Presentation on theme: "ISLAMOPHOBIA: NEW FORM of ANTI-SEMITISM ? (“Islamophobia: New Form of Anti-Semitism”, Leuven Academic Querterly, Brussels 2005) Mehmet GÖRMEZ Assoc. Prof."— Presentation transcript:
ISLAMOPHOBIA: NEW FORM of ANTI-SEMITISM ? (“Islamophobia: New Form of Anti-Semitism”, Leuven Academic Querterly, Brussels 2005) Mehmet GÖRMEZ Assoc. Prof. Vice President Of Religious Affairs
Dutch Prime Minister and current EU leader Jan Peter Balkenende warned sometime ago (in July 2004) that Europe must not let Islamophobia cloud a decision later this year on whether to start membership talks with Turkey. This means that here is serious concern that Islamophobia is an important threat for the future of Europe.
As a Muslim I note that whenever there is evidence of Islamophobia or hatred against Islam and Muslims the signs of anti-Semitism are also not far behind. Let us constantly remind ourselves that anti-Semitism is far from dead in Europe. Our greatest challenge as human beings today is to follow a method of critical independent thinking. Let us then keep critical independent thinking in dealing Islamophobia.
All racist discourses based on religion are interchangeable. This is the point behind the title of my talk here: Islamophobia: Another Form of Anti- Semitism. “In recent years a new word has gained currency… ‘Islamophobia’. It was coined in the late 1980s, its first known use in print being in February 1991, in a periodical in the United States. The word is not ideal, but is recognisably similar to ‘Europhobia’, and is a useful shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam –and, therefore, to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.
Is it any wonder that in Europe no Muslim community has survived except in former Ottoman ruled lands? Yet in all Muslim lands, Christianity, Judaism and other faiths have not only survived but flourished. The image of Europe as a tolerant civilization is recent. Europe has a history that is difficult to say that it has been able to tolerate people of different faiths and cultures in its midst. Its commitment to multiculturalism has yet to stand the test of time. Islamic civilization, however, has always been a multi- cultural one. The zimmi law, the people of the book are all the bases of this `multiculturalism. The spirit of this Islamic `multicultralism` can be best expressed in the following SAYING-Hadith of the Prophet of Islam: `Whoever takes `the Protected-Zimmi` person as enemy takes God as enemy`
To understand a prejudice you need to go to its roots. If European politicians and policy-makers genuinely wish to come to terms with Islamophobia then they must first take a good look at their own civilisation and its long and bitter history of conflict with Islam based on deliberate manipulation of Islam’s image for political, and religious purposes. All types of false and malicious allegations were laid against the fundamentals of Islam. The personality of the Prophet was attacked in ways that was not done even by the pagans of Makkah.
Muslims must also understand that history. In marked contrast to Christian attitudes to Islam, Muslims have historically respected Christianity as a sister religion that shares the same prophets and many of the same moral values. Muslims would welcome a rapprochement that heralded an end to Islamophobia. For this to be realised, however, Westerners have to shed their racism and face up to the realities of past and recent encounters between Muslims and Christians.
In a recent article in the New Statesman, Ziauddin Sardar gets to the heart of the matter when he writes that "the west's hatred of Islam stems from, more than anything else, the denial of its true lineage. The western world as we understand it is a child of Islam. Without Islam, the west - however we conceive it today - would not exist. And, without the west, Islam is incomplete and cannot survive the future."
Such dread and dislike have existed in western countries and cultures for several centuries. In the last twenty years, however, the dislike has become more explicit, more extreme and more dangerous.” Islamophobia is perpetuated by false media stereotypes of Muslims, especially after the events of September 11, Compared to Europe, Islamophobia has evidently a much harsher and more repulsive face in the United States by conjugated action of latent ignorance of the American People on this subject, Zionist glorification and the events of September 11.
It is not intrinsically phobic or prejudiced, of course, to disagree with or to disapprove of Muslim beliefs, laws or practices. Adherents of other world faiths disagree with Muslims on points of theology and religious practice. By the same token, agnostics and secular humanists disagree with Muslims, as with all religious believers, on basic issues. In a liberal democracy it is inevitable and healthy that people will criticise and condemn, sometimes robustly, opinions and practices with which they disagree.
It is legitimate to criticise policies and practices of Muslim states and regimes, for example, especially when their governments do not subscribe to internationally recognised human rights, freedoms and democratic procedures, or to criticise and condemn terrorist movements which claim to be motivated by Islamic values. Similarly, it is legitimate to criticise the treatment of women in some Muslim countries, or the views and attitudes which some Muslims have towards ‘the West’, or towards other world faiths. Debates, arguments and disagreements on all these issues take place just as much amongst Muslims, it is important to recognise, as between Muslims and non-Muslims.
How, then, can one tell the difference between legitimate criticism and disagreement on the one hand and Islamophobia, or unfounded prejudice and hostility, on the other ?
In order to begin answering this question it is useful to draw a key distinction between closed views of Islam on the one hand and open views of Islam on the other. Phobic dread of Islam is the recurring characteristic of closed views. Legitimate disagreement and criticism, as also appreciation and respect, are aspects of open views.
In the following tabulation, ( taken from the 1997 Islamophobia Report by the Runnymede Trust, an independent research and social policy agency in UK ) eight main features of closed views are itemised, and contrasted in each instance with eight main features of open views. A disadvantage of such tabulations is that the various points which are itemised, each in its own tidy little box, can appear separate from each other. In point of fact closed views feed off each other, giving and gaining additional resonance and power and giving each other kickstarts, as it were – they are joined together in vicious circles, each making the others worse. Also they sometimes provide codes for each other, such that whenever one of them is explicitly expressed some of the others may also be present, tacitly between the lines. Similarly it happens that open views feed off each other, and give each other additional clarity – they interact in virtuous circles, each making the others stronger and more productive.
The biggest obstacle in challenging Islamophobia, is the lack of monitoring on the basis of religion, the lack of hard information and statistics on the experience of Muslims.
In the academia
SOLUTIONS 1.In all faith communities there should be closer connections between anti-racism and work to improve inter-faith relations. 2.Legislation should be introduced prohibiting direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of religion or belief. 3.A statement of general principles should be drawn up on reasonable accommodation in relation to religion and cultural diversity in the workplace and in schools, and case-study examples of good practice should be provided. 4.A study should be made of the police responses to hate crimes containing a religious component. 5.A network on the role of religion in the public life of a multi-faith society should be set up to make recommendations on legal and constitutional matters. 6.For example, Erasmus Projects should be encouraged to this end.
Dear Friends, in concluding, My humble message to share with you would be this: “If we want to construct a new civilisation of peace without the clash of civilisations and ethnic-racist ideologies… THEN what we need is NOT another Enlightenment theory but a worldwide approach of Love, Mercy, and Compassion for the Other.”