Here Are Some Ways To Combat Islamophobia

Here Are Some Ways To Combat Islamophobia

On 15 March 2019 a gunman opened fire on Muslim worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, leaving at least 50 people dead and 50 wounded. Prior to the attacks, the 28-year-old Australian suspect Brenton Tarrant posted a manifesto on Twitter called “The Great Replacement”, which expressed Islamophobic and white supremacist views.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wrote on Twitter how this “extraordinary act of unprecedented violence” has “no place in New Zealand” and at a later press conference she said it has no “place in the world”.

In the wake of this terrible attack, we scoured the Internet for advice on ways to combat the global phenomenon of Islamophobia. Islamophobia can be described as the fear, hatred of, or prejudice against, the Islamic religion or Muslims generally, especially when seen as a geopolitical force or the source of terrorism. Here’s what we found:

  1. Self-Education is Key

“Education is without doubt the best vaccine against discrimination”, says Edward Ahmed Mitchell of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Not just “enhancing understanding of Islam” but also learning about the mechanics of hatred, which America’s Southern Law Policy Center says is its “responsibility”. Where has the discriminatory hate come from? How does it manifest itself? What strategies are its purveyors using? This can help to contextualize and de-dramatize the sometimes sensationalist tactics of purveyors of hateful discriminatory messages. This can, in turn, enable constructive thinking on effective strategies to combat these mechanisms.

2. Get to Know People of Different Faiths and Backgrounds

Surveys conducted in the United States between 2001 and 2015 show that Americans who know Muslims are more likely to have a favourable view of Muslims, while those who don’t know any Muslims are more likely to hold a negative view of the community. Edward Mitchell says that this polling data “confirms the obvious”. While he says interfaith dialogue is becoming increasingly common, too often it’s happening among “progressive religious communities already inclined to get along with people of different faiths”. Muslim organizations, in Mitchell’s view, should not hesitate to dialogue with more conservative religious and political groups. Equally, the polling data shows how important it is for inter-cultural understanding for all people to get to know people of different faiths.

3. Change the Narrative – The Muslim Community as Media Commentator

Dr. Sahar Khamis at the University of Maryland’s Department of Communication says encouraging more young Muslims to study and practice journalism can help to combat Islamophobia because this may lead to a “better, more nuanced and realistic representation of Muslims in all media venues.”

Here are three great blogs run by members of the Muslim community to get you started:

·      The Zirkus – online magazine projecting the voices of muslim women run in the UK by Zinah Nur Sharif.

·      Muslim Girl – online magazine created by self-proclaimed Jersey girl Amani al-Khatahtbeh whose childhood became marred by Islamophobia post 9/11. It features posts by young Muslim women about all aspects of their lives.

·      Muslim Matters - online magazine started in 2007 in order to bring attention to issues faced by Muslims, especially in the West.  Covers Religion, Society, Ethics, Sex Education, Politics, Civil Rights, Family, as well as  “random issues that pop up from now and then, all with some ranting and humor mixed in.”

4. Increased Muslim Political Representation

Ilhan Omar speaking at the University of Minnesota in 2016

Ilhan Omar speaking at the University of Minnesota in 2016

Edward Mitchell of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says the election of President Kennedy in 1960 “finally marked the end of anti-Catholic bigotry as a serious force” in the United States. Similarly, increased political representation of Muslims may help end Islamophobia.

 Here are some prominent Muslim politicians in Western societies:

 ·      Sadiq Khan – Mayor of London since 2016. He has been an outspoken spokesperson against Islamophobia. Here is his response to the Christchurch shootings:

·      Ilhan Omar is a United States Congresswoman, elected in November 2018. She represents Minnesota’s 5th District in the House of Representatives. In response to the Christchurch attacks, she said “we must face the hate and terror with love and compassion”.

·      Rashida Tlaib – Alongside Ilhan Omar, Tlaib is one of the first Muslim women to serve in the United States legislature. She represents Michigan’s 13th District in the House of Representatives. She has been calling out on Twitter for people to know the names and stories of the 49 people killed in the Christchurch attack, who were “real people, fathers, mothers, children”.  

What else can we do to combat Islamophobia? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or by emailing anna@ideasphere.org.

Ilhan Omar image by Lorie Shaull used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license.

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