Islamophobia: 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.
In 2001, the 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.”
ISLAMOPHOBIA: RECENT EXAMPLES
- The cartoon in Charlie Hebdo predicting drowned Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi would grow up to be a sex offender
- Donald Trump’s call for all Muslims to be banned from the US
- Stephen Harper’s opportunistic attack on Muslims during the election, which included a condemnation of the niqab, the creation of a tip line to report “barbaric cultural practices,” and a “none is too many” Syrian refugee policy
- Talk show host John Gormley’s tweet encouraging the murder of Muslims
- Premier Brad Wall’s identification of Syrian refugees with terrorism
Promoting anti-Muslim fear and hatred, such Islamophobic views have real consequences for all Canadians. They lay the groundwork for:
- ANTI-MUSLIM HATE CRIMES AND INCIDENTS: Such crimes and incidents have increased around the country, putting Muslim Canadians at risk of random acts of violence. Examples from the last eight months include:
-A physical assault on a pregnant Muslim woman in Montreal
-An attack on a niqab-wearing women in Toronto
-Hateful online comments posted to the story about the arrival of a Syrian refugee in Regina
-Pepper spraying of Syrian refugees in Vancouver
-Anti-Muslim messages spray-painted on the walls of a Calgary school
For more examples visit the National Council of Canadian Muslim’s online map of anti-Muslim hate-crime and incidents: http://www.nccm.ca/
- ENDLESS WAR AGAINST MUSLIM COUNTRIES: Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria–Canada has now been at war in Muslim countries for 13 years without a break.
AM I ISLAMOPHOBIC? A TEST
According to the Runnymede report, if my answer to any of the following questions is “yes,” then I am being Islamophobic.
- Do I see Islam as a single unity, static and unchanging?
- Do I see Islam as separate and other–not having any aims or values in common with other cultures?
- Do I view Islam as inferior to the West—barbaric, irrational, and sexist?
- Do I view Islam as violent, aggressive, threatening, and supportive of terrorism?
- Do I see Islam as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage?
- Do I reject out of hand criticisms made of “the West” by Muslims?
- Do I use hostility towards Islam to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society?
- Do I accept anti-Muslim hostility as natural and normal?
2 ISLAMOPHOBIC STEREOTYPES
- 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.
- 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. Between 2012 and 2015, anti-Muslim hate crimes in Canada doubled.
These stereotypes are mobilized to justify western wars in Muslim countries.
- Hence, we were told that Canada was fighting in Afghanistan in order to liberate Afghan women.
- Now we are being told the “war on terror” must never end.
TAKE ACTION: CHECK YOUR ISLAMOPHOBIA
March 21st was International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Let’s mark the occasion by checking our Islamophobia.
Canadian culture is saturated with Islamophobia. Almost all of us are infected with it. What can we do about it?
- Think critically. Question our own assumptions.
- Read against the grain. Look for contradictions. For example, the Canadian government imposed sanctions on Iran for its supposed nuclear weapons program, but it never raises the issue of the US’s huge stockpile of nuclear weaponry or of Israel’s undeclared arsenal of nuclear weapons.
- Raise the subject of Islamophobia with family, friends, and colleagues.
- Call out Islamophobic statements and assumptions wherever we encounter them. Learn to do so in a manner that provokes thought rather than anger.
- Seek out progressive voices: Regina’s own Zarqa Nawaz, as well as Rukhsana Khan, Sheema Kahn, Monia Mazigh, Chris Hedges, Robert Fisk, Glen Greenwald, the late Edward Said.