Combatting Islamophobia should be a top priority for the West
eace is a core value in Islam and one of the most significant human needs. Islam promotes pacifism and is characterised by its emphasis on peace, tolerance, reconciliation, harmony, tranquillity, brotherhood and common good. It is a holistic way of life that guides all spheres and activities of human existence.
Islamic teachings encompass all aspects of human rights, including social, political, economic and environmental rights. It promotes justice, equality, and compassion in all interactions between individuals and society.
Pakistan is an Islamic republic. Article 2 of the constitution recognises Islam as the state religion. The constitution also guarantees the fundamental right of non-Muslim citizens to profess, practice and propagate their religion freely and without fear of persecution, as enshrined in Article 20. Article 21 of the constitution ensures protection from taxation for religious purposes for every individual. Article 22 safeguards against the compulsory imposition of religious education on citizens. This means that no one can be forced to receive religious education against their will.
Article 27 prohibits discrimination based on religion in appointing individuals to any public office in Pakistan. This ensures that every citizen has an equal opportunity to serve their country, regardless of religion. Article 36 protects the rights and interests of minorities. This is a crucial provision that helps ensure that all citizens, regardless of their religion, can live and practice their faith freely and without fear of discrimination or persecution.
Meanwhile, many Muslims continue to face negative stereotypes and unfair portrayals in the media, particularly in the context of Islamophobia. This is deeply problematic and contributes to the marginalisation and discrimination of Muslim communities worldwide. These stereotypes should be challenged and a more accurate and inclusive understanding of Islam and Muslims promoted.
Islamophobia refers to an intense and unfounded aversion, hostility, fear, and discrimination against Muslims and their religion, Islam, by non-Muslims. This prejudice can manifest in various forms of anti-Islamic behaviour or attitudes. Other terms used to describe Islamophobia include anti-Muslimism, anti-Islamism and hatred of Muslims.
The term “Islamophobia” was first used in 1923 and is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam.”
Islamophobia has given rise to a disturbing trend of hate, violence and discrimination against Muslims in the West. This phenomenon takes various forms, including hate speech, hate crimes, and discriminatory foreign policies. Although Islamophobia is not a new problem, it gained heightened attention in the media after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Some of the media portrayal of Muslims has led to unwarranted negative views and stereotypes of the community without any legal justification or credible evidence. This has now become an international issue.
In response to this growing concern, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on March 15, 2022, declaring it the “International Day to Combat Islamophobia.” The day serves as a reminder of the urgent need to address the pervasive problem of Islamophobia and work towards promoting tolerance, respect and understanding between different faith communities.
Islamophobia is a pervasive problem that has numerous adverse effects on the lives of Muslims worldwide. These effects include:
It is necessary to increase understanding and education about Islam, promote tolerance and acceptance and ensure that the rights of all individuals are protected, regardless of their religion or background.
Over 2 million Muslims face bigotry and prejudice, leading to discrimination in various aspects of their lives.
Muslims who wear hijab or practice their faith openly are viewed suspiciously, and offering prayers can become a negative marker.
Muslims face discrimination at workplace, where they may be viewed as suspect and unwelcome.
Muslims are portrayed as violent and untrustworthy, and their fundamental human rights are violated.
Muslim women are disproportionately targetted with hate speech and other forms of harassment.
There are physical and verbal attacks on Muslims and their properties, including places of worship.
Muslims face discrimination in employment, education and access to goods and services.
Muslims are stigmatised regardless of their contributions to their communities and countries of residence.
Islamophobia can lead to hate crimes and political discrimination, influencing foreign and domestic policies.
Some political actors use Islamophobia to promote discriminatory policies and further their own interests.
Combatting Islamophobia should be a top priority for the West. This requires measures such as promulgating anti-hate speech and hate crime legislation and prosecuting those accused with suitable punishments. There should be public awareness campaigns about Muslims and the religion to dispel negative misconceptions, ideas, and myths about Muslims. A culture of tolerance, peace, and tranquillity should be promoted by encouraging interfaith dialogue, supporting cultural exchange programs and providing education about different cultures and religions. It is essential to avoid viewing Islam as a negation of civilisation and Muslims as a barbaric and cruel nation, as such views are unfounded. It is essential to recognise that terrorism, violent extremism and barbarism cannot be associated with any nationality, religion, territory or civilisation. By working together to promote understanding, mutual respect and tolerance, we can create a more inclusive and peaceful world where everyone can live without fear of discrimination and violence.
The Western media’s silence about the true spirit of Islam is unjustifiable. In not addressing the issue, such media is perpetuating the problem of Islamophobia. As the saying goes, “You cannot solve a problem if you don’t bring it up.” Islamophobia breeds alienation among Muslims leading to greater discrimination. This, in turn, can cause Muslims to resist state and government policies. The root cause of the issue is the misconception and lack of understanding of Islam.
Article 18 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasises freedom of religion, thought and consensus. All Muslim countries ensure the protection and security of religious freedom, and the rights of non-Muslim minorities are protected. To combat Islamophobia, it is necessary to increase understanding and education about Islam, promote tolerance and acceptance and ensure that the rights of all individuals are protected, regardless of their religion or background. It’s time for the media to bring about positive change rather than perpetuate harmful stereotypes and misconceptions.
The writer is an advocate of Supreme Court of Pakistan based in Peshawar. He can be reached at Ziaurrahmantajik123gmail.com.