Categories: Essays Opinion

Islamophobia: Genuine Ignorance and Information Terror

By Jan Dulac

By Jan Dulac

Kazakhstan – Entering the XXI century of scientific advancement and astonishing communication between nations and cultures, Homo Informaticus has been infected by Islamophobia, a new form of racism.

The diagnosis includes religious illiteracy and cultural amnesia: new specimen, a victim of information terror, bends human principles set in the Quran and the Bible. George Orwell, in spite of his own complicated views of faiths, predicted the emerging new reality – a result of total brainwashing, in his novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four: War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength”. For the sake of shared justice and the future, Muslims and Christians should use the powerful force of education to tackle this issue. The aim would be to then unite in order to make politicians and media – “the Ministry of Truth,” stop fearmongering and adhere to a culture of peace.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”[1] 

Following the Word of God, in quest of Enlightenment, people in all times have pursued research in various dimensions of human life and experience. For the progress of mankind, it is important then to disseminate valuable knowledge about the universe, intellectual concepts, scientific ideas, achievements in the culture and arts. That is how mutual understanding and respect are passed on to the following generations allowing us to come closer to God. However, history also serves as “a reminder that the spirit of tolerance can be lost unless continued vigilance is exercised.” [2]

The recent 13th summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul on one hand, and top-level meetings in Brussels in search of “a common Europe an answer to common European problems”- on the other, were indicative in this regard. The gist of good speeches, concepts and initiatives found that there is a growing gap of distrust and even enmity between the East and the West. Earlier, due to ignorance and even deliberately, European politicians announced “failure of multiculturalism.” The pretext “they are different” is somehow justified to continue attacks on Muslims and Islam.

“Newspeak” media give unlimited free publicity to al-Qaeda off-spring – International Terrorist Gang (the “original” name which terrorists strive for the media to continue calling them will not be mentioned here). However, not that it needs to be justified but one billion six hundred million peaceful followers are not responsible for a few thousand thugs – spawns of military adventures of the West on Muslims homeland.

Islam and the Renaissance

Washington D.C. based Smithsonian TV channel’s advertisement proclaim: “Years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the Islamic Empire had achieved global supremacy. Though, while it was expanding in territory, its people were expanding their minds. Discover how medieval Muslim scholars saved Greek knowledge from oblivion and generated revolutionary scientific ideas of their own. Join us as we explore their forgotten contribution to world knowledge.

Then learn how the Christian conquest of Muslim Spain spurred on a new dawn for intellectual life, kick-starting Europe’s emergence from the dark ages.” The title “Toledo guiding principles on teaching about religions and beliefs in public schools”[3] carries, as a tribute to the birthplace of the Enlightenment, the name of the Spanish city. In the tenth through the mid-eleventh centuries another city, Cordoba, was also “under enlightened Muslim rule – the Umayyad Caliphate – where Muslim, Christian, and Jewish scholars and artists engaged in inquiry and passed on enduring legacies to the world.”[4]

By contrast, the current state of modern-day society is a disturbing reality. “The present world order has failed to address the challenging crises that place international peace and security at great risk. It has also failed to take the measures needed to deter anyone from violating international laws, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, just as it failed to prevent transnational organized crime, vanquish the advocates of racism, hatred and fanaticism and eliminate terrorism hubs that are instead on the increase.”[5]

In the quarters that are to blame for fueling and spreading Islamophobia, a horrible, ahistorical term “Islamofascism” has been invented. Ironically, many people compare Donald Trump’s call for “registering Muslims” to the anti-Semitic policy of Nazi Germany.  Mainstream TV channels do not mention civilizational treasures of the Umayyad Caliphate anymore. The words “extremists,” “terrorists,” “threat” are used more frequently and are glued by politicians and media to the name of what was one of the most respectable than phrases such as “dialogue of cultures,” “co-existance of civilizations,” “mutual respect” and other peaceful terms.

Last year International Terrorist Gang, praising results of drum-beating and media hysteria, quoted Osama bin Laden in its online magazine Dabiq: “The world today is divided. Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,’ with the actual ‘terrorist’ being the Western Crusaders.” The very embodiment of evil acclaims the main freedom-lover?

In this new reality, in 2006 the head of the very Church that repressed reason and free thought with inquisition in the Dark Ages in Europe, had attempted to preach Muslims about “reason and Islam” with a speech he wrote, presumably himself. Information that sets facts straight can be found in ISESCO’s Director General’s Dr. AbdulAziz Othman Altwaijri’s educational article “Enlightenment as an Islamic Concept.”

“The high stature of reason in Islam has made it possible for intellect to play its role in the scientific and cultural spheres in Islamic societies. In this way, the reasons that allowed one institution to dominate in the name of religion have been omitted and the excuses that were used to oppress the freedom of mind have been outdone. For these reasons, the conflicts between science and religion that Europe underwent in the dark mediaeval ages did not take place in Islam. In Europe, these conflicts led to the emergence of the idea of enlightenment. This was a war that free intellectuals, the tenors of the movement of enlightenment, waged against the clergy.”

There have been very rational, spiritually pure and morally right principles of the Quran and teachings of Islam that have attracted millions, including famous people, to this religion in all times. German Goethe was only 23 years old when he wrote a wonderful hymn in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. But even when he was 70 years old, the poet declared “devoutly celebrating that holy night in which the Quran in its entirety was revealed to the prophet from on high.”

His compatriots Leibniz, Lessing and Herder, as well as Irish Bernard Shaw also viewed Islam as a humane and rational religion. Russian Leo Tolstoy being confident “the law of the Quran will prevail in the world because it agrees with reason and wisdom”, stressed, “I have come to understand that humanity needs only a Divine law to establish the truth and destroy falsehood. Islamic law will encompass the entire world because it is consistent with reason and agrees with wisdom and justice.” Indeed, modern emblematic characters having affinity to Islam also stated, like famed Francis Fred Coppola did: “Islam is a beautiful religion based on a Holy book that emphasizes tolerance and a merciful God.”

Eight shocking facts you didn’t know about violence in Christianity and Islam.

1. Hatred and violence

Western experts and historians came to a conclusion that Christian scriptures in the Bible were actually far more bloody and violent than those in the Quran. “There is a specific kind of warfare laid down in the Bible, called Consider the Book of Samuel, when God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites: “And utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them,” God says through the Prophet Samuel. “But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (prof.Peter Jenkins, Penn State University). “The Quran explicitly condemns religious aggression and the killing of civilians.It also makes the distinction between jihad — legal warfare with the proper rules of engagement — and irjaf, or terrorism” (Waleed El-Ansary, University of South Caroline). As a general rule, the Quran instructs restraining from excessive use of force.

2. Terrorism

The FBI has concluded: most of the terrorist activity in the United States in recent years has come from radical Christians, white supremacists and far-right militia. The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) determined that out of the approximately 2,400 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, 60 (about 2.5%) were carried out by Muslims between 1970 and 2012. Does that mean more than 95% of terror plots and acts in the US were committed by “Christian terrorists” and the rest – by “Islamic and other terrorists”? True, while Washington has spent more than 1.6 trillion USD on counterterrorism operations since 9/11, the number of terror acts worldwide has grown a dozen times.

Even then, the National Space Science Institute (USA) estimates that the odds of being killed by a terrorist attack is about the same as being hit by an asteroid. “An average Joe” can calculate, having these facts, the probability of “It’s going to be a Muslim killing me!” The odds of being killed even by a white supremacist, let alone “Islamist”, is lower than being bitten to death by Joe’s dog.

3. Tolerance

The Quran states about the “People of the Book” (Christians): “Of the People of the Scripture there is a staunch community who recite the revelations of Allah in the night season, falling prostrate (before Him). They believe in Allah and the LastDay, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency, and vie with one another in good works. They are of the righteous. And whatever good they do, they will not be denied the need thereof. Allah is Aware of those who ward off (evil)” (Sura3:113-115). The Achtiname of Muhammad (626 AD), or the (Holy) Testament of the Prophet Muhammad, ordered Muslims to protect and defend Christians: “Whenever monks, devotees and pilgrims gather together, whether in a mountain or valley, or den, or frequented place, or plain, or church, or in houses of worship, verily we are [at the] back of them and shall protect them, and their properties and their morals, by Myself, by My Friends and by My Assistants, for they are of My Subjects and under My Protection”.

4. Islam is derived from the word salam, meaning peace. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) orders in the Achtiname: “Their churches must be honored and they must not be withheld from building churches or repairing convents.” Hence, Muslims wish salam even to those European countries that ban the construction of mosques.

5. Islam is the only non-Christian faith that believes in Jesus (pbuh), whose name is mentioned 25 times in the Quran whereas the name of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – four times.  Name of Maryam (Mary) was mentioned explicitly in the Quran 34 times in 32 verses and one chapter was completely devoted to Maryam.

6. Women rights

Maryam was the one who was given as an example for the Muslim women, and for men. “And Allah presents an example of those who believed: the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, “My Lord, build for me near You a house in Paradise and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds and save me from the wrongdoing people.” [The example of] Mary, the daughter of ‘Imraan, who guarded her chastity, so we blew into [her garment] through Our angel [i.e. Gabriel], and she believed in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was of the devoutly obedient.” [Quran 66:11-12]

Divorce, property issues and rights were clearly reflected in the Quran and Hadith. About 30 percent of divorces were carefully documented during the Mamluk period (1250-1517) in the urban societies. Moreover, the Quran allows inter-religious marriage: “Should any Christian woman be married to a Musulman [i.e. Muslim], such marriage must not take place except after her consent, and she must not be prevented from going to her church for prayer.” The essence of women’s “rights” compiled under English law in 1632 – “That which the husband hath is his own. That which the wife hath is the husband’s”, remained intact till early twentieth century.[6]

7. Religious beliefs and democratic principles

The majority of both, Muslims and Christians, see no disjunction here. In Jordan, for example, 54% of men and 55% of women think Sharia should be a source of legislation in their country. Likewise, a 2006 Gallup poll indicated that 46% of Americans say that they want the Bible to be a source of legislation.

8. Sharia.

There is no such thing as a movement, registered or unregistered, to impose Sharia in Europe or in the United States. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) delivered a way of life for Muslims to follow. After a hundred years it was interpreted in Sharia law as guidance for Muslims and their daily life. Westerners might dislike it but some Muslims even clean their teeth five times a day – since Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) recommended it (using a Miswaak, the ancient “tooth brush” made of twig of arak tree).

The reasons many, including until recently – the author, did not know these and similar facts are: religious illiteracy of “the 99%” used by “the 1%” to wage information terror and to achieve political and material ends.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study” measured Americans’ knowledge of their own belief systems and the belief systems of others conducting a survey with 32 religion-related questions, like “What is the first book of the Bible?”, “When was the Mormon religion founded?”, etc. Atheists and agnostics answered an average of 20.9 questions correctly. Jews and Mormons were scoring a 20.5 and 20.3 respectively, while Protestants as a whole got a mere 16 questions correct and Catholics only 14.7.” If Christians’ knowledge of their own religion is below 50% level, one might assume their awareness of the opposite faith is 10 to 20%, at best. Looks like Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Education for Open minds initiative should focus on Western countries, not only Islamic ones.

Similar attitudes are present in many Muslim-majority countries, though. If you ask ten University educated individuals in Central Asia, irrespective of their age and occupation about the main principles and facts in Islam, probably, only one will manage to answer correctly (the results may vary among the countries). The challenge for the region, which is part of “the Grey zone” International Terrorist Gang threatens to destroy, is building a truly secular society.

For the notion of “tolerance”, it should be derived from a nuanced understanding of pluralism – not just from “soviet-and post-soviet-atheistic” type of tolerance and secularism prevailing among the older generation and their children. Otherwise, cases such as when people push a woman wearing a hijab out of a bus, because she is an “extremist” will become common practice, not an exception. Sociologist, Peter L. Berger, well known for his contribution to the theory of secularism, cautions that today’s trends in the Islamic and Western societies “provide a massive falsification of the idea that modernization and secularization are cognate phenomena”.

Modernity does not automatically lead to secularism. On the contrary, there is an upsurge of forces of “counter-secularism” in Islam and Christianity. In this vein, some experts wonder if authorities see a direct link between religious illiteracy, stereotyped perception of Islam and recent extremists attacks in Kazakhstan.

Ground breaking research on the anti-Muslim hate industry by the Center for American Progress focused on the 25 most vocal activists engaged in anti-Islam rhetoric, and this has revealed that only 1 (4%) had the qualifications to be considered an “expert” on Islam. It is no surprise that the majority do not have even a college degree in Islamic studies. But it does not bother the “talking heads” to assume, together with mainstream TV channels, the role of “the Ministry of Truth” where “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Another key factor, which was not addressed properly even by authoritative organizations and groups promoting a noble cause – a Dialogue of cultures and civilizations, is the role of information warfare affecting Islamophobia. Experts even consider good case studies to be equally shameless and are Western propaganda machines such as “Russia Today” (RT). The two foes’ cyber armies massively use public perception manipulation, neuro-linguistic programming, rumors development and dissemination and other modern scientific techniques of “subliminal persuasion.”

This allows, among other things, to destruct and switch, when needed, attention of the ordinary people from the exposed failures or lies of the politicians to eye-catching events – often artificially created. Ever hear that the videos presented as if they were from Belgium in the news coverage of “Brussels horror” were in fact, videos of the Moscow airport terror attacks and the Minsk Metro terror attacks in 2011? Or that the millions of euros were disbursed to fascist organizations by the EU in the years 2014–2016?

One can guess why these and many other similar outrageous facts did not make a media splash and outcry in democratic societies. Given the cynicism of the geopolitical players, it is presumed that the stand-off Russia – West, the modern version of the “Red Scare” (threat of Communism) against “Blue Scare” (Capitalism), could be replaced by their accommodation of a “mutually beneficial” “Islam(ist) Scare” at some point.

Creating an atmosphere of tolerance for a dialogue of cultures:

To stop obscurantism, it is important to come to an understanding of several key aspects and potential actions. First, sophisticated communication techniques are employed by politicians to manufacture Islamophobia. It includes “perception manipulation” used by Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda J.Gebbels: “The more you repeat a big lie, the more people believe it is a truth”. Therefore, the question is how effective is political correctness observed by those who try to combat Islamophobia at the “Islam-the West” discourse on all levels (the OIC Observatory Report on Islamophobia, expressing “a kind of pity” because Islam is paralleled with fascism or cancer in the West is indicative).

Second, in the 1930-1940s the entire world deprived Nazis of their self-identified name – the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, and called them fascists. Likewise, the main terrorist organization must be deprived of its self conferred “title” and called something like the International (Anti-religious) Terrorist Gang. It is unlikely, politicians and media would call this group the “Christian State in Iraq and Syria” if it chose to identify itself that way.

Third, given the scale of sheer religious ignorance the focus should be shifted from experts’ interactions to the enlightenment of general public about the basics of the religions. In addition to the Chairs of Inter-Religious Dialogue being developed by the UNESCO and the ISESCO, their e-platforms and programs should include “Religious literacy corner” with concise, clear data – from “A” to “Z”. The UN Alliance of Civilizations, the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding/ British Council, the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Coexist Foundation and other partners could adjust their important programs and raise the issue on a global level. Also, Al Jazeera could become even more relevant as an example of a “proper media” promoting this noble cause.

Fourth, persistent demands open letters from groups of citizens, NGOs to political leaders, constituencies and media owners to take appropriate measures on the exposed lies and distortions will indeed make a difference. This is also the case with the potential calls to the Council of Europe/European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia, the ODIHR/ OSCE and the OSCE/ Mediterranean Partnership for Cooperation to ensure balance between a free speech and “free advertisement of terrorists” – by making relevant recommendations.

Fifth, just like concise, sticking stereotypes are being hammered into the unconscious by the 25 Islamophobic “gurus”, facts-based, clear-cut messages need to be worked out to rebuke them. So far, polite elaborations of Muslim scholars on Western TV channels, with due respect to their importance, miss “the target.”

Finally, the real force able to change status-quo is the youth with its favorite tool – social media. If the “official declarations” of the Youth Forums against hatred and for the Dialogue are not implemented, then politicians and media should be aware of the alternative – a “Western Spring,” a peaceful current stirred by young people against lies, arrogance, information terror and fear. While extremists call to follow the “axiom”: “Use social media to inspire sympathizers abroad to violence” the youth should be inspired to employ, reshape it and communicate a “culture of peace message”:

Do what you can, with whatever you have, wherever you are, whenever possible to fight stereotyping, debunk religious myths. “The best hope we have to counter the lure of …(International Terrorist Gang) and its ilk in the long run will come from a global push for community-based initiatives led by trained young activists who are equipped to offer an alternative expression of idealism founded on adventurous, festive and glorious forms of “peace-building” as enticing as war.”

Hollywood, sport and entertainment celebrities can and already do (Muslim rappers such as Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, Lupe Fiasco, T-Pain) make it COOL – fighting Islamophobes and bridging people and cultures. It is also great that well-known multi-national companies Google and Microsoft are ready to rise to the challenge. As Mark Zukerberger stated: “I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world… …If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.”

It is time to rebuild bridges and move together in the Path of Truth, the Path of God. 

To contact Jan Dulac:

[1]The English Standard Version Bible. Proverb 18:21

[2]ODIHR Advisory Council of Experts on Freedom of Religion, or Belief. Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools pg.4

[3]ODIHR Advisory Council of Experts on Freedom of Religion, or Belief.Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools

[4]ODIHR Advisory Council of Experts on Freedom of Religion ,or Belief. Toledo Guiding Principles on Teaching about Religions and Beliefs in Public Schools

[5]Dr. Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, The Alliance of Civilizations and Building a New World Order. ISESCO publication.

[6]R.Thompson, Women in Stuart England and America, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy