WHILE Islamophobia in the West is not a new curse plaguing the region, it showed its ugly face in the most extreme form when a Swedish-Danish right-wing extremist desecrated the Holy Quran first in Sweden and then in Denmark.
Rasmus Paludan, a dual national who is the leader of the Stram Kurs (Hard Line) Party, committed the loathsome act, but what made it more condemn-able was the fact that it was done even though the two governments knew of the plan in advance. In between the two outrageous acts, Edwin Wagensveld, a far-right Dutch politician, and leader of the Islamophobic group Pegida, committed a similar vile act in The Hague. All the three incidents took place within a week.
The current wave of Islamophobia for sure is a new low in Europe, which has reminded the world of Europe’s own ‘dark hours’ during World War II.
The ‘Fourteenth Report on Islamophobia’, presented at the 48th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers that was held in March in Islamabad, stated that Islamophobia “is a mixture of fear, hate and prejudice related to Islam that transform into negative sentiments, gestures, racist and intolerant attitude, as well as deliberate act of discriminations against Muslims, insults upon Islamic sacred symbols and venerated figures, and even into violent crimes against people with Islamic attires”.
The report also talked about hatred, stigmatisation, racism and discrimination of Muslims on media platforms, at workplaces and in the political sphere.
I have tried to figure out what might have led people in most European countries to nurture the fear of Islam. Is it their fear of Islam and Muslims, or are they involved in such vile acts without even knowing the reason behind their own acts? The politics around the world has added more to the hatred against Islam and Muslims. The hate-laced speeches by populist political leaders have led to a rapid rise in hate crimes, mainly against Muslims living in the West.
Even former United States president Donald Trump, speaking against the fundamentals of Islam during his official visit to Poland, had asserted: “I am at war against them”. Such statements have fuelled anti-Muslim sentiments across the West, while political leaders for their political gains have been whipping up Islamophobic hysteria, stereotyping and stigmatising Muslims across the world.
A BBC report, ‘Europe and right-wing nationalism’ in 2016 told us that electoral gains had been made by far-right political parties in elections held in European countries, like Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Hungry, Finland, Italy, Sweden and Germany, among others.
The people in the Western world fear Islam as a concept against modernity, claiming that it is not compatible with democratic values. This certainly seems to be a case of flawed understanding of Islam, or a deliberate attempt to target and tarnish the religion. Islam offers everyone a model of a just society having all the elements put together under the umbrella of human rights.
Islam as a religion transformed the world system. It has given rightful status to women in society by protecting their rights. Islam has taught us about collaboration, consultation and cooperation, and that has added more beauty to Muslim societies.
How can the religion which forbids you from adulteration, hoarding, gambling and corruption be a threat to anyone? It was the leaders of the Muslim caliphate who set the best examples of simplicity. A Muslim may not be a good human being, but the religion he follows cannot be blamed for this.
There is no place for extremism and terrorism in Islam, which has taught us to respect every religion. While the West cries hoarse while talking about Muslims ‘destroying’ the scared places of other religions, it conveniently ignores the mosques that have been and are being demolished in India, and the ban on minarets and veil in some European countries.
This growing trend of hate against Islam and Muslims across the globe must be controlled as it is a threat to international security. It is time Muslim states joined hands and forced the world leaders to formulate laws in their countries pertaining to the sanctity of all holy scriptures amd personalities.
Sarang Latif Khuhro
Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2023
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