A dialogue about Islamophobia

The representative of CODIR-Canada was invited to attend a “dialogue” on June 15, 2017 for a consultation to identify the causes and effects of anti-Muslim bias and Islamophobia, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This event was organized by the Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians (CPPC). Among the invitees were representatives from religious denominations, ethno-cultural communities, school boards, trade unions, NGO’s, government, and political parties.

“Anti-Muslim bias and Islamophobia have escalated sharply since the 9/11 attacks in New York and with the rise of right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim forces in Europe and the United States, particularly with the election of Donald Trump”, reads the invitation of CPPC. It was against this background that CPPC organized the event.

Below is the full text that the representative of CODIR-Canada had prepared for the above event. A summary of this text was presented at the meeting.




According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known use of the term Islamophobia was in 1976, though it has become more frequently used since then, more so to describe the backlash against Muslims following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Some features of Islamophobia:

  • Islamic ideology is seen as inferior to the “Western” Ideology, whatever that means! It is seen generally as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
  • ALL Muslims (Sunni, Shiite, etc.) are seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a ‘Clash of Civilizations’.
  • Islam is seen in general as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage, rather than a personal faith.
  • Criticisms made of the West by Islam followers are rejected in whole.
  • Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
  • Anti-Muslim bigotry is portrayed as natural and normal.
  • Muslims, with their distinctive religion (and often as distinctive as appearance), became an “ideal enemy” to replace the Russians and Communism in the aftermath of the Cold War.
  • Muslims are used as scapegoat in dealing with critical domestic and/or global issues, the same way the Jews, blacks, communists, aboriginals, immigrants, etc. have been exploited for the same purpose in various periods.



Over the last two decades, Islamophobia has emerged as a key ideological and motivational factor in the imperialist wars in the Middle East. In the nineteenth century, imperialist plunder and war was justified under the pretext of “the white man’s burden” to bring enlightenment and Christianity to the “savages” of Africa and Asia. Today the “noble” cause justifying the US and its allies’ murderous wars in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and the continuing Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people, is the “horror” of Islamic fundamentalism.

Shamefully many Western liberals and some on the left have fallen into line, openly supporting or giving credibility to Western intervention in the Middle East on the misleading basis of encouraging secular democracy or opposition to the Taliban’s treatment of women – as if the likes of George Bush (or for that matter the Obama administration and now the misogynist Trump) have spent trillions of dollars on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan just to liberate Muslim women. The US imperialists show no such concern for the treatment of women by their loyal Saudi ally. What is at stake here is the control over the most important raw material in the world today – oil, and of course other geo-strategic interests, and to protect ‘friendly’ or pliant regimes.

Hate crimes against Muslims

Here are a few examples of hate crimes against Muslims.

On September 15, 2001 a Sikh man (Sikhs being known for wearing distinctive beards and turbans, and also for not being Muslims) was murdered at a gas station in Mesa, Arizona, “in revenge” for the September 11 attacks!!

In November 2006, Jerry Klein, a Washington, DC-area radio talk show host, suggested, in parody of Islamophobic views, the introduction of “identifying markers … I’m thinking either it should be an arm band, a crescent moon arm band, or it should be a crescent moon tattoo … If it means that we have to round them up and do a tattoo in a place where everybody knows where to find it, then that’s what we’ll have to do”.

In November of 2015, in the wake of the Daesh terror attacks in Paris, the United States Congress passed a bill to limit Syrian war refugees of being sheltered in the US, regardless of the fact that the refugees are themselves fleeing Daesh. Additionally, 30 state governors declared that they would not accept the refugees in their states

In December of 2015, hate crimes against Muslims including arson, assault and shooting tripled in number.

In 2015 and 2016 (since the start of Trump’s campaign for president), Islamophobic attacks against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of 9/11. The 2016 presidential election in the US and its aftermath led to a dramatic increase in Islamophobic attacks and attitudes more widely.

For many people, including some who would consider themselves “progressive”, there is a certain hesitancy, a reluctance to mobilise against or denounce Islamophobia in the same way that they react to anti-Semitism or anti-black racism. Such reluctance is usually articulated in terms of Islam being a particularly backward or reactionary religion, especially in its attitudes towards women and gay people.

Islamophobia is a form of discrimination which is clearly unjust and oppressive, and used as a weapon of reaction everywhere.

Islamophobia has been promoted and normalised by the main stream media throughout the America and Europe, and this is clearly shaped by its usefulness as a cover for wars, interventions, and domestic repression and diversion. Islamophobia is seized on and used by the fascists and those with similar interests and agenda. From their point of view, the question of who are the targets of their racism is a secondary matter. Their strategy is to pick on whoever is selected by the ruling class and portrayed to the wider society as the scapegoat of the day.

Despite the global Islamophobic propaganda and the real or perceived threat of “Islamic terrorism,” the strategists of the dominant world powers are unlikely to consider the ideology of “political Islam” to be an existential strategic threat to their interests. On the contrary, vital economic links have historically fused the imperialist objectives of the world powers with those of “political Islam.”

Let’s look at Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017.

Saudi Arabia, the country at the centre of the spread of terrorism, has for 50 years spread its most fundamentalist and extremist interpretation of Islam, i.e. Wahhabism. Osama Bin Laden was a Saudi citizen, as were 15 out of the 19 terrorists that perpetrated 9/11 hijacking and attacks. According to the leaked emails of Hilary Clinton; Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been providing financial and logistic support to ISIL and similar groups. Saudi nationals comprise one of the largest contingent of fighters in the Islamic State. Almost every terror attack in the West has had some connection to Saudi Arabia. And yet Mr. Trump who makes billion-dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabi ruling regime, promotes Islamophobia!!

You must have seen the Q&A session with Richard Stewart, a US State Department spokesperson, who stumbles on a question he was asked about why Saudi Arabi with such a repressive regime is a friend of the US!!


Democracy guarantees the rights of its citizens to practice the faith of their choice and protects them from the tyranny of a racist and bigoted group. Statistically, a disproportionate number of Muslims suffer from low levels of education, high unemployment and consequent alienation. Thus, they are easy prey for anti-western imams- often poorly educated themselves- and their incendiary religious rhetoric.

In the post-9/11 era, the anti-U.S. rhetoric from Al Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State has contributed to a backlash in the form of Islamophobia. Amidst Bin Laden’s declared war against the United States in 1996- and the intermittent calls of Al Qaeda and later ISIS to kill Americans, which became frequent global headlines- Islamophobia also became a frequent recourse among the politicians, the so-called strategic thinkers, and the counterterrorism “specialists” in the United States.

Muslims citizens in the world have become a toy, if not a pawn, in the hands of both Western Islamophobes and Al Qaeda and ISIS, whose seemingly opposite positions are more often closely aligned with one another if not cooperative.

ISIS propagandists turn video clips of Western Islamophobes denouncing Muslims into powerful recruiting tools, particularly when the Islamophobes offend Islam and the prophet of Islam.

The recent history of American interventions in the Middle East has proven that it has not lessened the tide of terrorism at all. If anything, the two victims of recent American invasions, i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan, have become swamplands of terrorism, turmoil, and the resultant instability.

However, we must be guided by wisdom and realize that the disdain and abhorrence we reserve for terrorists should not be synonymous with our feelings toward all Muslims in general.

Democracy guarantees the rights of its citizens to practice the faith of their choice and protects them from the tyranny of a racist and bigoted group. Not only does Islamophobia victimize yet another group, but it is often directed towards good, innocent people who contribute to our society and our country.

Muslims have historically been harmed and even killed by the very terrorist groups that they are incorrectly blamed for participating in. In fact, they are by far the largest victims of Islamist terrorism and most likely to be immediately affected by its occurrence. All the terrorist incidents you hear about in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syrian, and now in Iran, are examples of this fact.

We must not let our misplaced emotions cloud our understanding that Muslims, like us, are people who do not deserve to be defined by the wrongdoings of others.

In Canada, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric had become routine under former PM Stephen Harper. And, in case you were nostalgic for juicy politics, all that hysteria and Muslim-bashing has now surfaced again. This past February 2017, MP Mrs. Iqra Khalid, a Muslim member of the House, introduced a motion (which is neither a bill or law) calling for the government to condemn Islamophobia and to create a committee which will study ways of eliminating systematic racism in the country. The motion was a response to a petition started in light of the increase in hate crimes against Muslims which ended in the brutal killing of six worshippers at a Quebec mosque; one would think that condemning such hate would be a no brainer. As is often the case in politics, personal interest took precedence over principle.

Islamophobia is a term that encapsulates the hate and discrimination directed at Muslims. MP Iqra Khalid defined it as ‘the irrational hatred of Muslims that leads to discrimination’. But there was serious opposition in the parliament to this motion. Those opposing the motion state that the term is ill-defined and problematic because it supposedly supresses any criticism of Islam and is an attack on free speech.

In the current political climate, where Muslims are seen a security concern and supposed carriers of a violent ideology, the public has become acutely concerned about being able to criticize the faith. Any perceived attempt to restrict this ability, especially by a Muslim in public office, leads to a public outrage as was witnessed in Canada earlier this year. Of course, no-one can deny the freedom of speech to criticize faith elements and views that in today’s world might be deemed in violation of the internationally accepted human rights, such as the civil rights of women and the LGBT community, treatment of non-believers, dismemberment as punishment, terrorism under the pretext of Islam, and applying Sharia law in governance, aka Political Islam, like it is in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The genuine progressive tradition does not see the religion itself, but rather the socio-economic backdrop that provides the substance for its extreme interpretation as the root of all evil. To overcome this social injustice, we must unite the people across various racial and religious lines and combat all attempts by those who wish to divide and conquer the people. That can only be achieved by a vigorous defence of the human rights, including the rights of the racial, sexual, national and religious minorities.

Let me end my talk by quoting the anti-Nazi German Pastor, Martin Niemöller who wrote:

When the Nazis came for the communists,

I remained silent;

I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,

I remained silent;

I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,

I did not speak out;

I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,

I remained silent;

I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,

there was no one left to speak out.

Thank you!

June 15, 2017

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.