This is why our political leaders so rarely use the terms Islamism, radical Islam and Islamic terrorism: because they want to avoid offending Islam and also because they don’t want to stir up what they view as the public’s bovine, hateful prejudices. This censorious privilege is not extended to any other religion. We do not avoid saying ‘Catholic paedophiles’ about the priests who molested children for fear of tarring all Catholics with the same brush. We happily say ‘Christian fundamentalist’ about people who are Christian and fundamentalist. We use ‘Buddhist extremists’ to describe violent Buddhist groups in Myanmar. And yet Islam is ringfenced from tough discussion; phrases which at some level include the word ‘Islam’ are tightly policed; criticism of Islam is deemed a mental illness: Islamophobia.
This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is,
in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent
years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their
religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable,
you actively invite them, encourage them in fact, to become intolerant.
You license their intolerance. You inflame their violent contempt for
anyone who questions their dogmas. You provide a moral justification for
their desire to punish those who insult their religion.