Edward Feser on Islamophobia



Philosopher Edward Feser at his blog has a very interesting post on the concept of  “Islamophilia” and its twin,”Islamophobia”, a term used commonly to shut up people who note the obvious:  that adherents to Islam commit most acts of terrorism in the modern world:

By the same token, it would be ridiculous to dismiss McCarthy’s claim merely on the grounds that it must reflect nothing more than “Islamophobic” “bigotry.”  Indeed, McCarthy could fling an accusation of “Islamophilic bigotry” back at anyone who would make such a claim.  As I pointed out in the post on liberalism and Islam, there are several factors that predispose political liberals too quickly to dismiss the very suggestion that there might be a connection between Islamic doctrine on the one hand and violence and illiberal politics on the other.  For example, the very workability of liberalism as a political project presupposes that what John Rawls called “comprehensive doctrines,” or at least comprehensive doctrines with a large number of adherents, are compatible with basic liberal premises (and thus “reasonable,” as Rawlsian liberals conceive of “reasonableness”). If it turned out there is a “comprehensive doctrine” with a large number of adherents which is simply not compatible with basic liberal premises, that would be a very serious problem for the entire liberal project.  Hence liberals are bound to be reluctant to conclude that there is any such “comprehensive doctrine,” or to look for evidence that might support such a conclusion. 

Then there is the fact that egalitarianism is one of the dogmas of modern liberalism, just as the divinity of Christ is a dogma of Christianity or the divine origin of the Quran is a dogma of Islam.  Many liberals find it almost impossible to understand how even a mildly negative characterization of some religion, culture, or group could be anything but an expression of unreasoning hatred.  Hence epithets like “bigot” play, within liberalism, the same role that words like “heretic” often do within religion.  They are a means of silencing dissenters and sending a warning to anyone even considering dissent from egalitarianism.  The irony is that plugging one’s ears and screaming “Bigot!” at someone who is trying to present a reasoned argument is, of course, itself a kind of bigotry — perhaps the worst kind, insofar as someone self-righteously in love with the idea that he is the paradigmatic anti-bigot is the least likely of all bigots to see his prejudices for what they are.

Again, see the earlier post on liberalism and Islam for discussion of other aspects of modern liberalism which can predispose many liberals against looking at Islam objectively.  The point for the moment is this.  On the one hand, McCarthy can note that any critic inclined to dismiss his position as mere bigotry should seriously consider that there are reasons why the critic may be himself less objective on the subject at hand than he likes to think he is.  And on the other hand, McCarthy can point to what one finds in Islamic scripture and law, in the history of terrorism during the last few decades, and indeed in the entire history of Islam as evidence in favor of his position.

Of course, that does not by itself demonstrate that McCarthy is right.  But any critic of McCarthy plausibly faces a “falsificationist challenge” of a sort that parallels the falsificationist challenge Antony Flew once raised against theists (a challenge I discussed in the earlier post on the logic of falsification).  Paraphrasing Flew, the challenge might be stated as follows:

What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of your claim that there is no special connection between Islam and terrorism, or between Islam and illiberal politics?

In other words, if evidence of the sort McCarthy cites does not establish his claim, what evidence will the critic admit would establish it?  Unless the critic can offer a serious response to this question, he cannot plausibly claim that it is he rather than McCarthy who is free of prejudice.

Go here to read the rest.  Doctor Feser, particularly for a philosopher, writes in a clear style that is mercifully free of jargon.  I have enjoyed reading his posts over the years, perhaps particularly when I disagree with him.  It is an intellectual treat to see a first class mind building an argument that is shorn of popular internet tactics including question begging, strawmen, red herrings, etc.

Share With Friends
  • 3

Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. The Ottoman Turks were German allies in WWI. Hitler had his Mufti, Arafat’s cousin, in WWII. Terrorism since WWII has been almost exclusively Islamic since WWII.

    Islam hates Jews, hates Christanity, hates the West, and we in the West spend our time, our treasure and our lives to help them…and for what?

    Only Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland have their heads screwed on straight in dealing with Islam. Islam is no religion. It is an ideology that demands complete submission to interpretations from a seventh century Arabic book that contradicts itself.

    Islamophobia my keester.

  2. These post-modern beauties (not confined to philosophers) have no familiarity with reality. They make up stuff about stuff. Start with conclusions and present them as Truth. And, if you are reality-based and disagree, you are worse than Hitler. They will never realize that everything they know and everything they think is 100% bu!!$hi+.

  3. Isn’t it a fact that Islam and liberalism are similar in that both must be totalitarian to accomplish their objectives? And do not both use force and mendacity as tactics? And most of all are not both of them essentially irrational in their understanding of human nature?

Comments are closed.