munaWhy is the West afraid of Islam? Will this fear continue for long? Islamophobia is rising in Western societies, with prejudice and hatred shown towards Muslims, or the fear of them, despite some criticism. Islamophobia is associated with aggressive acts related to racism and discrimination. This phenomenon of Islamophobia spread among the public after the Sept 11 attacks in the US in 2001, followed by several terrorist crimes including the recent Paris attacks and the mass killings in San Bernardino carried out by a Muslim man along with his wife. Some Americans have expressed concern about Muslims, and some demanded the deportation of Muslims from the United States, particularly from California. The massacre was a sad and scary incident, and I don’t blame those who now feel afraid more than ever of Muslims.

This controversial term of Islamophobia has gained acceptance even from some Arabs, especially liberal intellectuals. I don’t blame the West using this term – I myself fear extremists and terrorists, whether they are Muslims or not. So far, all murders and slaughters are now linked to Muslims or Islamist militants regardless if they are members of Al-Qaeda or IS or are mentally ill – these acts spread a negative stereotype of all Muslims on a large scale in the Western media and thus tarnish the image of Muslims in the whole world. It must be difficult to find a group that clearly stands out. Muslims in the US, for example, certainly know what to expect and should realize the importance of mobilizing in a constructive way to face the dangers of Islamophobia.

The most important factor that promotes this abhorrent phenomenon is the confused mixing up between the Islamic religion and the reality of Muslims of today. It is well known that the Islamic world has been suffering on various political, economic, social and cultural levels. This is reflected by ranking last in terms of contribution to civilization, technical issues, advanced technology and humanitarian efforts. Islamic countries don’t seem to be doing much to stop those conflicts in their own homelands or have ever won over or settled a crisis, and the most prominent example of this nowadays is the Syrian crisis that has been extended for years, although the conflict lies in the hands of various Islamist parties.

Some statistics indicate that more than half a billion Muslims are living under the poverty line, and if we keep in mind the declining status of women and the marginalization of youth, then it seems this part of the world is being cut off almost completely from the knowledge and information revolutions and scientific inventions both at the level of creativity or development, only to become consumers who spent most of their time expressing support for rebel movements and killings by terrorist groups associated only with Islam as a religion by name with no valid connection.

Another key point is the ignorance about Islam. So it can easily be perceived as a threat that requires one to be on guard and avoid it. Not all sources of information about Islam are objective or truthful. I see some opinions and fatwas being spread online with a tremendous amount of misinformation and disinformation about Islam, like ones that support killing non-Muslims and spreading the culture of bloodshed, degrading women’s dignity and promoting child slavery, all in the name of Islam. It is very sad.

This fear of Islam will continue unless we try not to blame the West, which only knows a distorted image of Islam, and sees it as the reason for the failure of large parts of the world. Islamophobia is a complicated phenomenon that requires all possible efforts by Islamic world leaders in order to form a comprehensive strategy. It is a major obstacle for countries and its peoples to establish positive relationships in the long term and the short term as well.

This cannot be possible because the Muslim world is still experiencing the same conditions and does not seem able to cope with this phenomenon, or knows how to face the dangers of militant groups like Islamic State. Therefore, the best way to confront the phenomenon of Islamophobia is to fight all countries and agencies that support terrorist and extremist organizations, whether they are members or even leaders. Right now, it is essential for Muslims in the West to hold brainstorming sessions as part of their daily programs to discuss how to resolve this problem.

It is a community problem indeed, as Islamophobia is like a disease that harms the society as a whole by targeting a particular community and a certain religion. It divides citizens rather than uniting them by generating misunderstandings, which result in violence and discrimination that affect everyone’s lives in the entire world.

By Muna Al-Fuzai

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