Exacerbation of Islamophobia

Published: January 23, 2015
The writer is a post-doctoral fellow at McGill University

The writer is a post-doctoral fellow at McGill University

While the deadly attack on the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was widely condemned, the magazine’s subsequent decision to carry yet another illustration of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) on its front cover has sparked controversy within the Western world, alongside triggering indignation across much of the Muslim world.

Charlie Hebdo’s decision to bring out a ‘survivor issue’ which carried another illustration of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) on its front cover was apparently meant to signal defiance to its attackers, a move that has been endorsed by an exponential growth in demand for the publication’s latest issue. Subsequently, several Western media outlets have also decided to reproduce the new Charlie Hebdo images to express solidarity with the magazine, although many major media outlets also decided not to reproduce the image realising that it would needlessly offend Muslims.

Charlie Hebdo’s stance has certainly sparked renewed outrage across many Muslim countries against what is perceived as a conscious and continued Western attempt to hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims under the guise of free speech. Muslims are not alone in making such an appeal; the Pope himself is calling for limits to offending and ridiculing the faiths and beliefs of others.

The renowned academic Mahmood Mamdani has aptly described such satirical illustrations as being a sign of Western bigotry. He cites examples of bigoted images being used to demean other marginalised communities in the past including the Jews and African-Americans. For example, Amos and Andy, a popular US television show during the 1950s, used the garb of humour to justify racist caricatures of African-Americans. It was not until the race riots of the mid-1960s that the show was taken off air. Jews suffered similar prejudices through Nazi propaganda. It was thus poignant when the Nobel Prize winning German novelist Gunter Grass compared the earlier Danish caricatures of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) to anti-Semitic cartoons in the Nazi-era German magazine Der Sturmer.

Allowing the right of freedom of expression in secular societies to be used to ridicule the Muslim faith undermines prospects of conciliation between Islam and the West. It serves to anger many moderate Muslims, and such caricaturisation provides more opportunity to extremist groups to portray the West as being hell bent upon desecrating Islam.

The argument that Western values of freedom of expression must not submit to Islamic censorship demands is not constructive. It is the imperative of preventing bigotry on the basis of which such caricatured portrayals of Muslims, especially the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), need to be discouraged in the West.

The fallout of the controversy unleashed by injudicious expressions of freedom of expression is also creating widespread fear of reprisals against Muslim minorities in the West, in general, which are already facing the challenges of ghettoisation and social exclusion. Storming embassies of Western states in Muslim countries is not the answer either, as that will also fuel more Islamophobia in the rest of the world, and make life more difficult for Muslim minorities in the West, which already have problems adjusting into the mainstream of multicultural societies.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd,  2015.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Chaz
    Jan 23, 2015 - 4:11AM

    25% of the Muslim world condones terrorist activities against the U.S. and the West.

    While this hateful group is a “minority” of amongst peaceful Muslims, it is nonetheless hundreds of millions of people who agree with terrorists. Even if these people do not commit acts of violence, they are conspirators who encourage violence. Although, even average Fundamentalist Muslims have been responsible for burning of churches around the Muslim world. These fundamentalists also oppress women and minorities with a great deal of systemic prejudice, which has become “law” in various Muslim countries. Saudi Arabia actively exports Salafist ideologies that they enforce with zeal at home. These same Fundamentalists condone terrorism against various worshippers of Allah as well. It is mostly Muslims who suffer terror attacks from other Muslims. This is what you should be writing articles about.

    ONLY MUSLIMS CAN STOP JIHAD AND TERRORISM. Start in your own country. Stop the SIS from supporting and training the Taliban. No more double talk “Taqiyah” to “Kafirs.” Get rid of the Taliban and the Haqqani Network now. Mohammed would not approve of shooting and killing of schoolgirls.

    You have a lot more work to do at home before writing stale articles about foreign cartoons which foment mobs of uneducated masses. Besides, no one today knows what Mohammed looked like. AND if you enter “historical paintings of Mohammed” into Google Search, you will find hundred of paintings ~depictions of Mohammed~ painted by Muslims throughout various centuries.

    This severe Fundamentalist restrictiveness that has overtaken the Muslim world since in 1979 ~has to stop! It is fuelling terrorism and oppression. ONLY MUSLIMS CAN STOP JIHAD AND TERRORISM.


  • Lol Thats Funny
    Jan 23, 2015 - 9:46AM


    LOL!!! You get your “facts” from Fox News dont you. LOLOLOLOL.. What an ignorant person. Cant believe they still exist


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 23, 2015 - 11:19AM

    @Lol Thats Funny:
    Wow, what a genius! You didn’t even bother to counter any of @chaz points, you just threw rocks and called him names!!!!
    (Hmm, I thought that personal attacks were moderated out as policy by ET!!!!)


  • James
    Jan 23, 2015 - 11:33AM

    Why to migrate when you have “problems adjusting into the mainstream of multicultural societies.” why not migrate to “Ummah” countries after all there are 57 Muslim countries in the world.


  • John B
    Jan 23, 2015 - 12:12PM

    I only want to know:
    1: what western values are against humanist values, and
    2.why they are inferior to the Islamic values, and
    3: what Islamic values can be added to the humanist values of the “western” values that are appealing and adopted by many who see no difference between them and their own values
    4.why Islamic values are resisted by Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Bahai, Sikhs, (whom else I left ) and even by atheists.

    Hopefully the Moderator will at least allow this simple academic question. Because this is the root of islamaphobia, as per the discussion we have been having, and I am sure everyone want to know the answers.


  • CV
    Jan 23, 2015 - 1:11PM

    Where is my comment?


  • Amit Lunia
    Jan 23, 2015 - 1:48PM


    eye opening response,, there are hundred of images of Mohammad and mostly by Muslim artists of the medieval times in middle east, there was no Charlie Hebdo for those artists

    learn tolerance dear Muslim brethren , and do to your rivals what you want them to do to you

    @ ET please publish


  • Solomon2
    Jan 23, 2015 - 10:42PM

    A “phobia” denotes an unreasonable fear. Fear of “Islamic” terrorism – which is always committed by Muslims – is perfectly reasonable, given the events of the current era. Fear of Jewish or Israeli terrorism is not, yet much of the media is full of phony news stories about it. So it’s more truthful to claim that much of the world suffers from Judeophobia than Islamophobia.


  • Munir Varraich
    Jan 24, 2015 - 2:10AM

    Extremism is unacceptable in Nature. It is the Law of Nature that extremist act is always accompanied by destruction. Human Being is supposed to be the “highest form of creation”, so claim all religions. As for the atheist the Human Being has evolved so much that there is no need for God. Science tells us that “to every action there is a reaction”.

    My question to all those who support this “Charlie of Paris” is where is your common sense to encourage and support an extreme “action” by individual which brings destruction in its wake
    Is there a “religious” reason or a “scientific” reason or is it merely showing your solidarity to another form of “extremism” under the cover of “Freedom of Speech”. What is the difference between “terrorism” in the name of “religion” and “terrorism” in the name of “Freedom of speech”? The former uses the “gun”, the latter uses his “pen”. One attacks the body, the other targets the spirits. Both spread hatred and division in society and destroys peace.


  • Raj - USA
    Jan 24, 2015 - 6:59AM

    “Why to migrate when you have “problems adjusting into the mainstream of multicultural societies.” why not migrate to “Ummah” countries after all there are 57 Muslim countries in the world.”

    Besides, muslims start organizations like Sharia for UK, Sharia for Norway, Sharia for Australia, etc. etc., and want islamic Caliphate wherever they go. USA could be the only exception where we don’t see these idiocy.


  • Bahadurkhan
    Jan 25, 2015 - 9:25AM

    @Raj – USA: raj opinion is justified. I may add south Asians in Bradford, Southall, Birmingham are economically ok. Socially not ok. There are many cases over ho our killings in muslim and Sikh community even today. Another developing centre of social isolation is Dallas TX, Devon Avenue Chicago, Jackson Heights NY is mixed. Algeria, Tunis, Morocco citizens, are having low skills, hence not qualify for jobs. It is better they go back to native as it is developing. Oil and gas industry in Algeria. The North African ghetto of Marseilles, Paris are recruitment centre for AlQaeda, their unhappiness is reflected on entire muslim community across the globe.


  • malik
    Jan 25, 2015 - 9:51AM

    I am on a flight to New York. I see a group of Hindu priests, 5 or 6 of them – shouting ‘Krishna Is The Greatest!’. Will I be alarmed seeing them? No ! I might look at them with mild amusement, but I won’t feel my flight is any danger because of them.

    I see a group of Bishops, shouting ‘Lord Jesus Will Save The World’. I won’t be alarmed seeing them.

    I see a group of Buddhists, shouting ‘Om Name Padme Hum’. Nope, not enough to bother me nor anyone.

    I see a group of Scientologists or Mormons or Jains, all shouting their own favorite slogans. None of this would bother me.

    But, I see a group of bearded guys, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’. I would immediately ask to be deplaned.

    This is not borne out of any irrational fear. This is a credible, rational fear borne out of the track record of those who shout ‘Allahu Akbar’.

    Is this the one you guys refer to as ‘Islamophobia’?


  • politically incorrect
    Mar 2, 2015 - 4:13PM


    You hit the nail on the head.Recommend

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