Islamophobia Is The Result Of An Intentional And Deliberate Campaign Against Muslims
“Deliberately insulting religion and religious beliefs provokes hatred, leading to further polarisation and fragmentation of humanity.” – Imran Khan, Prime Minister Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The word “Islamophobia”, signifying the biggest challenge of the 21st century, was first coined in 1901 in France. The term pronounces “a fear of Islam” in western societies. After the Cold War in 1993, discussions on Islamophobia increased in academic, public and official discourses. An American historian, Samuel P. Huntington wrote an article, “Clash of Civilisations” which prompted the militant group Al-Qaeda to declare Jihaad (War) against the west, especially America, resulting in plenty of terror attacks in different parts of the globe.
This often-overlooked fact is extremely important. One of the first and foremost causes of the upsurge in Islamophobia was Huntington’s theory of “Clash of Civilisations”. In it, he argued that “Islam is inherently anti-West and Islamic civilisation is a threat to western civilisation.” According to Huntington, Western civilisation consists of democracy, liberty, norms, values and human rights, which is contradistinguished from an Islamic civilisation which is undemocratic, uncivilised and 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.
Afterwards, America’s war on terrorism following 9/11 added fuel to the fire. Post 9/11, the world saw a radical shift. America declared war against Islamic radical organisations. It attacked Afghanistan and Iraq along with its allies and the coverage of these attacks was done in a way that gave the compelling impression that these people, terrorists who maintain the veneer of Islam, are the real face of Islam. As a result, Western societies started building a narrative that Muslims are exactly how Huntington described them to be, that is, that they are uncivilised and undemocratic and that they do not care about human rights, norms or values. As a direct result of this, hatred, prejudice and violence against Muslims developed rapidly and the war on terror was rationalised with the argument that all Muslims, and Islam as a whole, deserve to be fought against. Many American researchers acknowledge that the narrative which led to a surge in Islamophobic sentiments was truly promoted after 9/11.
Thirdly, the evolution of western Europe and North America contributed towards Islamophobia. Economic development made the countries in these regions the models of prosperity and champions of democracy. This was followed by increased globalisation, the invention of effective mediums of communication and media’s coming to the forefront. Muslim societies began to think the “West” is the destination for a better future, healthy economic life and 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. Whereas this cultural exchange opened new avenues of understanding, the development of Muslim culture in the west also led many segments in the western and Muslim societies to realise that they couldn’t reconcile their distinct cultural norms. Resultantly, Muslim culture was ridiculed and was considered to be a threat to western culture, contributing towards Islamophobia.
The last and the mother of all causes was the role of western media in promoting Islamophobia. It is no longer a secret that the western media demonstrates a sheer bias against Muslims, and is prone to inaccurately reporting all “terrorist attacks” as being carried out exclusively by “Muslims”. A lot of universities, researchers and international scholars have proved this bias and this bias obviously promotes Islamophobia.
Yet it is not always too late. The course can be corrected and the misperceptions about Muslims can be eliminated. And for this to happen, the number one thing that Muslim states should do is to educate western societies, particularly Muslims societies living there, about multiculturalism. Western societies need to be educated and informed that Muslims may be different but they are not anti-West, at least not all of them. At the same time, Muslims should also be educated that western societies are culturally different but their being different does not warrant a violent response.
Moreover, Muslim states need to deradicalise their youth. They must preach true Islamic values of peace, love and harmony to the youth. Preaching the true version of Islam can prevent Islamophobia. In addition to this, the positive role of media is of paramount importance. It must understand the need for objective analysis and objective reporting. Stigmatising a particular society does not resolve any problem.
Finally, a common viewpoint or voice of Muslim states is the need of the hour. Common condemnation, united and collective diplomatic efforts are desperately needed to counter Islamophobia.
In the end, Islamophobia is the most important challenge not only for Muslim states but also for western states. This condition is not coincidental, but rather deliberate and intentional by certain elements who do not want to see peace in the world. As Muslims, it is our responsibility that we must not be used by these hawkish elements present here as well as in the western part of the globe. The omens are clear, the world powers and Muslim states need to heed the real masters.