Understanding and countering Western Islamophobia

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

James Compton Bockmeir

Dhu al-Hijjah 05, 1421 2001-03-01

Features

by James Compton Bockmeir (Features, Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 1, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1421)

It is no secret that the media and political establishment in North America are viciously anti-Islamic. This continent’s power elite is obsessed with the Islamic movement, insisting on projecting it as the new “threat” replacing communism. So the power elite has used its control of the media to spread anti-Islamic propaganda to the masses, who unfortunately are taken in by it. Fear of Islam has spread among the public throughout North America, as indeed in much of Europe. This pervasive fear of Islam has been described as “Islamophobia” by many Muslim commentators.

While the pervasiveness of Islamophobia is unquestionable, there is much confusion in the Ummah about its root cause. Some Muslims attribute the North American establishment’s Islamophobia merely to lack of proper education about Islam; others insist that Islamophobia is the result of too much Jewish influence in America. How far do these theories explain the extent and intensity of Islamophobia?

Perhaps the most popular theory is that western leaders fear Islam simply because they do not understand it. Accordingly, then, people would get over their fear of the “other” once they become familiar with it. At first glance this explanation appears to make some sense. The basic phenomenon is after all a common occurrence verifiable by both modern psychology and experience.

Upon closer scrutiny, however, this theory reveals a significant flaw:, Islamophobia is not limited to those who are uneducated about Islam. Most members of the establishment who are well versed in comparative religion are just as antagonistic to Islam and the Islamic movement as their less knowledgeable compatriots. Given these Islamophobic tendencies even among educated and informed groups, the theory that Islamophobia is attributable to lack of knowledge becomes problematic. It is partially correct, but fails to provide an adequate explanation.

A similarly prevalent yet far more flawed misconception among Muslims is that Islamophobia is primarily the result of Jewish influence. According to this theory, Jews have used their wealth and influence to swindle America’s leaders into scapegoating Islam, thus justifying the zionist occupation of Palestine. Is this correct? True, North American Jewry is extremely wealthy and powerful, although politically it is considered incorrect to say so. Nonetheless, it is simplistic for Muslims to place the blame for Islamophobia entrely on Jewish shoulders. Jews are indeed wealthy and influential in relation to their small numbers, but they still control only a fraction of the world’s wealth and power. Jews do not command as much wealth as the Muslim Ummah does, and certainly not as much as America’s Gentile population.

Given such limited manpower and resources, how could the Jews possibly be primarily responsible for the epidemic of North American Islamophobia? They would have to possess superhuman intelligence, cunning and expertise to wield so much influence and control. Islamophobia cannot simply be a product of Jewish influence; nor does it result merely from lack of education. What factors, then, can adequately explain this plague of Islamophobia?

There is one factor which principally accounts for Islamophobia in North America: corporate greed. This continent’s power elite sees the Islamic movement as the new threat because it threatens their financial and material interests. Islam’s insistence on social justice threatens the vested interests of western capitalists. Although Islam allows private ownership of businesses, the Shari’ah mandates that such ownership be managed for the public good of the stakeholders (i.e. workers and the local community). As Allah tells all the people of the earth, and not just a wealthy few, “It is He who hath created for you all things that are on earth . . .” (the Qur’an: 2:29).

Western multinational corporations refuse to come to terms with the Islamic movement’s demand that their companies be justly administered to serve the public good. The Islamic Revolution in Iran as well as the Libyan government, by using oil revenues to benefit their people rather than western multinationals, have already challenged western capitalist interests. The western capitalists, along with their clients in government and the media, are terrified of possible Islamic revolutions in Palestine, the Gulf states and Indonesia because such change would curtail their rapacious greed. Their avarice explains the intensity of Islamophobia in North America and Europe.

It is unrealistic to hope that the Ummah can win over North America’s corporate power elite, nor is this desirable at this stage. Doing so is not simply a matter of educating politicians and the media; nor is it simply a matter of breaking some fictitious death-grip the Jews supposedly have on America. Rather, the problem lies with the nature of the American socioeconomic system. Until this system is toppled, the mainstream media and political establishment will remain Islamophobic.

There is always reason for hope, however. While it may be impossible to cure North America’s power elite of its Islamophobia, the Ummah can appeal to the continent’s anti-corporate movement. By education and dialogue, Muslims can help these anti-corporate elements to rise above Islamophobic tendencies that the power elite have instilled in them. In the process, the Ummah stands to gain both new allies and new Muslims.

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