It is open season on Muslims. There is hardly a country in the world where Muslims do not face genocide, racist attacks, ethnic cleansing, and abuse. If Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are the latest group to join a long list of victims, others such as the Kashmiris and Palestinians who have suffered at the hands of Hindu Nazis and Zionists respectively have preceded them by decades.
Vile propaganda against Muslims has become the norm; branded as “terrorists,” millions have been killed worldwide since 2001. Places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have become synonymous with death and destruction. Add to that Yemen where so-called Muslims (Bani Saud) are busy slaughtering other Muslims as well as starving them to death. Cholera stalks the alleyways of villages and towns in Yemen affecting at least 500,000 people, mostly children.
This is the case in the Muslim world. There is an equally sinister campaign underway in the West. It would be wrong to assume that it started in America with the rise of the foul-mouthed bigot, Donald Trump. Islamophobia has been raging in Europe and North America long before 9/11; it has gained public acceptability since. A raft of Muslim-specific laws was passed in many countries. Even Canada, considered a model of multiculturalism, has not escaped the ill wind of Islamophobia.
Last month, the French-speaking province of Quebec passed Bill 62 prohibiting government services to Muslim women wearing the niqab because it is a religious symbol in a “secular” Quebec! The province has no problem with a huge crucifix installed behind the speaker’s chair in the National Assembly. So much for Quebec’s religious neutrality; hypocrisy and Islamophobia have no limits.
The racist Islamophobic bill was proposed and passed by the ruling Liberal Party. The opposition Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois berated the Liberals for not going far enough. Perhaps, they wanted niqab-wearing Muslim women to be stoned to death! The poster-boy “Sunny Ways” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also tiptoed through the issue, refusing to take a clear stand on a bill that is targeting a tiny minority of Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab. In Canada, women can go topless — and are protected by the law — but they cannot cover their faces as a matter of choice.
If a supposedly progressive province like Quebec can pass such a regressive law, what hope is there for Muslims in Alberta, home to racists and bigots like Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney, and Andrew Scheer. At a time when Canada is coming to terms with the crimes it committed against its Indigenous people, Islamophobia continues to rage, receiving official patronage.
Across the Atlantic, Europeans continue to display their customary racism, now targeting Muslims. People in Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, and Austria have provided massive support to anti-immigrant parties that openly declare Islam has no place in their societies. The British Home Office reported last month 80,000 hate crimes in one year. In September, the racist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), gained seats in the German parliament, the first in 90 years, garnering 21.5% of the popular vote. There was even more bad news from Austria when the anti-Muslim Freedom Party came a close third in last month’s election winning 26% of the popular vote. The leading party, the People’s Party, gained 31.5%.
Why are people flocking to anti-Muslim parties in such large numbers? The simplistic answer would be that there are terrorist acts being perpetrated by Muslims riling up ordinary people. The reality is rather different. In almost all cases of terrorism, the security and intelligence agencies are fully aware of the perpetrators before they carry out such acts. Why they are not apprehended before the crimes are committed is a question the intelligence agencies refuse to answer.
There is a parallel reality that is also conveniently ignored. When a white, non-Muslim person perpetrates a terrorist act as happened with Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas last month, it is not called a terrorist act. Paddock was described as a “lone wolf” and “nutcase” but perish the thought if anyone calls him a terrorist even though he perpetrated the worst bloodbath in recent American history.
Islamophobia is a policy deliberately promoted for ulterior motives. Western regimes are always in need of “enemies” to divert attention from failing economies at home and justify warmongering policies abroad. Numerous Muslim countries are under attack resulting in millions of innocent deaths. The West is supposedly fighting the “bad guys.” If Muslims in the West are seen as hardworking law-abiding citizens, it would be difficult to sell their war-mongering agenda and justify huge military budgets.
Islamophobia is part and parcel of the West’s policy of perpetual war.
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT).