Islamophobia is defined as the irrational hostility, fear or hatred of Muslims and Islamic culture. Research shows that the US has identified more than 160 Muslim-American terrorist suspects and perpetrators in the decade since 9/11.
Most recently, in the Norwegian town of Kritiansand, an anti-Islam rally aimed to set fire to a copy of the Holy Quran. A video made of the incident shows a Muslim man, now termed as the “Defender of the Quran,” attacking the leader of the rally. The incident garnered Muslim condemnation for the attempt while praise for the man’s valour.
This and many other incidents alike center on ‘provoking the Muslim community’ hence adding to the hate epidemic.
Muslim minorities have been portrayed as not belonging and wanting to be separated from the rest of the society. Discrimination against Muslims has been prevalent especially in cases like unemployment, restrained civic and political participation, and poverty.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 had a drastic impact on public opinion towards Muslims. Similar attacks by ‘violent jihadists’ in London, Paris, Brussels, and Barcelona have instilled further fear and anxiety in people around the world.
The rise of Islamophobic attacks reportedly surged to 1,201 verified reports in 2017, a rise of 26% the previous year. This was the highest number recorded since the beginning of incidents. In the US, non-Muslim Americans were claimed to be worried about the rise of extremism. One in three people, as found by a 2018 survey, said that a mosque or Islamic centre built in their neighborhood would trouble them.
Furthermore, trigger events spark immense backlash of hate. Particularly the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.
We are prompted to think about why Islamophobia is at an all time high in this era. A number of reasons come to mind. Firstly, the history that stands between the Muslims and Westerners. Christian Europeans and Muslims have been head-to-head since days of yore. It has painted itself with strokes of distrust and pain.
The most important reason surfaces as the rapid emergence of social media. A fusion of Muslim prejudice and bias torments the modern world. Thus, preventing the West to see Islamic culture and ideology in a positive light.
Perhaps one of the strongest contributors to the anti-Muslim hate crimes was the New Zealand terror attack in March, said a monitoring group. In the UK, an NGO that accounts Islamophobic events said that anti-Muslim hate crime soared to 593 percent in the UK. The attack saw a self-proclaimed white supremacist recording himself live on social media while attacking a mosque in ChristChurch, New Zealand killing atleast 50 Muslims.
These attacks show their root cause stems from seeing Muslims as subjects to be hated and feared.
Organizations that perpetrate feelings of Muslim exploitation are reported to have tripled in the last three years. Most popularly since Donald Trump’s initiation as president of the most powerful country of the world, Islamophobic propaganda has increased, according to media reports. Trump’s radical ideology and anti-Muslim rhetoric has led attackers following his ideals in committing crimes under the banner of white supremacy.
The bottom line here is the effect Islamophobia has had on not just Muslims, but societies everywhere. Muslims are increasingly pushed outside the circle of social cohesion in non-Muslim majority countries. Thereby disrupting potential means of peace in the world. Not only that, terrorists of Western origin are labelled as being mentally ill.
Do Muslims deserve to be perceived this way?
The more media attempts to depict Muslims as makers of violence, the more it can create causes for racism in the world. Which is why, the media, being one of the most powerful weapons of social change, can both charge and end the monstrosity of Islamophobia.
Societies are periled with a domino effect capable of pitting themselves against each other. The fear and discrimination attached to Muslims can set off a number of problems – a storm Pakistan has already caught itself in.
In addition to development problems, Islamophobia has affected social engagement for Pakistani Muslims at a global level.
There should be discussion around the fact that Muslim extremism lies away from what is truly Islam. Politics and the like corrupting the image of Islam can hope to finally subside.