Ikhwanophobia : A neologism not to be underestimated
In recent years the term “Islamophobia” has been widely used- and misused. If there are certain thinkers and politicians in the West who can be defined as “Islamophobes” for their ideas and writings, it is not entirely fair that people criticising radical Islam deserve this moniker.
For instance, an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims can be found within the Italian party “Lega Nord” whose members are against mosques, without exception. In this case we are facing a kind of fear which is close to hate. But if someone says that mosques must operate transparently and remain far from ideologies linked to radical Islam, there should be no doubt that he or she is not an “Islamophobe.”
It is well known that the battle against “Islamophobia” is mainly led by the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, the former Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and all Islamic associations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. In the name of freedom of expression and of faith they have asked the international community to fight “Islamophobia”. Their efforts have produced the Resolution of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2010, condemning “Islamophobic” behaviour, including Switzerland’s minaret building ban, despite some states’ major reservations.
The Resolution “strongly condemns… the ban on the construction of minarets of mosques and other recent discriminatory measures.” These measures “…are manifestations of “Islamophobia” that stand in sharp contradiction to international human rights obligations concerning freedoms of religions,” the Resolution says. This document clearly shows how the term “Islamophobia” is misused and misunderstood. In Mohammad’s time there were no minarets and the first minaret of Islamic history dates to 80 years after his death, so banning minarets cannot be understood as fear of either Islam or of Muslims.
Following the recent revolutions in the Arab world, the return of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, previously in exile, and the legalisation of political parties linked to the movement, certain scholars, journalists and intellectuals have begun to point to the dangers of their ideology, since their stated aim is a unified Islamic state ruled by sharia law, where women, Christians and Jews will be considered minorities. The reaction of the movement founded by Hasan al-Banna in 1928 was immediate. “Islamophobia” has been joined by the term “Ikhwanophobia”, a term used to describe fear and hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Arabic ikhwan al-muslimun. Among the websites connected to the movement there is www.ikhwanophobia.com. Here we read that: “’Ikhwanophobia’ is a new term, a neologism meaning the fear and hatred of Muslim Brotherhood members and their ideologies.” It continues that the term “refers to the unjustified intimidation of Muslim Brotherhood members by other people. “Ikhwanophobes” are the factions who call for discrimination towards Muslim Brotherhood members and Muslims in general. They may be characterised by having the belief that all or most MB members are religious fanatics, with violent tendencies towards non-Muslims, and reject as directly opposed to Islam such concepts as equality, tolerance, and democracy.” This means that whoever quotes either Hasan al-Banna’s or Sayyid Qutb’s or Rached al-Ghannouchi’s work could be accused of “Ikhwanophobia.” In effect, this means that only praise of Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood is permitted, with criticism forbidden.
On the website, it clearly states that “Ikhwanophobia is completely linked to the ”Islamophobia” term, where there are continued accusations of Muslim societies and the Islamic Centers in Europe or in the US as being affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood.” It continues, “Intimidation of the Muslim Brotherhood, of course, leads to many negative consequences that are contrary to basic human rights.” It seems as though all Muslims are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, but of course this is not true. As Izz Eldin El Zir, president of the Union of Islamic Organizations and Communities in Italy (UCOII), who is ideologically linked to the Brotherhood, recently admitted in an interview: ”We do not pretend to represent all Muslims in Italy, but only the members of our association”.
The link between “Islamophobia” and “Ikhwanophobia” is dangerous and should be rejected out of hand. Ikhwanophobia.com says it is “determined to shed light on the accusations and allegations against the MB illustrating to the world the true face of moderate Islamists.” Ikhwanophobia.com also states that it is “concerned with exposing the claimants and ‘Ikhwanophobes.’” This means the start of a new form of legal jihad to halt the tongues of academics and researchers in the name of defending what the website calls the “absolute values of justice, freedom and human rights.” In fact, all this is simply a way of reducing freedom of expression and the freedom to conduct objective analysis about radical Islam which does not necessarily lead to the hatred of Muslims who are, themselves, the primary and most numerous victims of Islamic extremism.
Date: 20th July 2011
Valentina Colombo is Senior Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy.