Islamophobia is Nothing New
22 Dec 2011 05:23 GMT
Practically from the time that European culture made contact with Islam for the very first time there has been fear and hostility in Europe against Islam.

This fear has taken all kinds of forms as the centuries pass. It has not been the same every time, but going all the way back to the ninth century and before, there are examples of Islamophobia. Of a systematic fear of Islam and Muslims and the violence, prejudice, and bigotry that is a result of this fear. Some historical examples of Islamophobia are the way the Moors were driven out of the Iberian peninsula in the 1400s, after centuries of living in piece under Muslim rule and the various Crusades effected against Muslims; the systematic deportation and torture of Muslims and Jews during the Inquisition, the hostilities that took place during the times of the Ottomans and the atrocities committed against Muslims all over the world under the guidance of European colonists. Each of these examples of Islamophobia has its own characteristics and, apart from having their focus on Muslims and Islam, these all also have some elements in common.

Modern Islamophobia has several factors that have influenced its growth and widespread presence in twentieth century Europe. One would think that modern Islamophobia has its roots in terrorist attacks like the one on the World Trade Center in 2001. However, Islamophobia has its beginnings in the 1960s. Two of the most important factors that contributed to Islamophobia were the increasingly growing Muslim population in Western Europe and the rising economic power of Arab countries thanks to the abundance of oil on their territories. In the 1960s there were approximately 15 million Muslims living in European countries. In this historical period the West was also feeling hostility towards Arab nations due to the rising prices of oil and all the products derived from this substance. The economical power that was quickly being concentrated in the Middle East rapidly became a cause for alarm in the West.

The waves of terrorism that were unleashed as a backlash to the actions of the United States have further served to perpetuate misconceptions about Muslims and a worldwide feeling of anti-Muslim sentiment. In all periods of history Islamophobia has been characterized by an ignorance in the population regarding Islam and Muslims. While in the past the main justification to attack Muslims has been religious fear, the main reason has always been more related to politics and the desire for land and economic power. Today is no exception. Modern Islamophobia is also based on an ignorance of Islam; however, today the main fear through which Islamophobia is fomented is a fear of terrorism and extremist violence. However, the real motivations have not changed and it is quite obvious that the increasing economic power of Muslim nations, like in the past, plays an important part in modern Islamophobia.

-- Al Arabiya Digital