Since the beginning of the refugee crisis and the strong refusal of Poland to participate in the relocation scheme proposed by the EU, “platonic Islamophobia” has made its way into public debate in Poland. Despite its popularity, one must ask if it is a proper description of the issue and assess the purpose of such a description.
Is “platonic” an appropriate term?
The term “platonic Islamophobia” was coined by Katarzyna Górak-Sosnowska in 2006. It refers to high resentment of Poles towards Muslims, coupled with low personal experience with them.
“The small contact of Poles with Muslims, which in most cases is limited to buying a kebab or a travel to Egypt and a relatively small threat from Muslims in Poland, combined with relatively high dislike towards them, may lead to the adoption of a platonic Islamophobia. These are feelings of aversion towards practically non-existent Muslims”.  It is, according to Górak-Sosnowska, “analogous to platonic love – love without sexual intercourse.”
However “platonic” seems to be a debatable adjective in that case. As the author of the phrase explains above, it means an affection without action – “love without sexual intercourse”. It does not mean affection without an object of affection – “aversion towards practically non-existent Muslims”. If we take “platonic Islamophobia” at face value, we could expect consequences that are at least harmless, if not positive . It would mean that the fear of and hate towards Muslims would not turn into violent actions. The affection won’t be consummated, so to speak. Unfortunately, that is not happening. In Poland, there are violent actions against Muslims, albeit comparatively lower in number than in Western countries.
But leaving aside for now the faults of the terminology and focusing on intention, we should answer the questions: do Poles personally know Muslims and is personal knowledge the only source of constructing one’s worldview?
Constructing a worldview
In 2015, according to an opinion poll by CBOS (Centre for Public Opinion Research) only 12% of Poles personally knew any Muslim. This may support the claim about prejudice without an object of prejudice. However, in another research project in the same year by CBU (Center for Research on Prejudices), direct interaction with Muslims was confirmed by 22% and indirect (via a closely related person) by 36% of Polish respondents. This makes “Poles who know Muslims” a group that is not so marginal.
This is supported by Professor Ryszard Michalak, who believes that in the huge wave of Polish migration to Western EU countries, Poles interacted with Muslim population there. One even can wonder if more direct and closer contacts between Poles and Muslims took place than for some Western communities. Poles, due to their economic status, tend to inhabit the same migrant districts as migrants from other cultures.
Michalak also points out that in discussions Poles very often quote the Qur’an or other Islamic sources, which points to another way to get to know Islam – by reading its scriptures. One can wonder if these studies are sufficient or proper meaning is obtained, but once again this factor does not support the term “platonic”.
A third channel that has a significant role in constructing a worldview is information media. Here again one can ask if that is good source of information. And indeed, many questions about biased media coverage are being raised. Some accuse media outlets of negatively portraying of Muslims, while others accuse them of whitewashing negative incidents involving Muslims.
Even Górak-Sosnowska complained about the media’s role in shaping public debate. The antidote for negative bias should be, in her opinion, the education of journalists by publications and lectures such as “Do not be afraid of Islam”. But what if the prophet Mohammed, in the recommended publication, is described as a warlord who “obtained funds for fighting, by taking over caravans from Mecca, occupied Jewish oases, and subjugated Arab tribes”? What if a reader can find such passages as “a wife is obliged to satisfy the sexual needs of her husband”? The primary information presented in the traditional media, discussed in social media and written about by people who are critical about media is largely the same. Prejudices arise then in other manner, and once again they aren’t “platonic” in the sense of “not knowing”.
Here we should ask the basic question: are we able to discuss Spartans without personally knowing them? Are we able to judge their culture, their achievements and their faults if we haven’t met any of them?
Given the problematic definition and use of Islamophobia itself, it won’t help the situation to add another, non-scholarly and derogatory adjective. In popular culture, “platonic” suggests people who are unable to act, pathetic, frustrated. One could expect that the purpose here is a solution of the problem – that by getting to know Muslims “platonic Islamophobia” will somehow be dissolved. That is actually not the case, as anti-Muslim sentiments and violent actions are on the rise in the Western Europe. Most probably, the resentments are fed by other factors than the low percentage of the population personally knowing Muslims.
In summary, the term “platonic” has derogatory connotations in popular culture; it was used by Górak-Sosnowska in a way that distorts its original meaning; personal meetings are not the only and necessary correct method for build one’s opinions; and using the new term does not solve any problem with Islamophobia. In fact, it introduces more confusion than it pretends to remove.
 Michalak R., Platoniczna islamofobia czy nieplatoniczny antyokcydentalizm? Polskie studia nad euroislamem a ideologia political correctness”, [in:] „Ideologia w późnej nowoczesności”, red. A. Lenartowicz-Podbielska, P. Jastrzębski, Toruń 2016, s. 156-174.
 K. Górak-Sosnowska, Wizerunek islamu w Polsce na przykładzie podręczników szkolnych, [w:] Islam i obywatelskość w Europie, red. K. Górak-Sosnowska, P. Kubicki, K. Pędziwiatr, Warszawa 2006, s. 239.
 In Germany in 2017 there was 970 anti-Muslim hate crimes whereas in Poland there were 192. http://www.dw.com/en/germany-sees-almost-1000-anti-muslim-crimes-in-2017/a-42810445)
 M. Wojtalik “Polacy nie znają muzułmanów i niezbyt ich lubią”, http://www.newsweek.pl/polska/sondaz-stosunek-polakow-do-muzulmanow-i-islamu,artykuly,359378,1.html
 Stefaniak A., Postrzeganie muzułmanów w Poslce: Raport z badania sondażowego http://cbu.psychologia.pl/uploads/images/foto/Postrzeganie-muzu%C5%82man%C3%B3w-w-Polsce.pdf, September 2015
 According to the Central Statistics Office (GUS), up to 2.1 million Poles migrated to other EU member states, Informacja o rozmiarach i kierunkach emigracji z Polski w latach 2004–2016, https://stat.gov.pl/obszary-tematyczne/ludnosc/migracje-zagraniczne-ludnosci/informacja-o-rozmiarach-i-kierunkach-emigracji-z-polski-w-latach-20042016,2,10.html?pdf=1
 Michalak R., op.cit. s. 156-174.
 Ibidem s. 166
 Górak-Sosnowska K. „Platoniczna islamofobia?” Portal Spraw Zagranicznych 02.02.2006 http://www.psz.pl/92-polska/katarzyna-gorak-sosnowska-platoniczna-islamofobia
 Marek A. Skowron A. „Nie bój się islamu. Leksykon dla dziennikarzy” http://www.wiez.pl/islam/index.php?id=7
 Ibidem http://www.wiez.pl/islam/index.php?id=12
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