Opinion on Islamophobia by Suhaib Ashraf Bhat

9 November issue

IslamophobiaSuhaib Ashraf Bhat 

Free speech or Fire speech?

Lets first talk about what is Islam?Islam is based on humanity, The Islamic view of humanity is filled with mercy and compassion, and it cannot be otherwise, because the Islamic religion is the last of the religions that were prescribed by Allah swt, may He be exalted, and He commanded all of mankind to enter this religion. He revealed this religion and sent it down to the most compassionate of mankind, Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah swt be upon him). This is confirmed in the Book of Allah swt, where He says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And We have sent you (O Muhammad) not but as a mercy for the ‘Alameen (mankind, jinns and all that exists)”[al-Anbiya’ 21:107]. 
Islam advises us to treat neighbours kindly, even if they are not Muslim.
Al-Qurtubi (may Allah swt have mercy on him) said:
I say: based on that, kind treatment of neighbours is enjoined and is recommended, whether they are Muslim or not. And this is the right thing to do. Kind treatment may be in the sense of helping or it may be in the sense of being kind, refraining from annoyance and standing by them. Al-Bukhaari narrated from ‘Aa’ishah that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah swt be upon him) said: “Jibreel kept urging me to treat neighbours kindly until I thought that he would make them heirs.” And it was narrated from Abu Shurayh that the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah swt be upon him) said: “By Allah swt, he does not believe; by Allah swt, he does not believe; by Allah swt, he does not believe.” It was said: O Messenger of Allah swt, who is that? He said: “The one whose neighbour is not safe from his annoyance.” This is general in meaning and applies to all neighbours, and the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah swt be upon him) affirmed that the neighbour should not be annoyed by swearing three times and stating that the one who annoys his neighbour is not a believer in the complete sense. Concerning that Allah swt, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Allah swt does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily,  Allah swt loves those who deal with equity” [al-Mumtahanah 60:8].
It is not part of Islam to force the non-Muslim to enter this religion, because sincerity is one of the conditions of accepting Islam. And Allah swt, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“There is no compulsion in religion” [al-Baqarah 2:256].
Facebook on October 12 announced it would remove all content that “denies or distorts the Holocaust.”This expansion of its hate speech policies is a response to ‘the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people’, said the company but when it comes to the Islam they will not ban any content which hurt Muslim’s sentiments.  Muslims across the world have reacted furiously to French President Emmanuel Macron’s defence of free speech after a French school teacher who had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed (Salalahualihiwasalam) was killed. It’s not the first time we are seeing rise of Islamphobia across the globe and when Muslims reacts to it they are called as extremists. Islamophobia is created when a person doesn’t properly understand what Muslims do or believe, and that the best way to combat it is to have a better understanding of Muslims and Islam. Nowadays the media, in all its forms and with all its tentacles, has the ability to easily construct a negative image of Islam and Muslims.  Creating news and opining instead of reporting has given people the ability to choose the channel that agrees with their views.  Thus whole populations are no longer exposed to other viewpoints.  There is nothing that encourages them to understand and empathize with the situations and lifestyles of diverse cultures, or even with their neighbours who have opinions that are different to the ones they hold dear. When you add social media to the already volatile mix, we find that Muslims endure daily racial slurs, degrading photos, intimidations, and harassment campaigns.  The structure of social media and each platform’s reliance on algorithms means that those with extremist views are able to connect to each other with ease.  It also means that deceptions about Muslims often live on even after being exposed.
Islam is a religion of more than 1.8 billion people, from widely diverse cultures, and consequently they cannot be lumped into one homogenous package. We must stop saying or thinking that everyone in this package (that doesn’t exist) is violent or threatening. We must start to separate vigilance in regard to terror from Islamophobia.  The media refers to “Muslim migration” with terms like, pests, plagues, and deluge.  This must stop. 
In conclusion, people across the globe must learn to look at their media in a different light.  We must learn how to separate the truth from the fiction, and the facts from opinions.  We need to choose our news outlets wisely and try to watch or read from across a wide array of viewpoints and understandings.

The writer can be emailed at : Suhaibbhatt85@gmail.com

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