The issue of Islamophobia. One of the major challenges of today’s world is the issue of Islamophobia. In recent years, this phenomenon has assumed serious proportions and has become a major cause of concern for the Muslim world. As a result of this rising trend, Muslims, in the West in particular, are being stereotyped, profiled, and subjected to different forms of discriminatory treatment.
The most sacred symbols of Islam are being defiled and denigrated in an insulting, offensive, and contemptuous manner to incite hatred and unrest in society. While Islam, as the religion of peace and tolerance, affirms moderation and balance and rejects all forms of extremism and terrorism, the proponents of Islamophobia continue their campaign in defaming Islam and Muslims.
The Muslim Ummah has noticed with utmost concern the continued attacks by a section of marginal groups and individuals in the West on the most sacred symbols of Islam including the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad in an offensive and denigrating manner, the most recent being the reprints of the blasphemous cartoons by 17 Danish newspapers on February 13, 2008 and the release of the film Fitna by a Dutch Parliamentarian on March 27, 2008.
This apart, Muslims continue to be stereotyped, discriminated and profiled in many Western countries that have contributed to the issue. Many Muslims acknowledge that they themselves also need to do more to engage with wider society, to overcome the obstacles and difficulties that they face and to take greater responsibility for integration. However, engagement and participation need also encouragement and support from mainstream society that needs to do more to accommodate diversity and remove barriers to integration.
Political leaders and the institutions have a particular responsibility to send a clear message of respect to all communities and provide convincing answers. Now more than ever they must establish meaningful intercultural dialogue and promote practical initiatives to bring communities together and tackle prejudice, disaffection and marginalisation.
Policy responses need to acknowledge that Muslim communities in general have experienced long-standing discrimination, whether direct or indirect, which has impacted on employment opportunities, education standards and social marginalisation. Also the media can play an important role in enhancing mutual understanding between communities of different religions and beliefs, cultures and traditions. The media has much to gain from working more closely with civil society and faithbased organisations, to counter stereotyping.