Islamophobia, Fearing Islam, and Anti-Muslim Discrimination

The three issues about religion, islamophobia, fearing Islam and discrimination/hate against Muslims are often investigated under one indivisible title; however, they are completely different subjects of discussion, each having different explanations and approaches. This is why I am making this story public. We cannot understand the problems that arise from the approaches about religion unless we separate these three. First, I will provide definitions, and then, I will compare these.

I. Islamophobia

The term “islamophobia” was invented by a group related to the Muslim Brotherhood, the International Institute for Islamic Thought in the early 90s. Even the people who were associated with IIIT accept that this was a trojan horse. The term “phobia” is a western term meaning “an irrational fear of something”. So, by definition, islamophobia has nothing to do with “people”. It is an irrational fear of Islam. The term was fabricated to oppose any kind of criticism against Islam, and to do this with “western” values. In the Middle-East, we do not have “phobias”. I am making a cultural point. Of course we have phobias, but they are not called “phobia” in society. According to society, we either fear something, or we are “pussies” who cannot deal with modern petty problems weak “infidels” would care about. In the Middle-East, North Africa, and similar places, people are brought up to be tough, or at least seem tough. Around here, if you get beaten up by another kid, your father beats you again, because you should have been “man enough” to protect yourself. This is a generalisation. Thankfully my father was not such a person. If you are too energetic, you cannot be “hyperactive”, you are just a naughty child who should be forced into submission to behave.

“Eastern” society usually wants nothing to do with these things. For an average person, a “phobia”, a “psychological disorder” or a “democratic value” is fabricated by “OUR western enemies” to wage war against us. Muslim Brotherhood and associated organisations naturally knew this. From a western perspective, the term “phobia” seems cool and scientific enough to explain a phenomenon. A typical Muslim person living in “certain countries” would say “they (westerners) hate Islam and Muslims”, but that would not sound “western” enough. When one uses “phobia”, everyone goes crazy. This is why the term “islamophobia” gained acceptance among western people with liberal ideals so easily. The nature of the practice should solve everything about discussions around this term. However, in theory, there can be (and probably are) some people who “irrationally” fear Islam, that is, there can be people who fear Islam on the wrong grounds or based on the wrong assumptions. In this sense, such people can be called “islamophobic”, and one cannot assign any guilt to such people. If someone is afraid of the dark, he is not guilty, he is just afraid of the dark. It does not matter whether such a fear is rational or not. So, most of the things we see in the world today that are called “islamophobia”, are not technically related to the mere definition of islamophobia. If there is such a thing called “islamophobia”, this is not necessarily something bad, it is just a condition a person cannot control: a phobia.

II. Fearing Islam

If there are not three, four, not a hundred, but thousands of instances of violence, hate, or in general, “bad things” in the world, and on almost all of those instances, the perpetrators claim relations to a concept or an ideology, is it natural to rationally fear that ideology? It definitely is. The ratio of supporters of such violence or hate does not matter much. The thing that matters is the sheer number of cases, and the significant threats they pose. Today, Ebola has killed much less than 1% of the people around the world. No, we cannot generalise it, and call it a human problem. We cannot treat every “person” with the assumption that they have Ebola. Nonetheless, should these facts prevent us from fearing it? We do not say “only a marginal number of people are affected by this, so we should not be fearing it”. Instead, we fight it with great all available power and resources because it has a potential to affect more people and create more problems. Why are we not doing the same thing against violence related to Islam?

Today, people (both Muslim and non-Muslim) have really rational reasons to fear Islam. Attacks on people and places with religious reasons are mostly associated with Islam, much more than any other religion. Do we not have a problem yet? I am not talking about an assumption of “Islamic terrorism”. I am talking about people shouting “Allahu Aqbar” before killing people or blowing up things. So, the optimistic assumption that these people have nothing to do with the real Islam is definitely false. They have everything to do with the real Islam, as far as “they” are concerned. If we want to eliminate the irrational fear of Islam among people, we should show such people that their fears of Islam are not rational. If we want to eliminate rational fear of Islam from societies, we must make Islam a religion people should not be afraid of. This is because, if the fear is rational, this is not the problem of the person who is afraid, but a problem in the ideology that should be addressed.

As a person living in a Muslim-majority country, I have seen these problems first hand. An average person living in Western Europe or the US do not usually know what Islam actually is, or who Muslims actually are. I know this religion, I was brought up with it, I renounced it later. I know these people, they are my friends, my relatives. They are the people I encounter on the streets. Of course, they are mostly genuinely good people, I have no comments against that. It is the number of hate crimes committed with Islamic reasons we should be concerned about. I have already been sued, verbally and physically attacked by people with “clearly expressed” Islamic reasons. My fear of Islam is not irrational, and it is definitely not “islamophobia”. I receive death threats almost on a daily basis, not because my comments about Islam are too controversial or offensive, just because I occasionally discuss these issues trying to be as objective as possible, and I am not a believer. If it is THIS much possible for me to die at the hands of a religious “hater”, why is my fear considered “irrational”?

In 2013, people around Turkey marched in the streets with batons, machetes and axes alongside the police, and against peaceful protesters. Most viewed that as a political issue, but those people were not shouting “social state” or “health system regulations” while attacking the protesters. They were shouting “Allahu Aqbar”. These people are people you would say “good morning” to and get a smile back every single day. These are people you would normally trust your kids with as your neighbours. I think this issue should concern Muslims more than any others. According to many reports, after the expansion of the ISIS, most of the attacks conducted against the Yazidi community in Iraq were performed by the neighbours of the Yazidis with whom they used to get along perfectly. Saying your god is great is becoming more and more strongly associated by fascist and dangerous ideals every day. If I heard someone shouting “our Lord Jesus is great” in Europe all of a sudden, out of the blue, it would get my attention, but I would say “alright, whatever” and walk away. Today, the thing I fear the most is hearing someone shout “Allahu Aqbar” in my “own” country, because I would expect an explosion. So, why am I expecting an explosion? Some people, actually most people, argue that this is because western media is biased, and they want to build up hate and fear against Muslims. If we are to assume this, we are missing the most obvious point. I would be afraid of an explosion or a different kind of an attack if I suddenly hear someone shouting “Allahu Aqbar”, BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO SHOUT ALLAHU AQBAR ALL OF A SUDDEN ‘USUALLY’ BLOW THINGS UP NOWADAYS. It is becoming a really rare occasion for anyone to shout this phrase and do something actually good. If it continues like this, this phrase will have very similar connotations to those of “Heil Hitler” in a couple of decades at most. If we want to solve this problem, we must not turn away from it.

III. Discrimination and Hate Against Muslims

I just covered that “islamophobia” is a condition, and someone who is islamophobic is not necessarily a bad person but a person who uncontrollably and irrationally fears Islam. This can be explained further by the “normative”, not the “popular”, definition of “homophobia”. People who oppose gay marriage or LGBTT rights are not necessarily homophobic, they are just jerks. People who oppose rights and freedoms of Muslims anywhere in the world are not necessarily islamophobic, they are just jerks. Feeling something is not controllable in most cases. If you like something, you like something. You cannot choose to like or hate apples, for example… You can get used to them in the long run or develop a taste, but this is another issue. Being naturally or irrationally afraid of something and actively fighting against something in a manner that affects other people’s lives are two completely different things.

Likewise, “ideology” and “people” are two separate concepts. Fearing Islam and fearing Muslims usually go hand in hand, but these are not the same thing. I would not necessarily fear communism, as it has almost no potential to rule any place I would live in, but I would fear communist people if they started blowing things up as frequently as today’s average terrorists do. Again, fearing something does not relieve me of my duties as a citizen who supports democracy, human rights and freedoms. I would not support an idea that discriminates against communists or communism, regardless of my “emotional” position towards communists or communism. So, fearing Muslim people does not seem rational or “right”, but why people are afraid of Muslims especially in Europe is explainable. Applying different theories or practices in law and life regarding different belief statuses is unacceptable. Discriminating against members of any type of belief or non-belief is unacceptable. Holding any person responsible for all the actions of people like them in any context is unacceptable.

I also agree that “politics of religion” and “race” are two inseparable things most of the time. Because of the uneven distribution of religious beliefs or non-beliefs, or even philosophical stances, most problems that can be associated with religions can also be associated with countries or ethnic identities. What I am against is assuming that any criticism or even an attack on a religion/philosophy is necessarily racist. What I am saying is that they are politically related, but not interchangeable. A person who attacks a religion (even in an unfair manner) is not necessarily being racist, or considering the race side of the issue, despite the fact that some people actually ARE considering these two together in the same circumstances.

So, technically, Muslims are not responsible for the attacks against anyone anywhere in the world. However, by saying “this is not real Islam, but a really ugly interpretation of it by some people”, you are reinforcing the idea that the religious problems in the world are caused by Muslims, letting Islam itself off the hook. Let us say these “bad examples” have nothing to do with real Islam, but they ARE interpretations of it, which means Islam naturally opens itself to such interpretation. Almost all the “bad examples” can be justified by either verses in the Quran, or hadiths, sayings believed to be expressed by the prophet. Let us say hadiths may change or be invented over time and they are not reliable sources for understanding Islam. Any Quranic verse justifying a single bad behaviour against humanity is an Islamic problem, not a problem COMING FROM Muslims. Muslims have the right to oppose such justifications, even if Islam does not allow them. This is a great necessity in the year 2015: reforming Islam.

Reforming Islam is not an easy task, and it can take centuries, because the structure of the religion is very different to other Abrahamic or non-Abrahamic religions. Muslims believe the Quranic verses are direct quotes from Allah, and most of them take even the most unrealistic, against-physics verses “literally”. This is why most Islamic scholars first recite the verses in Arabic, then give their explanations or translations into a different language while discussing such verses. This is because they “have to give the original verse, as they may make mistakes, and it would be terrible to do so”. Allah’s words are unchangeable in Islamic belief. So, even after about 1400 years, trying to reform Islam seems like a long shot, and this is why the rest of us should be concerned.

We, as the entire humanity, should continue to oppose any kind of discrimination against Muslims anywhere in the world. We should oppose any discriminatory policy or incitement to hatred against Muslims, just as against anyone else. However, we always push such approaches aside when we try to be apologetic about the religion itself. Violence with religious reasons harms Muslims more than anyone else. I am not only talking about retaliations against Islamic terrorism. Most of the direct victims (deaths and injuries by terrorist attacks) of Islamic terrorism are “again” Muslims. By the mere numbers of “identities”, Muslims kill “each other” more than any kind of political power or religious demographic kills “them”. Remember the attack against Charlie Hebdo yesterday. One of the victims that were killed by the terrorists was a Muslim policeman named Ahmed Merabet. Merabet was not killed by imperialism, or western injustice/hate against Muslims and eastern societies. Merabet was not killed by the “rising racism in Europe”. He was killed by terrorists shouting “Allahu Aqbar”. This is not just a European or American problem, the problem is the worst in Islamic regions. Think about the number of Muslim people killed by other Muslim people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria or Iraq. These “numbers” are much higher than those in Israel’s inhumane attacks on the Palestinian people, or Islamic-terrorist attacks in Europe or the US that kill mostly non-Muslims.

Hence, this should -in my humble opinion- concern Muslims more than the rest of us. …because while I continue to receive endless and really serious death threats by islamists, I am much safer than the average Muslim person living in an Islamic country in terms of “terrorism” or “state terrorism against the people”. Similarly, an average European person, however much he might fear Islam on rational or irrational grounds, is much safer as a non-Muslim than an average Muslim person who has a much higher possibility to be killed by another Muslim. Usually, good people do good things, and bad people do bad things. Sometimes, bad people might do good things, too, even if that meant such an action might be for a gain. However, for good people to do such incredibly bad things, it takes divine intervention. No sane good person would think of bombing a school and killing a hundred children because of political reasons if they did not sincerely believe that such a thing is “ordered” by the infinitely powerful and wise creator of the entire universe. Introducing a concept this much powerful dehumanises us. We are helpless against such a concept as mere humans. Even the greatest atrocities in the history of humanity can be forgiven or justified with such a concept, because the sum of a negative finite number and positive infinity will always give “positive infinity” as a result. We cannot discuss this, or fight it.

For once, let us come together and accept that Islam not only justifies, but “demands” violence in many different contexts, with hundreds of divine demands in the Quran. As a non-Muslim, I have only one option here: opposing violence, supporting human rights and freedoms, and protecting my peaceful way of life. Muslims have two options. They can either be good Muslims and try to apply everything in the Quran, or be good people and try to catch up with the rest of humanity. I must say I see really promising examples of the second behaviour all the time. It is definitely possible to be a good person and a Muslim at the same time. This is clearly achieved by literally millions of people around the world. I believe we should be past killing people over words or drawings in the year 2015. I believe we should be past justifying this inhumane intolerance. I believe we should get offended and shut the fuck up afterwards. Being offended means only one thing: that you are a human being and you have feelings. If you sincerely believed the teachings of your religion, you would not try to “defend” your infinitely powerful god who does not need your pitiful existence, from drawings or text on a page. Be a person of your century, accept the existence of certain problems, and please do not kill me.

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