On March 15, 2019, the deadliest terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history took place in Christchurch. The brutality was perpetrated by a ‘white supremacist’ who attacked two Mosques during Friday congregational prayers, and brutally shot dead fifty Muslims, while also injuring as many. The 28-year-old alleged terrorist live-streamed the mass shooting for seventeen minutes to add to the glossary of the terror. He also wrote and promulgated a so-called manifesto titled, ‘The Great Replacement: Towards a New Society’, on social media, racially classifying and promoting terrorist violence against groups of people.
The world is a diverse place where people belonging to different cultures and ethnicities have been living together since the beginning. Over the decades, we have seen remarkable success and effectual development in terms of economic and technological realm, globally. However, with the considerable increase in the trend of Globalisation, the world has encountered a change that has accelerated global interconnectedness, reshaping the lives of people as part of a cosmopolitan society, connecting people in a world without borders.
Subsequently, being part of a global environment has undeniably influenced the welfare and economic conditions throughout the world. Nevertheless, it has also impacted and undermined certain areas such as community and culture. In some instances, it has provoked the essence of (supra)nationalism and has threatened the notion of religious and cultural diversity, receding the rights of an individual, constructing division on basis of different ideologies; culture, philosophy, economics, politics, and lifestyle. Since the last decade, after the events which unfolded in the wake of the 9/11 episode, the division has been more focused towards a certain religious ideology. Consequently, this divide delineates more between the Muslims and the West.
In this way, the actions and measurers taken (by West) against the Muslims have constructed a certain image of Islam and its followers. Being repeatedly portrayed as a threat to others — through political debate, legislative channels and media discourses — has led a greater number of non-Muslim population to become increasingly hostile towards Muslims and their practices. Unfortunately, this has given unprecedented rise to anti-Muslim sentiments. It has also sown seeds of suspicion and doubt when (and where) Muslims are concerned on the basis of religious grounds, consequently paving way for racial discrimination at the hands of non-Muslims.
Overall, global, international and national events and activities, have all contributed in projecting an image of Muslims which portrays them in a questionable and shaded spotlight. Previously, Muslim women wearing Hijab or Niqab were not seen as a threat to non-Muslims; however, today in many western countries it is seen as a symbol which raises political concerns. Moreover, state ordinances related to Islamic symbols are not just restricted to the extent of appearances but mosques and minarets have been prohibited and even demolished in many places. In addition, even having a Muslim sounding name leads to being treated differently at airports and in sensitive conditions due to security measures, marginalising the Muslim community.
Under such circumstances, Muslims have come to feel more vulnerable in the global environment. Misinterpretation of Muslim beliefs and uncalled stereotyping has opened doors to higher levels for harassment and intolerance on racial basis, inducing hatred and fear against Islam and its followers — the phenomenon termed as Islamophobia — primarily complicating the conditions for Muslims to compete within any social environment due to racial discrimination. According to Tell MAMA — an organisation whose aim is to aid victims of anti-Muslim violence and Islamophobia in United Kingdom (UK), vandalism, threating behaviour, and discrimination are all becoming common for Muslims to face in their day-to-day lives. In its annual report, the group noted a surge in Islamophobic attacks (in UK only), with 1,201 verified reports submitted in 2017, a rise of 26% from the year before. This caused insecurity and instability for Muslims at societal level.
With an increase in the intensity of hate crimes against Muslims and the recent calamity which took place in Christchurch, more voices have come forward in recognising the existential intolerance and prejudice faced by Muslims in current times. In the turbulence of the attack, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, has highlighted the need to form a more inclusive and engaging standard with Islam and its followers, in order to deal with the reign of global Islamophobia. More recently, an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) was called in Istanbul. At this event, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, has categorically stated that the rising trend in Islamophobia is a serious phenomenon, therefore, it requires a comprehensive global strategy. In this regard, international bodies such as United Nations (UN) should take action to develop a wider system against hate speech and discriminatory acts.
Essentially, recognising Islamophobia as a growing problem is a step forward in tackling the challenges posed by discriminatory acts against Muslims worldwide. It has become of immense importance to identify the causes and impacts of Islamophobia in order to acquire a responsive approach. With more public figures reaching out to condemn the discriminatory acts, Islamophobia can be understood in its unmitigated context. This will lead towards a greater willingness for mature and liable debates by politicians at legislative level in future. Moreover, role of media for promotion and factual representation of Islam and Muslims is also needed for fostering solidarity and helping minimise the prejudices against Muslim community at a global level.
The time has come for the world to accept Islamophobia as a social reality. Otherwise, ignoring such a global menace will only prolong its stay and thus will complicate the situation further. If the terrible incident like Christchurch can take place in an isolated and peaceful country such as New Zealand, it can happen elsewhere as well. It is necessary to discontinue the mere symbolism and stereotyping of Muslims and their practices on the basis of religious discrimination at global, international and national level. It is the need of the time that humanity as a whole works towards creating tolerance and empathy in the world community to live peacefully and eradicate hate and xenophobia. HH
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