The Islamophobia is on the rise in the West. One of the many reasons is the misconception about Islam. After the US war on terror and the usage of the term Islamic terrorism, Islam started to be seen as a violent religion. Islamophobia has become dangerous not only for the Muslims but for civilizations. The Muslim community’s silence over the concerned issue and their treatment of minorities at home has played a role in making the issue pervasive. In Pakistan, the frequency of such cases is increasing, and the government is unable to do anything about it. However, the incumbent Prime minister has urged the Muslim community to cooperate over the issue.
Islamophobia is fear, hatred, or prejudice against Islam and Muslims, especially when seen as a geopolitical force or as a means of terrorism. The term was first coined in the early 20th century by a French painter as ‘Isamophobie,’ which was later translated into English as Islamophobia.
The phenomenon gained momentum after the US began the war on terrorism. These wars made many Arabs and Africans homeless, and they migrated to the West. This migration is seen by the far-right as an invasion of Europe and the US. Consequently, far-right political parties gained momentum.
The fear is not only of migration but also perpetuated by the fear that the Muslims are taking over the jobs, homes, and lives of the host country. It polarises the society, and the clash of civilizations becomes real.
Moreover, blasphemy is frequently carried out in the name of freedom of speech. It hurts the sentiments of Muslims and incites them to do wrong. And coverage of media gives it more hype.
On similar lines, Islam is considered as an inferior religion that threatens the values of the West. It is deemed to be rigid, barbaric, irrational, and thick with violence. According to the Gallup 2019 survey, 87 percent of those questioned in the West think that Muslims worldwide are not tolerating people of other religions. Media has played a huge role in this matter. The portrayal of Islam by western media is biased. The acts of violence carried out by people of any other religion are not associated with their religion. They are claimed to be mentally unstable, while the case is not the same with Muslims.
It is not just public sentiment, but the support by leaders of the world – previously Trump and now Macron- to this phobic concept presents a bleak picture. Most recently, the beheading of a school teacher for showing caricatures of The Last Prophet and later events sparked unrest in the Muslim world. The defense of the incident by the French premier added fuel to the fire. Hurting the religious sentiments of 1.8 billion people cannot be called freedom of speech. One should not bring cracks in the community just to fetch political support as Macron has attempted. He lost his political support, which was 60% in 2017, now it stands 23%. By fanning Islamophobia, he tried to appease the far-right people.
The situation and shush of the Muslim countries add fuel to the fire. The incidents of blasphemy are not treated with prudence. The public takes matters into its own hands owing to a lack of trust in the government authorities and due to the perception that the state is under external pressure to abolish capital punishment. At home in Pakistan, the issue of blasphemy is on the rise and is not dealt with effectively. According to the Human Rights Watch commission, there have been 40 registered blasphemy cases since August 2020. The State of Pakistan either has failed or is unable to deal with the issue of blasphemy. The recent blasphemy cases – the murder of banker- show that people are using it to avenge personal grudges in the name of the love of Prophet PBUH, and the state is unable to regulate the issue. Moreover, the law is used to marginalize the minorities of Pakistan. This manifests the Muslim countries as extremist countries.
It is the need to time the Muslim community comes together to curb the rise of hatred against their religion. There have been efforts to put an end to this phenomenon, but they have been more reactive. For example, after the incidents in France, many Muslim countries boycotted French products.
In Pakistan, the premier tried to unite the Muslim community against Islamophobia and present the true picture of Islam to the rest of the world. To portray Islam as a tolerant religion, his government has opened the Kartarpur corridor for Sikh pilgrims and allowed the construction of a temple in the federal capital. After coming to power in 2018, he has frequently raised the issue in the UNGA and tried to bring attention to increasing attacks against the Muslims by equating them to terrorists. After the recent incidents in France, he has written letters to Muslim leaders to act collectively to cap the growing Islamophobia in the West. He also wrote to the CEO of Facebook to treat the Holy Prophet’s blasphemy as par with Holocaust. It must not be allowed or equated with freedom of speech.
However, a proactive approach is essential. It can be countered using a four-step approach – defining, documenting, deconstructing its ideas, and finally presenting the true picture of Islam. The phenomenon must be recorded to assess the scope and its narrative. The true picture of Islam must be presented. A misconception concerning Islam must be laid off. And reconstruction of mainstream ideas of Islam is needed; that is closer to the faith and its practice.
For this reason, the Muslim community needs to come together. OIC – the collective voice of Muslims- has responsibility on its shoulders. Muslims must put the rifts among themselves on their side to unite to fight this phenomenon.