How to fight Islamophobia?

A wave of anti-Muslim publicity has been seen in news media, social media sites, advertisements and films for over the last decade, particularly after the 2001 9/11. After the twin tower blasts, all the followers of Islam have been targeted; though it was supposed to be only the armed jihadi Muslims and their supporter groups, who must have some political agenda.

I have always been sympathised when a group of people is shamed or attacked for a single incident. But if you believe in the saying that both the sinners and those keep mum are guilty, you’ll see that a large number of educated and rational Muslims have been silent over the persistent abuse of Islam by the radicals.

This dilemma over self-criticism is seen everywhere including Bangladesh.

In April, 2012, the information ministers of OIC member states gathered in Libreville of Gabon to devise ways to fight growing Islamophobia. This is the largest-ever congregation of Islamic leaders/rulers on the matter.

From that year and until now, Islamist activists as well as common Muslims have increased preaching the religion — citing both true stories and false claims — for an uplift. Such activities have two sides, and the evil side has been dominating the online sphere as well as the media.

In Bangladesh, the radical/political Islamists are spreading propaganda and exaggerated information, mostly professed by the insignificant scholars while those are shared widely by the common Muslims — mainly due to their ignorance or inability to judge impacts.

Nowadays, the Facebook posts, pages and profiles of secular activists have been targeted by those jihadi activists. They are reporting the persons’ profiles and posts that condemn religious traders and jihadi views. Many of those activists use fake IDs and their pages are written in Bangla, for which the Facebook authorities do not take those down despite receiving reports of carrying hate speech and harmful contents.

The Gabon Conference decisions are worth sharing, though some of the provisions are crazy!

The conference was initiated by the OIC, the largest organisation of Islamic countries, to strengthen the ties among Muslims in the wake of ongoing ‘Islamophobia’, which aims to show a bad face of Islam. The OIC has set out a strategy to combat what it calls “rising intolerance against Islam and Muslims in the West”.

The conference has undertaken short, medium and long-term goals for putting in place an action plan to fight Islamophobia which include creating funds for media campaigns to counter intolerance against Islam and discourage using the expressions such as “Islamic” fascists or “Islamic” extremists for criminal terrorists.

It also asked member states to implement media literacy programs in schools to combat misperceptions, prejudices and hate speech. It aims to utilise success stories in the Muslim world “as a means to show that the interests of Muslims are similar to the rest of the world when it comes to democracy, good governance and human rights”.

The OIC, an organisation of 57 countries, has announced its plan to establish a satellite channel and promote investment in the media to fight Islamophobia and enhance exchange of information among the member states.

One of its resolutions says negative news in some Western media has resulted in negative stereotyping and racial discrimination and victimisation directed against Muslims.

Stressing that the Islamic faith is based on the core values of peace, tolerance, moderation and peaceful coexistence with all other religions and faiths, the OIC labelled the emergence of Islamophobia as a “contemporary form of racism and xenophobia motivated by unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred of Muslims and Islam.” It also added that Islamophobia manifested itself “through intolerance, discrimination, hostility and adverse public discourse.”

In May, 2012, the OIC chief called for global action to fight Islamophobia.

To me, as a social observer, the Muslims in Bangladesh and across the globe should think and act in line with the Holy Qur’an so that they are not misled by any radical Islamists or platforms with vicious political agenda.

If you do your work/duty properly, the paid/voluntary critics and people of other religions will have no option to appreciate your activities. Moreover, the Muslims need to raise their voice openly against the bad Muslims while publicising the positive examples.

For the critics: Don’t shame Islam, but condemn and punish the radical Muslims, who are destroying the religion for their own benefits.

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