Yesterday I spoke at a public meeting on ‘Islamophobia’. Here are some thoughts on the matter, which were made at the meeting. I don’t like using the term – and will explain why. But it is the commonly understood term for ‘anti-Islamic bigotry and prejudice’ and as such needs addressing.
(1) Ever since the term ‘Islamophobia’ was coined in 1991, the issue has been framed putting the burden of addressing it in the hands of Muslims. How often Muslims are made to feel they ‘have to do more’ to tackle Islamophobia. While no one would say Black people need to do more to tackle Racism in Britain, or the Jewish community to tackle Anti-Semitism. Victims of prejudice, bigotry or oppression aren’t normally expected to be the ones dealing with the prejudice, bigotry or oppression of others. Hence, the debate has been framed in a problematic way.
(2) The aim of ‘Islamophobia’ is to bully Muslims into adopting secular values – locally and globally by demonising everything from Hijab to Khilafah. If there is enough bullying and demonisation there is often not a need to resort to legal bans. The net result is that Muslims may campaign for their rights so preventing bans, but may well still be bullied by public opinion into reforming their behaviour.
(3) There are (broadly speaking) two types of Islamophobia that should be distinguished. The more serious is that from the Establishment – and the other is that from some of the general public, which is the fruit of that from the Establishment. The latter is the day to day bigotry felt by those often in the worst position to tackle it – women, children and the elderly. This sort of prejudice – which manifests as name calling, physical attacks, discrimination in schools and the workplace – is a symptom of a much bigger problem. Those who commit these crimes have been affected by a political narrative driven by the Establishment i.e. politicians, think tanks, the media.
(4) The Establishment Islamophobia is an ideological agenda against Islam, and to make secular liberal capitalism dominant within Britain and across the world. They use the excuse of terror attacks and other negative incidents; report each incident with disproportionate attention; speculate about the possible causes linked to Islam; and so reinforce the idea Islam is violent. They link this to other Islamic matters, often political ideas, so arguing that Islam is need of reform and change, to fit with secular liberal values. They imply the more Islamic you are, the more of a threat you are. Hence, the links to Hijab, separate seating for men and women in public gatherings, asking for prayer rooms, Islamic social values – all of these are labelled as examples of ‘extremism’.
(5) What Muslims sense in the UK is part of a global agenda. The propaganda against Islam in the UK is part of the propaganda against Islam in the Muslim world. Hence Khilafah is demonised – as it is a political system that challenges the capitalist world order. Even the barest semblance of Islam in the political life of the Muslim world – whether democratic Morsi in Egypt, secular Erdogan in Turkey or the sectarian nationalism of the Iranian regime – all of this is targeted for demonisation, even if tolerated for political cooperation.
(6) This ideologically driven Islamophobia is not new. The worst Islamophobia was against the Messenger ﷺ. He ﷺ remained steadfast and carried the Message. He ﷺ refused to adopt the values of Quraysh when they made their Islamophobic attacks upon Muslims. He ﷺ often spoke harshly to the Establishment in Makkah, warning them of Jahannam, criticising their beliefs and practises using ayaat of Quran. By contrast, he ﷺ did not make the attacks from those incited by the leaders of Quraysh the focus of his dawah.
(7) So how should Muslims respond? Understanding the reasons – the desire for secular ideals to dominate and for Muslims to leave their Islam – will help us know how to respond:
- If the aim is for us to be fearful, we need to remember to fear none but Allah Alone; that these attacks are a test for us to see if we remain steadfast; that we must rely upon Him Alone; that we believe that ease follows hardship; that Help and Victory comes from Him.
- If the aim is for us to leave our Islamic identity, we need to take active measures to build those ideas and beliefs that develop that identity, and which protect that in our community – amongst youth, for Muslim parents, in masajid and madrasshs. We need to understand our Deen as a way of life, live it in our communities and offer a better alternative to those around us.
- If the aim is to demonise Islam to the general public, we need to step up our dawah to the non Muslim so that they hear Islam from us, not lies propagated in the media.
- If the aim is to set Muslim against one another, calling some moderates and some extremists, we need to remember to retain our Islamic brotherhood.
- If the aim is that there should be no Islamic Khilafah in the Muslim world to challenge global capitalism, we should be advocates for that righteous Islamic system of government, which is an Islamic obligation – know what it is, and explain it to others. For it is part of our Deen, our dignity and a hope for all humanity.
- In short, whether in Britain or in the Muslim world, Muslims need more Islam in their lives, not less, as a solution to this persistent attack.
Dr. Abdul Wahid is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine.
The Three Faces of Islamophobia http://www.newcivilisation.com/home/uk-europe/the-three-faces-of-islamophobia/
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