LAHORE, Pakistan ― There is a golden rule of compassion: do unto others what you would have others do unto you. Yet, in today’s world, we have seen racial and religious hatred directed towards women and minorities mainstreamed. Violent hatred in the West has reached an all time climax, with some of President-elect Trump’s supporters promoting the KKK and even Hitler with graffiti on school and campus walls and acts of harassment and intimidation towards minorities across the U.S.. Recently, Chinese girls on university campuses have tweeted about how they have been abused and told to get out of America. Muslim women have had their hijabs pulled off violently and even set on fire. African Americans who have lived in America for generations have been abused and violently told to “get the f***k out of this country, b**ch!” Mosques, synagogues and churches have sadly become sites of racial and religious abuse. The rise of President Trump in the U.S. (and for those who did not vote for him do not give up hope for he may be as good a president as he is a successful businessman?), the success of Brexit in the U.K., the increased popularity of Golden Dawn in Greece and the potential presidency of Marine Le Pen in France did not come out of the blue – the scene has been prepared for them, consciously or unconsciously over the last few decades.
I have been watching with deep concern over the last three decades a systematic attack on a certain minority community ― Muslims and their faith identity, Islam. When I was living in the U.K. as a scholar more than two decades ago, I recall the systematic negative reporting on Islam in general and Pakistan in particular. Like so many other friends of mine (non-Muslims and Muslims), this problematic coverage bothered me because first, it was not always factually correct and second, it was vitriolic. I wrote to Channel 4 in response to a negative documentary they released but nothing came of this feedback. The reporting only became worse with every incident of terrorism in which a Muslim was involved. Every time there was an incident, the universal pain of the attack would be forced to become obscure by the use of such terms as “terrorism,” “militant” “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamism”― unnecessary and provocative terms that associated extreme violence with the religion of Islam and the global community of Muslims ― in the media to describe the perpetrators. This is surely a terrible mistake, which I hope intelligent thinkers across the West would pick up.
Indeed, scholars like Muhammad Bauben in his book Image of the Prophet Muhammad in the West (2007) have pointed out the negative association of violence with Islam since the crude times of the crusades in Western popular thought and later in scholarship. Yet the global community of Muslims, consisting of more than 1.5 billion ordinary people, are “normal” people who aim for decent lives for their families ― work, jobs, education and above all peaceful living. But sure there is a crisis in the Muslim world of lack of education and opportunities. There are many scholars who keep warning against labeling any community, let alone the Muslim community, but the media in general have not heard the rational voices of caution. Every explosion is associated with Islam, a world faith that, like any other Abrahamic faith, promotes compassion and a peaceful way of life. We have to separate the religion from the acts of its deviant followers who are in fact far from ideal Muslims, they are mere criminals.
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