By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan for New Age
Q: In recent
years, there’s been an escalation of anti-Muslim sentiments in many countries.
In parts of the West, for instance, there have been cases of Muslims being
turned away from restaurants, of Muslims being physically and verbally abused,
of Muslims being asked to get off a plane because someone else wrongly
suspected and accused them of being terrorists, of Muslim women being dismissed
from workplaces because they insist on wearing the Hijab, of local non-Muslims
protesting against plans for building mosques, and so on. The latest such
development is in France, with the ban on what are called Burkinis in many
What do you think are the reasons for these
growing anti-Muslim sentiments?
answer to this question can be found by studying a verse in the Quran. In this
verse, the Quran says: “And beware of an affliction that will not smite
exclusively those among you who have done wrong.” (8:25)
If we study this Quranic verse and
objectively apply it to the present situation of Muslims, we realize that what
is happening in the world today is not due to “anti-Muslim sentiment”. Rather
it is a reaction to Muslims’ own negative activities.
Muslims say that instances of terrorism are
perpetrated only by some Muslims, and not the whole Muslim community. This
claim of Muslims could be right, but another serious aspect of this matter is
that Muslims to this day have not unequivocally disowned Muslim terrorism. I
don’t know of a single person in the entire Muslim world who openly condemns
Muslims’ negative activities. If any person does speak on this topic, he would
speak with twists. For example, some would say, ‘It is true that Muslims are
involved in terrorist activities, but this action of theirs is a reaction: they
are reacting to others’ discriminatory behaviour towards them.’ This kind of
condemnation is certainly not condemnation. Rather, it is akin to indirectly
justifying the violent actions of Muslims.
Objective analysis tells us that such
instances that you cite are certainly not discrimination. Rather, they are a
result of Muslims’ own doubtful behaviour. Muslims are themselves responsible
for this discrimination. According to a hadith, the Prophet said: “Save
yourself from being regarded as objectionable.” Because Muslims do no
outrightly disown the actions of those Muslims who are engaged in wrong
actions, others in the community will also face ‘discrimination’. If Muslims
were to clearly condemn the actions of those who are doing wrong, then only
those specific persons who are guilty of the wrong would face the above kind
response, which is termed ‘discrimination’ or ‘anti-Muslim sentiment’.
Q: Some Muslims
may respond to displays of anti-Muslim sentiment by protesting against them and
denouncing what they say is discrimination against them. They might, for
instance, campaign for a boycott of a restaurant where Muslims have been turned
out from. Or, they may demand that an airline company whose employees had made
a Muslim passenger disembark from a plane, wrongly suspecting him to be a
terrorist, should issue an apology. Or, they may insist that countries pass
stricter laws to counter anti-Muslim discrimination.
What do you think of this approach to
countering or overcoming anti-Muslim sentiments?
cases are due to the law of nature. The solution to them is not that countries
pass anti-Muslim discrimination laws. There are only two options before Muslims.
First, they should declare that they are not a single community. Rather, the
case of every individual Muslim is separate and distinct. Thus, if anything
happens with a Muslim, Muslims as a whole should not make it their own case but
should look at it only as the case of a particular person. However, if Muslims
cannot take this option and do consider themselves as a single community or
ummah, they should condemn, in clear terms, those among them who engage in
negative activities. If they do not condemn these persons, then the rest of the
world would surely infer from the wrong actions of these particular Muslims
that the entire Muslim community is responsible, because Muslims themselves say
that all Muslims are members of a single ummah or community.
Such instances of discrimination as you
have cited in your question happen on a regular basis with secular persons, but
the rest of the secular world does not look at it as a matter of the “secular
community”. In the secular world, each person is looked upon as distinct. There
is no “secular Ummah”. So, when such cases happen with secular persons, the
sentiments of secular people do not get hurt, because secular people do not
regard themselves as a single community. They regard this as a problem
pertaining to those specific individuals. But when such cases happen with
Muslims, the sentiments of the entire Muslim community get hurt. What happens
with one Muslim affects the whole of the Muslim community. This is why when one
Muslim performs a wrong action, the world begins to doubt other Muslims too. In
order to avoid this, either Muslims should very strongly condemn those
individual Muslims among them who are doing wrong, or, if not this, they should
abandon the concept of the Ummah: that is, every Muslim’s case is his own and
what he does has nothing to do with other Muslims.
effective do you think this approach that many Muslims advocate—of protesting
against what is termed ‘Islamophobia’—might be in changing the hearts and minds
people who may have negative views of Muslims?
approach of Muslims cannot change others’ views about Muslims. The only way to
change this situation is that Muslims should reform themselves. Demanding
others to change cannot at all be of any use in this regard.
Q: If you
don’t think this approach is effective in this regard, what alternate approach
do you think Muslims should adopt to help others change their opinions about
Muslims and Islam?
starting-point in this matter is that all those who are representatives of
Muslims should openly disown Muslims’ terrorist activities. They should prevent
Muslims from engaging in terrorism, and if this is not possible for them, then
they should clearly condemn these actions by Muslims.
Complaining against and denouncing anti-Muslim sentiments represents one
approach that seeks to improve relations between Muslims and others. It is a
negative approach, in that it is against something. But there is a very
different approach to the issue—a positive approach based on seeking to improve
others’ perceptions of Muslims and Islam by doing good to others, serving them
and being kind and helpful to them, even in the face of discrimination from
them. This is a constructive approach, in contrast to the first one. It is
about doing something positive, instead of denouncing something negative.
Which of these two approaches would you
suggest Muslims should adopt and why?
A: The only
way to change the perception of people about Islam and Muslims is for the
representatives of Muslims to condemn the wrong actions of Muslims. For
example, all Ulema should collectively issue a fatwa unconditionally denouncing
the negative activities of Muslims.
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