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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.

Your reaction

I worry about my husband's safety

Joan, USA
As the wife of a Muslim I am annoyed by some of the comments here. Muslims are being told the backlash is their own fault because they have not spoken out against extremism. The fact is Muslims often do speak out. Muslim clerics, intellectuals and organisations have condemned the WTC bombing, suicide bombings in Israel, Hindus being forced to wear yellow stars in Afghanistan, oppression of women, and the kidnapping of tourists in the Philippines. I live in fear now. I worry about my husband's safety. He is a good, kind man who has never hated or hurt anyone but he is in possible danger because of ignorant people who want to punish all Muslims for the acts of a few. These people are just as bad as the terrorists.
Joan, USA

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.
Peter, Netherlands

Friends and family have been receiving threats and fear for their own safety

Aous Mansouri, Boulder, Co, USA
I am an Arab/Muslim American living in the US. If you want to hate me then hate me for the person I am, not for the faith I follow nor the geographical area I originate from. Friends and family have been receiving threats and fear for their own safety. As part of American society I have never felt more isolated. I haven't had time to mourn an enormous human tragedy because I fear for my safety as well as for my family's.
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.
Ahmed, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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.
Richard, UK

As an American Muslim I am suffering on multiple levels

Ali Imran, LA, USA
As an American Muslim I am suffering on multiple levels. On one hand I am devastated at the WTC and the other attacks. On the other hand, I am suffering from a mountain of guilt, wondering if there wasn't something that we Muslims might have been able to do to prevent these monstrous attacks from ever taking place? I tell myself that if the FBI, CIA and the NSA with their combined budgets of over $30 billion dollars couldn't find out about these shameless terrorists, then how can I be expected to do so?
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.
David Eminson, Islamabad, Pakistan

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.
Biloo Singh, London, UK

As a citizen of the US he puts his country first

Bryan H, Daytona, Florida
As an American I thank all of those who offered their support and prayers in a time like this. I have a close friend who is an Arab-American and he also serves in the US Marine Corps. As a citizen of the US he puts his country first and would lay down his life to defend it. But he himself brought up an interesting point. If Muslims want to not be perceived as terrorists, fundamentalists or extremists why do they not do more to condemn these terrorist organisations before such acts have been committed?
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.
Yunus, Berkshire, UK

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.
Balbir Bakhshi, UK

They should refuse to attend mosques where such clergymen preach

Tanmay, London, UK
The only way to win back the trust of the world is for ordinary, decent Muslims to publicly name, shame, and condemn the religious clergy who support such atrocities. They should refuse to attend mosques where such clergymen preach. They should refuse to send their children to Islamic schools where such fundamentalists hold sway. Do ordinary Muslims have the courage to do this?
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.
James Roth, Great Britain

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.
Robert del Valle, Detroit, USA

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.
Syed Faisal, Pakistan

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."
Imran Ahmad, Detroit, MI, USA

By harassing minorities, I believe that the people here have played right into the hands of the terrorists

Samsher Khan, Windsor, Canada
I've been getting a series of harassing calls and my work is suffering. I hitch a ride from a colleague whereas I used to walk to work. I get rude stares and while I haven't been assaulted or anything like that, I feel that the trust factor is up in the air. By harassing minorities, I believe that the people here have played right into the hands of the terrorists. The damage done to men and material is monstrous enough, the act of terror has destroyed a huge number of human bridges people had built up over the years.
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.
MK, Karachi, Pakistan

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.
Zahra Beig, New York, USA

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.
Akif Nizam, USA

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.
Ranjeet Shetye, USA/ India

We will overcome the negative perception about Muslims with love and patience

Naveed Khan, USA
It is unfortunate that Muslims may be responsible for one of the worst crimes in history. As a Muslim I am ashamed and I am sorry. I am, however, not responsible for the act of those who are misguided and extremists. I have full faith in the American justice system. American society is based on fairness. Muslims of America have joined hands with all Americans to pray and remember those who have been affected. We will overcome the negative perception about Muslims with love and patience, because I know that Islam does not stand for killing of the innocent.
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 leadership. 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.
James Hicks, Blacksburg, VA, USA

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.
Ashesh, USA

They will have to join the fight against terrorism with more fervour than anyone else

Haru, York, PA, USA
It is most unfortunate that the Muslims of the world have been placed in this awkward position but moderating rhetoric will do no good. In a world where people are guilty until proven innocent, Muslims will have to show themselves to be separate from the fundamentalists among them. They will have to demonstrate it through action. They will have to join the fight against terrorism with more fervour than anyone else, even if it means becoming involved in the destruction of those who claim to be fighting for the same faith.
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.
Omar Farooq, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

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.
Jalal Pirzada, Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Islam has been one of the most misunderstood religions in this world

Pav, USA/ India
Islam has been one of the most misunderstood religions in this world, both by believers and non-believers. Statements made by high profile Islamic groups are mostly just based on their distorted interpretation and have nothing to do with what the faith preaches. It is sad but true that the innocent fall prey for these inconsiderate actions and statements made on the basis of religion.
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?
Abu Dawoud, London, UK

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.
Sarab, India

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.
Vaqar Raees, Pickering, Canada

In India some of my best friends and colleagues have been Muslims

Devesh Chandra, Minnesota, USA
Right now, all that the world hears about Muslims is of their fanaticism, suicide bombing and religious dogmatism. The intelligentsia has to come forward and not just be seen and heard, but also take an active interest and assert themselves in the socio-political scene of their respective nations. In India some of my best friends and colleagues have been Muslims and there is not a more sophisticated and gentle people. The world also needs to be rational and not brand an entire religion or its followers for the acts of few.
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.
Farid, London, England

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.
Mukhtar Ali Naqvi

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.
Mohammad Negargar, London, UK

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