All too often, when someone wants to introduce another “phobia” to our lexicon, they fail to fully appreciate the dangers this brings. Witness the latest debate about “Islamophobia” and those lambasting the government for delaying any decision because of its “potential consequences for freedom of speech” and that the combination of race and religion would cause “legal and practical issues”.
Whilst I have profound sympathy for those who spout hatred at Muslims and would be one of the first to argue against anyone who compares people to an “infestation” that causes “mayhem wherever they decide to invade”, I still think we must understand why the concept of “Islamophobia” requires “further consideration”, as the government are rightly doing.
By saying this neologism is just a “working definition”, proponents like Nesrine Malik fail to appreciate how other such pejorative labels have been used to muzzle debate and shoot down any who dare criticise an ideology, most notably homophobia. Take, for instance, the case of Felix Ngole, whose fate as a social work student is to be determined by a court of three judges, all because of politely-presented comments he made on Facebook presenting what the Bible says about homosexual practice in Leviticus (and, of course, elsewhere). Or the vilification of rugby player, Billy Vunipola, for asking anyone who would listen to look again at Israel Folau’s social media post and understand the context behind why Christians warn people about the reality of hell and the need for repentance from specific sins.
Turning to a different “phobia”, what about the UK tax researcher – Maya Forstater – fired from her senior researcher job at a think tank for tweeting that “men cannot change into women”. Listen to how LGBT ideologues has moved far beyond defending victims of prejudice to become persecutors: “I support transgender people’s human rights and I believe that trans people are vulnerable, but no one group should overrule others. I lost my job for speaking up about women’s rights, in a careful way and in a tone of ordinary discussion and disagreement. I worked for a think tank and I thought you ought to be able to think and talk about things. I found out I was wrong about that.”
That’s why we cannot trust Labour MP Naz Shah’s protestations: “Let me put this to bed once and for all: this is a non-legally binding working definition, which is why that assertion is simply plain stupid.” After all we’ve seen in the last 20 years (there are so many other cases I could cite) does she seriously expect us to believe that this would be the end of the matter?
Whilst there are downsides to people speaking freely, the consequences of trying to use the law to muzzle words (except in instances where they directly incite violence) are much more pronounced.