After my previous blog which dealt with words which should be used more often, this blog lists dubious words which should be used with caution, or never used at all, and which should be met with suspicion when used by others. These terms are often tendentious, i.e. they tend to propagate an underlying ideology while at the same time hiding that ideology. The most important of these is of course the dreaded and utterly dishonest accusation Islamophobia.
Terms to be Avoided Entirely
Sommaire en français Tandis que mon blogue précédent traitait de termes que je suggère pour un usage plus fréquent, celui-ci comporte une liste d’expressions que je considère douteuses, qu’il faudrait plutôt éviter ou utiliser avec précaution, et qui devraient inspirer de la méfiance si utilisées par les autres. Ces expressions sont souvent tendancieuses, c’est-à-dire qu’elles ont tendance à véhiculer une idéologie sous-jacente, tout en obscurcissant celle-ci. En tête de liste se trouve cette accusation redoutée et malhonnête, islamophobie.
The following expressions are very tendentious, i.e. each is implicitly or explicitly partisan and prejudiced, transmitting a preconceived notion or deliberately confusing. Thus, they should never be used, or should be used with extreme caution as explained for each term. When any of these terms is used by others, the speaker should be challenged either to change their vocabulary or to explain their usage.
This term must be avoided for reasons which are well known and have been explained by many commentators. It is used by Islamists and their objective allies to censor and silence any criticism of Islam. It confuses two distinct concepts: criticism of Islam (which is necessary and desirable) and prejudice against Muslim persons. And the suffix -phobia suggests that fear of Islam is irrational, which is certainly not true in general. Indeed, anyone who does not fear radical Islam is a fool. Generally speaking, anyone who uses this term as an accusation against others is either a partisan of fundamentalist Islam or Islamofascism, or a dupe of these ideologies. For further information, follow this link: Islamophobia
- reasonable accommodation:
This term is almost always used as an excuse for religious privileges granted by state institutions, dishonestly implying that such demands are reasonable. To be honest, it should be replaced by the expression religious accommodation; such accommodations are never reasonable.
Terms to be Used With Caution
The following expressions are also tendentious but are sometimes used legitimately. Thus they should be used with caution, being careful to explain precisely what one wishes to say. Similarly, when others use such language, we should insist that they explain themselves carefully.
Multiculturalism is the main impediment to secularism in Canada, more harmful than any one religion, because it reinforces the influence of religion in general by treating it as essential to personal identity.
This used to mean cultural diversity, but it has evolved into an ideology based on cultural relativism and should be called “ethno-religious determinism.” Multiculturalist ideologues tend to view religious affiliation as if it were an innate, immutable attribute of the individual, and this attitude leads inevitably to religious privilege. Multiculturalism is the main impediment to secularism in Canada, more harmful than any one religion, because it reinforces the influence of religion in general by treating it as essential to personal identity.
An ill-defined alternative to “multiculturalism.” It should imply a reciprocity of responsibilities between the host society and any minority culture, where the latter must also adapt to certain core values of the former, while “multiculturalism” is one-way, i.e. the host society must accommodate all others. However, in the absence of a clear definition in legislation, “interculturalism” may simply degenerate into a vague synonym of “multiculturalism.”
A much overused term, almost always meant positively, like a marketing buzzword for multiculturalist ideologues. Yes, biological and cultural diversity are generally good things, but not in all situations. Introduce a highly aggressive or predatory species into a diverse ecosystem, or introduce an extremely intolerant “culture” such as a radical monotheistic ideology into a culturally diverse society, and the added diversity may be very destructive. A diversity of opinions may generate creativity—or it may be harmful if several of those opinions are patently false.
Often misused as a completely specious, false accusation—in particular when discussing religion—and operating as a form of censorship. A religious group is not a race, so the word is inappropriate. For example, the word “Jewish” describes both an ethnic group and a religion, which to be fair must be distinguished, and one way to do that is to use the word “Judaism” when referring to the religion and reserve “Jewish” for the ethnic group. Another example: Donald Trump’s paranoid hostility toward Muslims is not racist, because Muslims are not a racial group; rather, it is anti-Muslim bigotry. (However Trump’s attitude towards Mexicans can legitimately be called racist because nationality and race are closely related.)
Another overused term, a marketing buzzword for multiculturalist ideologues. Its purpose is to imply that those who support secularism and criticize multiculturalism are somehow intolerant and exclude some ethno-religious groups. This is a big lie. On the contrary, secularists insist on preventing the religious, especially fundamentalists, from advertising their ideologies in the public service. No-one is excluded except for those who may deliberately exclude themselves by refusing to comply with rules which apply equally to everyone.
- identity politics:
Another term overused by multiculturalist ideologues to denigrate secularists. In fact it is hypocritical, because multiculturalism promotes the assertion of ethno-religious identities to the detriment of one’s status as a citizen, and it is this shared status which is important for secularism. For Canadian multiculturalists, asserting one’s identity as a conservative Muslim is cool, but asserting one’s identity as a secular Québécois is “xenophobic.”
- politics of fear:
Another buzzword used tendentiously, as if fear were always a bad thing. On the contrary, it is rational and necessary to fear radical theocratic ideologies. Complacency can be worse than fear.
- open secularism:
A near-synonym of multiculturalism, a pseudo-secularism, incompatible with secularism. The word “open” means that the state is open to religious interference. So-called open secularism is an attempt to block secularism by replacing it with a pale imitation thereof. See: Secularism: Lockean and Republican.
Often used in expressions such as “hate propaganda” and “hate speech” but, like all human emotions, this term should probably be avoided in a legal context. What should be criminalized is speech which encourages or threatens violence. Hatred is not always bad, and it may be partly or totally appropriate. Do you hate Naziism? What matters is not hatred or love or whatever, but rather how such emotions are expressed, towards what target they are directed and whether or not they are supported by reasoned argument.
The apparent purpose of this term, when used in a religious context, is to allow the speaker to continue confusing religious affiliation with race, in order to rationalize unfounded accusations. Those who criticize Islam are sometimes accused of “racism”—usually by the same people who throw around specious accusations of “Islamophobia.” Such accusations are false because a religion is not race. The accusers, when confronted with this observation, then change tactic, saying for example that Muslims constitute a “racialized group” thus attempting to rationalize continued use of the term “racism.”
- religious obligation:
There is no such thing. See: false obligation and The Myth of Religious Obligations.
For Canadian multiculturalists, asserting one’s identity as a conservative Muslim is cool, but asserting one’s identity as a secular Québécois is “xenophobic.”
Next blog: The Extended Weinberg Principle