Islamophobia – The Dynamics of Hate
Islamophobia is described by the Oxford English Dictionary as, “Intense dislike or fear of Islam, especially as a political force; hostility or prejudice toward Muslims.” First coined in the 1980s, and later popularized by the Runnymede Trust in 1997, Islamophobia is a term now used to describe how Muslims are being stereotyped or “racialized” in the West, especially if they are recent immigrants from countries perceived as hostile to the host country. As such it denigrated Muslims and must be seen as a form of racism and racial discrimination.
Process of Racialization
Key to understanding Islamophobia is understanding “racialization”. Racializationidentifies a group as “different” and segregates it by creating an unassailable divide between “them” and “us”. The next step is to concoct a conspiracy theory of “them” taking over “us”. Thus Islam is portrayed as basically foreign and unacceptable in Christian Europe and the US, as it seeks conquest and world dominance.
Professor Edward Said in his widely-acclaimed book “Orientalism”, which takes its name from a study by Western scholars of peoples in the “Orient” – Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East, says that the study painted these people as exotic “others”, radically different and inferior to Western civilization, and depicts them as essentially primitive, irrational, violent, despotic and fanatic, making them, especially Muslims, a threat to Western societies. This bigoted view is still prevalent and shapes the responses of Western people, including leaders and media to Muslims and their civilization.
Despite the actual diversity within Muslim communities, their religion, ethnicities and cultural practices are hotchpotch to paint a draw, homogenous sketch, in which violence, extremism, and terrorism are standout features. This process of racialization is not new and has precedents throughout history. There are clear similarities in the portrayal of Jews as a “different” group in the late 19th century, highlighting their genetic difference from Europeans, apparently ill-gotten prosperity and perceived conspiratorial tendencies that first led to the rise of widespread social discrimination and eventual political persecution by Nazi fascists.
However, where the Western world has sought to right its wrongs by vehemently proscribing anti-Semitism to the extent of criminalizing any denial of the Holocaust – in a hypocritical contravention of its favorite theme of freedom of speech – it has failed abjectly in according the same intellectual, social and political protection to Muslims in its midst.