Although the fear known as “Islamophobia” emerged across the globe in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, its roots go back to the Crusades, or even earlier.
Islam has now spread across the world: Muslims represent 6 percent of the population of Europe, more than 45 million. By 2050, Muslims are estimated to make up some 20 percent of the population and one in five people in Europe will be a Muslim — some of the main reasons for the rise in Islamophobia among Europeans in recent years.
However, the real trigger behind the rise in Islamophobia is the radical terror groups that have emerged in the name of Islam.
These radical organizations, with their perverse mind-sets, far removed from the essence of Islam, have caused fear and hatred of Islam.
Various circles opposed to Islam played the most effective role in planting this fear into people’s minds and virtually led to a cottage industry of Islamophobic talk and activities and to the emergence of a security, intelligence and industrial apparatus worth trillions of dollars.
The concept of “Islamic terror” in almost all areas of social life and the deliberate inculcation of Islamophobia in world political centers is intended to prevent the rise of the Islamic world, which possesses economic and financial power centers, major energy resources and underground wealth.
The policies adopted by Western governments, especially after Sept. 11, 2001, which generally targeted Muslims, and the laws passed in that context, accelerated the growth of Islamophobia.
Extreme right-wing parties play a major role in encouraging opposition to Islam. These parties use Islamophobic speech to gather votes and grow strong on the back of it.
The National Democratic Party in Germany, the National Front in France, Pim Fortuyn List in the Netherlands, the Northern League in Italy, the Freedom Party in Austria and the Danish People’s Party in Denmark are some of the far-right parties with significant shares of the vote in Europe. These parties target Muslim migrants in particular.
Muslim migrants in Europe have to strive against xenophobia as well as Islamophobia.
The ethnocentric mentality that regards them as different, excludes and despises them and subjects them to physical and psychological attacks on the grounds that migrants threaten their cultural and social lives, is on the rise in many European countries.
Attacks along the lines of physical beatings, stones thrown at mosques and workplaces, the throwing of Molotov cocktails, the beating of employers and workers, swastikas and insulting slogans being written on walls, the vandalism of cemeteries, attacks on homes and families being beaten and threatened and verbal harassment, are some of the things that Muslims in Europe are frequently subjected to.
However, like all other migrants, Muslims are people who leave their own homes and seek to integrate into the countries they go to, making great economic contributions to their new societies.
Discrimination and hostility toward them is surely incompatible with human rights and modern democracy, as well as being unjust and intolerant.
However, it would be equally wrong to consider hostility toward Islam and Muslims in Europe under a single category. People who think that Muslims are taking jobs and other benefits away from Westerners, those who deliberately play on these concerns to encourage hostility toward Islam and Muslims, those who think that increasing numbers of Muslims will eliminate Christianity and/or degenerate Western culture and those who equate Islam with terror and radicalism must all be considered separately.
There is only one way of overcoming all these fears; true Muslims must describe their faith with patience and moderation and explain and show that an Islam purged of all nonsense is modern, compatible with science, democracy and logic, enlightened, progressive, opposes terror and commands love, brotherhood and peace.
They must explain that Muslims have no intention of doing away with Christianity and that the Koran praises Christians.
They must explain that the mentality equated with terror, slaughter and suicide attacks, that is against art, science and all beauty and that is hostile to other faiths derives not from Islam, but from deluded fanatics.
Under the influence of fringe fanatics, Westerners imagine that Islam rejects reason, tolerance and modernity and advocates terror and radicalism, and that Islamic values are incompatible with democracy and human rights.
Muslims must therefore engage in a systematic consciousness-raising campaign, bearing in mind that misinformation is perhaps the main cause of Islamophobia, that many people who fear Islam know very little about it and that much of what they think they know is untrue.
The West, which boasts of the importance it attaches to democracy and human rights and how it treats all beliefs equally, also has a major responsibility.
The first thing the West needs to do is introduce legal measures against Islamophobic and racist activities. Islamophobia must be regarded as a hate crime in the same way that anti-Semitism is.
The West’s priority must be to develop a culture based on love, respect, friendship and brotherhood, without despising those who are not from it.
Western countries, international organizations and civil society organizations must all demonstrate sensitivity on this subject.
It is a matter of the greatest urgency in terms of world peace for new laws to be introduced and for the public to be educated so new generations are freed of these prejudices to emerge.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Jakarta Post & Malaysian Insider: