While the world is still
reeling from the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, a question
that needs attention is, “What is Islamophobia?”
The Oxford dictionary defines the term as: intense dislike or fear of Islam,
especially as a political force. But the true meaning of the term continues to
be debated within academic circles. Is Islamaphobia a socially reproduced
prejudice and aversion to Islam and Muslims? Is it a type of racialism? Or does
there exist a social stigma towards Islam and Muslims, called fear. Islamophobia
may just be a form of racism “wrapped in religious terms.” The word Islamophobia
came into wide-spread use from people holding negative views of Islam.
Islamaphobia got wide support in the “Christian West” as Muslims were being
perceived as “an external threat.” The feeling of this phobia began to take
shape when thoughts were being given to the effects Islam could have in the West
in the long run. Added to this was the role of the Western media which
over-reported some Islamist terrorist incidents. Also, the negative political
rhetoric towards Muslims by political pundits fanned the flames of fear.
Islamophobia is more about world politics than religion. Modern-day demonization
of Muslims and the relentless attacks on Muslims by political pundits is a
reflection of this unjust war. These attacks have led to discrimination against
Muslims and a rise in Islamophobic sentiments. Muslims in the West possibly feel
they are “out of place” in this world.
Ironically, according to a research carried out in the US by Public Religion
Research Institute, 62% of Americans have seldom or never conversed with a
Muslim; 26% said they know nothing about Islam while the rest stated they have
some knowledge about Islam.
Islamophobia is today is a multimillion dollar industry in the West. There are
anti-Muslim organizations which receive millions of dollars in funds towards
carrying out a campaign against Islam and Muslims. As of 2016 there were 101
such organizations in the US alone. Their task is to disseminate biased
information or disinformation about Islam and Muslims. The media also has
exploited to its advantage the anti-Muslim sentiments where cyber space has been
serving as a springboard for people with anti-Islam and anti-Muslim views. It is
through the media Islamophobia is spreading like a virus.
Despite the fact that
extremists do not represent even a miniscule fraction of the Muslim population,
Islamophobes have always exploited any act of extremism to project an image of
all Muslims as extremists and a source of terrorism. The incident of 9/11 gave
further boost to such anti-Muslim sentiments. Then the rise of groups such as
the ISIS and Al Qaeda in recent years added to the anti-Muslim bigotry. With
such a scenario in existence, Islamophobia became the staple diet of political
pundits, especially in the West.
It is not all from the West who carry Islamophibic views about Muslims. A
pontiff from the Vatican had the following words to say about Muslims: “…the
religiosity of Muslims deserve respect. It is impossible not admire, for
example, their fidelity to prayer. The image of believers of Allah who, without
caring about time or place, fall to their knees and immerse themselves in prayer
remain a model for all those who invoke the true God, in particular for those
Christians who, having deserted their magnificent cathedrals, pray only a little
or not at all.” Pope John Paul II in “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”
What then is Islamophobia? : It is simply a projection of the West’s dark side.