Islamophobia means fear of Islam. This fear is real; it exists in places where Islam is the majority religion; also in places where the practitioners of the religion are a minority but allegedly try to attain majority by such means as hurried reproduction, strenuous proselytization and violence. This is not to suggest that Hinduphobia is absent among Muslims in some parts of India or Christianphobia does not exist in the United States or Russia, but Islamophobia has a profound impact on most parts of the world.
Thus Islamophobia rests on several factors :
That historically, there was real fear of Islam of the 9th to 12th centuries, with its superior knowledge of science, war strategy, intrinsic barbarity (that matched Christian barbarity of the time), would overwhelm Christianity and conquer entire Europe. The annexation of Spain and conquest of Southern parts of Europe demonstrated that the fear was valid. It was the Papacy, which had the most to lose materially and spiritually (which was the same for the Popes of the time) that set off the crusades and finally contained Islam to its own land south of the Mediterranean except Turkey and parts of Eastern Europe. Spain was ‘liberated to replace Islamic jizya with far more criminal Christian inquisition, further nurturing violent hatred for Islam as well as Judaism. Jews where largely annihilated in the process. In later centuries, when Christian Europe developed better technologies (no doubt derived from Islamic knowledge of better arithmetic, Indo-Arabic numerals and Chinese gun powder, paper and lithography) and took to overseas trade, the successful Christian efforts of colonising the East – India and further East – aggravated the mutual hatred. While the Islamic conquerors of the East were no doubt brutal beyond measure and the Christians were only marginally better, the latter managed to exaggerate the Islamic barbarity in the history books of the newly conquered colonies. This exacerbated the Hindu phobia of Islam.
Modern trend towards Islamophobia is largely one of Muslims’ own making. Most Christians, even much of the clergy, learnt the benefits of a secular outlook after the useless world wars (where the victors – except the still violent US – lost all and the losers rose quickly from the ashes). This refreshing outlook was further escalated (except in parts of America where pastors and evangelists hold sway) by the new findings of science that questioned the inherited concept of a flat earth and orbiting sun and the moon. On the other hand Islam, in the sublime belief that their Quran contained all the knowledge that was necessary for man, still wallowing in primitive cultural concepts, refused to notice the paradigm shift in human civilization and individual enlightenment. Instead, the Islamic clergy, like the Popes of the dark ages, refuse to let go their hold on the faithful, and try to spread the primitivism of their religion. The gullibility infused from childhood in the heavily charged religious atmosphere of a Muslim household makes it easy for even the educated to entertain the fantasy that there is a heaven waiting for their kind and eternal fire and brimstone for the rest.
The causes of the modern Islamic phobia are many:
- Terrorism. Religious terrorism was not invented by Muslims, but they have been largely, very largely the practitioners of it on the ground during the recent decades. That this tendency to terrorize others – even at the of one’s own life – have many root causes. First and foremost, fear of the West (which Islam sees as Christianity) with its superior weapons and seeming attempts at indirect colonization by stationing their troops in Muslim soil and appropriating Allah’s special gift to Islam – Oil. Secondly, the exhortation in the Quran to spread the religion by the sword (jihad). Thirdly, and most stupidly, the indoctrination through Hadiths as well as Quranic exhortations that there are incredible rewards awaiting the jihadists in heaven. One such hadith promises (a) that the jihadists who die for Islam will be forgiven all his sins with the first wound; (b) he will not have to wait till Qayamah (final judgment) to enter heaven; that he would enter heaven made of pearls and gold and (c) he can enjoy 72 houries of eternal virginity while 80,000 slaves would wait on him; (d) his blood relations up to 70 would be forgiven their sins. If you had been rendered credulous through constant indoctrination at home and in Madrasas, these enticements are adequate to make a murdering jihadi out of a courteous and god-fearing young man. Islamic Jihadism through mass murder (of innocents and assassination (of questioners) is for real. Terrorism does exist in other religions – church shootings, sporadic killing for racial religious or linguistic differences, murder of journalists and others for their views – but they are far more sporadic and (so far) few in nature. Bride burning and female foeticide as well as infanticide still happen in the Hindu India, selectively practised by many Christians and Muslims. Hugely indoctrinated Hindus, with natural goons for company, roam the streets of many cities and towns in India to spread terror on those who are accused of killing, eating, even handling, their sacred cows. This trend, which is tacitly encouraged by those in authority, is sure to give rise to a new brand of Islamic terrorism sooner than later in India where, for the moment, it lies low.
- Massive immigration. Recent exodus from the Middle East, Africa and other places is not due to internal conflicts in Islam (although it is also a contributing factor), but the incessant bombing of civilian areas by the United States, its slavish western allies, Saudi Arabia (mainly with a view to eradicate shia-ism), Iran (to reinstate shia-ism), Russia (to fish in troubled waters and to stem the rising power of the United States in the Middle East). Muslims enter foreign shores as humble refugees, but soon demand their rights to practice their religion and culture as they pleased.
- Cultural conquest. Once the recently civilized western population concedes these demands, quite a few of the immigrants demand and obtain their citizenship rights, and then attack the local culture for its ‘decadent’ and vulgar ways, and demand that others follow their ‘superior’ ways. They form colonies; firstly demand that they be allowed to practice the brutal and primitive laws (Sharia) of their religion. The impression is that for every concession that the local civilization makes to the new entrants, they take two.
- Conquest by reproduction. While Muslims are the most who die or suffer through aerial bombing by the West and its local allies, diseases, fratricidal wars, cruel methods of execution and application of the Sharia law in Islamic countries, animosity in such places as Burma, internal rebellion, suicide bombing, even natural calamities (Central Asia, Indonesia etc.), they are alleged to be trying to overwhelm the world by faster rate of reproduction than any other people. This, while the Christians of the West and Hindus of South Asia are trying to limit their own population through artificial means.
- Public owning up of murder, terrorist violence and suicide bombings. Islamic terrorists own up, even when they have nothing to do with it, violence that are carried out by individual aspirants to Jhadi heaven or those who seek personal revenge or some who are merely insane.
- Bogey of Racism and discrimination. Once settled in in a host country, many Muslims demand their rights to say their prayers out in the open on public places and roads, their women’s rights to enter any place -even offices – as fully covered walking tents in their burqa thereby endangering security, or to wear fully clothed “burkini’ to swimming pools and beaches.
- Invasion in jurisprudence : Once settled, Muslim leadership demands that they be allowed to practice Sharia law among themselves – and often air the intention to extend it to the whole host nation once they are in power. Although many of these are laws that are enshrined in all Abrahamic religions, but have become repugnant to modern civilization – amputation for theft, beheading for more serious crime, capital punishment for leaving the religion (apostasy) or criticizing the Prophet or the contents of the Quran (blasphemy), stoning (of women) for suspected or vengefully alleged infidelity, inequality by law in judicial acceptance of evidence given by male versus female witnesses and general misogynic practices.
- Unjustified paranoia. I have often noticed during flights that when a man with a beard, skull cap and ankle-length achkan stands up in the aisle, there is a look of fear in the eyes of many of his fellow passengers. The man could be as gentle as a lamb, but he carries the burden of a history of hijackings and midair violence that once ended up in 7/11, but continues in the schools, mosques, restaurants and malls.
Not all Muslims are culpable for these deviations, but more often than not, all Muslims get stamped as Jihadists. Islamophobia is for real; it exists even among Muslims. When my young bachelor friend Aziz wanted to rent a flat in a Muslim colony in Bombay, a reference from me with my Hindu name helped.
“You know, I want to live with my family in peace. These young guys get into trouble with the police with their new-fangled ideas of jihad,” the landlord explained.