WikiIslam:Sandbox/Islamophobia - essay

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Islamophobia is a neologism formed from Islam and -phobia. It refers to prejudice against, hatred towards, or irrational fear of Muslims. In 1997, the British Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as the "dread or hatred of Islam and therefore, [the] fear and dislike of all Muslims," stating that it also refers to the practice of discriminating against Muslims by excluding them from the economic, social, and public life of the nation.

Runnymede Trust

In 1994 The Runnymede Trust published A Very Light Sleeper, an antisemitism report that encouraged Brittan to defend Muslims as vehemently as it defends Jews [1]. Three years later, the resulting Commission on British Muslims released Islamophobia: A Challenge for us All, which contained 60 suggestions for combating prejudice against Brittan's one million Muslims. According to Runnymede, the public response was "overwhelmingly positive."

"We did not coin the term Islamophobia," chairman Gordon Conway claims, "It was already being used by members of the Muslim community to describe the prejudice they face in their everyday lives." The report contends that violence and Islam are incompatible, citing western imperialism as the main impetus for terrorism [1]. Policies of Islamic inclusion are explored in order to curtail Western resentment in the Muslim community, as well as violations of multiculturalism in the UK's military and public sector. Because these violations are intensifying in all spheres of public life, the usage of the word Islamophobia becomes necessary for the purpose of global awareness.

The report also criticizes regimes that are democratically deficient, but emphasizes Islam's progressiveness and equality to Anglo-Saxon culture. By nature, therefore, The Umma is a valuable ally of the west [2]. To dismiss these points because the Quran sanctions oppression and barbarism (rendering it incompatible with Democracy) is woefully close-minded. One could aim similar censure at The Bible, where God guides Israel's expansion through bloody conquest. Islam must be disassociated with terrorism and shielded from social inequality. To achieve this, calls to reform are directed at schools, hospitals and government entities.

Consequences of Runnymede's Report

The 1997 report is responsible for shaping the modern definition of Islamophobia, comprised of the following:

  1. Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
  2. Islam is seen as separate and 'other'. It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
  3. Islam is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist.
  4. Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a 'clash of civilizations'.
  5. Islam is seen as a political ideology and is used for political or military advantage.
  6. Criticisms made of the West by Islam are rejected out of hand.
  7. Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
  8. Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural or normal

Criticisms of Runnymede's Assessment of Islam

The Runnymede Trust states the following: "Islam is seen as diverse and progressive, with internal debates and developments" [3]. Throughout the report, Islam's diversity is assigned virtuous connotations. A group's ethical credibility, however, is a product of its teachings, customs and interactions with other groups. High diversity does not indicate moral superiority. Likewise, being 'progressive' is different from democratic compatibility: What constitutes progress varies by culture due to separate goals. Lastly, while theological debates exist within the Muslim community, Islam's unifying features are the affirmation of The Quran's divinity and the prophethood of Mohammed. These matters are uncontested; the metaphysical core of Islam is therefore monolithic and static.

It is imperative, Runnymede says, to perceive Islam as different but not inferior. Labels such as "irrational" or "sexist" are inappropriate. Ignored is the fact that all religions are somewhat irrational; furthermore, evidence to support Islam's intellectual and social equality is absent from the report. Concerning violence against women, one could argue that a religion endorsing wife-beating is certainly sexist. Scholars are aware of this incongruity and attempt to obfuscate the verb ضرب in Surah An-Nisa (to beat, strike) through inserting adjectives and their own interpretations. Qur'an 4:34

Islam's relationship with the west is natural partnership: "The religion is peaceful, uncompetitive and condemns terrorism." Again, the commission labels only noble characteristics as truly Islamic -- a No true Scotsman argument. To only acknowledge irenic Muslims and exclude other sects is intellectually dishonest, adhering to political correctness rather than scientific examination. Indeed, if a Muslim is to be defined as one who adheres to the Quran and Sunna, there are various kinds Islam (Maliki, Sufi, Hanafi, Twelver). Certain divisions are blatantly less peaceful than others. Runnymede does little to educate readers on the multifaceted nature of Islamic thought, preferring blind tolerance to real understanding.

Public Presence/Statistics

Islamophobia predated the September 11th terrorist attacks but received little recognition until 2001. Consequentially, media's fixation on Islamic terrorism fortified (intentionally and unintentionally) Western animus towards Muslims. A study conducted in 2008 revealed that around 50% of American Muslims report feeling discriminated against, compared to 31 percent of Mormons and 25 percent of nonreligious people. In Eastern countries, 57% of people perceive the west as intolerant towards its Muslim citizenry. This same document mentions that prejudice is more prominent within less educated circles, and that Republican Party members are more likely to have unfavorable opinions concerning Islam. Nevertheless, American Muslims report higher level of assimilation when compared with Africa, Asia and Europe. [4]

These studies are not conclusive. One study conducted by the FBI reports that Islamophobia's presence is largely imagined, and that Muslims experience far less hate crime than other prominent minorities. "FBI-tabulated incidents of anti-Islamic hate crime fell from 157 in 2011 to 130 in 2012, a decrease of 17.2 percent. Incidents of hate crime spanning all victim groups dropped by only 6.8 percent, 6,222 to 5,796" [5]

Social Implications

See Also

  1. Islamophobia: A Challenge For Us All, page 7, PDF
  2. Islamophobia: A Challenge For Us All, page 11, PDF
  3. Islamophobia: A Challenge For Us All, page 11, PDF
  4. Islamophobia: Understanding Anti-Muslim Sentiment in the Wet

  • Phobia - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Phobia