old definition of Islamophobia informs the global debate, said Islamophobic speech included claims that Islam was “inferior to the West”. It implored the political classes to present Islam as “distinctively different but not deficient”, as being as “equally worthy of respect (as Western values)”. So from the get-go, the Islamophobia industry was about reprimanding opinion, punishing moral judgment, so that even the belief that Western democratic values trumped Islamic ones came to be pathologised as a phobia.
It was about imposing relativism, not challenging racism. And we wonder why some radical Western Islamists hate and threaten those who mock their faith. They’ve grown up in nations in which criticism of Islam and a preference for Western values have been demonised. They’re kind of the armed wing of the Islamophobia industry.
The Islamophobia industry, and more importantly the late 20th-century creed of relativistic non-judgmentalism that fuels it, makes it harder to do the very thing we must do post-Paris: argue unapologetically for the values of liberty and democracy, for all the good, amazing stuff about Western society, and assert that these things are better than Islamism.
This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 11 years and over 22,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.