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Why I don’t believe people who say they
loathe Islam but not Muslims
It is psychologically unnatural to claim that you
hate an ideology without hating the people in
whose lives it is expressed

Andrew Brown
theguardian.com, Wednesday 5 November 2014 15.01 GMT

‘Stalin and Mao would have enthusiastically endorsed Sam Harris (above) when he wrote that “there
are some beliefs so terrible that we are justified in killing people just for holding them”.’ Photograph:
David Levene

It is a trope among people who loathe and fear Islam that their fear and loathing has
nothing in common with racism because Islam is not a race, the implication being that
hating Muslims is rational and wise whereas hating black people is deeply irrational and
stupid.
Some people who claim that Islam is profoundly evil will also say that they bear
Muslims no ill will but I don’t think they are telling the truth. It is really difficult and
indeed psychologically unnatural to claim that you hate an ideology without hating the

Stalin and Mao would have enthusiastically endorsed Sam Harris when he wrote that “there are some beliefs so terrible that we are justified in killing people just for holding them”. What’s constant is that it involves hating Jewish people. In the end. I remember George W Bush explaining that we were not going to war with the Iraqi people. you hate them for their religion – whatever your own beliefs. but with the Iraqi government. which can appear as either a racial or a religious hatred. they are not excused in the slightest by saying that the most terrible atheist dictators were not very racist at all. In order to change that. The distinction is no doubt a great comfort to their surviving relatives but it’s not very useful for predictive purposes. nations. Religions. you hate them on racist grounds whatever the colour of your own skin. and if you hate Muslims. Quakers or Mormons. Without in any way wishing to roll back that progress. it’s worth noting that in other societies and at other times racial prejudice has not been the most urgent incitement to communal hatred.people in whose lives it is expressed. the position of people who claim that hatred of Islam is somehow superior to hatred of black people is pretty much like Alan Partridge boasting that at least he’s not . and even races are all shared imaginative constructs (although nations and races have other characteristics as well) and if you really want to extirpate them. Racial and religious hatreds have one thing in common: they are not inspired by the race or religion of the hater. whatever the reasons given. Catholics. Since then. just as they would have endorsed his defence of torturing prisoners. it was necessary to mark it as a uniquely dreadful and disfiguring condition: racism became a kind of moral leprosy. something like a million of the Iraqi people have died as a result of our not going to war with them. or indeed both. though I see why we assume it: 50 or 60 years ago racial prejudice was an entirely natural part of English life. if you hate black people. The claim that Islam isn’t a race and so it is entirely rational to hate and fear it gains its moral force from the implicit claim that there is something uniquely horrible about racial hatred. or of Mao. were comparable to those of the transatlantic slave trade in ambition if not in duration. This is clearest in the case of antisemitism. So it is perfectly possible for religious hatred to be motivated by atheism and it may be quite common in the modern world. I don’t think there is. Similarly. but by the religion or race of the victim. But if we allow that the crimes of Stalin. you must extirpate the people who imagine them as well.

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