Victory for the Surrey Headteacher: The Return of the Islamophobia Debate

The so-called ‘Islamophobe’ Erica Connor has been awarded £400,000 (David T called of HuH called for her to receive a payment last year, a small victory for him – although I now learn this victory will be short lived) by a Surrey Court, on the grounds of stress owing to her being branded a cruel and flabbily defined word for opposing 2 governors with heavily-tinged religious ideological plans for a state school. That school is said to be 85% Muslim, but this remains far from the point, the governing body of a school is well defined, and does not include within its remit the ideological infrastructure of its curriculum.

A Times article has said:

Erica Connor, 57, the former head teacher of the New Monument primary school in Woking, Surrey, was forced to leave the school because of stress after she was accused of Islamophobia […] Paul Martin, a Muslim convert [and one of the two Muslim governors], tried to stir up disaffection in the community against the school and Mumtaz Saleem was verbally abusive in school meetings, it was said in court.

What Erica did or did not do in the run up of her stress period is not of my concern, but rather this court decision should restore that timely debate: what is Islamophobia?

There has been a brief history of leftists trying to champion what they perceive as Islamofascism, or notions of theocratic thought – and it has been their mission to take this stance back to where it belongs; left wing thought. Nick Cohen is one of these thinkers, Johann Hari is another, but many on the left ridicule their position as neo-conservative, and the right by and large seem to have this all tied up – who to blame?

Even at a basic level; Paul Goodman MP, for the ConservativeHome website, has at least noted:

There’s a difference between Islamophobia and the hatred of Muslims – although the two are indisputably linked.  The target of the first is a religion.  The target of the second is people.

There are grounds for some convergence here for left and right thinking; but it is important for the left to get there perception of Islam in perspective. For example, though Ayaan Hirsi Ali (in case you don’t know – see here) has recently been championed as a feminist opponent of an agressive streak that runs through certain parts of Islam, particularly with regards to women, though her claim that Islamophobia is a myth should not be taken lightly.

She made note of this as a way of saying that unlike anti-Semitism, Islam is not a race. Here she misses the point; even Paul Goodman saw the indisputable link between what is a racially motivated attack, and one which identifies Islam, but the co-ordinates of the two are not necessarily linked – by which is meant criticism of Islam is not necessarily a racist criticism.

What those above leftist polemicists have noted is that the charge Islamophobia often obscures the terms of the debate, but their worry – and mine too – is that a large proportion of the obscuring has come from the left (the Salman Rushdie affair is one key player in this, another is the Eagleton and Amis argument, and more recently the ICA, Chris Morris and Iain McEwan – also see here and here) which has meant the right has swooped in and championed the case for logical thinking on this subject (yes, I know, logical thinking).

But with regards to the Surrey case, one thing could have helped: on a local level, the council might have stepped in against the two ideological governors who were doing more than was required of their role, and stopped the head teacher from being scapegoated. On national level, there needs to be more than just a Conservative like Paul Goodman (with a political role in communities and local government) challenging the terms of the debate on Islamophobia, or else more people who are uncomfortable with the ideology of militant religious discourse will be vilified, a High Court settling should not be the only way to battle this peculiar aversion, born on the soppy left.


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