Should there be freedom to criticise religion or does doing so automatically make it racism? Good question. Most of us are aware that people are sensitive to religious criticism to the extent that they will call it racism, and sometimes justifiably so. And it’s definitely fair to say that sometimes the line between criticism of a religion and ‘racism’ is easily crossed.
There is a problem however, with the statements and suggestions made by writer of the article ‘Freedom to criticise, or racism?’ who also wrote an article titled ‘To answer your question: I would say freedom fighters‘ which ultimately praised Hamas.
There is a part of this article which states that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, and that a clear distinction must be made between the two; a statement which the majority of people would agree with. That criticism or rejection of a political view must be made separately from the religion from which it might claim to represent or take root in.
Why then, is it acceptable for the writer to be so insistent on making clear the separation of religion and politics in that particular instance, but claim in another article that criticism of politics that involve people who happen to be Muslim is suddenly unacceptable?
The article ‘Freedom to criticise, or racism?’ claimed that the attempt to ban Azzam Tamimi from speaking at Sussex and an article in The Badger which criticised Hamas were both overt and covert attacks on the Muslim members of our community. I have to say that this claim is nothing short of ridiculous.
Both of these incidents were legitimate criticisms of Hamas (and Azzam Tamimi is a supporter of Hamas) who are essentially an anti-Semitic, homophobic and an internationally condemned political terrorist group. It was not criticising Islam as a religion. When did it become ‘racist’ to condemn people or groups who carry out or condone suicide bombings, as both Hamas and Azzam Tamimi have done?
The claim of these incidents being part of a ‘campaign against Muslim members of our community’ is fundamentally both incorrect and expresses extreme double standards for different religions. It cannot be one rule for Islam and its political offshoots and another for anyone else. These people are not criticised for their religion, but their political actions.
There is a still fundamental problem with the title of the article ‘Freedom to criticise, or racism?’ as well as with what I have just written. Both suggest that there should be no room to criticise religion, when of course there must be. Even those that believe in religion must be open to criticism for it. It is impossible to fully accept something that you have not questioned and heard opposition to. There is nothing in this world that is perfect and without its problems.
It has to be acknowledged that the main content of the article in question presented us with the basic fact that there has been a rise over the past few years in Islamaphobia. There is no denying that. Similarly, I am all too aware of how criticism of a religion or its politics can lead to ‘racism’ (and this is all based on the largely debatable assumption that it is possible to classify a religion as a race).
Yes, the distinction needs to be made between those who put forward legitimate criticism and those who should be deemed as ‘racists’.
The ones we should be truly deeming as ‘racists’ are people that reject the fundamental rights of others to hold a certain religious belief or maintain an ethnic background; people whose aim it is to prevent religious practices, people who conduct physical attacks on others simply because of the religion, race or nation they belong to, people who vandalise places of worship or religious monuments, people who make derogatory or slanderous remarks towards a race, a religion or the people practicing it, and people who have a rejection to any religious or ethnic groups basic right to self determination.
Though the writer also acknowledges these things as racism in his article, it would appear that he also has an ironic inability to apply his own standard of separation universally.