In a prior post I wrote about the attachment of the word “phobia” to terms to describe those who dislike other groups, e.g. Islamophobia or Occidentophobia. “Phobia is commonly defined as “a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no real danger.” Tell the Belgians and Parisians that their fears of Islam are irrational and that it poses “little or no real danger.”
We don’t apply the term “cancerphobia” to those who worry about the disease because if you live long enough it is likely you will come down with it. Being afraid of cancer, especially if you have smoked in your life, isn’t irrational. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Europeans are irrationally afraid of Islam when they suffer terrorist attacks, and while more than half of the Muslims surveyed believe the West is at war with their religion.
The usage of such an attachment is based on the notion we can trace back to the writings of Erasmus who believed that ignorance was the base of all conflict, and that if both sides learned about the other they would stop fighting. So the term Islamophobia makes sense because under this assumption people fear Islam because they don’t understand it and don’t know Muslims. Once they learned about Islam and befriended Muslims they would no longer fear them.
This is comforting because it places the power to change in the hands of the person fearing Muslims and Islam. Muslims don’t have to do anything. It is up to us to learn about their ways and as we do they will learn about us and see that we aren’t so bad and stop wanting to kill us. This is the intellectual equivalent of a battered spouse who believes she controls her abusive husband. If she understands him and loves him even more he will see she is a person worth loving and will stop beating her.
But an outsider knows such a situation ends in one of two ways. Either someone leaves or someone dies.
The Danish writer who coined the term Occidentophobia to apply to Muslims who hate the West fails to recognize this deadly assumption. We don’t talk about Judeophobia – we talk about anti-Semitism. We don’t call Klansmen African-Americanophobes, we call them racists. Islamic terrorists aren’t ignorant about the West. They know who we are and they hate us anyway. So using a “phobia” term is misleading. And limiting their hatred to the Occident ignores terror attacks elsewhere in the world.
Jihadis aren’t at war with the West, they are at war with the modern world and everything it stands for: gender and sexual equality, personal liberty, economic freedom, and the separation of church and state. Their true goal is to reverse Time and bring the world back to the 7th Century as it was when the Prophet Mohammed ruled Arabia. This isn’t irrational fear of the West but a rational hatred from the Islamic perspective of modern life and everything associated with it.
This hatred is so expansive that I can’t think of a word that accurately captures it. It’s a hatred of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, of Science and Reason itself. It’s a hatred of all 4/5ths of humanity not Muslim, and the fraction of Muslims who are heretics (like the Shi’a). It’s a hatred of all world history prior to the birth of the Prophet, which is why the Taliban blew up statues of the Buddha in Afghanistan and Isis destroyed Roman temples in Palmyra.
But just because there isn’t a word to sum it up means we should make do with one like Occidentophobia. It’s always better to have nothing than something that misleads, as this term surely does.