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The Rational Fear of the Rational

September 7, 2010

We hear often of Islamophobia, a particular term usually reserved for people who aren’t trusting of Islam’s practitioners, oppose the Park51 community center, and other such occasions. There is little confusion over the use of the term Islam, though the term does fail to differentiate between moderate and extreme practitioners (where that dividing line is and what it constitutes is a whole other discussion), Wahabism, and the presence of Sharia law in more and more countries. But why phobia?

The shortest definition of phobia is an irrational fear, which has numerous implications. To call someone “phobic” in regards to any movement or entity is to state that there is a lapse in their logic, a persistent absence of rationality, something which can be exploited politically to insinuate that they have similar absences elsewhere. This implies that a concern regarding Islam (which if failed to differentiate, does include Wahabism and Sharia law) is inherently irrational. The implications of fear are even more obvious, but insidious. That they retreat from interaction with, even to the point of knowing what they may disagree with, and knowing what is going on. They turn away, they are ignorant as to any element of what is going on, and if they feel they are cornered, that they may turn to violence. In this simple term, we now have cast an entire population as being uninformed, reactionary, unwilling, and incapable of serious thought. This is the establishing of a “dialog”, the establishment of “we have no reason to listen to you, and it would be a bad idea to hear a word you have to say.”

This of course does draw a reaction, because any rational person would balk at being called irrational, and would seek to repair the damage of this comment before progressing, to insure what they had to say was not undermined. However these comments typically come from a the forum administrator, be it on television, print or a website, and so they control the time frame and pace, thus the entire subject is spent on the opponent attempting to regain ground to a neutral position. The net result is the subject is never actually discussed.

This is a very advantageous position politically, as it gives the impression of the issue being discussed, without any specific points ever arising. It successfully depicts the opposition as at best scrambling, but also as having had their turn. Therefore the actual events can continue unquestioned, until it is established whether as legislation, policy, or a physical structure, and is accepted by most as part of the new status quo.

Why are these things pushed so hard though? Why do they avoid dialog about what they are trying to change? Whim. Holding a vision of the world, and the belief that only their vision can be progress, and any defeat of it would be a disaster, they must avoid discussion of the actual content at all costs. When there is an aspect of a culture, it is easy to spin it into a phobia as a vague appeal to American multiculturalism while yet ignoring that great American tradition which founded this nation: hearty, elaborate, exacting debate of what specifically is happening.

To bring it to discussion however would be to examine this vision, which would be to suggest that the vision, as ordained by “the intellectuals” may be flawed, and is not immediately apparently obviously worthwhile. This would bring them under the jurisdiction of the rational, and that is what they fear, to be treated and judged on the same grounds as their opponents, the one “equality” they will evade, as it comes not from legislation or any other fiat, but rather through personal action. To do such could bring their control to a grinding halt, and begin to crumble. It is rational for them to fear this, and it is why they have a rational fear of the rational.

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