IS THERE AN ISLAMOPHOBIA OUT THERE?
[Dr. Mohamed Elmasry]
"A Muslim man has been beaten to death outside a corner shop by a gang of
youths who shouted anti-Islamic abuse at him," blared the headline of a
news story in the British paper The Guardian of July 13, 2005. "Kamal Raza
Butt, 48, from
Sunday afternoon he went to a shop in
first called 'Taliban' by the youths and then set upon."
"Nottinghamshire police described the incident as racially aggravated, not
as Islamophobic," the Guardian reported.
But Azad Ali who chairs the Muslim Safety Forum said, "You can't class this
as racist; there was no racist abuse shouted at him, it was Islamophobic.
It is good the police have made arrests. [But we] are disappointed that
they have misclassified it, especially after all the advice to be more
alert to Islamophobic hate crime."
Islamophobia, or fear of Islam, is defined as the unrealistic and
disproportionate fear of Islam and Muslims - a fear which cannot be
Islamophobia is a serious form of discrimination, intolerance, and a clear
violation of basic human rights; the right to live without fear of attack
from those who see Muslims as "not like us." Islamophobia not only
reinforces centuries-old negative stereotypical representations of Islam
and Muslims, it also creates new ones.
In its 1997 report, "Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All" 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 through excluding
them from the economic, social, and public life of nations. It includes the
perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is
inferior to the West, and is a violent political ideology rather than a
The Runnymede Trust report continued by saying that Islamophobia "has
existed in Western countries and cultures for several centuries, but in the
last twenty years has become more explicit, more extreme and more
dangerous. It is an ingredient of all sections of the media and is
prevalent in all sections of society."
What makes the Runnymede Trust report so significant is that this was the
first time the subject of Islamophobia had been comprehensively explored in
relation to a major Muslim population - that of the
was estimated at 1.6 million. Sixty recommendations were put forward in the
bodies and agencies, local and regional statutory bodies, and voluntary and
Professor Anne Sophie Roald of
were taken toward official acceptance of the term in January 2001 at the
was recognized as a form of intolerance alongside Xenophobia and Anti-
Earlier, in 1992, Runnymede Trust had established a commission to consider
anti-Semitism in contemporary
Light Sleeper," included in its recommendations a
set up a broadly similar commission to consider Islamophobia, which it
proceeded to do.
On July 4, 2008 the Independent newspaper reported that Martyn Gilleard, a
Nazi sympathizer in East Yorkshire, England, was jailed for 16 years.
"Police found four nail bombs, bullets, swords, axes and knives in his
flat. Gilleard had been preparing for a war against Muslims. In a note at
his flat he had written, 'I am sick and tired of hearing nationalists
talking of killing Muslims, blowing up mosques and fighting back only to
see these acts of resistance fail. The time has come to stop the talking
and start to act'."
The Independent headlined the above-quoted report by journalist Peter
Oborne as "The enemy within? Fear of Islam:
article observed that "Suspicion of the Muslim community has found its way
into mainstream society - and nobody seems to care."
In fact, the Gilleard case went all but unreported. Had a Muslim been found
with an arsenal of weapons and planning violent assaults, it would have
been a far bigger story.
"There is a reason for this blindness in the media," Oborne continues. "The
systematic demonization of Muslims has become an important part of the
central narrative of the British political and media class; it is so
entrenched, so much part of normal discussion that almost nobody notices.
Protests go unheard and unnoticed."
Commenting on Canadian Prof. Sherene H. Razack's new book "Casting Out: The
Eviction of Muslims From Western Law & Politics," Dr. Ghassan Hage, Prof.
of Anthropology at the
argued that Holocaust history shows that Jews were perceived and treated by
German society as marginal and expendable long before their extermination
was acted out. [This book] shows the complex ways in which Muslims in the
West are slowly being driven to become today's exterminables ... It is
worth remembering that the Holocaust was not a historical inevitability.
Those struggling against the dark forces of extermination can succeed."
(Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is national president of the Canadian Islamic
Congress. His views do not necessarily represent those of the organization.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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