It is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.

It is seen as separate and “other.” It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.

It is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.

It is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations.

It is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.

Criticisms made of “the West” by Muslims are rejected out of hand.

Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.

Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal.

It is an undisputable fact today that there is a growing fear and apprehension towards Islam in the Western world, a trend that is clearly only inclining. Innately, it is of human nature to fear those that are different from ourselves. Historically, the fear of the “others” is dominant in all civilizations. Yet in today’s world order that is ever so overt, where cultures and civilizations are intermingled and diffused with one another, such fears have been relatively appeased, and therefore, the ones that remain have become very obvious and focal, namely the fear pertaining to Islam.

In 1978, Edward Said pinned the term “Orientalism”, which he defines as the “subtle and persistent Eurocentric prejudice against Arabo-Islamic peoples and their culture”. His book, of the same title, was indeed ahead of its times. For while evidence of “Orientalism” has been evident throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, it has reached an all time peak today, where factors such as the media and bias governments have deluded the world into believing a false and distorted image of Islam. To many, the word Islam has become synonymous to words such as “terrorism”, “violence”, “bloodshed”, and mostly, “fear”.

Evidence of such fear has proliferated the different discourses. In Samuel P. Huntington’s milestone book, The Clash of Civilizations, the strongest argument the other makes is that it is not only Islamic fundamentalism that should be feared, but Islam as a whole, the entire religion. He writes,

‘The underlying problem of the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power”.

Similarly, the popular columnist Peter Hitchens also makes a blatant statement that attacks Islam and Muslims as a whole:

‘Soon it will be illegal to say this, so I had better do it now. Islam, yes even “moderate” Islam, threatens our freedom and civilization”.

These statements, from those acclaimed scholars and influential people, are not only incorrect, they are dangerous and utterly intolerable. Above all, they are ironic and paradoxical in that they radically attack against what they claim to be radicalism.

On the Internet, the case is no different. An example is the site created by Ali Sina, a site that fosters and nourishes all symptoms pertaining to Islamophobia, where he describes Islam as

“unflinchingly violent, extremist, reactionary, intolerant, anti-Western and misogynistic”


“as the disease of mankind, and the source of all these wars, terror attacks and human miseries”.

He even goes as far as claiming that Muhammad is a “rapist”, a “pedophile”, a “monster”, and mass murderer”. Such unsupported statements are not only disrespect to the Islamic faith, but to all religions, and above all, to the concept of religious tolerance and diversity that the modern world is aiming to achieve.

On the other hand, another WordPress blogger , named “Eagle”, clearly distinguishes between radical Islam and Islam as a whole. The site criticizes the Islamic fundamentalism that has spread today, and yet, it still upholds and respects Islam and its followers. It shows that just because there are Islamic radicals, it doesn’t mean that Islam is a radical religion. Such criticism is a sign of healthy dialogue for even if there is disagreement, there is nonetheless dialogue. Not one religious sect is perfect, and thus we must see and evaluate ourselves as well as others. The likes of Huntington and Hitchens, however, do not distinguish between the one and the whole. They rather stereotype and project one false image on all Muslims, and this is indeed very ignorant.

Interestingly, I myself have experienced Islamophobia first-hand recently on Truthbooth. I have attempted to create a blog that encourages dialogue and conversation, for there is indeed a necessity for dialogue and understanding between the West and the Islamic world and even between Muslims themselves. The Holy Quran itself has encouraged us to

“come to common grounds” (The Holy Quran 3:64).

However, when conversations move from civilized to disrespectful and insulting, they cease to become dialogue and enter into the realm of hate violence and aggression. For this reason, I have blocked such users from participating on discussions on Truthbooth.

Islamophobia transcends Islam itself for it not only threatens Islam as a religion, but the basic human right to tolerance and acceptance. Any hatred and discrimination should be feared. Were these not the seeds that bore the antisemitism that haunted the world during the twentieth century? It is thus our responsibility as human beings to try to defend Islam and raise awareness as to the Islamophobia that has flooded the world in which we live.We cannot stand still as passive bystanders for if we do not defend, we have not done our part in stopping this immense hatred and injustice towards Islam. Just as we must fight the Islamic radicalism that often distorts the Truth behind the Islam, we must also help create an inter-religious environment that welcomes and tolerates all religions.

In this light, having found a pressing duty to delve into the issue and study the many facades of this “Islamophobia”, I recently discovered a very insightful book entitled “Islamophobia: A new word for an old fear”. In it, the author defines and discusses the different symptoms of Islamophobia and the way in which it has created segregations within the different societies of the world, ever so evident amongst the Muslim immigrants living in Western cities. While other cultures, such as the Asians and Hispanics, have been able to somewhat easily assimilate within the Western culture (the numerous Sushi bars and Salsa clubs alone are evident proof), Islamic culture is still isolated and bubbled, “quarantined” like a plague.

Islamophobia: A new word for an old fear

The term ‘Islamophobia’ is not, admittedly, ideal, for it implies that one is merely talking about some sort of mental sickness or aberration. Some of the people quoted above do indeed sound as if they are mentally unstable. But the imagery, stereotypes and assumptions in their messages are widespread in western countries and are not systematically challenged by influence leaders. The writers quoted earlier, for example, are widely respected and are read with approval by millions of people. They don’t use obscene language and do observe elementary conventions of spelling, punctuation and grammar. They don’t propose violent removal or repatriation of Muslims; don’t deploy terms such as ‘subhuman freaks’, ‘animals’, ‘not people’, ‘vile’ and ‘evil’; and don’t express pleasure in the thought of Muslim men, women and children being slaughtered. But their basic message, at least in the perception of many British Muslims, seems similar to the one that underlies the inarticulate rants in ‘you don’t belong here’.

Islamophobia inhibits the development of a just society, characterized by social inclusion and cultural diversity. For it is a constant source of threat and distress to British Muslims and implies that they do not have the same rights as other British citizens. Islamophobia increases the likelihood of serious social disorder, with consequent high costs for the economy and for the justice system. Persistent IslamophobiaIslamophobia in the media means that young British Muslims develop a sense of cultural inferiority and lose confidence both in themselves and in their parents. They tend then to ‘drop out’ and may be readily influenced by extremist groups which seem to give them a strong sense of identity. makes it more difficult for mainstream voices and influences within Muslim communities to be expressed and heard. In consequence many Muslims are driven into the hands of extremists, and imbibe extremist opinions.

Islamophobia prevents Muslims and non-Muslims from cooperating appropriately on the joint diagnosis and solution of major shared problems, for example problems relating to urban poverty and deprivation. Further, it prevents non-Muslims from appreciating and benefiting from Islam’s cultural, artistic and intellectual heritage, and from its moral teachings. Likewise it inhibits Muslim appreciation of cultural achievements in the non-Muslim world. Islamophobia means that Britain is weaker than it need be in political, economic and cultural relations with other countries and it
actively damages international relations, diplomacy and trade.

Islamophobia makes it more difficult for Muslims and non-Muslims to cooperate in the solution and management of shared problems such as global political, ecological issues and conflict situations (for example Bosnia, most notably, in the former republic of Yugoslavia). Many Muslims believe Islamophobia has played a major part in Western attitudes to events in Bosnia, and has prevented a just and lasting settlement. The term ‘Islamophobia‘ was coined by way of analogy to ‘xenophobia’.Its use involves distinguishing between unfounded (‘mad’) hostility to Islam on the one hand and reasoned disagreement or criticism on the other.

As members of the human family, we should show each other respect and courtesy. In our dealings with people of other faiths and beliefs this means exercising
good will and:

  • Respecting other people’s freedom within the law to express their beliefs and convictions

  • Learning to understand what others actually believe and value, and letting them express this in their own terms

  • Respecting the convictions of others about food, dress and social etiquette and not behaving in ways which cause needless offence

  • Recognising that all of us at times fall short of the ideals of our own traditions and never comparing our own ideals with other people’s practices

  • Working to prevent disagreement from leading to conflict

  • Always seeking to avoid violence in our relationships

When we talk about matters of faith with one another, we need to do so with sensitivity, honesty and straightforwardness. This means:

  • Recognising that listening as well as speaking is necessary for a genuine conversation

  • Being honest about our beliefs and religious allegiances

  • Not misrepresenting or disparaging other people’s beliefs and practices

  • Correcting misunderstanding or misrepresentations not only of our own but also of other faiths whenever we come across them

  • Being straightforward about our intentions

  • Accepting that in formal inter faith meetings there is a particular responsibility to ensure that the religious commitment of all those who are present will be respected.

All of us want others to understand and respect our views. Some people will also want to persuade others to join their faith. In a multi faith society where this is permitted, the attempt should always be characterised by self-restraint and a concern for the other’s freedom and dignity. This means:

  • Respecting another person’s expressed wish to be left alone

  • Avoiding imposing ourselves and our views on individuals or communities who are in vulnerable situations in ways which exploit these Being sensitive and courteous

  • Avoiding violent action or language, threats, manipulation, improper inducements, or the misuse of any kind of power

  • Respecting the right of others to disagree with us.

Living and working together is not always easy. Religion harnesses deep emotions which can sometimes take destructive forms. Where this happens, we must draw on our faith to bring about reconciliation and understanding. The truest fruits of religion are healing and positive. We have a great deal to learn from one another which can enrich us without undermining our own identities. Together, listening and responding with openness and respect, we can move forward to work in ways that acknowledge genuine differences but build on shared hopes and values.




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Stefan Rosty Founded TruthBooth22.04.07

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