How to name it: Prejudice or Phobia?

An extreme fear of a particular thing or situation, especially one that cannot be reasonably explained is the description of what phobia is. Speaking of the word “phobia” as in arachnophobia or claustrophobia, it subconsciously implies, whether true or not, a negative association with the word used together. Similarly, using the word Islamophobia may not make people reflect on Islam as a positive term. Is it like spider or darkness? Muslims should not contribute to negative wording. What’s more, if one to claim that people are being Islamophobic, he has to prove that this totally stems from irrational and extreme fear which is different from prejudice. I prefer to hear anti-Muslim prejudice.

One should question their (anti-Muslim prejudiced people's) source of behaviour and motive of why they do. Why do they behave so, due to the lack of knowledge, blind hatred, or irrational fear or else? I personally experienced many dialogues with people, who are so called “Islamophobes”, and I realized that they had nothing to do with Islamophobia. They only need to have enough knowledge of what Islam is and adequate explanation of what Muslims do. After being explained and their questions answered, they do scarcely have bad images in their mind any more. The brief explanation of the essence of Islam significantly changes the expression in their faces. They relax when they listen to you and their prejudice against Muslims decreases and turns into neutral, and most of the time even gets better.

In this multi-faceted issue, it would be quite pathetic to name it worse than how it is. That’s why I believe that we should put it in this new way and so do I agree with the idea of exchanging the expression of Islamophobia with the “anti-Muslim prejudice”. I know Muslims tried a lot to coin the term Islamophobia through years but I think this word is not the best word to describe the current situation now. Most of the people may not have heard of Islam, thus they may have prejudice but this doesn’t mean that they do hate Islam. They may not know but they have the chance to learn and love it. To say Islamophobia and call prejudiced people on earth as Islamophobic is a critical mistake to conceptualise it.

Last but not least, there is another term frequently heard in the media, “anti-Semitism”. It is prejudice against or hostility towards Jews often rooted in hatred of their ethnic background, culture, and/or religion. In relation with this term, if we call the hatred and hostility against Islam, “anti-Muslim” prejudice would be best to choose, and to me, is more logical to give a strong basement to our argument.

Prejudice is quite a human feeling and is described as an unfair and unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially when formed without enough thought or knowledge. The lack of knowledge of Islam and lower levels of interaction with Muslims make people feel prejudiced. Man is the biggest enemy of what he doesn’t know. The more we learn, the better we live in this land.

Mainstream people in the West do not have an idea of what Islam is and most of whom do not know who Muslims are, surveys show. They do have prejudice against “the Islam in the media” and they are innocent in thinking so. If I were born in New York, watching Fox News all the time and reading New York Times, hearing anti-Islamic statements from the local Pasteur every Sunday, I would be prejudiced as well. The Islam in the media is a made-up religion and the Islamophobia of the mentioned Islam is rational and supported by the political and historical disputes. Anyone on earth has the right to fear from terrorists. If we take the Islam in the media, we cannot call the fear of it as Islamophobia as the phobia in psychology is irrational whereas terrorists are to be feared. The good side of it is that “the Islam in the media” and “the Islam Muslims practice” are totally different. If a Muslim follows Qur’an, he cannot kill an innocent man and if he is a Muslimhe really loves every creature as they were created by his God. That’s it.

Further more, prejudice against Muslims is not chronic if one is desperately obstinate not to listen to a regular Muslim in an open mosque day or elsewhere. For example, a few weeks ago, there was a winter fair and Muslims held an Open Mosque Day to outreach wider Cambridge community. Local people came to the mosque and had time and opportunity to feel the lovely atmosphere therein while they were sipping the Moroccan mint tea and tasting the mouth watering Indian food. They seemed much conformed while going back home. The organizer wanted them to write their impressions and you cannot believe your eyes how amazing their statements were. Let me share some comments after an open mosque day last year: "It surprised me how relaxed and friendly the mosque was!", "Thank you for all your hospitality. I loved the community aspect of the mosque.", "Children had a lovely time playing", "I am always walking down the road and have found the Muslim presence a little intimidating - I feel very different now having been here..."

It is possible to claim that people fear Islam and they may say “Isn’t this enough to call this fear as Islamophobia?” Then I say, people may fear Islam but fortunately it is not the Islam we, 1.5 billion Muslim believe, but it is “the Islam in the films” in which there are masquerading terrorists. We are against any violence against civilians and unarmed innocent people whether in New York, Baghdad, Kabul, Madrid or Istanbul. Those so called Muslims say that they do kill because their sacred book wants them to do so. Oops, hold on a second! “Which sacred book is it?” If this is the command of God, why do almost all of 1.5 billion Muslims not obey this command and the ones to understand this are only a tiny faction of a small group? I assure you, if this was the command of God and the practice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), certainly most of the Muslims would try their best to achieve it as they do try their best to perform their daily prayers, go to hajj and give zakah to the needy.

I do name it as “anti-Muslim prejudice” and some may still call it Islamophobia. In any case, real Islam is not to be feared or prejudiced unless you read and learn about it from the very sources, the Quran and Sunnah (sayings of Prophet Muhammad). We, Muslims, are and have to be open to every idea to be discussed and we do accept the Qur’an as the ultimate guide and our logic as the final decision maker. If your mind and heart are not satisfied with Islam, you are free to, but one little suggestion, please do make your mind comparing Islam with other faiths. That’s the difference of Islam. People are happy to learn about it, for Islam is the source of a happy life as much as you experience…


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