Islamophobia: Freedom of speech or freedom of oppression

THE meaning of Islamophobia is irrational fear of, or discrimination against Islam or against the people who practice Islam.

This promotes hate crimes, undermines the equality of citizens along with dividing the world and its policies based not only on religion/belief, but also on race/ethnicity which promotes racism/prejudice.

It results in strong geopolitical forces which creates the narrative against Islam, often leading to violence against the people of Islam.

Fortunately – on 15 March 2022, Pakistan’s leading effort and the consensus of the United Nations comprising 140 countries officially recognised Islamophobia and marked this day as an ‘International Day to Combat Islamophobia’, the purpose of which is to show the true face of Islam to those who hate Islam.

While a great initiative, the issue of Islamophobia unfortunately dates back to its inception in the 7th century – but the term became more prominent in public discourse after the 9/11 attacks.

With the beginning of the 21st century, on 11 September 2001, four planes were hijacked in America, two of which flew into the Twin Towers in New York, one plane flew into the Pentagon and one plane crashed into a field – it resulted in the death of 3000 people and an estimated loss of more than $40 billion.

The terrorist organisation, Al-Qaeda, led by the (in-)famous Osama Bin Laden claimed responsibility.

In response, the US declared a global ‘war on terrorism’ which led to the wars against Afghanistan/Iraq.

The underestimated amount of deaths caused by such wars is in the hundreds of thousands, with almost 57,000 people belonging to Pakistan alone – and almost $6.4 trillion spent by the US in their effort to combat ‘terrorism’.

Along with the US efforts, the UK joined them and spent $20 billion in their wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.

The narrative shown to the masses to justify such wars was to exterminate the threat of ‘Islamic extremists’ so to prevent any further terrorist attacks on their soil.

Instead, it gave the perspective to vast majorities of people that whoever believes in Islam is a threat to them.

As a result, mosques were desecrated, Muslims were abused and alienated – there was a massive surge in supporting extreme right-wing ideologies which further divided the people and sentiment against Muslims.

The noteworthy part – such hate isn’t based on Islam or the Holy Quran, which Muslims believe is the word of Allah SWT, it’s based on the actions of evil people who associate themselves as Muslims and justify such intentions as ‘Jihad’.

Islam, a religion followed by almost 2 billion people worldwide, solely preaches peace and positivity – no Muslim is given the command to kill an innocent or cause negativity.

Islam is perfect, but the people who follow it are not.The death of an innocent can never be justified in Islam.

Despite having this knowledge as a follower and learner of Islam, select groups/individuals twist the perception of Islam for others based on their fear of something they choose not to understand as well as a superiority complex.

The ones who cause violence/harm against the people aren’t true representives of Islam. The cost of war wasn’t only lives/money, but a global misunderstanding of the religion of Islam.

The media that played a strong role in Islamophobia, would usually portray Muslims as those who come from the Middle East/Asia with brown or darker skin colour – this gave the perception that ethnicity/race are also what represents a believer in Islam.

This promotes the spread of misinformation/disinformation/racism.Islam isn’t a culture, but a belief. No matter skin tone, geographical location, gender or linguistic capabilities – Islam transcends such terms of identification/representation.

Social media allows for globalisation – to see the world beyond your own locality. A Muslim seeing the Holy Quran being burnt/damaged on purpose by ignorant people they have no affiliation to spark hate/anger in a Muslims hearts which could trigger retaliation.

Though an individual must have freedom of speech, such an act is an expression of aggression which must be condemned as preventing such an act is the root to defeat Islamophobia – the same would apply for the Bible/Torah/Hinduveta etc.

When a Muslim commits a crime/act of terror, news refers to them as a terrorist or jihadist – when a white-skinned man commits a crime or act of terror, the same news refers to him as ‘mentally-ill’.

A ‘Nobel laureate’ winner (award for ‘the greatest benefit to humankind’) by the name of Aung San Suu has overseen the massacre of the Muslim-majority of Rohingya in Myanmar since the start of 2016 as an attempt at ethnic cleansing.

It led to the death of tens of thousands and the displacement of more than 700,000 civilians causing a refugee crisis – the international community has only expressed concern and criticised her, unlike in Ukraine, where the invasion has sparked the West into giving an active response by providing funds/military equipment.

BJP riots led against the Muslims of India has created massive tension akin to a civil war where the people are divided/against each other based on faith/religion, rather than humanity.

The illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel is one of the most important issues of the world – yet Israel defends their invasion, they believe the land belongs to them as per their zionist view, and not rightly so to generations who’ve lived in Palestine.

Islamophobia is a major cause of concern – a way to combat it is for people promoting it to have a comprehensive reading and understanding of Islam.

The 9/11 attacks were not conducted based on Islamic Extremism or Jihad, it was done by terrorist organisations who wished for regime change against American interests and CIA-led coups.

Do not trust what you absorb without fully understanding what you are being made to hate.

Islamophobia is the freedom to oppress, not to suggest or express.

(Courtesy Pakistan Observer)