Islamophobia is defined as the irrational fear and intolerance of Muslims. But is it really irrational and baseless? Most Muslims are critical about the suspicions, concerns and sometimes prejudiced attitudes displayed toward them because of their religious identity, but how much are we -as Muslims- responsible for these false ideas and misconceptions about Islam? And do we genuinely take into consideration the justified reasons behind this fear and take steps to eliminate them?
The concerns in the Western world are primarily based on these kind of people; People who want to “convert” non-Muslims compulsively or coerce them to live in a specific way in societies where there is a majority Muslim population, or persecute non-Muslims, or use terrorism or violence to reach their goals. The aforementioned are crimes that Islam clearly opposes and anyone resorting these cruel methods are also proving that they are not true Muslims. Then who are they? I call them ‘bigots.’
Today bigotry, backwardness, radicalism, fanaticism or extremism -with whichever term you describe it- is the biggest problem confronting the Muslim world. It is a huge threat, spreading like a virus, ruining otherwise good people, stripping them of their humanity and turning them into loveless, violent, rigid extremists. That is why so many in the world have an openly hostile, or at least deeply ambivalent attitude towards Islam and Muslims.
Bigotry, which is one of the greatest barriers to beauty, love, friendship and happiness, is an all too prevalent common mentality. Every religion, every thought, every ideology has their bigots and fanatics; however the Muslim world has been wrestling with the dangers of bigotry and radicalism for far too long and on far too wide a scale. Were this simply a localized issue, confined to a single tariqah (school of thought) or an isolated geographic location, the issue could be resolved easily enough. What we have seen, however, is a virulent strain of fanaticism that has been unleashed across the Islamic world and has spread with the rapidity of a pandemic. Fanatics who claim to be Muslims have introduced their pseudo-religion made up of their own rules as Islam; in truth, this false religion has no relation to Islam whatsoever. Since bigots are those broadly defined as those who assert that they are Muslims but do not practice the true tenets of Islam, one can also look at the descriptions about hypocrites in the Qur'an to understand them more clearly.
They both might carry identity cards that states “Islam” on them, but there are very indicative qualities of these bigoted mindsets, and these attributes will discriminate them from true Muslims. As I tell my non-Muslim friends, “Do not try to understand Islam by looking at the bigots, instead learn Islam from those true Muslims who live by Islam in compliance with the spirit of the Quran.”
To highlight but a few of the differences;
While a Muslim is joyful, open and full of life, a bigot is sulky, with no expression of love in his/her eyes.
While a Muslim likes everything that is beautiful, appreciates a woman’s value and loves all living beings, a bigot hates women, and is against beauty in general.
While a Muslim likes the arts and has a very strong sense of aesthetics, a bigot not only disdains the arts and aesthetics, but actively opposes them.
While a Muslim attaches great importance to science and contributes to scientific progress, a bigot is against science.
Perhaps what is most important for everyone to know is that a Muslim is loving, compassionate and sincerely desires peace, love and friendship to be the prevailing moral values. On the other hand, a bigot is aggressive, full of hatred and rage, and they see violence, the use of brute force, war and conflict as sacred concepts.
As known to the Western world, bigots are hostile towards Christians and Jews nor do they tolerate different schools of thoughts. Bigots are also against music, dance, joy and laughing; they are usually poorly groomed and filthy; they don’t appreciate or aim for high quality either in their manners nor in the way they look. In contrast, a Muslim brings quality of life to wherever he enters, and takes pleasure in beautifying the world.
Moreover, while a Muslim uses his wisdom and thinks deeply, a bigot does not reason, and rather acts in compliance with the dogmas he has learned by heart, and offers a completely different perspective on religion; these dogmas, on close examination, are frequently found to be swarming with superstitions and inventions that are in complete contradiction with the true faith.
Because of this bigoted mindset, Islamophobia has taken hold throughout world. A human model that does not delight in art, kindness or beauty, that has a harsh and narrow mindset, is of course not only a threat to the West, but to the Muslims as well. For me, being a Muslim means being of the highest level of modernity, most knowledgeable, finest thinking, most joyful, most outward-looking and loving person in the world, someone who beautifies his surroundings, delights in beauty and is full of an internal fervor.
Of course, the world would never accept such a system that bans happiness, belittles women, and disregards quality and beauty. So what do these people offer? No music, no art, no sculpture, no quality people, no quality of life, no compliments, no nice words, no positive atmosphere, no beautiful architecture, no democracy, no freedom of thought, no happy people, and we can continue to count these “nos” almost infinitely.
What is more, they bring compulsion, coercion, suppression, violence and bloodshed! So as a call to my Muslim brothers and sisters, we need to make it very clear to the world -particularly to Jews and Christians- that we are their friends, that Muslims do not shed blood, that they are well-intentioned and loving. We should make them forget about crazed fanatics wielding swords and axes when they hear the word Muslim. For that reason, we need to show people how enlightened and peaceful Muslims are when Islam is embraced in its pure form and lived with its true spirit removed from superstitions and innovations.
The world needs to not just hear but also witness how values such as love, affection, compassion, respect, profound thought and sincerity lie at the heart of Islam. If we make this clear to the world, the feeling of threat and the need of being guarded toward and doubtful about Muslims will change. And hopefully, the world's policies will change too.