Gaski: Islamophobia or Propaganda?

June 12, 2024

by John Gaski, Ph.D.

What does the word “Islamophobia” mean? What is its formal definition? You can take your time to answer. Actually, this is an easy question because there is more than one correct answer. 

In the meantime, a diversion: When was the first time you ever heard of the word “Islamophobia,” as best you can remember? Other than very young readers, who have heard it their whole lives, the likely answer for most would be about 20 years ago — say, following the 9/11 terrorism attack and its aftermath. There is a reason why that answer would be common, but maybe not the reason you expect. 

As many will also recall, America was rather agitated against the 9/11 terrorists at the time, and could not help noticing that they were all Muslims, as are nearly all terrorist groups worldwide (per the U.S. State Department’s listing of international terrorist organizations). So, the propaganda arm of international Islam realized it had a public relations problem. “People are on to us; they are beginning to realize our movement’s true, violent nature,” they might have thought. But what to do about it? Their response strategy is obvious to anyone who knows anything about marketing and public relations (PR): They launched a propaganda campaign to equate any criticism of Islam with bigotry, thereby intimidating potential critics into submitting to that constraint and effectively silencing any opposition. QED. Widespread Muslim PR was around earlier, of course (M. Peretz, The New Republic, 1/10/11,, but it intensified, of necessity, after 9/11. 

Evidence of this? Your own memory: Have you ever seen any criticism of Islam that was not immediately denounced as bigotry, i.e., Islamophobia? In fact, how rare is it to see or hear criticism of Islam, period — especially relative to the provocations? Evidence of the campaign’s effectiveness: Why is it that there is one and only one particular religion we are not allowed to criticize? In contrast, surely you have noticed abundant public criticism of Christianity and Judaism. In some Muslim countries, practice of either religion is a capital crime.

But does Islam itself, the so-called “religion of peace,” deserve any criticism? Again, what does Islamophobia mean? The natural, inherent meaning of the term is fear of Muslims. Obviously, however, the prevailing usage has transmuted into a practical meaning of hostility toward Muslims, as any online dictionary can confirm. I do not represent the latter nouveau meaning. I can only endorse hostility toward the large proportion of world Muslims who support terrorism and mass murder. Shouldn’t we all? You have a problem with that? (A massive international polling effort by the Pew organization from 2002 to 2014 found that nearly half the Muslims surveyed support terrorism and suicide bombing against the West. Really.) Yet we also cannot deny that the grounding for such violent Muslim sentiment can be found in the Quran’s aggressive advice and the murderous example of Muhammad himself. So, I also suggest that genuine, devout Muslims take a hard look at their religion — and the barbaric behavior practiced in its name. 

By the same token, fear of Muslims can indeed be reasonable, given the violent record of the religion’s most intense adherents along with the sect’s core purpose of imposing submission on the entire world, by force if necessary. Islam, you see, by its own testimony, is not only a religion but a cultural, social, and military movement — with all non-Muslims targeted, so to speak. Sorry to break the news this way. 

Allahu Akhbar, and heaven help the rest of us. “Be afraid, be very afraid.” And remember my name, just in case this column makes me the next victim of a fatwa, jihad, or Charlie Hebdo-type mayhem. Can we imagine what Islam’s record of violence would be if it were not such a “religion of peace”? 

John Gaski, Ph.D., is an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation and an expert in marketing and public relations. His research specialization is social and political power and conflict.


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