Origionally published in Pak tea house
Every religion preaches peace and patience. No religion is based on violence and extremism. In the same manner, Islam is a religion of peace as it emphasizes not only peaceful coexistence but also patience and brother-hood.
In the West, Muslims have been living with people of other faiths and no tension or strife was seen among them up until the malicious propaganda against Islam and Muslims started.
It is important to analyze why non-Muslims think so negatively about Islam and whether it is a reality or merely a way to achieve political ends. Before 9/11, Islamophobia was just a concept. But 9/11 changed not only the image of Islam but also the fate of Muslims living in the West. Muslims were teased, mocked and labeled as terrorists even by their closest friends. Despite having lived there for ages, many Muslims were forced to leave their jobs, homes and sometimes their own country. People did not bother to know the reality.
It is true that many non-Muslims do not know about even the basic teachings of Islam. Some of them may not have met any Muslim in their entire life. Yet all Muslims were labeled terrorist because of the act of a few people who happened to be Muslims. In March 2004, a video was released showing an American businessman captured and brutally murdered by the people of al Qaida. This video, among other news, made Americans believe that Muslims are against them. A number of strikes started against Muslims in America. People started believing as if every Muslim was a terrorist. How can they ignore the fact that their immediate neighbor could also be a Muslim who never indulged in any unlawful and unethical activity, and was living peacefully? Surely, Islamophobia is based on irrational justifications. It is exaggeration without any solid argument.
Islamophobia can be categorized on two levels, individually initiated and state-sponsored. The first one is often perpetuated by the fear that Muslims are taking their homes, jobs and lives and is leading to a ‘clash of civilizations’. The state-sponsored category of Islamophobia is more dangerous as it plays a role in determining the policies of a particular state. This can be understood by Trump’s decision to impose a travel ban on seven Muslim countries.
It is believed that the media also played a major role in the spread of Islamophobia. It is a means for those people who are unaware of any particular aspect and depend on the media to know the reality. A study conducted by Cardiff University found that the majority of news coverage post 9/11 against Muslims was negative.
Another important aspect to be considered is the role of NGOs that collect funds from people after convincing them that they are working against Muslims. A number of NGOs and groups such as Act for America are too quick to spread hatred against Islam. Pamela Geller is currently working as head of the American Freedom Defense Initiative that has been classified as anti-Muslim hate group.
The role of western politicians is equally important. Many American politicians are quick at exploiting any situation in their favor. American politicians always need to convince their people before starting a major military venture. Back in 2003, it was announced that they are invading Iraq because Saddam Hussain had developed weapons of mass destruction. Donald Trump took full advantage of Islamophobia in campaigning for the White House. Now Muslims are more vulnerable as a result of Trump’s policies than they were after the 9/11 attack.
Islam is a religion that promotes jihad but the activities of the terrorists have nothing to do with the original concept of Jihad. Some people have started using the word jihad to achieve their political ends. As human we cannot know about everything, especially if it is related to some other religion, that is different from our beliefs. We do not bother to read about true essence of the aspects and start believing in what others are saying, no matter if it is true or false. Amid all such situations, the survival of Muslims in the west has become increasingly difficult. Followed by the ban on veil in France, the “Punish a Muslim Day” that was observed in the U.K has further increased the sense of insecurity among Muslims of the West.
The writer is a clinical psychologist and can be contacted at email@example.com