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ISLAMOPHOBIA

Posted by strattof on August 20, 2011

Islamophobia, noun: hostility toward Islam and Muslims; prejudice against or fear of Islam and Muslims; anti-Muslim racism.

In 1997, the Runnymede Trust, a British anti-racist research institute, published a report on Islamophobia, which it defined as ‘an outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims.’ The report shows how Islamophobia has four distinct, but inter-connected and mutually reinforcing aspects: social exclusion, violence, prejudice, and discrimination.

The 2001 Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance recognized Islamophobia as a form of racism alongside xenophobia and anti-Semitism.

In 2004, Kofi Annan told a UN conference on Islamophobia that ‘when the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry, that is a sad and troubling development. Such is the case with Islamophobia.’

EXAMPLES OF ISLAMOPHOBIA

  • The ideas of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian anti-Muslim, anti-immigration right wing extremist who carried out the killings in Norway: Breivik believed his killing spree would set off a civil war in Europe which would culminate in the expulsion of Muslims. Will Nordic-looking males now receive extra scrutiny at Canadian airports? 
  • The initial assumption of many western news outlets that the attacks in Norway were carried out by Islamic extremists: Even after Breivik had admitted to the killings, the Leader-Post ran an opinion piece singling out radical Islam as the real source of violence (‘Canada is just as vulnerable,’ July 26 2011). As a point of fact, only 3 out of 249 terrorist attacks in Europe in 2010 were perpetrated by Islamist groups. None of the acts of terrorism that have occurred on Canadian soil have been carried out by Muslims.  
  • Canadian writer Mark Steyn’s ideas about Muslims and Islam: According to Steyn, Europe is becoming a ‘Eurabia,’ overrun by Muslims. In fact, less than 5% of Europe’s population is Muslim. (Less than 3% of Canadians are Muslim.) In his manifesto, Breivik cites Steyn as one of his influences. Will Mark Steyn soon find himself under CSIS surveillance, his name on a no-fly list? 
  • Media reporting on ‘honour crimes’: The media sensationalize such crimes and at the same time fail to place them in the broader context of violence against women. The result is to stigmatize a minority group as having an immoral culture. Violence against women is not just a Muslim problem. It is a serious problem throughout Canadian society. According to Statistics Canada, 51% of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.
  • The hullabaloo over veils: Why are so many non-Muslim Canadians upset or even angry when we see women veiled?  Canadian women who claim to be feminists seem to be particularly disturbed. Does the veil threaten ‘our freedom’? But freedom to do what? Wear a bikini but not a niqab? Why are so many of us calling for a burqa ban? Strict decrees either way deny Muslim women autonomy and agency. Why would a Muslim woman choose to wear a veil? Here’s how Erum Hasan, a social justice advocate based in Toronto, answers that question: ‘for identity, cultural values, political symbolism, anti-consumerism, protection, countering the hyper-sexualization of women or religious belief.’  

8 MISPERCEPTIONS OF ISLAM AND MUSLIMS

The Runnymede report associates eight views of Islam and Muslims with Islamophobia

1.   Islam is seen as a single monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to new realities.

2.   Islam is seen as separate and other–not having any aims or values in common with other cultures.

3.   Islam is seen as inferior to the West–barbaric, irrational, sexist.

4.   Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, engaged in ‘a clash of civilizations.’

5.   Islam is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.

6.   Criticisms made of ‘the West’ by Muslims 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 accepted as natural and normal.

2 COMMON STEREOTYPES OF MUSLIMS

1.   The oppressed Muslim woman: The media focuses almost exclusively on the abuse of Muslim women’s rights, while rarely making mention of the accomplishments of Muslim women. Here are the names of four Muslim Canadian women we should all be familiar with but probably aren’t: Zarqa Nawaz, Monia Mazigh, Rukhsana Khan, Sheema Khan. 

 2.   The inherently violent Muslim man: Like most non-Muslim men, most Muslim men hold ordinary jobs and value family and friends. They are not any more violent than non-Muslim men. Much of the violence in today’s world is directed at Muslims by non-Muslims. In 2009, anti-Muslim hate crimes in Canada rose by 38%.

These stereotypes are mobilized to justify western wars in Muslim countries. Hence, we were told that Canada is fighting in Afghanistan in order to liberate Afghan women.

The falseness of such claims is quite evident. For example, Canada clearly did not go to war over women’s status. ●No one ever has. ●The Canadian military does not have a feminist agenda. ●Nor does the Canadian government. At the time it was making the claim about liberating Afghan women, the government was also busy shutting down Status of Women offices across Canada and withdrawing funding from Sisters in Spirit, a research initiative of the Native Women’s Association of Canada that was documenting cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada.

TAKE ACTION

Our culture is saturated with Islamophobia. What can we do about it?

  • Think critically. Question our own assumptions.
  • Read against the grain. Look for contradictions. Why, for example, does the west support tyranny in the Arab world and only reluctantly, if at all, recognize the democratic rights of Arab peoples?
  • Raise the subject of Islamophobia with family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Speak out against incidents of Islamophobia.
  • Seek out progressive voices.

SOURCES AND RESOURCES

Reports

Books, Newspapers, and Magazines

  • Rukhsana Khan, Wanting Mor: a novel suitable for ages 15-90, available at Regina Public Library (RPL).
  •  Monia Mazigh, Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free My Husband, Maher Arar: A book available at the RPL.
  • Sheema Kahn’s articles in the Globe and Mail, many of which have been collected in a book: Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman, available at the RPL.
  • Sumayya Kassamli, ‘Solidarity in Islamophobia: Holding the State and the Left Accountable,’ Briarpatch, January/February 2011: Available online. Google title and author.
  • Erun Hasan, ‘Blanket Condemnations: Contested Feminisms and the Politics of the Burqa,’ Briarpatch, March/April 2010: Available online. Google title and author.

Essays on the Internet

  • Mohammad Fadel, ‘Islam, Gender and the Future of Multicultural Citizenship’: http://www.arts.uregina.ca/drupal/dbfm_send/980
  • Glen Greenwald, ‘The Omnipotence of Al Qaeda and Meaninglessness of Terrorism’: Google title and author.
  • Naheed Mustafa, ‘My Body Is My Own Business’: Google title and author.

Books for Children

  • Rukhsana Khan, The Roses In My Carpets and Big Red Lollipops: Suitable for 5-9 year olds and available at the RPL.

Television and Movies

  • Little Mosque on the Prairies, by Zarqa Nawaz: Weekly on CBC TV.
  • Me and the Mosque, by Zarqa Nawaz, National Film Board, available at the RPL.  
  • My Name Is Khan: A feature film available on DVD at the RPL.
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One Response to “ISLAMOPHOBIA”

  1. Thanks for this. It is very helpful

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