Why Muslims should empathise with Islamophobia

Published: November 21, 2015
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Protesters attend an anti-Islam “Reclaim Australia” rally in Sydney on April 4, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

After 9/11, the world was pushed into a forced and impetuous war on terror by the president of the United States in 2001. A war on terror means nothing less than more terror and the aftereffects of the war have shown that the war achieved little more than destruction. 

But the infamous George W Bush in his post 9/11 speech said,

“I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It’s practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.”

While Bush had his flaws, this part of his speech is commendable. It is an effort towards harmony and peace.

And now, right after the recent Paris attacks, President Obama has said something quite similar to what Bush had said.

In his address, he distinguishes between Muslims and Islamic extremists in an effort to discourage Islamophobia. But while these political leaders of the world are being reasonable, there is not going to be a substantial change in the status quo.

I implore those Muslims, who are angry in light of the Islamophobic acts, to empathise with the people who have lost their loved ones in Paris and in 9/11.

All they know is that a breed of Islamic teachings has led to the unfortunate deaths of their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and friends.

Understand the grave loss of the children who lost their elders to Islamic extremism and consider that this was neither Christian extremism of the Middle Ages nor Hindu fundamentalism. Those acts were done in the name of Islam.

They associate their tragedies to our religion, the religion that we pompously affiliate to peace.

Like Bush’s ironical ‘war on terror’, we are set and prepared for an ironical war on Islamophobia. Instead of understanding their grief, we are telling them that we are going to violently protest if we are associated with terrorism. We are telling them that we are not sorry for their loss because they were not sorry for ours.

We are comparing Paris with Syria, Palestine and Lebanon but this is not about who is the bigger victim. We are criticising Mark Zuckerberg for the French flag filter for display pictures on Facebook because there weren’t any for the APS attack in Peshawar. But again, this is not about who suffered more. Instead of empathising with them we are busy declaring what Islam is and what it is not.

study shows that only 28 per cent of Pakistanis believe that ISIS is negatively affecting the world. While nine per cent of us believe that ISIS is on the righteous path.

What does this say about us?

Nine per cent is a fairly large number, and a number we should be ashamed of.

Moreover, we should be somewhat scared of that number, because these ISIS sympathisers could become ISIS members. ISIS is becoming stronger and Muslims from all over the world are joining them. I know that crimes against Muslims are rising. There are people tearing the Quran and pulling off headscarves to show their anger. But there are also people who are celebrating the atrocities of ISIS, and that is an extremely sad scenario.

In times like these, we need to pick a side and we need to make it known. We cannot be apathetic to the anti-American and pro-terrorist speeches that the Imams give in our mosques. Let’s free our mosques of hate speech against other religions.

Let’s allow reason to prosper and tell the world that our religion is accepting of other beliefs and not intolerant.

As for Islamophobes, only through empathy can we get our message across to these lamenting souls.

We need to understand that they are hurt and we need to give them a shoulder to cry on. We need to help them and understand that their loss is as great as ours. This is the only way to tell them that we are not the extremists that did this to them. We need to stop asking them to understand the different faces of our religion, but help them in this time, so that humanity wins.

Hadeel Naeem

Hadeel Naeem

The author is reading for a PhD in Philosophy at The University of Edinburgh. She blogs at www.hadeelnaeem.com tweets as @hadeelnaeem (twitter.com/hadeelnaeem).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • wb

    There was a very logical and simple question asked by a commenter on youtube.

    “If Islam is a religion of peace, shouldn’t the extremists of religion be extremely peaceful?”

    Take Jainism for example: The Jain extremists tend to be extremely reclusive, sticking to a tiny vegan diet. And they’re likely to starve themselves and die peacefully when they choose to do so.Recommend

  • Gullu

    Excellent Blog. Well said. This whole ball of string has become so convoluted
    that it is near impossible to find a way to unravel it. The monster has grown by
    leaps and bounds. Everyone has their own opinion. No two are alike. Then we
    have a plethora of Hindu trolls with their one cent worth of toxic hate. That’s like a
    blind man describing a COW. It is nearly impossible to have a sane discourse. With
    the trolls from Bharat interjecting everywhere, with their poison.Recommend

  • Jor El

    What have Hindu trolls gotta do wid dis article ???Recommend

  • Jor El

    “If Islam is a religion of peace, shouldn’t the extremists of religion be extremely peaceful?”
    Thats a clever argument, but am not sure if it will fetch u the results that u r looking for …Recommend

  • Madhav Das

    No Gullu, you have not suffered from the hatred spewing from Islamic fundamentalists. We in India have suffered for long and would like to tell you that instead of giving the westerners a shoulder to cry on as suggested by the writer the Muslim world should stand up and tell their Jihadi cousins that you do not support them and try and destroy a few of them in their hideouts. Just being pious and sanctimonious is humbug.
    Sorry but I felt I need to say that.Recommend

  • Rajagopalan.M

    I am rubbing my eyes to confirm whether what I am seeing is real…. Is is this a Pakistani site?????? Wow. At last I think Pakistanis have started to come out of their fantasy world to see the real world. Kudos. Keep it up guys. From India. With Respect (& surprise).Recommend

  • Rajagopalan.M

    I don’t think there is any need to drag Bharat & its people into this discussion………Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Hadeel, no amount of reasoning will change the path a small but significant portion of Muslims have taken, the clergy among Muslims is too strong and is too extreme.Recommend

  • Reading_Jainism

    I will give some more details to pakis…

    1.Jains dont eat vegetable that are vegetated inside ground like onion/carrot etc…because they thinks it will kill organisms..
    2.They dont kill animals at all..not even a mosquito..
    3.If u truly adopt their religion than u will have no clothese to put on even in -40 degree tempreature…no shoes….
    4.education is their primary and foremost religion…99% of them are educated….

    What to say..u decide urself whoch is original religigion of peace…Recommend

  • Jatin Purohit

    Helene Muyal, 35,
    died at the Bataclan and leaves behind a husband and son aged 17 months. She
    was a make-up artist who worked on fashion shoots. Her husband Antoine Leiris wrote a passionate piece on Facebook
    addressed to his wife’s killers after seeing her body. “I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know. You are dead
    souls. I won’t give you the gift of my hatred. It’s what you sought, but
    answering hate with anger would be to surrender to the same ignorance that has
    made you what you are.”Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was a good sensible read.
    Daesh are basically religious bigots who are willing to use violence to enforce their views and further their quest for power. One must explain the basic 4 or 5 tenets that they profess to follow, why they chose to do so……. and why they are wrong.
    In a serious discourse you should involve countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and why they choose to mollycoddle religious radicals who spout the Daesh version of Islam.Recommend

  • raj

    These are exactly my thoughts and that is what I have been fighting for for last few weeks with my friends in Pakistan but they don’t understand or don’t want to understand.Recommend

  • raj

    Don’t over exaggerate things. Pakistan has people who follow goods and evils like India (not to mention the fan following of Shiv Sena and Modi). People in Pakistan do have opinion about things and you would have to visit the country and meet people before making you mind.Recommend

  • raj

    You also dragged Pakistan and Pakistani sites. How can you generalise that People in Pakistan doesn’t have an opinion and doesn’t know good or badRecommend

  • raj

    Right. There is no need. Its all about what Pakistanis (not all but few) are uptoRecommend

  • raj

    Islam (or any religion) is not a religion of Peace or Violence. Its upto the people what they bring to it. If a man is violent, then his religion is violent. If he is peaceful, the religion is peaceful.Recommend

  • wb

    Disagree. Some religions promote violence.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    Why don’t Christians turn the other cheek anymore? Why have Buddhist monks started slaughtering Rohingya muslims, why Hindus have started lynching people for eating meat etc etc etc.
    It is going away from the true teachings of any religion. Same happening to Muslims.
    Love for all, hatred for none, is the motto of the Ahmadiyya Community. They call themselves Muslims, are extremely peaceful people, and also extremely educated as well. If the world wants to beat the drums of ignorants, then so be it. Doesn’t changes the fact that the true teachings of all religions is peace, and the same goes for Islam.Recommend

  • raj

    Please name a few. It is always people who bring violence to religion. Religion gives you choice to choose from. Its upto you what you want.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    I agree with you, that choices are revenge or forgive. Need of the hour is to do is introspection, people of other faith have been put in the same situation, how did they handle it. This frequent call for Jihad by few while rest of the community stands there like “deer in the headlights” is a troubling factor.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    He won’t fetch the results because It is not a clever argument. Recommend

  • Jor El

    That is ur opinion, Miyagi-san …Recommend

  • abhi

    After each such incidents we see articles telling that majority of mulsims are tolerant and Islam is a peaceful religion. All the heads of western countries also make this claim repeatedly praising Islam. I have yet to see any leader of Muslim countries praising other religions or their followers. Even greetings on other religious festival is heard to find. How long this will go?Recommend

  • me

    No it’s people who promote violence! Recommend

  • Jamor

    One of the numerous letter writess in this paper mentioned that in Islam,it is forbidden to live under kaffir rule, and its the duty of a Muslim to resist it.Now what form of resistance this is going to take is left to the interpretation of any Muslim.No other religion tells you to resist rule of a diffrent religionRecommend

  • siesmann

    You give them a shoulder ,and the Mullah will take your head for it !!Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    really you are saying that a personal act is Reflection of religion? i mean really, Scholar?Recommend

  • siesmann

    You got it right, but not about your comments about clothes..There is a sect among Jains who considers acquisition of any property as non-religious.But most of them belong to the more practical sect,and are thriving in business,education and almost everything a common man will do.But non-violence is one thing,they will not let go off.They know well,that violence begets violence ,and peace is the utmost humanity.People can claim that their religion advocates non-violence,or that one man killed is killing whole humanity,it only matters what one practices.Recommend

  • siesmann

    You are so right.These bigoted Mullahs can keep claiming that Islam is peaceful and beneficent religion,none will believe them.Ahamdis practice the Islam that Mullahs and their zombies want other to believe but act exactly the opposite.While these bigots are churning out terrorists, Ahmadis are building schools and hospitals for the needy all over the world,and in Islam’s name. Recommend

  • siesmann

    But that certainly can be changed if people have the will to confront the irrational.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Mean certainly,but not entirely untrue.When text-books teach hate to children,and the religious authorities do the same,you can’t blame the blame put on that religion.Pakistan was a much tolerant society until it decided to leave everything to Mullah’s discretion.Recommend

  • raj

    Yes. If you think about an atheist, he/she is equally good/bad as compared to a religious person. If religion was to teach you violence/peace, those atheist would have no where to go. If you think a religion teaches peace then why there is a certain sect of people who promote more violence than others and why there are people who are more peaceful than others. If you want to be good, you will be good no matter what religion you follow. I stick to my words, religion does not offer peace or violence.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    Nothing is on Mullah’s discretion.can’t you see the hell of operations by Pakistan militarily? We have ruined our economic condition just to save our nation from those Mullahs and other weirdo.
    and what Text-book you are talking about BTW ? Name anyone plzRecommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    Mr.Raj tell me a single thing, just one thing in religion Islam which leads to Violence.Recommend

  • raj

    When did i say Islam leads to violence or any religion for that matter. Please don’t misunderstand and pretend things if you don’t understand. I am saying it again.. non of the religion promotes violence or peace. Its human that bring these into it. If you want example of PEACE: Abdul sattar edhi. Example of Violence: All the terrorist org in many religions. Shiv Sena for e.g., uses religion to bring violence when same can be done using peace. there are many examples like this man.Recommend

  • raj

    Right from the word go, when a child enters school the only lesson he/she learns is India is out enemy. That is the classic text book example of the school of thought Pakistan has at this moment. The operations you are talking about might be good but as far as the black sheeps are there in military and politics who support those violent people (IK, Fazlurrehman, JI etc etc), there is no cure.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    exactly that line which you mouth twice and don’t know the meaning actually…
    “non of the religion promotes violence or peace”
    what does it mean?
    Islam isn’t message of piece? it doesn’t promote?Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    This is another misconception and misunderstanding promoted and uttered by Reza Aslan.
    There can never be peace without absolute justice. And Islam promotes absolute justice at all levels.
    It has absolutely nothing to do with what an individual brings to religion.
    Individual character can be influenced by so many factors regardless of religion.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    your examples as an bad egg isn’t considerable but for the sake of argument black ship exists everywhere around the world. Nobody can say his country or place is Holy and Divine.
    second “India is our Enemy” nobody ever taught that and if it happens we won’t support that. But infect Look at Your Govt. and political leaders which you named specially is Anti-Muslim guy. I am Sure you can’t disagree. So if Head is supporting all these riots and violence being Anti-Muslim person, How can you object toward others way of teaching which is just an illuiosn for you. They React in that way so they Expect in that way too. but we always tried to avoid.Hope so you would get it.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/shoaib_112 Mirza Shoaib Ahmad Jarral

    let me close this discussion with two lines. If Malala deserved the Nobel and all those awards for what she went through…
    then all those children who died and suffered in APS, deserves a life time salute from the entire world.Recommend