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Islamophobia: fear, driven by a lack of knowledge

International Day to Combat Islamophobia was observed around the world on March 10

The United Nations designated March 10 as International Day to Combat Islamophobia.

The UN has designated March 21 as International Day to Eliminate Racism and Discrimination.

These are two topics that are closely related and, sadly, indicate the lack of peace and unity in the world.

The UN promotes international days to highlight achievements, to promote awareness, discussion and hopefully resolutions to address world issues.

Let us look at Islamophobia – just what is it? A very succinct explanation: Islamophobia is a deep hatred for Islam and Muslims. Islamophobia is responsible for abuse, gross discrimination against Muslims, violence and even murder of innocent people, simply because they follow the religion of Islam and are Muslim.

Unfortunately, Islam and Muslims are often portrayed in a negative light by the media, which has led to Islamophobia. Any type of phobia is threatening but when it is prefixed with Islam it is particularly dangerous and destructive. It is clear that Islamophobia has absolutely no place for or in a progressive society.

It is particularly unsettling that the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief found that discrimination and utter hatred of Muslims has steadily increased to epidemic proportions.

We all know that fear is driven by the lack of knowledge of a person or thing. What is different is often considered a threat or strange, thus the panic button is pushed and a “stranger danger” attitude takes place. The unknown brings about fear and anxiety and muddles the thought process. Muslims in Bermuda are endeavouring to do our part to eradicate this situation. We want the Bermuda public to know who we are and what we represent as Muslims and followers of Islam, which is peace unto our fellow men.

The Koran states that, “Allah does not forbid one to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity.” (Koran 60:8)

At the first International Day to Combat Islamophobia in 2021, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out that anti-Muslim bigotry is part of a larger trend of a resurgence in ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazism, stigma and hate speech targeting vulnerable populations including Muslims, Jews, some minority Christian communities, as well as others.

He went on to say that, “As the Holy Koran reminds us: nations and tribes were created to know one another. Diversity is a richness, not a threat.” And he added, “Let us keep working together to advance the shared values of inclusion, tolerance and mutual understanding – values that are at the heart of all major faiths and the United Nations Charter.”

What a wonderful world it would be if racism and discrimination were totally wiped out and we stood together as one. The UN decided that March 25 would be an annual observance of events in 1960, when the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid "pass laws".

The UN has passed many declarations and so on emphasising the rights of all human beings regardless of race, colour or creed. Rev Dr Martin Luther King’s most famous quote still holds true: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Another famous quote to substantiate unity among the human family is that of El-Hajj El-Shabazz aka Malcolm X: “America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, even eaten with people who in America would have been considered 'white,' but the 'white' attitude had been removed from their minds by the religion of Islam.”

Islam has always upheld diversity and equal justice for all. It was stated over 1400 years ago, in the last sermon on Mount Arafat that was given by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “All mankind is from Adam and Eve; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white, except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves. Remember, one day, you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”

Allah said in the Holy Koran (al-Hujurat, 13): “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”

Let us take heed by embracing and appreciating our diversity. Dr King said it this way, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

Next week Wednesday or Thursday, depending on when the new moon is sighted, Muslims around the world will begin fasting as the Holy month Ramadan will have arrived.

The first ten days of Ramadan are the days of Allah's mercy, and we should make the best of these great days. The mercy of Allah continues the rest of the month, but at the start of Ramadan it is now with us for even the simplest works of worship and deeds. The most gracious is he whose mercy prevails over everything in this world.

Assalaamu alaikum

Linda Walia Ming is a member of the Bermuda Hijab Dawah Team, a group of Muslim women who reside in Bermuda and have a goal of educating the community about the religion of Islam

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Published March 18, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated March 18, 2023 at 8:16 am)

Islamophobia: fear, driven by a lack of knowledge

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