Since 9/11 the term Islamophobia has been one of the most discussed issues all around the world. Phobia is a psychological term and mostly caused by traumas particularly experienced in childhood. Despite the term Islamophobia has not yet involved into the literature of psychology, some human rights organizations use it to define the nonsensical fear of Islam and Muslims witnessed in Europe and USA.1
The debate over whether an Islamic centre should be built a few blocks from the World Trade Centre has reminded us the phobia that not only the Americans but also most of the Westerners have against Islam and Muslims. Although Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man spearheading the centre, a moderate Muslim clergyman, says the following about the cultural centre ”I am very sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11, as are my fellow leaders of many faiths. We will accordingly seek the support of those families, and the support of our vibrant neighbourhood, as we consider the ultimate plans for the community centre. Our objective has always been to make this a centre for unification and healing” he was not able to quell the violence on that issue which was highly politically abused by republicans and evangelicals in USA.2 Even-though Feisal and his circle were moderate, liberal Muslims speaking of the need for Muslims to live peacefully with all other religion and the project that they are achieving is not simply mosque but a cultural centre that also contain shared space for community activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space for children, separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths and also a multi-faith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.3 The incidents accompanying that event such as burning Qur’an event, stabbing of a Muslim cab driver in New York City and ultimately Time’s covering Islamophobia in USA have forced us to take a close look at the phenomenon. The situation across the Atlantic, in the old continent is not pleasing for Muslims, too. During last couple of years, Europe has witnessed hot debates over headscarf in schools, minaret construction, immigration and the escalation of far-right movements as reactionary against Muslim populations.
Westerners had the fear of Islam even before 9/11 but that tragic event got these fears out surface. The emergence of Islam in the seventh century and becoming a superpower against Roman Empire of that time and its continuous decadance against progress of Muslims and the existential wars of Europe during the Ottoman Empire traumatized them immensely and fear of Muslims took place subconsciously in Europeans.
Throughout history, the fear of Islam had many political functions for European states. In the twentieth century, largely the soviets and so called “iron curtain” states satisfied that need of Europeans. With the collapse of communism as a system and reconition of its non-being a threat made it urgent to find a new functional imagery enemy. That enemy was Islam which was blown by Western leaders4 as the gaff and expressed by peoples through public surveys.5
The uses of Islamophobia for the Western civilization which has been in the grip of an identity crisis for a long time are countless: Through a hostile image the West has found an excuse to blame for its evil actions. That enemy provides the West to stay unified also. In spite of every kind of discussion, disagreement among themselves by the help of that “fear” people are unifying in one point. Due to that notorious “ghost of Islam” the West can polirize its peoples and the world as friend and foe by forcing them into the position “either you are with us or with them” and exploit them to reach its political and military interests. Another use of hostile image of Islam is that it gives excuse to activate and manipulate the society and gives motivation even for war, cold or hot.6
Of course, the ordinary citizens of western countries really fear of Islam and Muslims due to some reasons and we can’t despise them for their fears. However, to be sceptic about the reality of that fear and to seek the truth behind the closed doors is a task of every mindful and conscientious individual living on the earth especially if there have been two wars leaving behind millions of people dead and injured which were waged based on that phobia, such as Afghanistan and Iraq.
- “Islamophobia: A challange for us all”, Runnymede Trust, 1997, England.
- “Building on Faith”, The New York Times, September 7, 2010.
- Fareed Zakaria, Build the Ground Zero Mosque, Newsweek, Retrieved August 16, 2010.
- “President: Today We Mourned, Tomorrow We Work” Georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov. 2001-09-17. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
- The Institute for Social and Political Opinion Research [Instituut voor Sociaal en Politiek Opinieonderzoek, ISPO] of the Catholic University (KU) in Leuven, Flanders, September 2007, January 2008.
- Hans Küng, Islam; Past, Present & Future, Oneworld Oxford 2007