Islamophobia, a term that has been making rounds in the news for almost two decades now, surfaced after the 9/11 attacks. Ideally, anti-immigrant fear would have been expected from the citizens of the United States but the unfortunate sequence of events like the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war, fuelled with hateful media propaganda, manifested itself in the form of anti-Muslim sentiments. Islamophobia is a bigger problem in places which have none or very little exposure to Islamic culture, the major reason being strong resistance against any change with respect to their native culture or religion.
Islamophobia is often confused with religious extremism or fear of immigrants, two things which are quite different in nature from the issue at hand. For instance, countries like Australia have often made headlines due to racial crimes against immigrants, but an anti-Islamic agenda does not seem to be the central idea in this case. Countries like Yemen are subjected to religious extremism from members of the two sects belonging to the same religion. Disturbance within Muslims or clashes between an Islamic group and a group belonging to another religion cannot be termed as Islamophobia. Such generalisations are made by the western media with the sole purpose of spreading the idea of hate and making other sections of the world also feel that this is some kind war, which they must participate in, in order to free themselves from the ordeals and conflicts that plague their daily lives.
Western media’s strong influence has seemed to be the core reason behind the growth of Islamophobia across the globe. For instance, 25 years of media coverage in New York Times was surveyed and it was found that they were more critical of Islam in their reporting, than they were of drugs or alcohol. In the United States of America, Donald Trump has been repeatedly calling for bans on Muslims entering the nation and also called for more social profiling within the country, stating that “Radical Islam is coming to our shores”. This wave of promoting Islamophobic culture comes after having eight years of Barack Obama in the White House, who himself said that “Painting all Muslims with the same brush helps terrorists”. A survey conducted in Maryland in 2011 suggest that 61% Americans have negative views about Muslims, whereas in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 attacks, 39% shared the same view. If this doesn’t call for immediate attention towards the problem, one cannot say what will.
Islam is the second largest religion in the UK. It would hence be expected that muslims would be well integrated into the society. The mayor of the London himself is a Muslim. But unfortunately this does not reflect the sentiment that exists in the majority of the citizens, as the mayor is not directly elected and hence it may not be an indication of acceptance of Muslims in the society. Evidence suggests that despite having a Muslim mayor, hate crimes have been on the rise. This is majorly due to the concerted efforts of various hate groups like Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), especially against those who are promoting Islam.
Hate crimes against Muslims have increasing in Canada by around 253% over a period of four years. In the aftermath of the London attacks, there has been a spike in the number of hate crimes in the UK. There has been a rise of Islamophobic border incidents by 1000% after Trump assumed office. The situation in India has worsened over time, going past the petty Hindu Muslim rioting into more life threatening dangers. Since April 2017, at least ten Muslim men have been lynched or killed in public in suspected hate crimes, amid a rising tide of Islamophobia in the country. The attacks have contributed to a growing sense of insecurity for many Muslims across the world.
The growing trend of Islamophobia needs to be stopped in its track, failing to do so would only worsen the situation beyond repair. The Facebook generation has seen ideas spreading faster than it ever had. If instances of hate happen in one corner of the world, it gets picked up by like minded people before we even know it. People are always angry on twitter, hiding behind the comfort of their computer and mobile screens, spewing racism and bigotry like the whole world agrees. The scary part is, that many do. The positive voices tucked in the different corners of our society need to be louder so that they can be heard over all the negativity. This is a tiny attempt at raising a voice, hoping it is heard by at least a few.
By Harshiel B Shah and Vaibhav Kaushik