Dignity in the Time of Islamophobia

Posted on March 29, 2013



Following months of an incendiary campaign against Muslims in Sri Lanka, a Muslim-owned fashion store was attacked last evening by mobs of hate-mongers led by men in the saffron garb of Buddhist monks. I refuse to dignify these robed madmen by associating them with the religion they claim to represent, just as I would be hesitant to label as Islamic should this provoke reciprocatory behaviour by Muslim respondents.

Islam and its followers are undeniably under attack – be it the relentless persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, the mobs in Bangladesh calling for the death sentence(sans trial) for members of the Muslim opposition, the ongoing repercussions of 9/11 targeting Muslims in the US and Europe, and of course the above-mentioned spate of bigotry in Sri Lanka. While it is pragmatic to treat each case independently, it is imperative that the reaction to these by Muslims worldwide be one of collective control.

We have every right to feel hurt, furious and battered. But in light (pun intended) of the constant watchtower-like scrutiny under which Muslims have been positioned of late, emotionally driven reactions (whether verbal or executed) cannot be afforded. With labels at the ready, just waiting to be stamped on the foreheads of moderate Muslims on the most subtle of missteps, dignified restraint would undoubtedly serve best in slackening the wrist muscles of the fingers that point.

As idealistic and ineffective composure and a non-violent approach to reciprocation may sound, we have seen it work. This campaign in Norway for instance, helped quell significantly the anti-Muslim sentiment in the Nordic region, and this movement is slowly but surely helping lick the wounds of misrepresentation in the US – both sparked by hate campaigns directed at their Muslim communities. Compare these with this ludicrous reaction to the anti-Islam New York subway adverts, and these self-defamatory responses to a film released last year depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in poor light.

The deafening resonance of intellectual composure in a sea of rabid barbarianism cannot be reiterated enough.  Shoe slinging, heckling and resorting to weaponry (even if solely for intimidation) serves only to contradict the teachings of Islam, or any religion for that matter. And if Muslims, having established their position under the most magnified lens of the global microscope, should choose to act impulsively solely on emotion, we would only be falling right into the traps these provocateurs have ever-so-connivingly laid out for us.

But possibly a greater case for our composure in testing times, is the consciousness that our children are watching. Watching what they see as Buddhist monks (sans ‘extremist’ tag) leading cabals and outwardly preaching targeted hate. To them, #MuslimRage is not a satirical Twitter hash tag, but a glorified flag-burning response in defence of their people. For even in our homes, our politically incorrect rage directed at the television screen is being unwittingly absorbed in half-baked comprehension to be brandished for later. Does it not go unsaid then, that if we truly do wish for our children to inherit and propagate the harmonious co-existence and sound values our faith represents, that we ensure this sentiment is innate?

Islamophobia, though a freshly-coined term, is not in the least a novel phenomenon. The earliest recorded hate-campaigns against Islam were in fact directed at the very Messenger of peace and his immediate followers during their struggle to make the word of God audible in the seventh century  -long before the derogatory cartoons, the hijab/niqab vendetta and the #CreepingSharia bogeymen of our times. Perhaps it would do us good then to remember his (PBUH) response when offered by God Himself to eradicate his oppressors once and for all “(I do not want their destruction) I am still hopeful that God will make some of their children (good Muslims) who would worship God, the One, without associating anybody with Him.” (Bukhari and Muslim).