THE recent events in France have once again revealed the growing anti-Islamic rhetoric in Europe and other parts of the world. French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks in defence of blasphemous caricatures have rightly earned strong criticism from the Muslim world.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has strongly condemned the comments, saying in as many words that the French president needed a ‘mental check’. Prime Minister Imran Khan has not only slammed Macron’s views, but has also written to Facebook to ban Islamophobic content in a similar way that it bans holocaust-denial content.

The question is why is there a fresh wave of Islamophobia today? There are a number of reasons for it. The rise of populist extremists in the West and the opportunist nature of politicians, the biased western media and the failure of the Islamic world to come up with a comprehensive strategy to counter Islamophobia at the international level are the contributing factors in this rise of Islamophobia.

It seems like anti-Islamism has become an easy way for politicians across the world to gain support and win elections. US President Donald Trump’s manifesto in 2016 presidential elections had anti-Muslim elements, such as refusing visa to seven Muslim countries. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi contested elections on the same grounds; CAA, NRC and communication blackout in Kashmir speak volumes about his discriminatory attitude towards the Muslims. Although Macron came to power with a liberal and democratic agenda, he became a staunch supporter of anti-Islamic rhetoric as a result of his plummeting approval rating in the wake of yellow-vest protests.

Similarly, western media has left no stone unturned to malign Muslim population of their country by portraying Muslims as ‘extremists’, and Islam as ‘radical and dogmatic’.

Last but not least, the failure of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which was formed with the sole purpose of addressing issues faced by Muslims throughout the globe, has done nothing but fanned the fire of Islamophobia by keeping mum on just about anything of significance.

All these factors have led to stigmatisation of Muslims in many countries.

Before it is too late, Muslim leaders, preferably using the OIC platform, must come up with a comprehensive plan to eradicate Islamophobia and hatred for Muslims. They must educate the world that anything that incites violence, destroys harmony, hurts sentiments and leads to radicalisation should never be covered up behind the façade of freedom of expression.

Hamza Munir

Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2020