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Islamophobia wave in the West

Reema Shaukat
SOME say that had 9/11 attacks revenge was limited to the doers only and punishing them, then war against terrorism had not been there for millions of Muslims to suffer. Unfortunately, the West has created this sense of Islamophobia in its societies over the years. Islamophobia is generally defined as the fear, hatred or prejudice against the religion Islam and its followers-Muslims especially when it is seen as a geopolitical force or perceived as the source of terrorism. History suggests that the Islamophobia existed before 9/11 but this terminology got more influential in the West in past one and half decades. Several researchers doing research on this particular subject have mentioned that this terminology was found in 1991 in one of the US fortnightly newspapers, ‘Insight News’ while many have found out this lexis was reconsidered orientalism in 1985. In some of historical findings researchers have quoted that word Islamophobia is mentioned in 1923’s Journal of Theology too. So the history says that this fear of Muslims and Islam was created by powers of that time about 125-130 years ago. In the history of sub-continent we find lecture series by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, great Muslim educationist to counter the propaganda by West on Islamophobia in his writings of “Khutbat-e-Muhammadia”.
In a recent incident on 15 March 2019 that happened in two of mosques in New Zealand in which 50 Muslims belonging to different countries were martyred while offering prayers by a terrorist. Among them were also 9 Pakistanis who lost their lives in brutal incident in Christchurch. This tragic incident was condemned throughout the world particularly Muslim countries raised serious concerns over the safety of Muslims in western countries. It is now observed that this concept of white supremacy is holding strength in the past few years. Obviously many factors are responsible for this white supremacy mind-set which is the racist belief that white people are superior to people of other races and therefore should be dominant over them. History says that white supremacy has roots in scientific racism and it often relies on pseudoscientific arguments. Several movements in past have supported white supremacy and they have opposed members of all races belonging to any religion. This white supremacy notion is not limited to any particular country and unfortunately many examples around us tell how Muslims are victim of this.
Be it is Punish a Muslim Day in UK, blasphemy in Denmark, women targeted for wearing hijab in France or mass shootings in USA, Muslims are victim of such heinous acts. In USA we can often find such injustices on the basis of religion and not to forget that President Trump used this notion of racism against Muslims to win his presidential elections. His tweets often criticise Muslims and when President Donald Trump called PM of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern to offer his sympathies and ask what assistance the US might provide, Ardern said she would welcome sympathy and love toward Muslim communities. It truly pointed toward the perception of Trump as being anti-Islamic. According to FBI report there are 872 hate groups working in USA only, so this raises a question on the spread of Islamophobia in USA only. However, Jacinda Ardern in this crucial time has won hearts of many Muslims when she in NZ Parliament addressed starting with greeting Assalam-o-Alaikum and said peace be upon you and peace be upon all of us. She clearly mentioned in her speech that the killer sought many things from his act of terror but one was notoriety and that is why you will never hear me mention his name.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation has called on emergency meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC in Istanbul to discuss the causes and the way forward in the aftermath of the New Zealand terror attacks. During the meeting, efforts will be made to unify the Ummah and devise a strategy to know the root causes of growing Islamophobia in West and its implications for Muslims around the world as many Muslim communities living in different countries strongly believed there was a real threat to their safety which understandably caused fear, offense and worry. After this incident in NZ and many past happenings with Muslims across the globe, it becomes essential that Muslims should in real terms follow the religion. Islam is a religion of peace, love and tolerance but the West has portrayed it as terror and something insane. Particularly after war against terrorism and in Middle East crises where millions of Muslims had to migrate to different countries, western societies though accepted them as migrants but perceived all of them and Islam as a threat to their society. That’s why whenever something bad happens in the world, it is often inked to Muslims.
It is need of the hour that peace literature be produced or if there comes an anti-Islamic literature that must be countered through strong narrative and literature. Muslims have to come in leadership role in western countries to have their strong say at higher level and indeed they can play a positive role in eliminating such phobias through their goodwill gestures. Research suggests that when it comes to religion and culture, politics is often overtaken and religious affinities and cultural similarities become a root cause of tension between Muslims and western world. Same goes for Islamophobia where political interests are often dominated and according to “Fear, Inc.” report a network of misinformation experts actively promotes Islamophobia in USA. Hence to counter such negative elements and propaganda in the West, Muslims have to play a significant role through their positive actions, deeds and gestures so that they are not considered as threat anywhere.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.