Why is there Islamophobia in this world?

 Phobia

Before even understanding the causes of Islamophobia, let’s see what is a phobia?

A phobia is a medical term which describes a mental and/or physiological state of human suffering due to a disorder resulting from an irrational or unexplained fear of things or situations and reflected in physical or emotional behavior. So, what is Fear? Fear is the most fundamental of survival instincts and its importance for survival of a species is as fundamental as hunger and need for reproduction, that is without fear the species will simply not exist. Fear is the defense mechanism of the body which keeps the human or animal safe from its surroundings, it is fear that tells us that fire will burn, water will drown and falling from heights will kill. Most often threat perception or fear is an acquired learning to the brain, like an animal may have some experiences in early life which will act as learning for future and when the same situation repeats the brain triggers the fear response, “the fight or flight response”. The brain’s training of threat-perception is the main differentiator because of which different humans will react differently to different threat situations. Like a person with the ability to swim will have lesser fear to water in comparison to a person who doesn’t know how to swim.

A phobia can be triggered in multiple ways. In most cases it starts with a sensory input like a visual, sound, touch, taste, or smell. The electrical impulses from the sensory inputs are then processed by the brain and based on how the brain is trained for that circumstance it will trigger a body response, like when a person stands at a height and has a fear of heights it can trigger a panic attack. The body response may be visible in certain individuals and purely emotional in certain other individuals or non-visible with only a sense of fear. In some individuals the stimulus for fear can be purely internal to the body and may not need a sensory trigger. Like fear of ghosts or Phasmophobia.

Islamophobia

Fear of Islam

Based on definition or how phobias are named islamophobia consists of two words. Islam + Phobia. The word phobia is already described in the paragraph above. Islam is the world’s second largest religion based on number of followers worldwide. Islam has an estimated 1.8 billion followers worldwide which represents 24.1 % of total world population and a close second to Christianity with 31.2 % or 2.4 billion followers. Purely for definition sake, Islamophobia can be defined as fear of Islam in the minds of certain societies or groups or individuals who are part of the 75.9% world population not following Islam. By the very definition of phobia, the fear does not need to be rationale and backed by logic or correct thinking. Regardless of the definition of Islamophobia, the scope of this article is not to define Islamophobia but a general discussion on why hatred against people is there following the religion Islam or Muslims. And the reason for this hatred is not recent but has deep historic roots.

What is a Religion?

Major World Religions ( Hinduism , Islam and Christianity)

Religion is probably the most misunderstood and discriminatory confusion of mankind. Religion supposedly started around 300, 000 years ago during the prehistoric period (a period of 2.5 million years ago to 1,200 B.C). To be specific and based on discovered facts by modern age Archaeologists, the earliest proof of religion are burial sites dating back to stone age and specifically early part of stone age or Paleolithic age. The burial sites are indicative of emotions concerning human body and probably people of that age considered human body sacred and that marked the beginning of spiritual quotient of humans and laid the foundation of a culture called religion. This is if we believe only facts that are discovered.

If we go by Hindu religion the paradigm totally changes. As per Hindu Mythology the historic period is divided into four-times or yugas called as Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga. The Satya yuga which translates to “Age of truth “is believed to have lasted 1.7 million years, humans were purest in this period and had life spans as long as 100 thousand years, this period is also called the golden age of mankind. During this period there was no need for worshiping god and each human being was a representative of god and pure from heart and soul. So, the concept of god and religion existed millions of years ago as per Hindu religion.

Then came the Treta yuga or the Silver age of mankind which lasted for 1.2 million years, during this period humans started showing signs of greed. Wars were fought over greed and there was emergence of kings and kingdoms. People lived for 10 thousand years during this period. Then started the Dwapara Yuga. During this yuga humans started becoming greedier and more corrupt. Represented by the metal bronze, this yuga lasted for 0.8 million years and humans had a life of few centuries.

Then came the Kali yuga or the period represented by the metal iron in which we are living now. The current yuga is supposed to have an age of 0.4 million years with human life expectancy of 100 to 120 years. Humans are the most corrupt during this yuga, they commit sin and crime very often. The Kali yuga in modern terminology started in 3102 BC.

The first Kali yuga civilization of which written texts of religion are available are from Indus Valley Civilization dating back to 2600 to 1900 BC. The Indus valley civilization extended from current date Afghanistan to North East of India and through Pakistan. The greatest of settlements from those periods were Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. Even though the Harappans are considered one of the earliest settlements, the language and religion that humans followed back then was largely influenced by the culture of Dravidians. Dravidians were native Indians who occupied most of India. Civilizations dating back to 2600 BC had Dravidian influence and laid the foundation of one of the oldest religions, “Hinduism “. Various other religions got introduced much later like Buddhism in 520 BC, Christianity in 4 BC and Islam in 622AD.

Indus Valley Civilization

Even before the Kali yuga, the Mesopotamia civilization had religion. As per written records religion started in Mesopotamia in the year 3500 BC, approximately 500 years before the Dravidians. Another religion followed by Egyptians from the same period of Mesopotamia and the Mesopotamians both believed in a supreme power called God and that humans are its servant. The earliest concept of God fulfilling our wishes dates to this period of 3500 BC.

Mesopotamia Civilization

The foundation of religion is accepting a superior form of power known as god. Be it the million gods in Hinduism or one god in Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, and ancestors in Chinese.

Distribution of World Religions on World Map

Since it’s a belief based on a superior power, the religion has another factor built into its foundation and its fear. Because of fear people from ancient times are engaged in some or the other form of worship or got involved in a method of pleasing god. As a summary, each religion follows its own method of pleasing god and depending on which method is followed the people following it are known to belong to that religion.

Emergence of Islam on the timeline of religion

With the influence of Egyptian and Mesopotamian religions, in the year 2300 BC to 43 AD Canaanite religion was followed by Levant region. Considering modern world names Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Turkey will be part of ancient Levant region, which is a name to indicate a historic region spread in the Eastern Mediterranean region bounded by the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the Arabian Desert in the south, and Mesopotamia in the east.

Ancient Levant Region

Another religion influenced by Mesopotamian religion was Babylonian religion in the 1700 BC in the southern parts of Mesopotamia.

With influence from Canaanite religion and Babylonian religion, a very important historic religion, known as Judaism, was formed. Judaism was followed by ancient Israelites consisting of Southern Levant, Syria, ancient Israel, and the Transjordan in 70 BC.

Judaism

Judea in those days of Judaism was an important region, part of modern-day Israeli. Judea was ruled by the Greeks. In Judea the god worshiped was Yahweh. Worship of Yahweh was mandated by Romans and any rebellion against worship of god Yahweh was not tolerated.

Yahweh

 During those days when Yahweh was worshiped in Judea, a Jewish child named Jesus was born who created the religion Christianity. Jesus in his first many years preached Jewish ways of religion. Jesus wanted an end to the Roman rule and hence started opposing the religion supported by them. During these years Jesus performed some extraordinary acts and a small group of followers started seeing him as son of God. The increasing number of followers of Jesus angered the Romans and they ordered death penalty to Jesus through crucifixion. Jesus was named as Christ, a word which had many meanings like Son of god, god etc. by his followers and hence the people following the teachings of Christ are called Christians and hence Christianity as a religion was formed.

Jesus Christ on Cross

Formation of Christianity and birth of Jesus Christ is marked as the year 1 CE. In its early years Christianity didn’t stand a chance to be a successful religion which will later become one of the most popular religions of modern times. Primarily because Romans were against this religion and mass murders occurred if anyone or any group was found following this new formed religion. It was only during the time that the Roman empire started falling, Christianity as a religion started gaining popularity. Christianity started as a rebellion religion and hence during its early days was primarily spread through preaching of lower community of the society like salves. The spread of Christianity is largely attributed to the Roman king Constantine the Great.

Constantine

Before Constantine and up to 300 AD Romans were opposing the concept of one god worship, Romans were primarily believers of multiple gods like, Vulcan, Feronia, Apollo, Saturn etc. Christians were punished by all means of barbarism like feeding Christians to lions. The early adopters of Christianity were slaves and the poor. The converted population gained initial benefit, like good food to eat and shelter.

From the underground rebellious religion which was hated by the polytheist Romans to becoming one of the most successful religion and since the time the great Roman emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in Rome, the spread of Christianity always used conversion as the principle for success beginning from conversion of Constantine himself. Today even after 2 billion Christian population, the conversions aren’t stopping

While Christianity was spreading post Constantine period, around 7th century AD rose another religion, “The Islam”. At the very foundations of Islam is a war, a war which Prophet Mohamed fought at the beginning of the Hijra calendar against the rulers of Mecca. Muhammad is the founder of Islam and is considered the messenger of God. Muhammad at the age of 40, claimed to get revelations from Gabriel. Muhammad’s teachings form the holy text Quran, which are the fundamentals of Islamic religion.

Quran

With the war on Mecca which was fought by an assembled army of tribes from Medina, Muhammad united entire Arabia based on one Religion, Islam. In the beginning years of Islam Muhammad fought many wars and the followers of the religion were all ferocious fighters.

Islam believes that Quran is a collection of revelations that Mohammad had and hence the holy book should always be specifically expressed or written in Arabic. Translation of Quran in other languages is discouraged to avoid misinterpretation and dilution of the holy text. Over a period, most of the people stopped using the Arabic dialect in which Quran was conceived or written. As a result, most of the modern-day Muslims don’t read or understand Quran.

History of Terrorism and relation with Muslims

The origin of the word Terrorism since ancient times has always followed a wrong precedence and due to the wrong start, till date the world doesn’t have a common definition of terrorism. The lack of consensus on the definition of terrorism is the main reason for which the act of terrorism still exists; the world is not united in the fight against terrorism or the world is unaware, “What exactly is terrorism”?

From the early years of the Gregorian calendar, there were groups of people called the “Sicarii “and the “Zealots “. The Sicarii were the first organized crime syndicate, a small group of likeminded Jewish rebellions who were protesting the Romans. The Zealots on the other hand were a politically motivated group of people working against the Roman Empire. The origin of the word Zealots is Greek which means a Zealous Follower or devoted. The Zealots and Sicarii are the first documented terrorists and by definition of the word it has God, follower or devoted attached to it.

Throughout history there are many words used to define organized crimes like Hashhashin. The Arabic word Hashhashin was used to define gangs engaged in murders across Middle East, Persia, Syria, and Turkey, mainly during the 11th century for religious and political reasons. Over years the word Hashhashin “became Assassin. Assassins were a part of group of people who were Shias as founded by Nizari Ismaili and were primarily targeting Sunni Muslims.

The modern-day word called “Terror “was born or rather formed by the French government in the 17th century during the French Revolution when rebel forces were surrounding France and Maximilien-François-Marie-Isidore de Robespierre was a prominent member of Committee of Public safety.

Maximilien-François-Marie-Isidore de Robespierre

 Maximilien explained:

“If the spring of popular government in time of peace is virtue, the springs of popular government in revolution are at once virtue and terror: virtue, without which terror is fatal; terror, without which virtue is powerless. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible...It has been said that terror is the principle of despotic government. Does your government therefore resemble despotism? Yes, as the sword that gleams in the hands of the heroes of liberty resembles that with which the henchmen of tyranny are armed.”

The first modern record of proper form of terrorism, using explosives to create panic and violence were the acts carried by the evolutionary Irish nationalist group against England under the Fenian dynamite campaign in 1881.

Another terrorist group during the 18th Century was Narodnaya Volya, founded in Russia by Sergei Nechayev. This group in Russia was involved in targeted killing, they were the first group to make use of explosives like Dynamite to strike with planning and aimed at individuals.

Sergei Nechayev

Right from the late 18th century to till date the act of terrorism can be divided into four waves. The “Anarchist Wave”, the “Anti-Colonial Wave”, the “New Left Wave” and the “Religious Wave”.

The current or the 4th wave of terrorism is the “Religious Terrorism Wave “. Even though in all the previous three waves of terrorism, religion was always a dimension, the present world terrorism is particularly called religious because of the place of origin of most of these terrorist organizations. The foundation of religious terrorism was laid in Iran in the 1980s during the Islamic Revolution.

The Islamic Revolution overthrew the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and established an Islamic Republic lead by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The revolution, unlike any other in the history was not for rights, financial crisis nor any kind of war. The rebellion was based on Wilayat al-Faqih or the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist which opposed the Shah who was believed to be backed by the Western countries. During this revolution the most misleading theory of protest was given by Khomeini, “Martyrdom against injustice”.

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

During one of those days of Islamic Revolution, On 19 August 1978, in the city of Abadan, four rebels jammed the door of the Cinema Rex movie theater and started a devastating fire. This incident marks the arrival of planned terrorist attacks which took lives of 422 people inside the theater who were charred to death beyond recognition.

The blame of the incident was on the Shah, although after the revolution for many it was the Islamist terrorists who started the fire hence started the relation between Islam and Terrorism. The Islamic revolution also encouraged many other neighboring Muslim countries. The modern-day terrorism often mis-termed as Islamic terrorism is attributed to the fact that Islam in 1400 years of existence has spread widely starting from the Arabian Peninsula to forming more than 50 Muslim countries aggregating to the second largest religion in the world. 

Both Christianity and Islam are invasive religions contrary to Hinduism. They both originated from a small area and spread through entire world, sometimes interfering though each other’s territories and hence there were always conflicts.

The foundations of Islamic Terrorism a misnomer coined by Christian populated western countries started in the 1970s with the Saur Revolution in Afghanistan and Greed of USA for Oil from Middle Eastern countries especially Saudi Arabia during World War 2 and prior. The current state of Terrorism which has members of Islamic belief is a domino effect which needs to be understood retrospectively.

During 1978 the PDPA (People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan) led by Nur Muhammad Tarakia overthrew the then royal prime minister Mohammed Daoud Khan.

Nur Muhammad Tarakia
Mohammed Daoud Khan

Daud Khan was a visionary with reformist policies, he believed in equality of women and encouraged liberation of women. Afghanistan historically had good ties with Russia and Russia has always provided aid to Afghanistan. Daud khan dreamt about Pashtunistan and asked help from Russia to fulfill the dream. During this time the Afghanistan and Pakistan relationships were on turmoil, while Russia was supporting Afghanistan. Pakistan was getting support from USA.  Nur Muhammad Tarakia of the PDPA mascaraed the Daud’s family and became the president of Afghanistan in 1978.

Tarakia was also a reformist like his predecessor Daud and introduced land reforms and equal rights for women. Very soon Tarakia was also killed by close aid Hafizullah Amin, and Amin established himself as the new president.  However, Russia was not happy with Amin and assassinated him and instated Babrak Kamal as the new president.

Hafizullah Amin
Babrak Kamal

Babak Kamal and Russia’s decision to start joint Soviet military and DRA (Democratic Republic of Afghanistan) actions against the rebels called as Mujahideen during the cold war or Afghan – Soviet war planted the foundations to the 21st century form of protest which is termed as Ismalist terrorism by the Christian dominated west. This is probably the juncture at which modern day Terrorism got a religious apron and continues as the very reason because of which Terrorism is misunderstood and lacks a clear definition.

Because of the tensed relationships between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the USA interest in Pakistan, the Mujahideen got arms and financial support from countries like Pakistan, USA, and Saudi Arabia so that the current government in Afghanistan can be toppled and Russian forces can be forced out of Afghanistan. An internal protest between government of Afghanistan and the rebellion group Mujahideen has now become a proxy war between two superpowers America/USA and Russia/USSR. 

Americans started Operation Cyclone to extend support to Mujahideen working closely with then Pakistani president Mohammad Zia ul-Haq. Americans not only gave financial packages but also war equipment like Stinger Missiles to the Mujahideen. The Stinger Missiles were man portable anti-aircraft warfare which were extensively used by the Mujahideen against the DRA and Russian forces causing maximum causality during the cold war.

Stinger Missiles , Man Portable Anti-Aircraft
Stinger Missile

Amidst the cold war there was international pressure building up on Russia to exit Afghanistan. In the year 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev the then head of state of USSR started working on an exit strategy from Afghanistan and started training the Afghan soldiers to take the war against Mujahideen.

Mikhail Gorbachev

By the year 1988 Russian troops completely withdrew from Afghanistan leaving behind an unfinished business, leaving behind a chaos and a civil war between the Afghan soldiers and the Mujahideen. The Mujahideen were now financially strong and armed with deadly weapons like the Stinger Missiles.

While the rise of Mujahideen during cold war was supported by the West, another splash in the play of Islamic terrorism happened, the entry of a man whose name became synonyms with modern day terrorism, “Osama bin Laden”. Born in the year 1951 in Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden inherited good wealth from his family business, the wealth which he ploughed into the cold war to support the Mujahideen against the Soviets, standing on the same side as the USA and Pakistan during the war.

Osama bin Laden

Post the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan Osama bin Laden became a Messiah of Jihad, a holy war against foreign powers committing atrocities against Muslims with his own army called the al-Qaeda, by the year 1990 Osama bin Laden was pretty much the face of Islamist organized groups which worked with the goal of establishing, “Islam is the solution”.

al-Qaeda

During the 1990s and with the emergence of Osama Bin Laden another catalyst which fueled the growth of Islamist rebels was the Gulf War, a war which started due to a greed. A greed for Oil. Saddam Hussain the then Iraqi leader ordered invasion into Kuwait to capture Oil fields and made Kuwait an Iraqi captured nation.

Saddam Hussain

The Kuwait Iraq gulf war started right after the Iran Iraq war which also was due to a border dispute. In all these Muslim country conflicts one thing was common. While one party was supported by Americans the other was supported by the Soviets. In the Cold war, Afghanistan was supported by Soviets while Mujaheddin were supported by Americans, in the Gulf War Iraq was supported by Soviets while the Kuwaitis were supported by Americans, In the Iraq-Iran war, Iraq used equipment supplied by the Soviets. It was like a proxy war between the Soviets and the Americans fought on Muslim lands. The Muslims were agitated and made to fight with each other because the two superpowers wanted to protect each other’s foreign interests and establish dominance. Saudi Arabia saw the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces as a direct threat to its sovereignty and oil fields and hence invited USA to protect its territories from Iraqi invasion.

In response to the Saudi invitation the USA led coalition forces consisting of 35 nations started a retaliation against Iraqi invasion into Kuwait termed as Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. The center to the Saudi US relationship is again greed, greed for oil. The ever-growing US economy wanted Oil flowing into the country and Saudi was its biggest supplier.  So, it was in the interest of USA to protect Saudi Arabia from the Russian backed Iraq. One important aspect through which the 21st century terrorism got shaped was opposition to USA support during the Gulf War by Osama Bin Laden. Osama openly condemned Saudi for not taking his help and instead taking help from a foreign country. He termed the Saudi-USA alliance as unholy and against Islam, he criticized that Muslims do not need foreigners to defend Mecca and Medina. His open criticism to royal family of Saudi Arabia was not welcomed and he had to flee the Saudi Kingdom and take exile in Sudan.

Bin Laden built an empire in Sudan, building roads and infrastructure. However, under increasing pressure from USA and Saudi he had to exile Sudan and he choose to flee to Afghanistan. With this move the wheels of history turned in his favor and he moved to the same place which gave him the Jihadist leader fame during the cold war. This was in the year 1996, when the Gulf war already ended but there was still a strong American presence in Saudi Arabia. The American presence in the holy land of Mecca and Medina fueled Bin Laden’s anger and he declared a holy was against the American’s which resulted him organizing the September 11, 2001 WTO attacks. Post September 11, the words Islamic terrorism and Bin Laden became synonyms which ended with Killing of Osama Bin Laden by USA in the year 2011. Even after the death of Osama Bin Laden the terrorist organization founded by him, al-Qaeda still exists in bit and pieces.

September 11, 2001 WTO attacks

Meanwhile the Gulf war which ended in 1991 emerged back with one more attack by USA led coalition forces on Iraq to topple the Saddam Hussein regime in the pretext of the September 11 attacks during 2003. USA after the September 11 attacks declared Iraq as a state sponsor of terrorism and al-Qaeda and believed it to be a threat. In December 2003 Operation Red Dawn was conducted by American forces which lead to capture of Saddam Hussein and his execution finally in the year 2006 by hanging.

During the period of attack in 2003 and subsequent presence of USA in Iraq was opposed by the al- Qaeda unit in Iraq led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Later in 2006 after Zarqawi was killed in airstrikes Ayyub al-Masri took over the reins of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq or ISI was born to be led by Bakr al-Baghdadi later in the year 2010.

Ayyub al-Masri
Bakr al-Baghdadi

Later ISI expanded its routes to Syria supporting the rebels against the war against the Syrian government and renamed itself as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the most dreaded terrorist organization of current time which carried many attacks against the Americans and Europeans on their soil. This scenario again initiated a war like situation and USA led forces started strikes against Syria and Iraq with the aim of defeating ISIS in the home turf.

ISIS

The current state of terrorism often misnamed as Islamic terrorism is nothing to do with the religion Islam, in fact most countries involved in some kind of terrorism are those which were once either ruled by foreign countries like Britain or were in war with a neighboring country supported by either Russia or USA. The modern day or the fourth phase of terrorism linked with religion Islam is a chaos caused by continuous wars of dominance and aftermath surrounded by greed for energy security in terms of the black gold, “Oil”.

The first step towards eliminating killing of innocent people by organized groups will be complete systematic withdrawal of all foreign troops from other countries unconditional. As long as countries like America, Russia and Europe keep fighting on foreign lands like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan there will always be rebel troops. The world must prioritize foreign conflict resolution and even if it means saying sorry for one’s past mistakes. Any crime committed on a foreign land be it state sponsored or carried by rebel groups should be considered terrorism.  Be it the British Empire which once committed crimes on 25 % of world population or the American – Soviet conflict, all acts must be condemned as acts of terrorism including the modern-day terrorism by groups like ISIS, al – Qaeda and Boko Haram.

Top Terrorist Organizations

The top four terrorist organizations in the world Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL and Al-Shabaab are all located in Muslim majority countries Afghanistan, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and East Africa.

How deadly is Terrorism?

Below table compares various reasons for deaths including some historical events like Word War II which claimed 84 million lives.

A simple crystal of sugar claims 20 times more lives each year than terrorism claimed in past 40 years. Given the statistics and historic context the larger question that remains is, “Is the threat due to terrorism blown out of context and often overstated? “

EventDeaths (Averaged)
World War II84,269,920
Spanish flu50,047,026
European colonization of the Americas34,047,026
Great Chinese Famine25,258,662
World War I23,568,559
Smoking, Alcohol and Drugs (Per Year)11,800,00
Diabetes (Year 2000 to 2016)7,108,145
The Holocaust5,143,928
COVID-19 (Up to Nov 2020)1,400,000
Fatality due to road accidents/year1,350,000
Partition of India632,456
War on Terror493,500
Terrorism (1970 – 2019)414,533
Homicides/Year400,000
World Death Causes

Types of Terrorism

Since the word terrorism doesn’t have a widely accepted definition so does the classification or types. The classification of terrorism depends on the classifying country or authority. Some of the types of terrorism which in a broad sense have common grounds are:

Religious Terrorism

Political (Left and Right)

Non- Political Terrorism

State Terrorism

Civil Terrorism

Domestic Terrorism

International Terrorism

Genocide

War Crimes

Cyberterrorism

So, what’s the Fuss on Islamophobia?

A 2019 statement on race and racism by the AAPA (American Association of Physical Anthropologists) declares, in part:

Race does not provide an accurate representation of human biological variation. It was never accurate in the past, and it remains inaccurate when referencing contemporary human populations. Humans are not divided biologically into distinct continental types or racial genetic clusters. Instead, the Western concept of race must be understood as a classification system that emerged from, and in support of, European colonialism, oppression, and discrimination.

This statement further emphasized that “No group of people is, or ever has been, biologically homogeneous or ‘pure.’ Furthermore, human populations are not — and never have been — biologically discrete, truly isolated, or fixed.

Alain Quellien’s use of the French word islamophobie in 1910 was the earliest concept of using a word to describe hatred against Muslims but the word actually gained popularity after the September 11, 2001 attack when two aeroplanes were deliberately crashed into the World Trade Centre complex in Lower Manhattan, USA by terrorist organization al-Qaeda.

Alain Quellien’s use of the French word islamophobie

We have looked into the background of al-Qaeda and what caused the 9/11 attacks. Al-Qaeda was born out of the cold war and pseudo geopolitical wars fought by USSR and USA on foreign turf to control the world and the black gold called “Oil “.

The roots of modernization of islamophobia are hidden deep inside the American Oil diplomacy and turf control wars for arms exports by USSR and USA to Middle East and Asia. Since the year 1943 when vast reserves of oil were discovered in Saudi Arabia, USA moved quickly to form relationship with Saudi and declared the relationship as vital for US’s sustenance and fulfilment for ever growing energy demand. Another reason for US to look for energy security was perhaps Soviet Union’s abundance of oil. US’s dependency on middle east’s oil saw deployment of US troops to protect Saudi Arabia during the 1990’s Gulf war against Iraq under Operation Desert Shield.

Saudi Arabia has two of the Muslim’s holiest sites, “Mecca (1st holy site) and Medina (2nd Holy Site)”.

Mecca
Medina

While Mecca is the birthplace of Muhammad, Medina is the place where Mohammad established Islam as a religion and was also buried after his demise. The presence of USA led forces on the Muslim holy land was one of the main reasons that triggered Osama-Bin-Laden to declare war against America. Another reason which triggered a religious war was the Israel-Palestine conflict and at the epicentre of the conflict is a small area in Jerusalem which hosts the third most holy site for Muslims called as Al-Aqsa Mosque, the place where Mohammed travelled during his Night journey before ascending to heaven.

Al-Aqsa Mosque

These events are described as The Israʾ and Miʿraj in the Holy book Quran. This small area in Jerusalem has religious importance to all the three Abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Temple Mount for Jews, al-Aqsa mosque for Muslims and Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians.

Jerusalem
Temple Mount
Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Osama Bin Laden’s religious war was against presence of Christians in the holy sites of Mecca and Medina and presence of Jews in the holy site of Al-Aqsa. Due to these reasons the terrorism practised by Osama Bin Laden strengthened the modern day “Islamophobia” or strengthened the notion that all terrorists are Muslims.

The Arab Spring

The Arab world is a group of 22 countries spread across Western Asia, North of Africa and Horn of Africa.

Arab World

The members of the Arab world are identified by the language Arabic. Some of the largest members of the Arab world are Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq etc.  The Arab World concept was formed post World War II, but the idea originated in the year 1861 as pan-Arabism movement which eventually died out by 1914. Few reasons which failed the concept of united Arab world is imposition of Islam as religion in the Arab World and financial inequality among member countries. Islam in itself has multiple disciplines like the Sunnis and Shias, so the idea of united Arab world is hard to succeed unless Islam is kept away as the ideology and the Arab world is formed on other factors like trade, finance, social welfare and geopolitics.

Sunnis are the majority group in Muslims with around 90 % of total Islam followers and Shias are a minority group with presence in countries like Iran, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan etc. Then there are countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh which account for more than 40 % of total Muslim population and are non-Arab countries.

In the year 2010 a series of anti-government protests named as the Arab Spring started in the Arab world, starting from Tunisia and primarily effected Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain. The Arab spring has created quite a few humanitarian crises in countries like Yemen and Syria effecting millions of people till date.

OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation)

OIC is the only organization which represents majority of Muslim population in the world on a unified platform with common objectives, founded in 1969 it currently has 57 member states jointly representing 1.8 billion Muslims.

OIC : Organization of Islamic Cooperation
OIC Member States

OIC was formed after a fire event at Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the fire incident was blamed to be a Jewish conspiracy against the Muslims. The OIC charter has a wide agenda for the welfare and protection of Islamic states, like:

  1. Preserve and Promote Ismail Values
  2. Work for revitalizing Islam’s pioneering role in the world
  3. Unity and solidarity among the Muslim peoples and Member States
  4. Ensure territorial integrity of all Member States
  5. Promote human rights and fundamental freedoms
  6. Encourage friendly relations, between Member States and other States
  7. Defend the universality of Islamic religion
  8. To achieve Islamic intellectual excellence
  9. Sustained socioeconomic development among member states
  10. Preserve Environment
  11. Non – interference in domestic matters of member states
  12. Safeguard and promote the rights of women
  13. Inculcate Islamic values in Muslim children through education
  14. Assist Muslim minorities outside member states

One of the main OIC charter points on the Israel – Palestine/Jerusalem conflict is:

to support the struggle of the Palestinian people, who are presently under foreign occupation, and to empower them to attain their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination, and to establish their sovereign state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, while safeguarding its historic and Islamic character, and the holy places therein

with the objective:

To support and empower the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and establish their sovereign State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, while safeguarding its historic and Islamic character as well as the Holy places therein

The stand of OIC on Jerusalem conflict is an issue. The stand has put the entire Islamic community at war with the Jews. When the same ideology is reflected by some dreaded organizations like Al-Qaeda and openly expressed by powerful terrorists like Osama bin Laden, the rest of the world is drawing parallels to Islam and terrorism, giving rise to “Islamophobia”. A snippet from Osama bin Laden’s letter USA reads”

(i) Palestine, which has sunk under military occupation for more than 80 years. The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation. The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course, there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its*price and pay for it heavily.

(ii) It brings us both laughter and tears to see that you have not yet tired of repeating your fabricated lies that the Jews have a historical right to Palestine, as it was promised to them in the Torah. Anyone who disputes with them on this alleged fact is accused of anti-Semitism. This is one of the most fallacious, widely circulated fabrications in history. The people of Palestine are pure Arabs and original Semites. It is the Muslims who are the inheritors of Moses (peace be upon him) and the inheritors of the real Torah that has not been changed. Muslims believe in all of the Prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon them all. If the followers of Moses have been promised a right to Palestine in the Torah, then the Muslims are the most worthy nation of this.

Conclusion

The never-ending Arab World/OIC – Israel conflicts and wars with severe humanitarian crisis due to Arab Spring is not helping the general notion of Islam supporting terrorism. The fear of Islam by the west was born out of the Cold War, the Arab-Israel conflict and the political crisis originating due to the Arab Spring across multiple countries like Syria, Libya, Egypt etc. These conflicts are also causing migrations of Muslim population which live poor life in other countries and the children remain socially backward resulting in increased crime rates committed by Muslims originating from conflict zones. Then there are these eternal conflicts in places like Jammu and Kashmir which are putting additional stress on Muslim population with no solution in near future.  OIC must take a larger role in the welfare of Muslim community and beyond resolution of Jerusalem to correct the image of Muslims. One organization with potential to resolve the global terrorism issue is the UNCCT (United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre). But the functioning and mission of UNCCT is not effective or the best way to resolve the terrorism issue.  There are some fundamental issues in the functioning of UNCCT.

Issues not helping de-escalation of Islamophobia:

  1. Use of word, “Extremism “: In the UNCCT coordination and coherence statement the use of word extremism is biased towards the expression,” Islamic Terrorism “. This is not helping in lifting the prejudice against Islam as an extremist religion that supports terrorism and further strengthens “Islamophobia “.  UNCCT must work to eliminate terrorism in every form.

“It operates through its Coordination Committee and 8 thematic Inter-Agency Working Groups, which were revitalized in April 2019, providing an All-of-UN approach to the systems work on counter-terrorism and preventing and countering violent extremism, as conducive to terrorism. “

  • Dominance of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the funding of UNCCT: Saudi and Qatar accounts for 80 % of UNCCT’s funding and by accepting such a funding mechanism from two countries with opposing interests raise questions on integrity of UNCCT. The Muslim Brotherhood remains as a point of difference between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Qatar has been accused by many countries for supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and ISIS. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is accused of being the largest source of Islamic terrorism in the name of promoting Salafi jihadism. The funding structure of UNCCT is a prima facie case of conflict of interest.
UNCCT Funding

List of Donors:

UNCCT Funding
  • The Middle Eastern Cold War: The tussle between Shia Muslim dominated Iran and Sunni dominated Saudi Arabia has created a political and religious war like situation that is reminiscence of the US-USSR cold war. In the aftermath of Arab Spring, Saudi Arabia formed the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) with an intention to sideline Iran and strengthen Saudi’s grip on the countries effected by the Arab Spring, further fueling power struggle between Iran and rest of the Arab world.
Middle Eastern Cold War: Saudi Arabia vs Iran
  • Ouster of Qatar from GCC: Qatar is at loggerheads with prominent GCC member states like Saudi, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt due to conflicting interests of Qatar in organizations like Muslim brotherhood and political ties with Iran.
  • World’s View on Iran: Most countries in the world including the United Nations fear of Nuclear terrorism and Iran is on the forefront of the list of countries which possess a threat to start the nuclear terrorism. Iran is considered as the largest state sponsor of terrorism and believed to have close ties with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and other Palestinian groups (Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)). Due to these perceived risks Iran is one of the most sanctioned country on earth. The World-Iran conflict has all the wrong ingredients that were present in previous Muslim conflicts which gave rise to current Islamic terrorism. The sanctions are suppressing Iran financially and with basic necessities like medicine and medical equipment. These sanctions along with Arab world discrimination on the basis of Iran being Shia dominant and abundance of natural gas and oil makes Iran a state which can fail if the conditions giving rise to an uproar are not resolved soon. A better nuclear nonproliferation treaty where Iran doesn’t feel threatened to peruse nuclear fuel enrichment needs to be established.
  • Turkey, NATO, and the Black Sea Diplomacy: NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an alliance between 30 European and North American countries formed in the year 1949 with political and military bonds to counter the threat from Soviet Union. NATO’s core principles states:

Terrorism poses a direct threat to the security of the citizens of NATO countries, and to international stability and prosperity more broadly. Extremist groups continue to spread to, and in, areas of strategic importance to the Alliance, and modern technology increases the threat and potential impact of terrorist attacks, in particular if terrorists were to acquire nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological capabilities.

The adjectivization of terrorism with words, “Extremist groups” is an issue which is seen in the definition of many other organizations like UNCCT. As per FBI the top four extremist groups are Al Qaeda, Al Shabab, Hezbollah, and ISIL/ISIS which also happen to be the top terrorist organizations with Islamic belief further strengthening the notion of “Islamophobia “. 

Turkey is an Islamic country geographically located in an area which is strategically very important for NATO to get access to the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Black sea holds great importance to Russia as well. Black sea has the only warm water ports which Russia has so it provides a shipping highway to Russia and hence Black Sea has huge economical and strategic importance to Russia. Other countries which border the Dead Sea like Turkey is a NATO member while Ukraine and Georgia are aspirants to join NATO. Ukraine and Georgia are under partial occupation of Russia which brings special attention of NATO to the Black Sea region and hence highlights the importance of Turkey as a NATO member in the region.

NATO Countries

Highlighting the importance of Turkey in the region is Incirlik Air Base, which is used by the United States Air Force, the Turkish Air Force, Royal Air Force, and the Royal Saudi Air Force and 74th Anti-aircraft Artillery Regiment (Patriot unit) of the Spanish Army as home in the region. Tactical nuclear weapons are stored at Incirlik and among them are 90 B61 nuclear bombs. Turkish Air Force has up to 245 F-16 Fighting Falcons supplied by the United States and had a plan to buy 100 F35 Joint Strike Fighter. This much of investment in an Islamic country, “Turkey” by USA and NATO shows the strategic importance of the Dead Sea area for Russia and NATO in case of adversities.

Black Sea and Turkey

Recently Turkey under the leadership of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is taking steps which is attracting the ire of USA and NATO members and the center to this ire are the growing Turkey- Russia military relationships.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Historically Russia and Turkey had many differences and a roller coaster history of relationships, however during 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt Russian intelligence helped Erdoğan in suppressing the coup. The coup’s mastermind Fethullah Gülen lives in United States near Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Turkey blames USA and CIA to be influencers in the failed coup against his government and alleged failed assassination. Since this failed coup Turkey has found a new friend in Russia and inked multiple civil and military deals with Russia. One such deal is buying the Russian made world’s best S-400 anti-aircraft missile defense system. Russian military equipment presence in Turkey is quite opposing to NATO’s interest in the area and USA felt threatened with presence of S-400 in the region and this Turkey-Russia closeness has resulted in USA ejecting turkey from the F35 program with a potential stop on support of legacy aircrafts like the F16s.

S-400 Anti Aircraft Missile Defense System

Fallout of Turkey from NATO due to recent developments is imminent and when this happens Turkey will most likely join the list of Islamic countries which are called anti American and will be tagged as an Islamic extremist country which acts against the interest of Americans and, hence strengthening Islamophobia.

Final Words

The history is chequred with examples of state sponsored terrorism for political benefits and for some reason Muslim groups or people of Islamic faith were always at the center of these conflicts. Be it support of USA to Al-Qaeda, support of Iran to Hezbollah and Hamas, Russia’s support to Iran for the Arab Cold War which indirectly supports Hezbollah, the cold wars in Middle east to the Arab Spring political crisis to the Palestine issue to Kashmir, the Muslim world is going through some or other type of crisis and war which is labelled by the west as fear of Islam or “Islamophobia” or Islamic Extremism or “Islamic Terrorism”. Common platforms like United Nations has miserably failed in providing a widely accepted definition of terrorism and organizations like UNCCT are dysfunctional with fundamental issues like source of funding from conflicting members or paper organizations which are more interested in presenting a corporate style financial statement rather than resolving the conflicts giving rise to terrorism. The Muslim world itself is not united in defying the general notion of Islamophobia by not treating all Muslim countries equally and condemning terrorist acts. Relations of Iran with the Arab World, role of Turkey in Muslim world, the Arab Spring countries, Palestine issue, the unfinished Cold War business in Afghanistan and the aftermath in Iraq post USA capture of Saddam Hussain are all matters to be resolved before even attempting to resolve the notion called Islamophobia. Commonly accepted leadership by both Shia’s and Sunni’s in the Muslim world is another issue which doesn’t seem to have a near future solution. Islamophobia is a pseudo of politics and the overall unrest in Muslim countries is just strengthening the prejudice.

As in the case of cold war oil should not be cause of America’s aggression in middle east and foreign land anymore as its domestic production is taking care of most of the needs and Canada has emerged as a supplier of interest beating supply from middle east.  So, if it’s not oil, the next cold war or real war can be because of political unrest in Islamic countries across the world or Islamophobia.

References:

https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/sj14-soc-religmap/world-religions-map/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indus_Valley_Civilisation

https://www.thoughtco.com/introduction-to-ancient-mesopotamia-171837

http://www.glaphyridae.com/Biogeografia/NEL.html

https://actionpedia.fandom.com/wiki/Judaism

https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/what-did-yahweh-look-like

https://www.timemaps.com/history/arabia-750ad/

https://salemcc.instructure.com/courses/659/pages/the-french-revolution-unit-summary-and-objectives

https://www.un.org/counterterrorism/funding-and-donors

https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/oil-and-petroleum-products/imports-and-exports.php

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