What are the double standards of Holocaust denial and Islamophobia?

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan called on those Western governments that have outlawed negative comments about the Holocaust (a euphemism for Holocaust denial, which his illegal in some states) to also ban Islamophobia and especially any actions that abuse the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This was a bold statement to make since the Holocaust is a hyper-sensitive issue in Western societies, one which some have compellingly claimed is treated very differently than similar historical tragedies.

There’s no doubt that anti-Semitism unfortunately exists and is a form of bigotry that discriminates against people on the basis of their ethnicity and/or religion (sometimes one and the same with respect to Jewish people, other times different when it comes to converts and their descendants). Those who question details about the Holocaust, including what some have argued was the geopolitical exploitation of this genocidal tragedy to justify creating the “State of Israel”, are controversially regarded as anti-Semities by some.

Nevertheless, there shouldn’t be any doubt that Nazi Germany carried out a genocide of Europe’s Jews. This is proven not only by Adolf Hitler openly talking about such plans in his manifesto (Mein Kampf) published over a decade before he started World War II, but also by historical documents, testimonies, and other such evidence. Even so, the Nazis also genocided many other people as well, especially Slavs such as the Poles, Russians, and Serbs who are regrettably almost always left out of discussions about Hitler’s genocidal crimes.

Some members of those victimised nations as well as others who are aware of their historical tragedies feel that it’s unfair that only the anti-Jewish genocide received almost universal recognition as a crime against humanity while the others are mostly ignored. The special treatment afforded to the Holocaust by those countries that ban its denial while imposing no punishments for denying Nazi Germany’s other genocides is therefore already controversial within Europe itself.

Supporters of these double standards usually justify them on the basis that a much larger percentage of Europe’s Jewish population was exterminated by the Nazis than any of the other victimised people. On the other hand, opponents retort that there shouldn’t be any “hierarchy of victimhood” since all victims of genocide are equal and the offense that they feel whenever others deny their similar tragedies should also be banned if governments are already banning such denial whenever it’s directed towards one class of victims.

Respectfully debating these valid points without any intent to discriminate against others or imply a sense of superiority towards their fellow victims should be encouraged in those countries that embrace Western democratic principles, not discouraged or worse due to so-called “political correctness”. In any case, it’s up to each society to decide how to deal with this very sensitive issue, but it’s important for there not to be any double standards lest they risk discrediting that state’s socio-political system.

With this in mind, it can also be said that those countries that ban Holocaust denial shouldn’t have double standards towards similarly offensive actions that disrespect the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Just like some can argue that outright Holocaust denial is everyone’s “right” in a democracy due to the principle of so-called “free speech”, so too can some argue the same about Islamophobic actions such as the ones that were just generally described. To be clear, this isn’t an endorsement of that thinking, merely an observation.

The problem is when double standards are applied towards hate speech, which is what some regard both Holocaust denial and Islamophobia as being. It’s difficult to understand how some governments classify it as hate speech to deny the Holocaust while at the same time claiming that it’s simply “freedom of speech” to deny Nazi Germany’s genocide against other people such as the Slavs, not to mention openly being Islamophobic by mocking the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), burning Qurans, and other such objectively hateful actions.

What Khan just did was challenge those Western governments that impose such double standards towards Holocaust denial and Islamophobia, which is something that very few leaders across the world are brave enough to do. They fear being smeared as anti-Semitic just for discussing this, even though the very principle upon which the Western democratic system rests should in theory provide everyone the right to respectfully talk about this and other sensitive issues so long as one’s intent is to promote justice for all who are oppressed.

Whether he meant to or not, Khan also implied something else that’s very important as well, and that’s the double standards that countries espousing Western democracy usually apply towards those states with different socio-political systems. Quite often, that first category of states aggressively demands that the second one implement certain policies aimed at what the former regard as promoting equality in line with their socio-political visions that sometimes differ from the targeted countries’.

In fact, these demands are even at times backed up by sanctions, whether threatened or actually promulgated. To the contrary, Khan isn’t making any aggressive demands of those countries espousing Western democracy but is simply calling them out for their double standards and asking that they rectify them as soon as possible in order to also protect Muslims’ religious sensitivities just like some of them presently protect Jews’. After all, everyone should be treated equally, especially according to Western democratic principles.

If one country wants to ban Holocaust denial in order to protect Jews’ sensitivities, then they should also ban the denial of Nazi Germany’s other genocides as well as Islamophobia in order to protect those victims’ sensitivities as well. Not doing so, and especially declining to officially explain the reason why (let alone some activists’ political harassment campaigns against those who publicly raise this legitimate question), sends the message that some victims are more important than others and that not all of them are equal.

That arguably goes against the principle of equality that’s supposed to be the bedrock of Western democracies. It discredits that socio-political system and exposes the hypocrisy of their representatives’ demands that other countries promulgate certain policies ostensibly aimed at improving equality in their own societies. For this reason, those who sincerely believe in Western democratic principles should praise Khan for calling out those governments and encouraging them to finally live by the same principles that they demand of others.