Right-wing journalist Melanie Phillips has been called a “bigot” by both Jewish and Muslim groups for arguing that ‘Islamophobia’ is “a fiction to shut down debate”.
During the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, she said: “There is no equation between Islamophobia, which is used as a means of shutting down legitimate criticism of the Muslim community, and anti-Semitism, for which there is never any excuse at all.”
In response to Phillips’ invective, reinforced in an article for The Times on Monday, the Board of Deputies tweeted: “Anti-Muslim hatred is a sickness which must be confronted with clarity & vigour. While in a free society it must be permissible to debate religious teachings, it can never be acceptable to hate Muslims for being Muslim or to racially stereotype any group. Bigotry is bigotry.”
Assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Miqdaad Versi, said Philips’ comments were “disgusting,” while Labour activist Noah Sorensen said the commentator “makes me ashamed to be Jewish”.
But Fiyaz Mughal, of Faith Matters and Tell MAMA, said using the term ‘Islamophobia’ was “unhelpful,” adding: “It is now 20 years old and was developed at a time when questions around faith and Islam and the targeting of Muslims were rolled into the singular term. The world was a different place at that time in 1997.
“Today, we are in a distinctly different space where more people are questioning faith, including Muslims. So the term does not stack up and like any language, things change.”