Other writers can speak for themselves. In my case, I have written about the role that ideology and religion play in jihadist violence. Indeed, I have been influenced by Wood’s own work on this, and have discussed it with him, multiple times, in private and in public. I believe that there is always an ideological spectrum with respect to extremist violence, and the various shades of that spectrum ought to be interrogated, even if it makes people feel uncomfortable. That goes for Islamist violence, as it does for white-nationalist terror.
Wood takes especial issue with my mentioning of the neuroscientist Sam Harris in my piece for The New York Times. The exact words from that piece were:
People with millions of online followers have been incessantly preaching that Islamophobia is not the problem; Islam is. The Canadian intellectual Jordan Peterson has said that Islamophobia is a “word created by fascists.” The neuroscientist Sam Harris has called it an “intellectual blood libel” that serves only to shield Islam from criticism.
Note that there is not the slightest intimation here that Peterson or Harris shares liability, responsibility, or guilt for the New Zealand massacre. It simply acknowledges the salient fact that prominent thinkers have been in Islamophobia-denial for a long time, even after Muslims were specifically targeted because of who they were and for no other reason.
Jordan Peterson is more complex, and his thinking about Islam and Muslims requires its own separate treatment. But Harris has been propounding vicious misinformation about Muslims for a decade. Does Wood not have an opinion on someone who warned about the “ominous” Muslim birth rates in Europe and published misleading statistics about them, the very same birth rates that the New Zealand killer was so tormented by in his manifesto? (And why would it be “ominous” if there are more brown people in Europe? For what it’s worth, at maximal levels of immigration, Muslims would account for 14 percent of Europe’s population in 2050, according to Pew. Those worried about the coming hordes of brown bodies can relax somewhat.)
It is not wrong to call out people who have been denying that a particular form of racism exists when this very racism becomes the central motivation of a live-streamed lynching of vulnerable people. By the logic of Graeme Wood’s own piece (that ideology matters) and by the logic of Sam Harris’s own ontology of Islam (that there are concentric circles of extremism, with jihadists in the middle and their enablers on the outer rings), the ideological spectrum of Islamophobia ought to have been probed more thoroughly. Instead, Wood is silent, dismissing all this as self-evidently not worth mentioning. A spectrum of ideology for thee, but not for me.
If casual Islamophobia is not on the same ideological spectrum as violent Islamophobia, why not? Are overt warnings about Muslim birth rates and “deranged” Muslims so acceptable now that they fail to register as extreme? Yes, Islamophobia is an imperfect term; that does not alter the reality the term describes, which, like anti-Semitism, is a particular form of racism. The methodology of Wood’s piece—of transposing words to highlight hypocrisies—might help here. Swap Muslim with Jewish, and you get Harris warning about Jewish birth rates in Europe, calling the Jewish world “deranged,” and claiming that anti-Semitism is a made-up word. Anyone using such language would be rightly condemned as anti-Semitic. I wonder whether Wood would still be silent then.