Deterring the Islamophobia
ISLAMOPHOBIA is dominating almost in most of the western corners of the world. Islamophobia is not an easy subject to deal with and, therefore, to write about.
Is it simply “discrimination” or “intolerance”? Talking about racism and racial discrimination, all are unacceptable forms of human rights violations anywhere. Islamophobia often refers to systemic racism against Muslims despite the globalized world.
Racism, is a threat to Global Peace. These forms of racism and discrimination have intensified in the last couple of decades, especially since the War on Terror.
The incidents of attacks on Muslims and on their places of worship have become more frequent. Recently, a Muslim Pakistani Canadian family was brutally targeted.
Now people all over the world do not feel safe, either physically or mentally.
This is an era of digital technology.
News spread like wild fire on just a click. The methods to disseminate news are abundant (eg Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc). Yet the major concern is not about the mode of dissemination but how the information is presented.
News and Entertainment media both are contributing equally to disseminate information and image building as well.
For example, in entertainment industry (Hollywood and Bollywood), the terrorist activities are being done by the people having Muslim beards, turban or prayer caps and tasbeeh.
All these items are intentionally associated with negative and extremist acts. This is just because of the partial knowledge about Islam and false propaganda done by the haters.
Terrorism has nothing to do with any religion. We cannot allow an individual terrorist act to strengthen an extremist ideology.
Islamophobia is a growing mania that radically needs to be discouraged. In this regard, Muslims have started taking certain steps to deter this growing paranoia.
More specifically in Pakistan various departments are trying to curb this insanity by initiating some institutes that will impart a soft image of Islam.
In this aspect, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has set up centres of excellence with varying objectives to counter Islamophobia.
The Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Zia ul-Qayyum gave formal approval for the establishment of centres of excellence regarding Seerat studies, Sufi studies, Iqbal Chair of Muslim thoughts and a centre for creating archives of Intelligentsia of Pakistan in the 120th meeting of the University.
Through these centres it would be easy to inform the world audience about the true essence of Islam by starting Sufi dialogue and research on Seerat-un-Nabi (SAWW).
These centres would also help unveil the hidden corners of Iqbal’s Muslim thoughts and establishment of archives based on a series of interviews of living legends by utilizing the varsities spread, outreach, regional presence and network.
All these four centres of excellence would counter growing Islamophobia and would raise an analytical level of discourse in the Muslims scholarly community and disseminate the philosophy of Allama Mohammad Iqbal to produce oral histories and Sufi thoughts based on the principles of love, peace and equality.
As we all know, South Asia is the land of Sufis. Sufis, across the world at large, have spread love and contributed to the efforts of peace building by employing the basic principles of Islam from primitive times.
Sufis have always stayed in close contact with the people and led them by example transforming the life of millions.
These centres will operate as a think tank to give logical responses to those spreading negative propaganda against Islam and Muslims. Healthy dialogue and debates on Sufi thoughts would be the part of the centre. Iqbal has been the role model for his thought provoking writings.
His eagle (metaphor) has been an emblem of strength, courage, self-realization, and self-assertion. This centre will provide an opportunity to study the ideology of Iqbal.
Civilization, culture and traditions are the main ingredients that are necessary for the recognition of nations.
Nations that nurture their new generation under the shadow of their historical heritage; they are always thriving and immortal.
Archives of Intelligentsia of Pakistan has the mandate to preserve the oral history collection of eminent scholars of the country to train oral historians.
This centre will disseminate knowledge in the form of books and research articles that would be translated into different languages by the Translation Studies Department of the university for the benefit of all.
Establishment of these centres will not only promote the culture, civilizations and tradition of Pakistan but also help deter the Islamophobia along with spreading the positive image of Islam and Pakistan.
—The writer is Assistant Director, Press of Media, AIOU, Islamabad.