Let’s talk about Islamophobia…

Islamophobia can be defined as the prejudice towards or the discrimination against Muslims due to their religion or perceived religious, national, or ethnic identity associated with Islam. Like racism or any other types of discrimination; Islamophobia describes mentalities and actions that demean an entire class of people, similar to what African American, for example, faced throughout history.

In 1997, the concept became noticeable in discourse thanks to the publication of the report “Islamophobia: A challenge for us all”, written by a British race relations NGO: Runnymede trust.
In this report, Islamophobia is seen as being provoked by 8 constitutive components:

  1. Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change;
  2. Islam is seen as separate and “other”. It does not have values in common with other cultures/ religions, is not affected by them and does not influence them;
  3. Islam is seen as inferior to the so-called “West”. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist;
  4. Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a “clash of civilizations”;
  5. Islam is seen as a political ideology and used for political and military advantage;
  6. Criticisms made of the West by Islam are rejected out of hand;
  7. Hostility toward Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from ‘mainstream’ society;
  8. Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural or normal.

Daniel Tutt, a filmmaker, philosopher and interfaith activist with a focus on anti-Muslim bigotry has categorized Islamophobia into two branches:

  • The critical approach which can be explained as a systemic problem, generated by cultural and governmental discourses but also as a media discourse, and not as a subjective phenomenon in need of a “cure”.
  • The integrationist model which consists in a “general fear of the other” that requires the preparation of the conflictual relationship between one and “the other”;

These two models not only present a different point of view of the problem and therefore lead to different methods of prevention, each model also presents different theories of social change.

Moreover, even if lots of differences exist between the two models, we can notice some overlapping points. While the first one consists more in the concern about the content of an ideology or belief, the second consists in considering Islamophobia as a fear of otherness, of the unknown, which is usually tied to a lack of interpersonal relations and contact with Muslims in Western societies.

If we consider that Islamophobia comes from this lack of knowledge, the main strategies to prevent it are to be centred on education about Islam and on inciting the building of personal relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. But this is not always easy due to the fact that both “interpretations” of Islamophobia are very much linked and that sometimes the education about Islam which would respond to the integrationist model explaining Islamophobia is not done in a correct way and is influenced by the critical approach on Islamophobia. In this debate, one main factor can even be considered as contributing to the failure of this education: MEDIA.

Effectively, the NGO Runnymede Trust even affirms in its report that Islamophobic mindsets are controlled by the easily accessible resource of media. In Great Britain, for example, 74% of the people agree with their lack of knowledge about Islam and 64% confirmed that the only things that they know come from media, a danger knowing that many of the media statements about Islam are inaccurate and highly negative such as presenting it as an aggressive religion that supports violence, which is against human rights with inhuman rules, against women, against freedom, against science, development and technology, supporting terrorism, threatening the West and the future of Human Civilization in general.

To conclude, we see that Islamophobia is not an easy phenomenon to prevent and even more difficult in a world full of prejudices and stereotypes easily and quickly spread thanks to the growing use of technologies of information and communication such as internet, media, etc. By Charlotte Limborg

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