Throughout history’s course, co-existence and religious conflicts have proven themselves inevitable. Now and then, the ability to live together harmoniously fades with the drive to superiority, truths, and power dynamics. The most prominent conflicts have pre-existed between the Christian and Islamic religion, the crusades, and the jihads. Conflicts between Muslims and Buddhists, Christians and Jews, etc., have also occurred.
Over 4,300 religions exist on the earth. Each comes with its style of belief and practice. In a world, this diverse, modernity grants us the privilege to follow our faiths while respecting others. However, it seems that, repeatedly, the willingness to co-exist has dwindled. In parts of Europe, Asia, North America, and Africa, the constant denigration of Islam and its practitioners, Muslims, is on the rise. This is known as islamophobia.
Islamophobia is the hate targeted towards Muslims and Islam. “Islamophobia is the shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore, to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims” (Runnymede Trust, 1997). Non-Muslims perceive Islam as a monolithic religion that heralds violence and intolerance. Several non-Muslims view Islam as a sexist, oppressive, and barbaric religion. These sentiments have forced scholars to deem islamophobia a racial, intolerant, and xenophobic bias targeted at Muslims and Islam. (Roald, 2004; Johnson, et al. 1998).
It is necessary to underline the diverse natures of several religions; in diversity, there is a unique overlay of humanity. However, the misconception of Islamic conquests and ideologies fuel such hate. In the subsequent paragraphs, we will discuss the causes and effects of islamophobia.
Causes of Islamophobia
Many factors contribute to unfair biases on Islam by non-Muslims. Terrorist attacks propagated in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and North America is a chief reason. According to Our World in Data, between 2010 and 2014, the global death toll of terrorism ranged from 8,000 to 44,000. In 2017, terrorism was responsible for 0.05 percent deaths, 95 percent of the deaths rest in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. In 2001, the terrorist group Al-Qaeda hijacked airplanes and attacked the world trade center in New York.
In 1999, the ISIS militant fundamentalist group was created under the allegiance of Al-Qaeda. They are known for killing dozens and carrying out public executions. According to CNN, they controlled, in 2014, over 34,000 square miles of Syria and Iraq, while in 2015, they held 3,400 people as slaves. They aim to retrieve the ancient sharia law and return Islamic states to its past. While terrorism is, in itself, a reprehensible crime, the causes and effects of islamophobia should not be justified.
Asides from terrorism, previous expeditions of Islamic expansion have fueled Islamophobic sentiments. And Islam’s presence in western countries does not appeal to the western audience; “About 15 million Muslims now live in Europe, in the next 30 years, this figure will reach 50 million” (Alizadeh, et al, 2016).
Further, non-Muslims view Islam as a political ideology entrenched in military conquest, violence, and separationist agendas. The West feels gravely superior to this religion because it appears manipulative and discriminatory. Manipulative because its idea on submission is often misunderstood and discriminatory because of its various restrictions.
The West justifies islamophobia; it is hardly ever criticized: it appears, ostensibly, that the hate for Islam is a part of life, and “it is assumed that religion with the above qualities cannot possibly have anything constructive to say about the naturally superior West” (Cluck, A.E, 2008).
Effects of Islamophobia
The effects of islamophobia vary across various countries. For one, in their roles and actions, Muslims are subjected to excessive scrutinies, such as going through more security in airports and other places. “Beyond the mainstream political spaces – and in some circumstances even within them – this has been the catalyst for a more virulent and open discourse about Muslims and Islam to emerge” (Allen, 2007).
Following this, they are more likely to receive fewer opportunities, are more disadvantaged, and more vulnerable in hostile environments. They are overt to sudden attacks and discrimination.
Here are a few instances on the direct effects of Islamophobia: In the UK, a 2011 census reveals that 2.7million Muslims were disadvantaged in socio-economic terms; in France, Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) recorded 764 acts of islamophobia in 2014 and a significant 10.6 percent increase from 2013; and the percentage of the Muslim population in the Netherlands dwindled after Islamophobic acts began to gain momentum in 2004 (Atnashev, 2016).
No doubt that these acts are nothing short of behaviors associated with Islamophobic sentiments.
In conclusion, it is essential, in a religiously diverse world, to embrace tolerance towards other religions. For achievable progress: we must first acknowledge the causes and effects of islamophobia; non-Muslims and Muslims must learn to cohabit; we must learn to habituate with other faiths; thereby preventing a harmful environment for Islam and Muslims.
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