Islamophobia...A Term Criticized in UN Seminar - Islam Online
- 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.
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
What we are aiming at is such more positive (sic)
than the mere tolerance. Usually you dont tolerate
something you admire or like but you tolerate
something you are going to live with although you do
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
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.
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
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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