Islamophobia: The Clash of Civilizations

Tyranny of the majority

The term Islamophobia is becoming increasingly popular around the world as more and more Muslims living in the West are experiencing incidents that fall in this category.  The term Islamophobia refers to the fear, hatred and prejudice against Muslims based on the idea of viewing them as a geopolitical force or the source of terrorism.  It is generally believed that Islamophobia is a relatively recent phenomenon which can be traced back to the incident of 9/11. However, Islamophobia is not recent and therefore can actually be traced back to hundreds of years ago.  There is no denying the fact the clash between Christians and Muslims over the Holy Land resulted in Crusades undertaken by the Christians of 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Later the Ottoman Empire emerged as one of the biggest threats to the Christian Empire from fourteenth to seventeenth centuries.  Some scholars are of the view that since Islamophobia has plagued the West for centuries therefore getting rid of prejudice against Muslims demands patience and time.  The Western world for the most part has a predetermined image for Muslims as being cruel and averse to technology.  Islamic scholar Abdul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi (1914-1999) in his travelogue mentions that the Americans asked him if he preferred camel as a means of transport.  Islamophobia despite existing for many centuries has vehemently resurfaced in the West targeting more and more Muslims.  Resultantly Muslims living in the West especially Holland, Italy, France, Germany and Norway easily become victims of Islamophobia. Therefore, Muslims living in this part of the world are often subject to discrimination particularly in the areas of employment and housing.

  One school of thought believes that religious extremism and intolerance towards others stems from grievances, cultural and religious differences.   It is believed that the modern wave of Islamophobia is a result of incidents of terrorism carried out by transnational militant organizations. Moreover, most of the Western world has experienced a massive influx of refugees and migrants from the Muslim world either due to war or lack of opportunities.  Unfortunately refugees from war stricken countries are viewed as an enormous economic burden by the host countries therefore new settlers readily become victims of prejudice.  Contrary to refugees even the Muslim migrant population settled in the Western counties can also become victims of hate.  Sayeeda Warsi, UK’s former cabinet minister in an interview to the Guardian told that her family faced prejudice after moving to a more white area.

Samuel Huntington in The Clash of Civilizations argues that cultural and religious identities will become the main source of conflict in the post- Cold War World.  What Huntington said seems relevant in today’s world as imposing ones cultural and religious traditions on others now seems to be a common practice. There is no denying the fact that minority groups often face oppression by the hands of the ruling majority.  Tyranny of the majority is the most appropriate term coined by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty (1859).  According to this concept the government or other authority democratically supported by the majority forms policies that suit the interest of the majority at the expense of the minorities.  Considering the tyranny of the majority one can understand as why Hindu Majority can victimize Muslim and Christian minorities in India. The growing religious extremism and intolerance in India under Narendra Modi‘s authoritarian populism may encourage Hindus not to tolerate Muslim minorities.

Ironically Hindu minority especially young women in Sindh Pakistan are readily subject to intolerance and extremism as many young Hindu girls face forced marriages and conversations.  Likewise Muslims living in the West face prejudice whereas Christians living as minorities in various parts of the world face violent extremism.

Therefore the reality of the tranny of the majority must be accepted as a bitter fact.  Samuel Huntington’s prediction of religious and cultural identities as the prime source of conflict seems impeccable in today’s intolerant world. Therefore it is important to encourage the idea of co-existing peacefully in multiculturalism and multi religious environments for a tolerant and peaceful world.  The idea of being intolerant and imposing one’s religious and cultural values on others makes people from different religions and cultures both victims and victimizers.

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