The increasing Islamophobia in the Western World is a dangerous phenomenon, common nowadays.
The rise of Populist parties, nationalism and drastic cultural distinctions, these are among many symptoms of the rising Islamophobia, mainly caused by violence in Muslim countries, anti-Western terrorism attacks, the attitude and the radicalization of certain immigrants or native European Muslims and of course, ignorance.
Islam is in fact associated with terrorism, violence, irrational behaviours and fundamentalism.
Fear is at the base of this behaviour, in particular because of the recent terrorist attacks experienced by Europe in the last few years. Nevertheless, Islam is not fundamentalism, and religion is not terrorism. The assumption that these definitions coincide has brought hate and resentment.
While prejudice persists, it is undeniable that under certain aspects the current most frequent interpretation of Islam is not completely compatible with modernity and with the western conception of human rights, regarding for example gender equality or the rights of the LGBTQ community.
The encounter with Western liberalism could be an opportunity to change that and a chance to create a more moderate interpretation of Islam.
In order to create it, Muslims need to be modest, humble and open about their religion. There is also the need of key figures, inspirational leaders capable of connecting Islam discussions with the Western intellectual debate, people able to inspire and change.
An important factor to take in consideration regarding the issue of Islamophobia is the western assumption of being superior and labelling as less developed cultures that differs with their ideological roots. This is at the base of many prejudices regarding not only Islam itself as a religion but also as a culture. The role of media, politics and the ignorance about Islam and Muslim countries contributed to the creation of a distorted, general and primitive idea of Muslim culture.
Another factor to take in account is the rise of secularism, which contributed to the closeness towards religion, considered as a private and personal activity which has no place in the public life of citizens; and in particular towards Islam, a religion that cannot be excluded from the public life and that is considered ‘a show off’ culture.
In France there is a dialogue going on about a law forbidding the use of clothes covering the face or the head (such as burqa or niqab). In fact, with the diffusion of the Covid-19, France is facing a legal contradiction now that citizens are forced to wear a mask covering up their faces. This may be the occasion to reflect on Muslims’ rights and show openness, and in general to create a constructive discussion. We should all take our responsibility for our actions and analyze our personal behavior.