'Islamophobia' is a term that has existed since the nineteenth century. But in recent decades, argues Pascal Bruckner in his
controversial new book, it has become a weapon used to silence criticism of Islam. The term allows those who brandish it in
the name of Islam to 'freeze' the latter, making reform difficult. Whereas Christianity and Judaism have been rejuvenated
over the centuries by external criticism, Islam has been shielded from critical examination and has remained impervious to
change. This tendency is exacerbated by the hypocrisy of those Western defenders of Islam who, in the name of the principles
of the Enlightenment, seek to muzzle its critics while at the same time demanding the right to chastise and criticize other
religions. These developments, argues Bruckner, are counter-productive for Western democracies as they struggle with the twin
challenges of immigration and terrorism. The return of religion in those democracies must not be equated with the defence
of fanaticism, and the right to religious freedom must go hand in hand with freedom of expression, an openness to criticism,
and a rejection of all forms of extremism.
There are already more than enough forms of racism; there is no need
to imagine more. While all violence directed against Muslims is to be strongly condemned and punished, defining these acts
as 'Islamophobic' rather than criminal does more to damage Islam and weaken the position of Muslims than to strengthen them.