By Ali Hashem
Islamophobia has been for years the main complaint by Muslims around the world; the feeling of being discriminated for what you believe, practice or look like prompted many Muslims in Europe and America to raise the voice and seek changing the image by drawing a clear line between Islam and extremism, not every Muslim is an al Qaeda operative, Hijab is a lifestyle not a sign of radicalism, and beards aren't always grown by followers of Osama Ben Laden.
After September 11, any Middle Eastern looking passenger on a plane was suspicious, the word Allah Akbar (God is great) could cost hours or days of interrogation, Muslims went through a lot of dramatic moments, receiving verbal and physical abuses, women being forced to wear Hijab or Burqa in some countries, deprived form the right to build mosques and religious centres, and much more. Anti-Muslim sentiments surged to the extent that the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, became a subject for defamation campaigns by rightists in Europe and the United States, and the holy Quran threatened to be burned in public.
Since the new wave of terror that hit the Middle East amid the Arab spring a new trend started building up within people of the region, not only secularists but even within ranks of religious communities. A man with a beard bigger than usual can't be tolerated even by men with beards; a good example to be mentioned is the arrest of a man in Beirut's southern suburb on Jan. 21 for having a "suspicious" beard according to eyewitnesses back then, later on it was revealed that the suspected suicide bomber was a rapper, and a civil society activist.
This is not an isolated story, it's taking place in each and every country where there is a threat of terrorist attacks, people's fear is prompting them to act to save themselves, but this is not all. The fact is that a wave of anti Islamisation began paving its way and already succeeded in toppling Islamists in a country like Egypt, and minimizing their effect in Tunisia and Libya, either via ballots or common activism.
But the wave is spreading its wings over the whole Middle East, with media playing a greater role in underlining what they describe as the biggest threat on the region. Stories over the habits and behaviours of extremist groups fighting in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Lebanon, and others made headlines. The issue of the controversial sexual Jihad (Jihad Al-Nikah) became the talk of the nation when it first came to surface, people who believed the story used it to hit on Islamists and questioned their commitment to morals and ethics aside from being committed to a religion. Religious Muslims who oppose the extremists started mocking them and stating in their open conversations on social media and in ordinary life that this is not the Islam they were raised up on its teachings. Paradise, virgins, seeing the Prophet in after life, are all part of the Islamic culture, and they are mentioned in Quran and Hadith, yet they also became a subject of satire and again with many who regard themselves as religious or close to religious societies.
The fact is that many in the terrorism hit countries are copying the Islamophobia of the west and adding to it much of their touch, given their deep understanding of their societies, add to that them becoming are less sympathetic with anti-Islamic acts, and this is not to say that such acts are excusable. Stroking a mosque in Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Egypt, could be given tens of excuses by believers who will bring stories from history or from Quran for similar incidents, while such an incident years ago should have been a spark for series of demonstrations and acts of condemnation across the region.
On Aug. 30 Lebanese Justice minister Ashraf Rifi asked the state prosecutor to pursue unidentified individuals who burned the ISIS flag in a neighbourhood in Beirut, according to a statement by Rifi "some people burnt the flag of ISIS in Sassine Square and their symbol reads: 'No God but Allah and Mohammad the prophet of Allah,' which is the cornerstone of Islam." Despite being a move that abide my Islamic jurisdiction the move was condemned openly and many Muslim and even religious activists gave excuses for why the flag should be burned, and later a launched the ISIS flag challenge that saw furious Muslims flooding the internet with their own version of the Ice Bucket Challenge in protest against the self Styled Islamic state. It might be a reaction but here too it's important to see how the red lines are falling one after the other because of the brutal practices of some who claim to representing Islam.