By Muhammed Tauqeer

It’s been 20 years since the devastating 9/11 attack, an event that left black mark on the Muslim world forever. While thousands of families of the victims were shattered on one hand, it changed the society irreversibly on the other hand, leaving Muslims across the world subject to stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination. Though this prejudice was certainly not invented after 9/11 but its aftereffects definitely normalised bigotry and mainstreamed Islamophobia.

There are hundreds of well-documented articles giving account of how innocent Muslims faced profiling, excessive screening at airports, bullying, workplace discrimination, intimidation, physical assault, vandalism, and murder. The official data of US government obtained from FBI UCR website also clearly establishes the multi-fold spike in hate crimes reported against Muslims post 9/11.

The hate crimes against Muslims have been consistently increasing all over the world but hardly anybody speaks up against it. What this shows is that the prejudice and bias is so deep rooted that the society does not even empathise with victims, let alone standing up for them; a sign that the Islamophobic narrative succeeded in normalising discrimination.

The prejudice and discrimination against Muslims is not limited to one country but widespread across the globe and have reached “epidemic proportions”. While rioting, exodus and displacement of Muslims is not new, recent events in last couple of decades indicate that Islamophobia is not just a random individual reaction but several countries have legitimised it by institutionalising the discrimination through laws like ban on Hijab, ban on fasting, creation of concentration camps, etc.

The rise of right wing throughout the world riding the wave of Islamophobia is alarming. Even the multi-cultural society like India is not spared by this wave, of which the seeds were sown long before the Independence. The significant turn of events post Babri Masjid demolition like riots, bomb blasts, and terrorist attacks towards the end of the 20th century led to sharp communal divide in the society. Ghettoization, separation of localities and not renting houses to people from other faith was just a beginning of what was yet to come. Incidents of mob lynching, triple talaq bill, CAA-NRC bill, etc. have further shaken the society to its core, resulting in irreversible damage.

It would be naive to think only Muslims are affected by such incidents of discrimination and prejudice. What is noteworthy is that other types of discrimination are typically limited or localised whereas Islamophobia is a global phenomenon cutting across continents, cultures and societies. Whining about Islamophobia for eternity won’t serve any purpose and won’t ever change the situation of the society; instead what is required is to understand its causes and address them consciously.

CAUSES OF ISLAMOPHOBIA

Islamic civilization is distinct; for, it builds society in a certain way that results in Muslims appearing different from their peer groups in the way they clothe, the way they eat, the way they believe, the way they celebrate, the way they marry, the way they trade and the way they carry Islamic viewpoint for everything. Though the Islamic rule was destroyed long ago, the culture in Muslim societies still exhibits traces of Islamic Civilization and Islamic Principles.

Unlike the world claims, Muslims do integrate with others, however the sharp difference stands out when there is an issue which conflicts their beliefs making others think that they do not adopt and do not assimilate seamlessly. Moreover, the misinformation (or lack of information for that matter) about Islam, the exaggerated issues of population growth and conversion have developed cultural insecurities amongst others.

Populist politics in secular democracies has made the matters worse because policies in such a system can never be neutral when the electoral fate is in the hands of majority. It is therefore obvious that the politicians will exploit cultural insecurities of the majority community for their political benefits. The riots before every election, concocting issues of Love Jihad and Corona Jihad are perfect examples of how the narrative against Muslims is manufactured to build favourable public opinion repeatedly to attain electoral mandate.

Print, Digital and Social Media have also played a crucial role in building this narrative using the isolated criminal incidents involving Muslims; portraying entire community in bad light. In an effort to spice up trivial issues, TRP hungry channels blow them out of proportion. An insignificant priest in Kerala making an absurd claim about “Narcotics Jihad” makes national headline; isn’t that a proof of how easy it is to get into limelight by simply bullying Muslims? These Islamophobic sound bites are never backed by any data to link them to Muslims, but are very maliciously designed to spur hatred against Muslim community.

Islamophobia is a result of manufactured hatred to benefit the powerful seeking majority’s support. A simple proof of it is the fact that those who indulge in Islamophobic remark or provocative actions are hardly brought to justice. Rather it becomes a stepping stone for them to rise in popularity in a  polarised society, where the majority are fed with the manufactured fear of the Muslim. Remember, the Fear sells. The politicians today seem incapable of winning elections without peddling Islamophobia.

(to be concluded)

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