Islamophobia: Cause and Effect

Islamophobia: Cause and Effect

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that took place in the United States of America, per surveys by Pew, 25% of Americans in the year of 2002 have an irrational fear of Muslims and the religion of Islam. The same 25% of Americans believe that Islam encourages violence and hatred towards others and society. However, this figure has grown to 35% today. In recent years, per public opinion polls commissioned by CAIR in 2004 and 2005, between one fourth and one-third of Americans hold negative views of Islam and Muslims. Islamophobia is on the rise and the events against anti-Muslims are also on the rise. The causes for the rise of Islamophobia are the media such as talk radio and cable television, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq by the Americans, where hundreds of thousands of people has been killed and lastly, generalizing Muslims as people who has ample means and the will to harm others.

Before divulging into the main topic, it is important to define Islamophobia and whether it exists or not. This will establish the foundation for my writing about Islamophobia, the causes and effect it has. Per Oxford Dictionary, Islamophobia is the “Dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force”.[1] In that respect, there is no evidence that substantiates the word Islamophobia, or that proves whether Islamophobia exists or not. The large evidence of Islamophobia is the actions of those who have a strong dislike or prejudice towards Muslims. There have been many incidents, where many Muslims have been attacked out on the streets of Britain[2], United States and so forth. In addition, per the IHRC, there have been 674 attacks on Muslims after the event of 9/11. So, about whether Islamophobia exists, Christopher Allen states “Ranging from psychological pressure and harassment, both verbal and written, through to physical violence and material damage, the IHRC verifies its evidence as ‘concrete proof of Islamophobia’” (123).

In today’s era, the media is a powerful method of communication. In the words of Dr. Naik, “Unfortunately, most of the international media are controlled by the Western. Unless you Muslims have your own media, they can very conveniently convert black into white, day into night, a hero into a villain and a villain into a hero”[3]. One form of media is talk radio shows, which many people of diverse beliefs, opinion, culture, and tradition speak ideas, views, and opinions. With Islamophobia, one part contributing to the rise of Islamophobia is the people behind talk radio shows which fuel anger and hatred against the Muslims. In the article, Islamophobia, and Anti-Americanism: Causes and Remedies by Mohamed Nimer, he states the following about talk radio shows “Opinion leaders, especially on Internet blogs, talk radio, and cable television are increasingly using harsh language to refer to the Islamic Faith” (1). These opinion leaders are not just ordinary lay persons, but are recognized people of faiths such as Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson, who are Christian religious leaders promoting and insinuating hatred against the Muslims. Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson has called the religion of Islam “a wicked religion”, the prophet of Islam “a terrorist”, and have called Muslims “worse than Nazis” (qtd. in Nimer 1). These recognized leaders are using the media to spread false claims, hatred, and a false image of Islam. Pat Robertson on national television has said that “al-Qaeda militants are only carrying out Qur’anic commands to kill Jews and Christians” (Nimer 3). With cable television, all society is bombarded with are images of Muslim men burning American flags, bombings, terrorists chanting Qur’anic verses while holding weapons in the air and so forth. These are all segments of what is being shown on cable television, ever since the event of 9/11. Most of the time, cable television associates the religion of Islam with violence and terrorism. Furthermore, regarding cable television as being one source for the rise of Islamophobia, Christopher Allen states “For some time now, the Muslims community and some interested others have believed that the media’s portrayal and representation of Islam and being one of the most prevalent, virulent and socially significant sources of Islamophobia in this country,” (2). In today’s age, one of the accessible ways for the misrepresentations about Islam to get to the public’s mind and society is the media. Both the radio talk shows and cable television have this way of presenting America and the Middle East as two nations being against one another and that we must choose where we stand. The article Islamophobia in the Media since September 11th states that “Islam was inherently seen as being the ‘other’ to the West, a position that reinforces the ‘them’ and ‘us’ dualism’” (Allen 4). This has been voiced as well through Franklin Graham’s talks on radio shows and Pat Robertson radio talk shows and on National Television. In this text called Islamophobia in the Media since 9/11, Christopher Allen states the following about the media and Islam:

“What is happening in the media is that they are seeking out those with the loudest voices who fit their own agenda rather than fitting the agenda around the most significant voices, deliberately suggesting a cynicism where all Muslims have synonymous views,” (5).

The media have always tried to promote their political agenda rather than listening to the voices of the whole Muslims who do not think alike and are following Islam as a religion. Christopher Allen further points to an issue and a dilemma, that if it were true, it will be a problem. Christopher points out that “If we accept that the media’s accessible audiences believe that the news is ‘authoritative’, immediate, realistic and authentic”, then the reality of Islam becomes obscured by Islamophobic assertions” (6). The media will obscure the reality of Islam as a religion and not a political ideology. Considering the obscurity and the false accusations made against Islam; furthermore, the voice of opinion leaders, the battle against Islamophobia is one that needs to be fought with the truth regarding the religion of Islam. The purest form of truth on the religion of Islam is not the media, or radio talk shows, but the Quran; the book which 1.8 billion Muslims follow and practice at its core.

Besides the media, which is one part to the rise of Islamophobia, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by the American likewise insinuated Islamophobia. Before dissecting this issue, it is important to note that Nimer stated “There is a circular cause and effect relationship between Islamophobia and anti-Americanism” (2). Mohamed Nimer further investigates to show the correlation of how certain events lead to Middle Eastern hating America and America having Islamophobic views and prejudices against Muslims. Mohamed Nimer states the following regarding the correlation of events and the hate against America:

The strike by Al-Qaeda left thousands of people dead and injured and triggered the most remarkable anti-Muslims violence in American history and the most vocal wave of anti-Islamic rhetoric in the West. The attack is the used to justify the invasion of two Muslim-majority countries: Afghanistan and Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed or injured. (2)

The pattern is readable, when terrorists attack America, America attacks back by anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy. In return, this reinforces anti-American view of the Muslim world and provokes a new set of terrorist attacks towards America. Let us explore the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, which was caused by the Americans. It is believed by the Muslims that it was the American’s who kept Saddam Hussein in power for tactical reasons; and to serve the agenda of the American’s in the Middle East. The real issue at hand was the death of half of a million of children. Khan, Arshad states “This may be considered one of the worst tragedies in human history because it was preventable” (49). This issue alone has been one main reason Muslims throughout the Muslims world have this negative and hateful view of America. Muslims at one point were wondering how America can leave Saddam Hussein, someone who is dangerous; in power while half of a million of children are being killed due to lack of health care or malnutrition. In addition, note that even those Muslims who had no feelings or emotions for Saddam were shocked and appalled at the amount of suffering endured by innocent people. Consequently, Muslims and the Muslim world hold such a negative view of America and the West. Another high contributing factor to the rise of Islamophobia is double standards. Muslims believe that when it comes to Americans benefiting from resources or having a goal; it will either ignore or violate their very own principles and laws. Secondly, Muslims believe that America does not use the same standards it uses for itself or allies of America. One example, which Khan, Arshad gives in this book Islam, Muslims, and America is that while Saddam was America’s friend and was being supported by the United States in the 1980s. Saddam used chemical weapons to attack the Kurds; which were his own fellow Iraqis. Thus, more than 5,000 Kurds were reported dead in 1988. In this example, we can infer that America took no actions against Saddam, even though they faced trouble; because during this period, Iraq was serving the strategic interests of America. Once the invasion of Iraq happened, America has used UN resolutions to justify I’s actions, both in the military arena and economic action against Iraq. While Khan Arshad points out that America has ignored resolutions while accepting other resolutions, it has made many decisions about which resolutions were to be carried out and which should not. Regarding America ignoring several resolutions and choosing other resolutions to which should be carried out, I will highlight another facet of the Iraq invasion caused by the Americans and how Muslims viewed it. In the year of 2002, United States prepared to wage war against Iraq on the basis that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which were not being accounted. The Iraqis rebutted and claimed that they did not possess such weapons, but the American Administration persisted and believed that the Iraqis were lying. With America went into Iraq and caused war. To justify their actions, America approached the United Nations in hope that they will pass a permit so that America can conduct a military action against Iraq. Important to note, that no permit was passed, and America broke their own policy and bypassed the world organization. In April of 2003, America invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. Arshad Khan concludes with the following regarding the invasion of Iraq “While Muslims almost unanimously opposed the war, they have conflicting views on what inspired America to impose its military might” (42). Muslims believe the real reason for America to have invaded Iraq is because they have a desire to control Middle East oil. America indirectly has given rise to Islamophobia by invading Iraq without real, justifiable reason other than because Iraq was carrying weapons of mass destruction. With this invasion, it caused many lives to perish; mostly of who were children, which angered Muslims and made them, have a hostile view of Americans.

Lastly, the view that Muslims have the means and will do harm is the other held belief among many Americans. There is the common belief that Muslim has this rage against the West and everything they do and practice and the way they govern society. The question becomes “why do they have such rage towards the West?” “Has Islam always been filled with rage or taught the adherents to have rage?” Regarding the later question, the author Bernard Lewis states in his text called The Roots of Muslim Rage that “Islam has brought comfort and peace of mind to countless millions of men and women. It has given dignity and meaning to drab impoverished lives. It has taught people of different races to live in brotherhood and people of different creeds to live side by side in reasonable tolerance” (2). Therefore, Islam does not teach its adherents to be filled with rage or hatred or violence among each other; but rather live in a state of brotherhood and reasonable tolerance. Before approaching the first question we must also note and understand that there is a majority of Muslim who share certain basic cultural and moral, social, and political, beliefs and aspirations. Many majorities of Muslims have a western mindset and way of life, and in fact, many Muslim lands are Western allies and have a Western presence of influence in their own lands. Approaching the question, we must recognize that Libya, Iran, and Lebanon do hold hatred and profess extremist and violent teachings and principles. Politically, Iran is known for using the language “enemies of God” which is any country that opposes the cultural, political, and societal values of a country in which holds a theocracy type of government. The author Bernard Lewis states the following regarding the concept of “enemies of God” and its language and use of it:

This phrase, which recurs so frequently in the language of the Iranian leadership, in both their judicial proceedings and their political pronouncements, must seem very strange to the modern outsider, whether religious or secular. The idea that God has enemies, and need human help in order to identify and dispose of them, is a little difficult to assimilate. It is not, however, all that alien. (2)

We must also have a good foundation of why such countries such as Iran think like the way they do and from where they get these ideologies from. We need to understand that the society in Iran and people who are in power get these ideas from the Qur’an. The Qur’an is monotheistic, which only recognizes one universal power, one God. The Qur’an reinforces the notion that within the hearts of humans, there is a struggle between the good and bad. Bernard Lewis states “There is a struggle in human hearts between good and evil, between God’s commandments and the tempter, but this is seen as a struggle ordained by God” (2). Regarding politics, Bernard Lewis states “this is seen as a struggle ordained by God, with its outcome pre-ordained by God, serving as a test of mankind, and not, as in some of the old dualist religions, a struggle in which mankind has a crucial part to play in bringing about the victory of good over evil” (2).

In the life of Muhammad, Muhammad grew and lived in a society which was paganistic, and the struggle between good and evil later emerged in the military and political dimensions. Having this play out for 14 centuries leads to where we are today. For a great length of time, there has been this growth of rebellion against the West. The rebellion stems from the fact that the West is both secular and modern at the same time. The accusations that have been said about the West from Iran and the Iranian mullahs are that the West is “sexist”, “racist”, “imperialistic”, “institutionalized in patriarchy and slavery, tyranny and exploitation” (Lewis 7). The author Bernard Lewis does not ignore this, instead he states that “To these charges, and to other as heinous, we have no option but to plead guilty” (7). Bernard Lewis does not blame America, or the West but he blames the fact we are humans with a free will and that it is part of who we are as humans.

[1]“Definition of Islamophobia in English:.” Islamophobia. N.p., 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.

[2] Allen, Christopher. “What Is Islamophobia.” Islamophobia. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010. 123. Print.

[3] Islam’s View on Terrorism and Jihad – Full Lecture. Perf. Zakir Naik. Youtube, 2015. Film.

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