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An Imaginary Racism: Islamophobia and Guilt

An Imaginary Racism: Islamophobia and Guilt

Pascal Bruckner

ISBN: 978-1-509-53066-3

Oct 2018, Polity

204 pages


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‘Islamophobia’ is a term that has existed since the 19th century. But in recent decades, argues Pascal Bruckner in his controversial new book, this term has become a weapon used to silence criticism of Islam. It allows those who brandish the term in the name of Islam to ‘freeze’ the latter, making reform difficult. Whereas Christianity and Judaism have been rejuvenated over the centuries by external criticism, Islam has been shielded from critical examination and has remained impervious to change. This tendency is exacerbated by the hypocrisy of those Western defenders of Islam who, in the name of the principles of the Enlightenment, seek to muzzle its critics while at the same time demanding the right to chastise and criticize other religions. These developments, argues Bruckner, are counter-productive for Western democracies as they struggle with the twin challenges of immigration and terrorism. The return of religion in Western democracies must not be equated with the defense of fanaticism, and the right to religious freedom must go hand in hand with freedom of expression, an openness to criticism and a rejection of all forms of extremism. 

There are already more than enough forms of racism; there is no need to imagine more. While all violence directed against Muslims is to be strongly condemned and punished, defining these acts as ‘Islamophobic’ rather than criminal does more to damage Islam and weaken the position of Muslims than to strengthen them.

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  • A Note on the Text
  • Introduction: A Semantic Revolution
  • Part I
  • The Fabrication of a Crime of Opinion
  • 1. The Disappearance of Race, the Proliferation of Racists
  • 2. A Weapon of Mass Intimidation
  • 3. The Miracle of Transubstantiation
  • Part II
  • The Left Suffering from Denial
  • 4. Islamo-Leftism, or the Conjunction of Resentments
  • 5. An Unnatural Marriage
  • 6. The Victim's Guilt, the Murderer's Innocence
  • Part III
  • Are Muslims the Equivalent of Jews?
  • 7. From the Principle of Equivalence to the Principle of Substitution
  • 8. Exterminations Galore
  • 9. The Jew, An Accursed White
  • 10. A Semantic Racket
  • Part IV
  • Are We Guilty of Existing?
  • 11. The Criminalization of Reticence
  • 12. Minorities, Protection or Prison?
  • 13. The Racism of the Anti-Racists
  • 14. Should the West be De-Colonized?
  • Part V
  • What is God's Future?
  • 15. Is the War on Terror a Sham?
  • 16. Resistance or Penitence
  • 17. Western Values are not Negotiable
  • 18. Weary of God
  • 19. The Grandeur and the Tragedy of Tolerance
  • Epilogue: On History as a Warning
  • Notes
“In the worldwide debate over the Islamist movement, nobody has been more incisive than Pascal Bruckner, and nobody has been more influential. He set the terms of the debate many years ago, and he continues to do so. He is a brilliant writer, and An Imaginary Racism is a characteristically brilliant book.” 
Paul Berman, author of The Flight of the Intellectuals

“Provocative and well-argued, An Imaginary Racism reveals how the concept of Islamophobia has been politicized and distorted, and what this says about the West today. An important work for our times.” 
Richard J. Golsan, Texas A&M University

“Wielding his pen like a scalpel, in An Imaginary Racism Pascal Bruckner unmasks the pieties and truisms of left-wing cant with the deftness and precision to which his readers have become accustomed. By virtue of his principled refusal to acquiesce to the commonplaces of contemporary cultural conformity, Bruckner has become nothing less than a hero of our time.”
Richard Wolin, City University of New York