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How to Recognize Islamophobia

Published: 22/12/2011 05:18:00 PM GMT
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In the recent decade there has been a rise of anti-Muslim sentiment. While many politicians will claim that there is no such thing and that Muslims suffer no persecution, there are many warning signs, most of which are being lived today in places like the United Kingdom and The Netherlands. This article will attempt to list some of the most worrying signs of anti-Islamic sentiment that should allow anyone to recognize Islamophobia as it occurs.

Some of the most obvious signs of Islamophobia are when regrettable violence is effected against Muslims in public. Physical attacks as well as verbal abuse have been on the rise in the last decade in Western Europe. Vandalism on Muslim structures, like Mosques and cemeteries are also an extremely worrying sign. However, none of these would be as widespread without the contributions of the news media. Perpetuating negative stereotypes about Muslims on television, radio and newspapers in the media is one of the most important causes of violent acts against Muslims. A good guide about what is acceptable and what is not is to make the experiment of substituting talk about Muslims with other minorities that were once persecuted but now enjoy a better standing in Western society, like followers of Judaism or black people. If something is not acceptable when referring to other ethnic or racial groups, it should not be used when talking about Muslims.

An important sign of Islamophobia that is truly worrying is the increasing use of anti-Islamic remarks in speeches and statements by people in authority, mainly political and government leaders. A common rhetorical recourse is making a difference between the “British” way of doing things and characterizing Muslims as followers of the “Terrorist” way. It has also become a common theme in politics to imply that Muslims are not willing to adhere to the laws and cannot live in a democratic environment. The blaming of immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants, for economic woes and unemployment is also quite common. It is obvious that none of these practices are conductive to a healthy environment for Muslims living in the West. While violence and vandalism against Muslims is a terrible and tragic occurrence, it is important to understand that the irresponsible behavior of the media and of political leaders (mostly in the far right,) are the underlying cause of these tragic acts.

It is not only violence against Muslims that is a problem. The more common and pervasive problem that derives from Islamophobia is the widespread discrimination against Muslim in schools, places of employment, and public spaces. The public outcry against Muslim requests for public goods and services (such as the construction of a new Mosque or Islamic community center,) as well as the lack of sensitivity for the needs of the Muslim population is also a worrying problem in modern European society. Recognizing these signs of Islamophobia is the first step towards making sure that Muslims live in peace and with nothing to fear in Western society.

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