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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Islamaphobia: Can we stop the backlash?
President Bush has called upon countries and international organisations - and even former enemies - to pull together in the aftermath of the attacks in the United States.
He also warned that "we should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of terror," a caution echoed by politicians and religious leaders around the world.
But Muslims and people of Middle-Eastern and South Asian origin are being blamed for the attacks by people eager to vent their anger and grief. Some are suffering a backlash of abuse and there are fears that this will continue and grow worse.
How can the stigmatising of Islam with terrorism be stopped? And what more can be done to ensure the safety of innocent people who clearly have nothing to do with the deadly attacks?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
These attacks on New York and Washington are religiously motivated crimes, like the Crusades were also, and equally to be condemned. Realising this, Muslims are rightly distancing themselves from the attack and condemning it. They would be wise to continue to do so. The rest of us should welcome the position thus taken, accept that ordinary Muslims are not to blame and invite them to join us in strengthening pluralist societies.
Aous Mansouri, Boulder, Co, USA
First I extend my heartfelt condolences to the grieved families of the victims of the heinous terrorist attack in the US.
I feel that it is a bunch of disgruntled Muslims who for their own anger and their own way of inflicting pain to others have done this suicidal attack.
But all Muslims are peace loving and very humane and they all can't be blamed for the handiwork of a bunch of renegades.
At the same time I feel that the superpower(s) and the so-called civilised world should be more justified and upright in dealing with all their international disputes.
I have lived in the Middle East and studied Arabic and Islam for years. Without doubt there is a real misunderstanding in the West of what Islam truly stands for. This can only partly be redressed through education. A major part of the responsibility has to rest with the various Muslim communities - the silent majority. Muslims everywhere should stand up and condemn the actions carried out in their name from the top of their voices.
Ali Imran, LA, USA
The need for a real understanding to be developed between Muslim and non Muslim cultures must be a part of any long term solution for peace and a prevention of the backlash we are currently seeing around the world. Volunteer development workers whom I support spend up to 2 years living and working with some of the many honourable, honest and hospitable ordinary local Pakistanis and Afghans. These volunteers experience the real Pakistan with its warts as well as the positive aspects of its life. Ignorance in Pakistan contributes heavily towards its poverty and ignorance just as it clearly contributes to the backlash we are seeing in the wake of the terrorist attacks in the US.
A Sikh has been killed in the US and hundreds physically and verbally abused by their countrymen because they wear a beard and turban. The fact is that Sikhs has nothing to do with Islam, Bin Ladin or the Middle East. It is a unique religion originating in North West India. We totally condemn these terrorists and our sympathies are with the families of the bereaved.
Bryan H, Daytona, Florida
Today my wife received a call from my driving instructor. He called to say that he has terminated further driving lessons with her and branded her a
terrorist and a psychopath. Her only crime is that she is a Muslim and an Arab. I blame the irresponsible media which feeds wrong ideas into the minds of the gullible public. I expected more from people in England, but no more.
I am not a Muslim in the UK but a Sikh. The ignorance of many people leads them to believe that orthodox Sikhs who wear turbans and have beards are actually fanatical followers of Osama Bin Laden. This has already caused a severe problem for people in my community who have been victims of people who are not aware that Sikhism is a separate religion from Islam. This needs to be highlighted in the media before further serious incidents happen.
Tanmay, London, UK
Should we stop a backlash when Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Sudan and Afghanistan have been persecuting their Christian minorities for decades? Perhaps Islam is about to face up to the horror of its own extremism.
I live in a part of the US where there is a sizeable Arab-American community and I have many Moslem friends. Without exception every one of them expressed horror and dismay at the events in New York and Washington - and they expressed it first and foremost as Americans. The villains who have blood on their hands do not represent a faith, a heritage or even a normal segment of the human race. Our battle is with them - not with an ethnic group.
On behalf of the entire Pakistani people, I wish to offer our
sincerest condolences to all those affected by the
terrorist acts of September 11 and give praise and recognition
to all the rescue workers and volunteers who gave blood
and donated their time to help in the aftermath.
The best statement I have read so far is something to the effect, "..the people who committed these terrible acts are as Muslim as Timothy McVeigh was Christian."
Samsher Khan, Windsor, Canada
The only way to stop this backlash is by educating people around the world what Islam really means, what it stands for. Nowadays anyone who is a Muslim will most likely be blacklisted a terrorist, fundamentalist etc. People should not be judged by their race, colour or faith. In schools there should be mandatory classes on religion. This will slowly but hopefully remove ignorance from our society.
As an American-born Muslim (especially living in New York), the entire tragedy really hits home. It hurts enough that fellow New Yorkers as well as fellow Muslims perished.. but the Muslim community hasn't sufficiently mourned. Every time we walk outside our homes, we have to look behind us. We go out in fear of harassment and threats, and those awful stares at the very least. Why can't these people understand? The Muslim community as a whole condemns these acts and we too hope that the terrorists will be found and punished.
It is unfortunate but such stigmatisation cannot be stopped. The communication channels in our world today are controlled by only a handful of conglomerates who are less interested in reporting the truth than producing sensational lucrative stories.
I am not suggesting a vast media conspiracy against the Muslim world, rather just pointing out the fact that there is a lot of money to be made in the politics of hate; there are no repeat-customers when the message is that of understanding.
If moderate Muslims do not agree with the tactics of the fanatics, why not ex-communicate terrorists from the religion and bar them from the Haj to Saudi Arabia?
The Muslim world needs to take itself to task before expecting sympathy from the rest of the world.
Naveed Khan, USA
As an engineer, I work with Muslims everyday, sometimes on matters
related to national security. They are trustworthy men and are capable
of courageous and compassionate acts. But they need
American people are largely ignorant of the Islamic faith; and hence,
religious leaders must explain to the American public what Islam will be in the US from this day forward.
It is not enough that the religion stands against terrorism. It is
not enough that its leadership expresses their fears or claims to be our
friends. Islam must be synonymous with peace and Bin Laden
must be denounced as not only a madman but as a heretic.
Let there be no confusion, because lives may depend upon it.
If Muslims want to enjoy the benefits of religious freedom in foreign countries then they should be more vocal about the rights of minorities in Islamic countries. Failure to do so makes them look suspect. Not a single Muslim country has come out in opposition to the Taleban's directive of forcing Hindus to wear yellow or the Kashmiri terrorist acts of throwing acid on women not wearing the burqa. Muslims can choose to dress, practice or pray the way they wish to. They just need to remember not to impose their beliefs on the rest of the world and reciprocate the same rights in the so-called Islamic states.
Haru, York, PA, USA
Islam does not support or preach hatred against other races or religions. Also taking your own life is a major sin in Islam and it becomes worse when you die in the name of (Allah) God. I just hope for a joint effort by all faith groups to come together and clear up our difference which are only skin deep.
I see no harm in being a Muslim, Christian, Jew or Hindu. I would like to express my humblest grief and sorrow for all those who have been stripped of their life in these horrific acts of violence. May (Allah) God have mercy on all their souls.
Just like Protestants and Catholics, there is a bad apple in every family or religion. These terrorists who make evil in the name of Islam are not Muslims and the divine mission of Islam is not, I repeat not violence but peace and harmony in this world to enter hereafter.
Pav, USA/ India
I have heard of Muslims of Pakistani or Arab origin being verbally abused or attacked. I've even heard that in Australia they attacked a Lebanese church! If people thought clearly, would they attack all Irish people or throw bombs into Irish pubs when the IRA bomb London? Then why attack Muslims? Is it because racist attitudes as well as religious bigotry have been accepted into the Western way of life?
Sikhs have nothing to do with Arabs/Muslims, but they are still being targeted. I hope
there is no ethnic bloodshed - something that a progressive nation like
America was never known for.
Islam is a religion and Muslims are the followers. In my opinion Muslims should refrain from describing themselves as one nation. We belong to different regions, areas and groups. We belong to that region and have different problems altogether. Once we stop calling ourselves one nation, which we definitely are not, we will not be blamed for the wrong doings of one small single group.
Devesh Chandra, Minnesota, USA
I feel that Arab extremists are giving a bad name to the rest of the Muslim population. The attacks on the USA by highjackers were nothing to do with religion but everything to do with politics. They didn't attack the USA because it was a Christian state but because it was aiding the Israelis who are occupying Palestinian land. It was a desperate act to show their plight.
Looking at the history of last few years, we find that Muslims have been the victims of oppression in various countries and regions. They have been and are still the victims of violence in Bosnia, Kosovo, Palestine and Kashmir. In all these places military force was used and is being used to kill them and to make them homeless. Since they have no superior military force they have reacted in their own way to save themselves or to retaliate against their injustice and oppression. This has happened in many parts of the world with the result that they are branded as terrorists. All human beings desire peace and so do Muslims.
The dislike of Muslims in the West goes far back in history but in our time the media contributes a lot towards it. The day after the bombing of the World Trade Centre the tabloids showed pictures of about 20-30 Palestinian cheering. The headline: "Arabs rejoice". A group of 20-30 people is hardly representative of the entire Arab world.
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