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A Nasty Neologism
"The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends," President George W. Bush declared soon after the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Bush's statement set the tone for the tumultuous decade to come, one in which the nation prosecuted a war on terrorism in two Muslim lands while taking great pains to protect the rights of Muslim Americans.
Yet if the author Nathan Lean is to be believed, Americans today are caught in the grip of an irrational fear of Islam and its adherents. In his short book on the subject, Mr. Lean, a journalist and editor at the website Aslan Media, identifies this condition using the vaguely medical sounding term "Islamophobia." It is by now a familiar diagnosis, and an ever widening range of symptoms—from daring to criticize theocratic tyrannies in the Middle East to drawing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad—are attributed to it.
In reality, Islamophobia is simply a pejorative neologism designed to warn people away from criticizing any aspect of Islam. Those who deploy it see no difference between Islamism—political Islam and its extremist offshoots—and the religion encompassing some 1.6 billion believers world-wide. Thanks to this feat of conflation, Islamophobia transforms religious doctrines and political ideologies into something akin to race; to be an "Islamophobe" is in some circles today tantamount to being a racist.
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