Wise Words from John Esposito

An AAR Presidential address that deserves wide readership:

A phobia, according to the dictionary, is an exaggerated, illogical, or unfounded fear of a particular class of objects, people, a particular situation. It may be hard for those afflicted to sufficiently determine or communicate the source of this fear, but it exists.

So, what are the kinds of things that Islamophobes believe?

Islam, not just a small minority of Muslims and terrorists, is the problem and threat to the West. The religion of Islam has no common values with the West. Islam and modernity are incompatible. Islam is an inherently violent religion with an extremist, political ideology.

Phillip Jenkins and Bishop Spong have written very interesting books on violence in the Bible and the degree of violence. Talking comparatively here, Phillip Jenkins said there’s a way you can look at certain passages in the Bible and see God ordering genocide. If you don’t understand the Biblical context, that’s what you would interpret. And yet when we deal with Quranic texts, wherever I go, people will ask, “What about the passage ‘slay the unbelievers wherever you find them’?” without looking at what is said in the verse after that: “When the enemy stops fighting you, you must stop.” We must also ask, who were the unbelievers at the time? The “unbelievers” weren’t Christians or Jews, they were the Meccans. But the irony is that hard-line Christian Zionists or some of our Islamophobes and Neo-Cons talk just the way that the Bin Ladens of the world do; they distort the meaning of the text. They don’t interpret a text within its context.
We need to think about the impact of Islamophobia in the United States.