Islamophobia reality

Published March 17, 2022

THE UN’s decision to recognise March 15 as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia must be lauded, especially in the backdrop of global hate crimes and state-sanctioned bias against Muslims. The decision was approved by the UN General Assembly after a resolution was introduced by Pakistan.

Along with calling for the international community to curb Islamophobia, the resolution also condemns bias against followers of other faiths. The sad truth is that for millions of people around the world, Islamophobia is not some nebulous concept, but a toxic everyday reality.

Read: Islamophobia escalating to pandemic proportions, warns Pakistan

Islamophobia can take several forms, which can include insidious attempts to exclude Muslims from jobs, housing and education on the basis of their faith. Or it can take more violent forms, such as state-sanctioned attacks and pogroms targeting the Muslim community.

All of these manifestations of hate need to be combated vigorously. Islamophobia was given a fillip during the so-called war on terror when the actions of violent actors, claiming to be fighting for the glory of Islam, resulted in ordinary Muslims having to face the consequences. In the post-9/11 era, the repercussions include profiling on the basis of faith, as well as deadly vigilante attacks on Muslims or those who ‘look’ like Muslims.

Today, anti-Islamic prejudice has taken on new forms, especially at the state level. The decision by the Karnataka High Court in India to uphold the hijab ban in educational institutions comes across as one that has been heavily influenced by the desire of the state to ‘otherise’ the Muslim community. Sadly, the Indian government wants to dictate what Muslim women can or cannot wear.

However, India’s hijab controversy cannot be seen in isolation. It is part and parcel of the anti-Muslim rhetoric that the chauvinist BJP government has been pushing ever since Narendra Modi took power. Discriminatory citizenship laws, lynching of Muslims on suspicions of consuming or transporting beef, and bans on communal prayers are all part of this sinister anti-Muslim action that the BJP has been pushing. It is exactly this type of hatred that the day against Islamophobia seeks to highlight.

Read: No place to pray: Muslim worshippers under pressure in India

Even elsewhere, decisions to ban or limit the sale of halal meat, as in Europe, along with attempts by far-right parties in the West to demonise Muslims, illustrate the need for a concerted effort to combat Islamophobia. Pakistan has done the right thing by bringing this key issue to the global stage.

In a world riven by hatred, efforts are needed to promote tolerance and pluralism. This includes allowing followers of all faiths to practise their beliefs freely, while Muslim states also have a responsibility to protect their minorities from extremists. Unfortunately, populists and rabble rousers always exploit the schisms in society. To counter their designs, states and conscientious citizens must resist this rising tide of hate by actively working towards a more tolerant world.

Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2022

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