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Muslims and Islamophobia (30 Jul 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Addressing ‘Anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’

By Wasim Iqbal, New Age Islam

30 July, 2015

Not long after it was announced that the former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam had died, large posters bearing his picture and grieving his demise sprouted up all across the town that I am presently visiting. Many of these were in slums and lower-middle class localities. People had probably pooled in money to have these pictures put up as a mark of respect and love for the departed soul. Clearly, Abdul Kalam was a ‘People’s President’, who struck a deep chord even with the poor, from whose ranks he had himself emerged. He was definitely one of the most widely-respected leaders that India has ever had.

The late Indian President had a very obviously ‘Muslim’ name, but that did not prevent vast numbers of Indians, irrespective of caste, class and religious background, from adoring him. Clearly, then (unlike what some Muslims imagine), being ‘Muslim’ is in itself by no way a permanent and impassable barrier for Muslims to win the love, respect and hearts of people from other faith backgrounds.

Today, there is much talk and concern—especially, but not only, in Muslim circles—about anti-Muslim prejudice and negative views about Islam that in recent years have skyrocketed across the globe. Many Muslims who are deeply concerned about this issue insist that it needs to be tackled urgently. They propose a range of measures to deal with it, including launching efforts to educate people of other faiths about Islam so as to address their concerns and misconceptions about the faith; appealing to states to penalize hate speech against Muslims; calling for governments to expand existing anti-discrimination laws to include ‘Islamophobia’ under their ambit, and so on.

Yet, even as such Muslims continue to press with such demands, anti-Muslim sentiments continue to mount. It is not at all difficult to see why. ‘Anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ have much to do with the views, attitudes and behaviour of significant numbers of Muslims themselves, who are themselves a major cause for ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ across the world today. This is something that those Muslims who readily accuse the rest of the world as being inherently and congenitally ‘Islamophobic’ do not seem to, or choose not to, recognize.

The horrific barbarities that continue to be committed by a host of self-styled ‘Islamic’ groups in different countries are, in fact, at the very root of anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiments that are now widespread among non-Muslims. Whether it is the persecution of non-Muslim minorities and the pervasive gender injustice in many Muslim-majority societies or the violent political culture and brutally authoritarian political system in almost every Muslim-majority country, the deadly terrorist attacks by self-proclaimed ‘Islamic Mujahideen’ that have taken an enormous toll of precious lives or the ongoing sectarian strife and wars in large parts of the ‘Muslim world’—all of these (and many more such) crimes against God and humanity, committed by such Muslims and generally in the name of Islam,  are the fundamental cause of widespread negative views among non-Muslims about Islam and the people who claim to follow it. And as these barbarities committed by these self-styled champions of Islam continue to mount, ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ continue to escalate.

Given this fact, no amount of laws against hate speech and no amount of literature or speeches that aim to educate non-Muslims about Islam —measures that many Muslims typically call for—can do anything substantial to address ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’, which, thanks principally to the actions of some Muslims themselves in the name of Islam, have now become a deeply-rooted and pervasive phenomenon at the global level. This is because these sorts of suggested measures are based on a very partial diagnosis of ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’. They reflect an erroneous perception of ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ as being simply a result of misunderstandings about Islam among people of other faiths.

These explanations conveniently and very completely absolve Muslims of their share of the blame for ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’. It is as if the long list of horrors that continue to be committed in the name of Islam by many of its self-styled champions makes no difference at all to how others perceive Islam and those who claim to be its followers. Denial of this fact—of the key role of criminals claiming to be champions of Islam in fomenting ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ through the horrors that they continue to commit in the name of Islam—can only make ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ get much worse than it already is.

Rather than seeking to counter ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ simply by appealing to people of other faiths to change their views about Islam, it is Muslims themselves who need to change their own behaviour  with, and attitudes towards, others. This is the only way that others might begin to change their views about Islam and their behaviour with Muslims. As the Quran (13:11) beautifully puts it, “God does not change the condition of a people's lot, unless they change what is in their hearts.”

It is a basic and unalterable universal law that you get what you give. If you hate others, you will receive hate from them in return. If you look down on others, they will look down on you. If you do not help others, others will not help you. If you do not reach out to others, others will not reach out to you. Today, if many Muslims feel that others treat them with scorn and suspicion, they must recognize that it is largely because they have treated others in precisely the same way. And they must also understand that if they wish others to change the way they think about Muslims, they must first change the way they think of others and treat them.

“Whatever misfortune befalls you is of your own doing”, the Quran (42:30) says. In the light of this Quranic verse, Muslims must wake up to their own role in promoting ‘Anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’. That is the only way to come out of the morass in which they find themselves.

If Muslims want others to care for them, they must care for them first, and on a unilateral basis, if need be.

If Muslims want others to know that Islam is a religion of compassion, they need to be exemplify compassion in their own views, attitudes and behavior—including in their understanding of Islam and in the way they deal among themselves and with people of other faiths.

If Muslims want others to understand that Islam stands for peace, they need to live in peace with themselves and with others. They must insist that Islam is not at all what groups like the ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the Lashkar-e Tayyiba, and other such terrorist outfits make it out to be.

If Muslims want others to know that Islam stands for justice and that it is opposed to injustice, they must  act justly with others—including with women and with people of other faiths. They need to highlight that Islam does not sanction misogyny, sectarian hate, terrorism and animosity towards people of other faiths that radical Islamists and a not inconsiderable number of Muslim clerics insist it does.

Muslims need to go back to the religion of mercy, kindness and compassion that the Prophet Muhammad was commissioned by God to teach. This is what God wants of them. It is only then that other people will begin to love and respect them.

In the Quran (21:107) God, says this about the Prophet Muhammad:

“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.”

Following the merciful Prophet, Muslims must be merciful, too. This mercy needs to be reflected in their understanding of Islam and in their behaviour—including in their dealings with people of other faiths.

Muslims must make it clear, through the way they understand and seek to live out Islam, that this religion of mercy has no place whatsoever for bomb-blasts, for massacring innocent people, for oppressing women, for hating and terrorizing people of other faiths, and so on—all the many horrific crimes that numerous self-styled defenders of Islam continue to commit in the name of Islam, thereby becoming the principal agent for widespread ‘anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ across the world.

Inspired by the right understanding of Islam, Muslims need to proactively reach out to people of other faiths, through love, compassion, concern, care, genuine well-wishing and the spirit of service, as Islam teaches them to. And then they will find that just as a man from a poverty-stricken Muslim family was able to become the President of India and win the hearts of millions of his countrymen from religious communities other than the one he was born into, they, too, can earn the regard, goodwill and love of people of others if they spread goodness and love and prove to be an asset to them. And they can also then discover that this is the only way to address ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘anti-Muslimism’ and to help others develop a positive and respectful image of Islam and of those who claim to follow it.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/muslims-and-islamophobia/wasim-iqbal,-new-age-islam/addressing-‘anti-muslimism’-and-‘islamophobia’/d/104095


  • I like your blog and would like to receive your posts by email. I find that you have not provided this facility. If you could instal feedburner, it would help. Or if you can arrange to send a link to all your posts to me to my email address, it would suffice and I shall be grateful. on Addressing ‘Anti-Muslimism’ and ‘Islamophobia’
    By Ramana Rajgopaul - 8/5/2015 1:20:40 AM

  • Wasim Sb,

    Thank you for your suggestion. I plan to do that.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/1/2015 3:43:45 AM

  • naseer sb, what about putting all your essays on this theme together and publishing them as a book?
    By wasim - 8/1/2015 3:06:14 AM

  • I discuss the Quranic verses without bringing in "context" not contained in the Quran itself. Since the Quran contains  the required context to understand the verse, the meaning of the verse is fixed by the Quran itself. Importing context from outside or from the ahadith, corrupt the meaning.

    Understanding the ahadith requires context since it is not a self contained, self explanatory, holistic and complete body of work like the Quran. The Quran being the speech of God contains no verse that is abrogated whereas the ahadith being the speech of man, will by its very nature, contain sayings that are abrogated by the Quran. Were  there not  instances where the Prophet said something that was overruled by a subsequent revelation? There were several such instances.

    The major problem in the proper understanding of the Quran to my mind is the correct understanding of the key words or expressions used in the Quran. Once these are understood and translated correctly, all confusion and contradictions disappear.

    The keywords are the meaning of the words kufr, kafir, kafaru, jehad, jahadu and qital fi sabilillah.

    To get an idea of what I am saying please read my articles:

    The Much discussed and debated Medinian Verses Relating to Fighting

    Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 1): 'Kafir,' 'Mushrik' and 'Idolater' are not synonyms

    Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 2): Muslim– Non-Muslim Relationship

    Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 3): Why Kufr Is A Relative Concept While Shirk, Idol Worship Etc. Have Fixed Meanings

    Who is a Kafir in the Quran? (Part 4) Defining Kufr

    The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In the Qu’ran (Part 4): The Medinian Period

    The Story of the Prophetic Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) in the Qu’ran (Concluding Part) Summary

    Is Islam Secular?

    What Does It Mean To Be A Literalist And A Fundamentalist?

    Who is a Muslim in the Quran?

    Once the keywords are understood correctly, one could be a literalist and a fundamentalist and yet be a peaceful moderate because Islam is truly a religion of moderation and peace.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/1/2015 2:27:42 AM

  • Thanks Wasim Iqbal Saheb for your explanation on contextual verses of the Holy Quran and Hadees narrations. This has to be repeated again and again as most Muslims consider all verses and ahadees to have universal validity.  Their contextual nature needs to be stressed repeatedly.  As you said these are not applicable to us today.
    By Sultan Shahin - 7/31/2015 11:23:32 PM

  • Thanks, everyone, for your comments. Secular Logic and Rational: The verses of the Quran that talk of violence are to be seen in the particular historical context in which they were revealed and are not to be regarded as applicable at all times. As for Hadith reports that wrongly denigrate people of other faiths, they are fabricated--their matn or content is very clearly against Quranic teachings. I agree that some Muslims take the violence-related Quranic verses as of general validity and also such hadith reports as mentioned above--and that is a MAJOR challenge....we need to reach out to help such people transform their (mis-)understandings.

    By wasim - 7/31/2015 8:29:58 PM

  • He has said right in this para:

    Inspired by the right understanding of Islam, Muslims need to proactively reach out to people of other faiths, through love, compassion, concern, care, genuine well-wishing and the spirit of service, as Islam teaches them to. And then they will find that just as a man from a poverty-stricken Muslim family was able to become the President of India and win the hearts of millions of his countrymen from religious communities other than the one he was born into, they, too, can earn the regard, goodwill and love of people of others if they spread goodness and love and prove to be an asset to them. And they can also then discover that this is the only way to address ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘anti-Muslimism’ and to help others develop a positive and respectful image of Islam and of those who claim to follow it.

    By Mohammad Imran - 7/31/2015 11:33:05 AM

  • Wasim's article is superb! Agree 100 per cent with what he says. Muslims need to reform themselves internally and externally. Focus on purifying their souls and externally be honest, truthful, not cheat people or consider themselves holier than others.
    The author is very right and this article should reach out to the world.
    I receive many Islamic google groups  unsolicited material where they  resort to bringing people of other faiths to their "path", better if they first be on the path before guiding others. 

    By Noorie - 7/30/2015 11:19:10 PM

  • I would buy this author's well meaning piece, if I had not read the Quran and the Hadith
    The Quran has imperialist, exclusivist, anti-nonMuslim, misogyinistic and homophobic verses. It also has verses promoting violent Jihad. Anybody who has google at his disposal can see this.

    The fact that Muslims believe the Quran is the uncreated work of God and hence eternal and immutable makes it difficult for even well meaning muslims to negate the extremely violent and hate filled verses or recommend their abrogation in the interests of creating a more contemporarily acceptable version of the faith. So they are reduced to denial, painful contortionist acts of reasoning that seek to redefine the offensive concepts of Kufr and Jihad. I can see that these people are torn between their loyalty to a flawed faith and a desire to present it in a better light to the increasing number of critics. At some level, they are also trying to convince themselves that it does not mean what it appears to mean.

    Anyway... one cannot change a written word, and this problem applies to all faiths. The problem of getting outdated. It is not possible to convince non Muslim people that Islam does not have all this intrinsic hate against many sections of humanity; but Muslims can, by reforming their own attitudes and actions, by gently letting go of all that is bad about Islam, by reaching out to others with sincerity (not with that horrible Quraninc suggestion to act outwardly kind with the ultimate goal of coming out in true colours when the Muslim community is powerful enough), by trying to make amends for historic wrongs, by embracing modernity and all aspects of Indianness (or American ness, or European ness, or globalness), Muslims can create a more harmonious world. This desire to integrate must be seen in dress, custom, manner, and participation. Dont make efforts to keep yourself different and isolated and then complain people are treating you differently and isolating you. A woman in a Burqa is going to isolate herself from her companions in jeans and cropped tops. She will only be well integrated with other women in burqas. Let religion go. Religion is a crutch that makes you an intellectual cripple. Keep it,if you must, in a small private corner of your existence.It is not the world that is to be faulted for not liking Muslims or Islam. It is the Muslims themselves. In that respect, the author has got it right.

    By secularlogic - 7/30/2015 10:55:08 PM

  • Very good article even if it makes no mention of how Hindus feel about 700 years of Muslim rule and how organizations such as the RSS and VHP actively whip up anti-Muslim sentiments. The author is quite right to say that Muslims must change both their attitude and behavior. As he says so well, "Muslims need to proactively reach out to people of other faiths, through love, compassion, concern, care, genuine well-wishing and the spirit of service, as Islam teaches them to."

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 7/30/2015 12:40:29 PM

  • authos has quoted some good verses of the Quran. ignored those verses which are source of islmophobia. ignored vast amount of hate against non-muslims in other sources of Islam.

    the question is in order to curb the islmophobia, what Muslims are going to do with verses of hate in the Quran    and Hadith and in writings of scholars of Islam?
    what about those khutbas which are delivered to masses of Muslims who know nothing about the Quran and Hadith and have no time to analyze the text to separate the truth from the false.
    Some fools believe that shouting at some people will solve the problems of Muslims. Some moderate fools want to end  the islmophobia through their half spken truths.
    some of them want to win respect for their religion and prophet through foolish ways.
    some of them want to impose the ban on who dare to question  the Islam.
    So far their idiotic efforts have brought no good.

    By rational - 7/30/2015 10:10:18 AM

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