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.’
In 2011, the Center for American Progress published a report on Islamophobia, which it defined as “an exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility towards Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from…social, political, and civic life.
EXAMPLES OF ISLAMOPHOBIA
- The murder of 77 people in Norway by Anders Breivik to protest what he perceived as the Islamization of Europe: 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.
- The ideas of Mark Steyn, who for many years had a regular column in Maclean’s: According to Steyn, Europe is becoming a ‘Eurabia,’ overrun by Muslims. In fact, less than 5% of Europe’s population is 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.’
STEPHEN HARPER AND ISLAMOPHOBIA
In a recent interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the biggest security threat to Canada is ‘Islamicism’ or ‘Islamic terrorism.’ In employing these terms, Mr. Harper demonized an entire religion and promoted hatred and fear of those who follow that religion.
As we have already seen, the data does not support Mr. Harper’s implication that most terrorists are Muslims. To repeat: None of the acts of terrorism that have occurred on Canadian soil have been carried out by Muslims.
According to Mr. Harper, an act of terrorism occasionally ‘comes out of the blue’ from a different source. Such, in his view, is the case with the killings by Anders Breivik. But Breivik did not come from nowhere. As his manifesto clearly indicates, his views were shaped by the writings of western anti-Muslim individuals and organizations. Mr. Harper’s demonization of all Muslims will help to create more terrorists like Brievik.
In speaking of the killings in Norway, Mr. Harper did not use the term ‘Christian terrorism,’ even though Breivik, a self-described Christian, considered himself one of the ‘warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom.’ Such inconsistency in labeling indicates an underlying prejudice.
Radical Christianity, like radical Islam, is a dangerous ideology. Most Muslims, like most Christians, reject terrorism as being opposed to the core principles of their religion.
AN ISLAMOPHOBIC CHECK LIST
Check your views of Islam against the Runnymede report’s list of anti-Muslim racist views:
1. Seeing Islam as a single monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to new realities.
2. Seeing Islam as separate and other–not having any aims or values in common with other cultures.
3. Seeing Islam as inferior to the West–barbaric, irrational, sexist.
4. Seeing Islam as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, engaged in ‘a clash of civilizations.’
5. Seeing Islam as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
6. Rejecting out of hand criticisms made of ‘the West’ by Muslims.
7. Using hostility towards Islam to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
8. Accepting anti-Muslim hostility as natural and normal.
SOURCES AND RESOURCES
- Islamophobia: A Challenge For Us All, Runnymede Trust, 1997: http://www.runnymedetrust.org/publications/17/32.html
- Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim-Americans, Duke University and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2010: sanford.duke.edu/centers/tcths/ documents/Anti-TerrorLessonsfinal.pdf
- Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, Center for American Progress, 2011: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/08/islamophobia.html
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.
- Erun Hasan, ‘Blanket Condemnations: Contested Feminisms and the Politics of the Burqa,’ Briarpatch, March/April 2010: Available online.
Essays on the Internet
- Mohammad Fadel, ‘Islam, Gender and the Future of Multicultural Citizenship.’
- Glen Greenwald, ‘The Omnipotence of Al Qaeda and Meaninglessness of Terrorism.’
- Naheed Mustafa, ‘My Body Is My Own Business.’
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.