Saturday, July 7, 2012

What is Islamophobia?

The word Islamophobia is a neologism formed from Islam and-phobia. Phobia is the extreme and irrational fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. A phobia is classified as a type of anxiety disorder (a neurosis), since anxiety is its chief symptom. Phobias are generally believed to result when fear produced by an original threatening situation (such as a near-drowning in childhood) is transferred to other similar situations (such as encounters with bodies of water), the original fear often being repressed or forgotten. Behaviour therapy can be helpful in overcoming phobias, the phobic person being gradually exposed to the anxiety-provoking object or situation in a way that demonstrates that no threat really exists.
The compound form Islamo- contains the thematic vowel-o-, and is found in earlier coinages such as Islamo-Christianfrom the 19th century. As opposed to being a psychological or individualistic phobia, according to associate professor of religion Peter Gottschalk, “Islamophobia” connotes a social anxietyabout Islam and Muslims
In 1997, the British Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as the “dread or hatred of Islam and therefore, to the fear and dislike of all Muslims,” stating that it also refers to the practice ofdiscriminating against Muslims by excluding them from the economic, social, and public life of the nation. It includes the perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideologyrather than a religion. Professor Anne Sophie Roald writes that steps were taken toward official acceptance of the term in January 2001 at the “Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance”, where Islamophobia was recognized as a form of intolerance alongside Xenophobia and Antisemitism.
A perceived trend of increasing “Islamophobia” during the 2000s has been attributed by some commentators to the September 11 attacks, while others associate it with the rapidly growing Muslims populations in the Western world, especially in Western Europe, due to both immigration and high fertility rate. In May 2002, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), a European Union watchdog, released a report entitled “Summary report on Islamophobia in the EU after 11 September 2001″, which described an increase in Islamophobia-related incidents in European member states post-9/11. Although the term is widely recognized and used, it has not been without controversy.


Some of the negative perceptions highlighted through western media campaign are: 
  1. Islam is projected  as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
  2. It is seen as separate and “other.” It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
  3. It is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
  4. It is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations.
  5. It is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
  6. Criticisms made of “the West” by Muslims are rejected out of hand.
  7. Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
  8. Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal.
Some scholar opine that  ”Islamophobia”, through  a new terminology,  has always been present in Western countries and cultures. In the last two decades, it has become accentuated, explicit and extreme.”   An observatory report on Islamophobia by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference similarly states that Islamophobia has existed for as long as Islam itself.