The word Islamophobia has become a commonly used term to express anxiety against Islam in the West. This phenomenon has historical and contemporary reasons that resulted in slandering the message of Islam and expressing skepticism in the prophecy of the Messenger of Allah , stirring conflicts between Muslims and seeking to occupy Muslim countries.
This phenomenon has also slipped to non-Muslims living in Islamic countries, thus it needs the concerted efforts of the Islamic world to come out with a unified strategy to confront this phenomenon. The revival of civilized aspects of this religion is one of the best of ways to confront Islamophobia.
The term “Islamophobia” was crafted after borrowing a part of it from the science of mental disorders to express phobia against something. It’s a phenomenon that is as old as the religion of Islam itself. However, its severity has risen after the bombings of the two towers in September 11th 2001.
This phenomenon has been deeply ingrained in a history that’s filled with series of troubled relations between the West and Islam, which eventually resulted in molding the Western mentality into thinking that Islam is a grave and imminent danger that threatens anything that is “Western.” Islamophobia originated among the Arabs and Jews of the Arabian Peninsula, and there are indicators that confirms its continued presence on Arabic and Islamic lands until this day.
A deep and serious understanding of any phenomenon is the first necessary step to find a cure for it. As we indicated earlier, the term phobia is taken originally from the science of mental disorders, in order to express a type of compulsive neurosis where patients have no ability to control their reactions when addressing the subject of their fear, thus experiencing symptoms that makes them enter a real case of uncontrolled panic.[Christian Nordqvist, What is a Phobia? What causes phobia?, Research paper, September ,2014. Available at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249347.php ]
It should also be noted that in most cases, panics experienced by patients are not based on real and serious threats. They actually express a psychiatric and perceptual disorder because they’ve had painful experiences related to the phobia, especially during early stages of childhood , where such unpleasant experiences seep through the subconscious mind, therefore, when they face the subject of their fear, they react in an involuntary way that is difficult to control.
Islamophobia has many reasons that vary in importance and effect, and the following is an attempt to show the main reasons that might be responsible in authoring this phenomenon:
1- A history filled with conflicts between Islam and the West
Islamic conquests began from the time of the Messenger of Allah , expanded its boarders and prospects in the later centuries, resulted in the defeat of the Roman legions and the destruction of their strongholds that were swept away by the banner of Islam. This is the first and most prominent painful experience that the West was exposed to in its relation with the Islamic world. For example, a rout had incurred on the Roman armies in the battle of Yarmuk during the 16th Hijri year, which resulted in evacuating the Roman occupation from the Arabian area. It was narrated that Hercules once said, “Peace be upon you O Syria, a farewell that has no meeting after, and a blessed country you are to the enemy and not to the friend, and no Roman shall enter you after now except with fear”.
History is filled with a chain of unpleasant experiences that dedicated a suspicious and even hostile perception from the West against Islam and its followers. Whether it was through the crusades or with their scholarly journeys from the scientific and cultural renaissance that flourished in many Islamic cities, they drew dark images in their minds about Islam and its followers by describing it as a bloody religion that is paired with violence ignorance and terrorism.
2- Ignorance about Islam.
Humans usually tend to be go against that which they are ignorant about. This explains the fear which many people have against Islam, causing them to be repulsed by it. Muslims who have a shallow knowledge about Islam are not immune to this fear either. The Western world receives information about Islam through sources that, in many cases, lack objectivity, integrity and impartiality.
School and university curriculum’s in the Western world are burdened with huge amounts of false and misleading information about Islam that goes back to the products of orientalist schools, which is one of the main conventional arms of the Western colonialism. They use medieval references pigmented with the spirit of crusader wars, which in turn, falsifies and twists facts to prove baseless assumptions about Islam.
Researchers say that the new orientalist outcomes reaches the general public through advanced media machines, to strengthen stereotypical and distorted images. Researchers indicate that new orientalism aims by word and deed for cultural clashes with the Islamic orient.[Jameel Matar, Dialog Among Civilizations…Politics First, Edition 325, Page 57, 2006 -Arabic Edition]
Ignorance about Islam along with various misconceptions has prevented positive communication with its followers. This maybe what drove former American parliament member Paul Findley, who experienced the Islamic world up close and personal, to take it upon himself to aim towards breaking the barriers of ignorance in the West about Islam, and work on correcting concepts and stereotypes related to Islam, as well as refuting misinformation that is inhabitant in the minds of westerners about Islam, especially in the American society. [Jameel Matar, Dialog Among Civilizations…Politics First, Edition 325, Page 57, 2006 -Arabic Edition]
Findley sums up the causes that stand behind the American ignorance and Westerners in general, about Islam:
- The role of Jewish lobbyists in presenting a false images about Muslims, and projecting Israel as the weak state threatened by Arabs and Muslims.
- Limiting dialogs and speeches about the morals of Judaism and Christianity in the American society, by describing them to be the high morals that are worthy to be followed, while avoiding mentioning Islamic morals and ethics and projecting them in a very negative and repulsive way when being addressed.
- Tagging Islam with terrorism and extremism, oppressing women and lacking tolerance to non-Muslims, as well as worshiping a weird vindictive God.
- The fear which Westerners express from the escalating Islamist danger and their fear from the coming Islamic-Western war, while Zionist bodies work on feeding such fears in order for the Western support to continue for the Zionist regime in Palestine.
- The focus of Western media on projecting Islamic movements, especially resistance movements, as terrorist movements that do not respect human rights, and the occasional work of such media entities in fabricating programs that aim to magnify the calls of Muslims to go in war with America, Israel and the West, taking such calls out of their original contexts.
In Part II, we will discuss further in sha Allah.