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Islamophobia...A Term Criticized in UN Seminar - Islam Online

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  • Zafar Khan
    Islamophobia...A Term Criticized in UN Seminar http://www.islam-online.net/English/News/2004-12/08/article07.shtml CAIRO, December 8 (IslamOnline.net) -
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 8, 2004
      Islamophobia...A Term Criticized in UN Seminar


      CAIRO, December 8 (IslamOnline.net) - Addressing the
      opening session of “Confronting Islamophobia:
      Education for Tolerance and Understanding”, prominent
      Muslim thinker criticized as derogatory the use of the
      two terms “Islamophobia” and “tolerance” when speaking
      about one of the three monotheistic religions.

      Ahmad Kamal Abul Magd was addressing the UN-sponsored
      seminar Tuesday, December 7, in which UN Chief Kofi
      Annan said that “Islam's tenets are frequently
      distorted and taken out of context.”

      “When we talk [for example] about anti-Semitism, we
      are talking about something concrete about some people
      who are hostile to Semitic people as we focus on the
      agony of the victims of this phenomenon,” said Abul
      Magd, who is the vice-president of the Egyptian
      National Council for Human Rights.

      But when “we talk about Islamophobia we do the
      opposite thing…We focus on the subjective state of
      mind of whoever for good reason or without reason is
      imagining a certain threat.”

      He said the core of the problem lies in the fact that
      “Muslims and Arabs are suffering from a wave of hatred
      and a wave of mistreatment.”

      “So I would rather very much substitute the word
      anti-Islamism for the word Islamophobia.”

      “Very Negative”

      Abul Magd further said he finds the word “tolerance”
      derogatory of Islam.

      “When we speak about tolerance we speak about
      something very minimalist, very negative and very
      passive,” he said in an impromptu speech before the
      seminar, which is part of a UN-sponsored series on
      “Unlearning Intolerance.”

      “What we are aiming at is such more positive (sic)
      than the mere tolerance. Usually you don’t tolerate
      something you admire or like but you tolerate
      something you are going to live with although you do
      not like.”

      Abul Magd added peoples of the world need to act in
      unison to “make life on this planet more peaceful and
      more enjoyable. So we need each other to join hands in
      a common effort.”

      “We need to use other terms other than tolerance and
      the same goes for co-existence.”

      Abul Magd further regretted that the West “all of a
      sudden” has forgotten the remarkable contributions and
      cooperation Islam has made to the humankind.

      “Now we are faced with depicting Islam as a threat to
      the march of progress, democracy, modernism and
      peace…The sadness in this irony or paradox is that we
      are made to forget a long history of cooperation not
      only in past ages but also in the last century…the
      last half century.

      “How could we forget, for example, during the World
      War II all Muslim countries and the Arab world sided
      with allied forces against [then Nazi] Germany and
      helping the so-called free world to curb the growing
      influence of communism and Marxism?” He wondered.

      “How could we forget the role played by Islam as a
      faith, a system of law, a code of values and a code of
      ethics?” (’Click here to listen to Abul Magads speech
      on the UN News Center).

      “A Matter of Hatred”

      Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington
      University in Washington, DC, also questioned the use
      today of the suffix “phobia,” saying that when Islam
      rose and covered land from France to China within one
      century, the Christian West had a fear of Islam that
      was both religious and political, according to the UN
      web site.

      “By contrast, the non-Islamic world today was very
      powerful from many points of view. Unfortunately, the
      reservoir of historical consciousness had been
      resurrected and Islamophobia was not only a question
      of fear, but also a matter of hatred,” he said in his
      keynote speech posted by the UN News Center.

      Muslims were not trying to be aggressive, they were
      trying to be themselves, he added, but in many areas
      that effort had led to fanaticism and the fanaticism
      on one side was feeding the fanaticism on the other

      “In analyzing Islamophobia, therefore, it was
      important to take into account not only the role of
      extremism in Islam, but also the role of extremism
      among Christians and Jews,” Nasr said.

      “Frequently Distorted”

      Opening the seminar, Annan said that seeing Islam as a
      “monolith,” and distorting its tenets are among the
      many practices that now make up the term

      “Islam's tenets are frequently distorted and taken out
      of context, with particular acts or practices being
      taken to represent or to symbolize a rich and complex
      faith,” he told the seminar.

      “Some claim that Islam is incompatible with democracy,
      or irrevocably hostile to modernity and the rights of
      women. And in too many circles, disparaging remarks
      about Muslims are allowed to pass without censure,
      with the result that prejudice acquires a veneer of

      He said that no one should underestimate the
      resentment and sense of injustice that “members of one
      of the world's great religions, cultures and
      civilizations felt as they looked at unresolved
      conflicts in the Middle East, the situation in
      Chechnya and the atrocities against Muslims in the
      former Yugoslavia.”

      “Like other religions, the Islamic world grouped
      together modernizers and traditionalists and the most
      populous Muslim countries are not Arab, but are
      located in non-Arab Asia, from Indonesia to
      part-Asian, part-European Turkey,” Annan said. (’Click
      here to read Annan's speech in full).

      More on Islamophobia at:

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