‘What me, an Islamophobe?’ Stephen Fry replies to critics

Under the headline “Stephen Fry hits back at accusations of Islamophobia”, the Independent on Sunday reported yesterday on the controversy over Stephen Fry’s endorsement of Nick Cohen’s “superb” defence of their fellow atheist Richard Dawkins and his position on Islam.

In a Twitter exchange on 22 August, responding to the criticism that Dawkins has described the Islamic faith as the greatest force for evil in the world and “clearly targets Islam in particular”, Fry sneered: “Wonder why. Oh, have a look around the world and see them slaughtering each other, let alone others. So charming to women too…”

You’ll note how, in Fry’s formulation, Islam the faith becomes “them”, the Muslims. And Muslims are then equated with murder and misogyny. A clearer expression of mindless bigotry would be difficult to find.

When his critic persisted in arguing that Dawkins was “entitled to call a small religious minority evil but branding an entire religion as ‘evil’ is beyond ignorant”, Fry didn’t have an answer. Eventually he just dismissed his opponents as “dickheads” and told them to “fuck off”.

Fry attempted a more reasoned justification of his views in a blog post last Friday in which he addressed the question “Am I an Islamophobe?” Did he perhaps take the opportunity here to admit that he had been at fault and apologise for his offensive tweet? Not a bit of it.

Instead Fry attacked his critics for engaging in an “Orwellian denial of free speech” and complained that as a “squeezed liberal” he now “finds himself in the position that he cannot criticise Islamofascism because it’s somehow ‘racist’”, which of course it couldn’t be, since “Islam encompasses many many races”. He claimed that he was only against violent extremists rather than ordinary Muslims, but his tweet had made no such distinction.

This isn’t the first time that Fry has expressed objectionable views about the followers of a major faith. In a 2010 interview with Ann Widdecombe for a TV documentary on the Ten Commandments, Fry accused the Jewish people who adopted them of having “stored up more misery for mankind than any other group of people in the history of the planet and they’re doing it to this day”. What exactly Jews might be doing to inflict misery on the human race now, Fry didn’t say.

So you can see why Fry might rally to the support of Dawkins on the question of religion – they obviously have a lot in common. However, whereas Dawkins holds that Islam is the greatest force for evil in the world today, Fry evidently takes the view that it is Judaism that has been the greatest force for misery in human history.

First published by Islamophobia Watch in September 2013