Islamophobia. What is it? Well, by definition, Islamophobia is the ‘dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.’ Islamophobia is acting on prejudice against Muslims whether that’s from a verbal or physical force. As a Muslim, I am consistently posting or re-blogging things on my social media relating to Islam and Muslims. This is because I strongly believe that over time, due to incidents that have occurred across the world, the presentation of Islam and the image of Muslims have been ruined. People no longer view Islam for the beautiful, peaceful religion that it is but as a religion of violence, terrorism and hatred for non-Muslims (which is not true clearly). Muslims are no longer treated as loving members of society, but are accused of being terrorists and attackers that cause fear and panic. People are beginning to hate on Muslims, fear them and urge politicians to remove them from society by sending them ‘back home’. To me, the root of Islamophobia can be argued towards many causes whether that’s recent terror attacks, elections, politicians, or terrorist groups but it all comes down to one thing most definitely: the media. In modern day society, the media is where majority of us obtain information about the world whether that’s from social media, the newspapers or TV shows that we watch. The first thing we all now tend to do as soon as we wake up is check our phones, recent notifications and the latest news. Over time, the media has become our source of knowing what is happening around us locally and internationally, so it’s safe to say that the media can and is rapidly influencing the way people think and respond to situations particularly relating to society.
Over the past decade, specifically with the increasing events of terrorism and genocides across the world in places like Bosnia, France and Syria, there has been an increase in the levels of racism and discrimination towards minorities and religious groups. Muslims have been accused of being the culprits behind such crimes due to ISIS, whom are also referred as the ‘Islamic State’, as they identify themselves as Muslims and publicly declare the attacks as their own doing. Due to ISIS, Muslims across the world are suddenly feared and seen as ‘terrorists’, but we are not. Islam teaches us to love and care for people around us, and ‘if one man kills an innocent person, it is as if he has killed all of humanity’. Islam is a religion of peace, love and serenity not violence, anger or crime as portrayed on television. What you see on television and in the media is not the nature of Muslims, it is simply individuals ruining the beautiful religion of Islam and the presentation of Muslims in society. Most of international affairs are addressed on the media, so it is understandable why non-Muslims may suddenly fear Muslims and immediately accuse Muslims for any crime or terrorist attack in the world, especially since 9/11. However it is the media that controls, as said before, what we do and what we think and it is the media that has over time managed to portray Muslims in such a way that there is now a strong presence of ‘Islamophobia.’ As a young British Muslim, I have been incredibly fortunate enough to be raised in a diverse area where every religion, faith and culture is celebrated and embraced. We’re all so fortunate to live in a diverse country that it’s often overlooked and taken for granted. However, diversity and multiculturalism is sadly not the environment that everyone across the world may be living in. Therefore, it can become easy to hate or look down upon a certain faith or race, especially if it is something that you yourself are not familiar with and tend to base your opinions on external sources. For example, the events of terrorism that have taken place in the past which have been blamed on Muslims has instilled fear into many people, and still is across the world. Incidents as such that have taken place in France, Germany, Turkey and Nigeria. Islamophobia is primarily caused by ‘fake news’ in the media, misconceptions of beliefs in Islam, and lack of evidence in some cases. As majority of people just simply accept the news and what the media is presenting to them rather than questioning it, issues such as Islamophobia carry on unspoken growing larger and damaging the lives of innocent Muslims. If the media is not going to take a stance and address the issue of Islamophobia that it has caused and change the way that Muslims are shown, then it’s time for us to come together and to stand up against Islamophobia. You might just be sitting here, reading all this thinking, ‘oh shut up, you’re only saying all this because you’re a Muslim yourself. Don’t be biased, Islamophobia is such a trivial issue compared to bigger things in the world like poverty.’ Okay, fair enough, I will agree with you in the sense that there are BIG things in the world such as poverty and yes, I’m saying this because I’m a Muslim. I’m saying it because Muslims themselves don’t get a platform to voice their views and concerns. Nobody hands a Muslim a mic on Fox News and says, ‘go tell the world about how you feel. Go tell them about how wrong the media is about Muslims.’ To be honest, I’ll be surprised if Fox News or any network even HIRED a Muslim to work for them because there’s not only racial discrimination in a workplace, but religious discrimination too. If you still don’t agree, then you must be pure ignorant and oblivious to the world because the two biggest example I can give you of religious discrimination is Trump and his Muslim Ban, and the fact most Muslims are questioned before entering the USA. The second example being that in France and soon many other countries. Muslim women are unable to wear their full hijab. (Sorry we want to be modest, and not flash our bodies half-naked and stunt our wealth on the streets.) If you’re particularly interested in the treatment of Muslims in the USA, I’d recommend to watch Adam Saleh on YouTube who carries out social experiments relating to Islam and Muslims on the streets of America.
Another thing if a Muslim man has a beard, he is feared by people and called a ‘terrorist’ but on the other hand, if a non-Muslim man has a beard, it’s suddenly seen as ‘fashion’ and a new ‘trend’. The same can be said for Muslim women also, because if a Muslim woman wears a hijab, people question why she is wearing a scarf on her head and faces the risk of being attacked for having a hijab as a symbol of modesty. However, if a non-Muslim woman wears a hijab on her head, she’s suddenly seen as a ‘style icon’ or merely embracing the culture. It is the double-standards and the incorrect portrayal of Muslims that has inspired me to create my own campaign called ‘Islamophobia is…’. My campaign is aimed at people of all faiths, religions and cultures to inform and raise awareness about Islamophobia especially since people are now beginning to think that all Muslims are ‘terrorists’ and many fear to leave their homes in case of being at risk of attacks or verbally abused on the streets. No person, no INNOCENT person, should be forced to live life like that because of something that isn’t even their fault. Therefore, as part of my campaign, I asked people to write down ‘Islamophobia is…’ on a piece of paper followed with their views and opinions about what they think about Islamophobia and the change that needs to happen. I couldn’t upload all of them unfortunately due to WordPress restrictions, but I have uploaded a few on this post above, so please take the time to read the posts. The responses that I have received have been incredible, inspiring me to encourage others and spread the word because I believe many voices united can change the perception of situations and minorities in the media. Just want to add also that both Muslims and non-Muslims have participated in my campaign, so it shows that it’s not only Muslims that are concerned with Islamophobia.
Appropriate link to Adam Saleh’s social experiments in USA: Adam Saleh Vlogs
This TedTalk shows the realism to Islamophobia to those who think Islamophobia is not a thing. This truly shows how Islamophobia affects innocent Muslims across the world, with Suzanne Barakat sharing her case. She talks about how on February 10 2015, Suzanne Barakat’s brother Deah, her sister-in-law Yusor and Yusor’s sister Razan were murdered by their neighbor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The perpetrator’s story, that he killed them over a ‘traffic dispute’, went unquestioned by the media and police until Barakat spoke out at a press conference, calling the murders what they really were: hate crimes. Barakat calls on people, in the clip, to speak up when they witness hateful bigotry and express allyship with those who face discrimination in everyday life.
And something very frustrating:
Can I just.. Right. She actually makes me vexed from her ignorance and stupidity. I mean, how can she talk about the Qu’ran and extracts that are ‘supposedly’ in the Qu’ran when she probably hasn’t picked up the Qu’ran and read it properly? She even says herself that she is an atheist so why is she talking about the Qu’ran as if it is something that she is familiar with?! Don’t talk about the Qu’ran if you’ve never read it. She says that Islamophobia isn’t a ‘thing’ and fighting against Islamophobia is ‘pointless’ and ‘muslims just want to be superior’. However, fighting against Islamophobia isn’t about making Muslims be seen as superior than other non-Muslims, because that’s false. My campaign isn’t about fighting non-Muslims or hating on the media because it’s not, as the media can be great for making a difference to society, helping those in need and raising awareness about matters that are significant. However, sometimes the media can be misleading and reach a point where it should no longer be tolerated such as Islamophobia. One role model of mine is Yassmin Abdel-Magied who you may have seen on ABC where she argues with a presenter about Islam. She’s inspirational to me because she has such passion for what she does and believes in, she stands up for issues that matter and is not afraid to voice her opinion. I’ve posted a video of her debating before, I think, but I’ll link it down below so be sure to check it out!
We all, Muslim or non-Muslim, should stand up together against Islamophobia and the way that Muslims are portrayed because Muslims are not terrorists but are people who love, care and value others.
P.S. Linked down below are all the TED talks associated with Islam for anyone who wants to find out and watch more about issues such as this. I’ll probably end up writing about them in separate posts in more detail, but feel free to have a look yourself.