Curbing Islamophobia

Islamophobia, a term we usually heard, is a fear or hatred of the States or Individuals towards Muslims and Islam. Islamophobic persons or states opt for hate speech or crimes, discriminate Muslims socially and politically. They often implement policies to disenfranchise and incarcerate Muslims and put them under surveillance. Although the surge towards Islamophobic sentiments was seen after 9/11, it was existing before it in the western discourse.

During the Middle Ages, the European builds popular support for crusades. They termed the Muslims uncivilized and violent people. By creating these beliefs they rationalize their colonial command on the majority of the Muslim world. Scholar Edward used the term “orientalism” relating it to the hatred against Muslims and other colonized communities. A British think tank, Runnymede Trust, which deals with ethnic and racial prejudice, generalize the term “Islamophobia” for the first time in 1997.

On March 15, 2021, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) observed for the first time “International day to combat Islamophobia “. The observance of the day is the outcome of increased hatred towards Muslims, compelling the 57 members of OIC countries including Pakistan to spread global awareness by curbing the intolerance and hatred against Muslims. In its 47th session held in November 2020 in Niger, the OIC Council of Foreign Minister decided to commemorate the day on 15 March, coinciding with Christchurch’s massacre of 51 innocent Muslim Worshippers, back on March 15, 2019.

In recent years, Islamophobic sentiments have shaken major parts of the world, particularly Europe. In October 2020, French President Emanuel Macron called Islam the religion “in crisis” and justified the depiction of a caricature of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).  His statement comes after the murder of the School teacher who depicted a caricature of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in class. It is a blasphemous act in Islam to depict Muhammad (SAW) in a caricature, however, Islam doesn’t allow anyone to take the law in their own hands and the teacher’s murder is totally condemnable. Attacks against French people took place in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Nice, Tunisia. However, the leaders of the Muslim countries offer a condolence to the French government, a huge protest was organized in the major Muslim countries condemning the move of Macron.

The French government has already put a ban on the face veiling of Muslim women in 2011 fearing that terrorists may carry out attacks wearing Niqab. After France, the Austrian government did the same in 2017, followed by Switzerland, which very recently in Mar 2021 banned “Niqab” in public places. Fifty-one percent of Switzerland people voted in favor of banning face veiling, who perceives it “spread extremism”. The population of Switzerland is 8.6 million in which only 30 women practice veiling.

Other European countries are not behind in the race, an article “Why is Europe so Islamophobic”? Published in New York Times in 2020 has some alarming figures. The articles stated that in 2018 only, France witnessed a 52 percent surge in Islamophobic cases; 74 percent in Austria with 540 cases. Forty-four percent of people of German origin view “a fundamental contradiction between Islam and German culture and values”. The surge of Islamophobic figures in Finland is 62 percent whereas in Italy it is 53 percent. In Britain, a person from Pakistani Heritage is 150 times most likely to be stopped and search without “reasonable suspicion” under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act. All these figures suggest Muslims in Europe are the most vulnerable and mistrusted community.

Islamophobia was prevalent in the United States after the attack on the World trade center and the subsequent war on terror. But under the Trump administration and his anti-Muslim rhetoric and tweets, put in danger the beliefs and lives of Muslims. The former President would usually call Muslims “a problem” and favors the surveillance of Muslims Mosques. His administration was mostly consisting of anti-Muslims personnel, who leads the path to Jerusalem recognition. He banned Seven Muslim countries to immigrate to the United States a week after his inauguration. The ban was lifted after the new President, Joe Biden, who sworn in 2021.

As what we are seeing in the west, we are witnessing it in the east, a place where Islam first emerged. India, where the Muslims are the largest minority is in strict surveillance under the far-right Modi’s government.  Their government has passed discriminatory legislation against Muslims. The law of “love Jihad” was introduced to stop the marriage of Muslim boys and Hindu girls. Before this “triple talaq” was criminalize and the anti-Muslims Citizen Amendment bill was passed by the Modi government. Muslims in India are mostly victimized by slaughtering the cow. Although the constitution of India allows and supports Interfaith harmony, it is rarely followed by the far-right Hindutva government.

To the North of India is China, which anti-Muslim story is not different from India. Minority Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang are incarcerated by Chinese authorities in concentration camps. They are politically indoctrinated, abused, and women are sterilized to control the population of Uyghur Muslims. Islamophobia in Myanmar has caused the genocide and disenfranchisement of Rohingyan. In Asia, Srilanka is the new addition to the list of Islamophobic countries after the Easter attack by the Islamic State (IS). They recently proposed the banning of Naqab in public spaces.

All these circumstances make it necessary that combating Islamophobia is a requirement of time. This role can beautifully be played by not other than the Muslim countries themselves under the platform of OIC. Muslim countries ought to make the world leaders understand that Islam and Muslims are not interlinked with terrorism and would be treated differently. OIC Secretary-General, Dr. Yousaf has said that they will talk to United Nations and other international organizations to observe the day of combating Islamophobia. United Nations must welcome the request of OIC, as Islamophobic ideas are contradictory to the UN charter which protects religious beliefs and practices.

The world leaders should rethink their bigotry policies against the Muslims, sponsored by their States. The activities of the parties of the far-right like Hindutva and White Supremacist are causing Islamophobia, it needs to be curtailed. Muslim countries like Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia can play their due role by diplomatic means as all these countries are members of international and regional organizations.