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How Islamophobia Is Driven By A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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“Deliberately insulting religion and religious beliefs provokes hatred, leading to further polarization and fragmentation of humanity.” (Prime Minister Imran Khan)

Islamophobia, a major challenge to human coexistence in the 21st century, was first coined in 1901 in France. The term refers to ‘a fear of Islam’ in the Western societies. After the Cold War ended in 1993, discussion on Islamophobia increased in academic, public and official discourses. An American historian Samuel P. Huntington wrote an article, “Clash of Civilisations” which played into tensions caused by Al-Qaeda having declared jihad against the West, especially the USA.

Arguably, much of the discursive ground for today’s Islamophobia was laid by Huntington’s theory of a Clash of Civilisations. In his theory, he argued that Islam is inherently anti-West and that Islamic civilisation is a threat to Western civilisation. According to Huntington, Western civilisation consists of democracy, liberty, norms, values and human rights – which is juxtaposed against an Islamic civilisation that is undemocratic, uncivilised and one that does not care about human rights, norms and values. His theory set the very foundations of Islamophobia and the spill-over effect was transmitted to the public through media.

Secondly, America’s war on terrorism after 9/11 added fuel to the fire. The post-9/11 world saw a radical shift as America declared war against Islamist armed organizations. Western societies started building a narrative that that Muslims are somehow what Huntington suggested.

Thirdly, the very evolution of Western society contributed towards Islamophobia. Economic development made those states a model of prosperity and champions of democracy. This took place against a backdrop of increased globalisation, the invention of effective mediums of communication and a media-driven global landscape. Muslim societies began to think “the West” is the destination for a better future, healthy economic life and a guaranteed security. Consequently, migration of Muslims towards the West commenced. However, migration had some serious repercussions. For the first time, Western society got the chance to witness Muslim culture at close range. Some segments of the Western and Muslim society were unable to reconcile their cultural norms. As a result, Muslim culture was ridiculed and ultimately depicted as a threat to Western culture, contributing towards Islamophobia.

The last and mother of all causes: the role of the Western media and intelligentsia in promoting Islamophobia. Arguably, Western media has been playing a very biased role, reporting some terrorist attacks in a partisan way that is almost designed to elicit a bigoted response from audiences. A lot of universities, researchers and international scholars have promoted such attitudes too.

Yet, perhaps it is still not too late. The course can be corrected and these misconceptions can be eliminated. And for this to happen, a realization has to happen on both ‘sides’. Western societies need to be educated and informed that Muslims may be different but that does not automatically make them anti-Western. On the other side, Muslims should also be educated that Western societies are culturally different and their being different does not warrant a violent response.

Moreover, Muslim states need to deradicalize their youth. They must preach true Islamic values of peace, love and harmony to the youth. Here, a positive role from the media is of paramount importance. It must understand the need for objective analysis and responsible reporting. Stigmatizing a particular society does not resolves a problem.

Finally, a common viewpoint or voice of Muslim states is the need of the hour. Common condemnation as well as collective diplomatic efforts are desperately needed to counter Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is an important challenge not only for Muslim states but also for Western ones. It is not coincidental but deliberate and intentionally fanned by certain elements who do not want to see peace in the world.

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Naya Daur