At the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Muslim leaders were united in condemning the West, especially Europe, for the incidents of desecration and burning of the Quran in some countries in the garb of free speech. It was encouraging to see Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Emir Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Pakistan’s Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and other Muslim leaders raising this extremely important issue through which Muslims are being targeted, and Islamophobia is being given a free hand under the pretext of freedom of expression. For far too long have Muslims been on the receiving end of such disgraceful provocations while the West makes it out to be a part of their ‘free speech’ culture. These actions are not about free speech but about deliberately insulting a religion, and humiliating and provoking an entire community, riling up Muslims across the globe. When a reaction comes in the form of protests – as it does – then they use the same racist trope for them: the ‘intolerant’ Muslim.
Muslim leaders have been warning and asking Western governments to have a framework where all religions are shown respect and where communities are not targeted based on their ethnicities, colour or religion. Unfortunately, the West didn’t pay heed to the Muslim countries but lately, even their own governments are now worried at the frequency of such incidents and its consequences. The fact is that Islamophobia is rampant in the West and has been long before even 9/11. From the Hollywood portrayal of Muslims only as terrorists to the never-ending Western aggression in the Middle East, there was a reason why space was created for militant outfits like Al-Qaeda to exist.
Back in July, Pakistan’s efforts led to the UN adopting a resolution titled ‘Promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech’. The UN resolution had urged the global community to counter all forms and dimensions of hate speech. A conversation about Islamophobia, where the West listens to the voices of Muslims it has treated so badly, needs to begin and it needs to be heard not just in the corridors of power but by all those who have fallen for demagoguery against Muslims and allowed their irrational fear to cloud their judgement. At the moment, Muslim countries need to work at international forums to stem this tide of Islamophobia and ignorance which has engulfed Europe. These incidents are a reflection of a more serious problem in the West.