Have we been pointing fingers in the wrong direction?
The Christchurch Incident shook the entire Ummah with grief so profound, most of us had never felt it before.
A Christian extremist had martyred more than fifty Muslims, injuring another fifty or so people as he attacked two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
The perpetrator, a 29-year-old white Australian male, an Islamophobe, and a white supremacist proudly pleaded guilty to his crimes when he was arrested, only half an hour after he had fled the scene on March 15, 2019.
He wanted to “inflict as many fatalities as possible,” he said later on. The reason? He thought Muslims deserved to be killed this way.
Ironically, this event led to an increase in Islamophobic incidents in Australia and New Zealand, making the lives of Aussie and Kiwi Muslims tougher than it already was.
This event was not unprecedented in its nature. But the fact that Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment reeked so profusely from it did make it have an impact more profound than the other incidents.
Muslims have long been victimized by Islamophobia, the fear of Islam being exacerbated by the horrific 9/11 event that changed the lives of millions of Muslims across the globe. But, whose fault is it that Muslims are living in such agony in most places on earth?
Modern Islamophobia: Who Do We Point Our Fingers At?
Living in a Muslim-majority country, we don’t get the heat of Islamophobic incidents. But we do sometimes end up contributing to it.
We are not terrorists. We haven’t even hit anyone with a stone, let alone something more harmful.
How do we get the blame for contributing to Islamophobia?
We Are Way Too Passive
Let’s take a moment and think. If we see people throwing stones at our house and all we do is sit by and watch, won’t we have at least some role in the damage that’s brought to the house? Of course, we have.
Isn’t it the same with Islamophobia and a majority of us Muslims?
We know the amount of unfair hate our fellow brothers and sisters get and understand the level to which our beautiful deen (way of life/Islam) is misunderstood among the masses.
And yet, we continue to turn the other cheek, becoming spectators in a show that’s setting our own house on fire and burning our families.
But that’s not the only way modern Muslims are to blame for becoming complicit, either knowingly or unknowingly, in the spread of Islamophobia.
Our Far-from-good Approach
Let’s face it. We have done a horrible job of representing Islam.
Islam is a beautiful religion with balanced principles, practical guidelines, and tolerance for all races and religions.
But far from practicing Islamic principles in our life, most of us don’t even know what the Quran teaches us. We remain oblivious to the beautiful commands Allah has sent in His last Message to humanity.
As a result, we do wear the cloak of our Muslim identity, but most of us remain shallow inside. We don’t know how to carry this cloak, so it doesn’t get dirty.
We become intolerant, rash, and even abusive sometimes when something goes against our will. And when we choose to walk the dirty path of bad behavior, while carrying the cloak of our Muslim identity, the dirt inevitably splatters all over our beautiful cloak, ruining and then destroying it, bit by bit.
Most recently, a Kiwi cricket commentator – Simon Doull – criticized Pakistan’s star batsman.
These comments triggered a Pakistani fan, who was evidently Muslim, to the point he forgot all about the cloak he was wearing and slammed the non-Muslim guest commentator with words that are too disgusting to even mention here, or anywhere for that matter.
And this is just one of the many ways we contribute to the growth and spread of Islamophobia.
When Muslim men, wearing the cloak of Islam on the outside beat their wives proudly and usurp the rights of all the women around them, people think that’s what Islam is about.
When Muslim women carrying the cloak of Islam on the outside show intolerance towards other sisters, it reflects how Islam may be an intolerant faith.
When Muslims engage in violent activities, people think Islam is a violent religion.
When Muslims throw trash around, people think Islam has no place for cleanliness.
People judge our faith by our actions and hence have a distorted idea of Islam.
Everything that we do, while wearing our cloak, is used to form the way our religion is viewed by the masses.
So, if our bad behavior paired with the cloak of Islam brings a bad reputation to the religion, do we take our cloak off? Absolutely not.
Then, How Do We Respond?
Sometimes, we want to take our cloak off so no one knows we are Muslims and judges or attacks us for our faith or our faith because of us.
We often bend over backward trying to please other people so they would let us “sit with them.”
However, no matter what we do, we should know that our dignity relies on how firmly we remain on The Right Path.
Allah SWT says “And never will the Jews and the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion” [2:120]
So, let’s start responding to Islamophobia by adopting our religion in its true colors and being unapologetic about it.
Next, let’s learn about our religion first and then change our state from passive spectators to active proponents of Islam. That doesn’t mean we start hurling stones and slurs at people who attack us. Not at all.
Allah says “Respond [to evil] with what is best, then the one you are in a feud with will be like a close friend” [41:34]
An overwhelming majority of people who claim to have a prejudice against Muslims also claim they know very little about Islam.
Ironically, people who don’t have a prejudice against Muslims still don’t hold Islam in a very high position.
A Dutch politician Joram van Klaveren went from being a critic of Islam to a preacher of the religion while writing an anti-Islamic book. He couldn’t help but fall in love with this religion when he learned more about it.
We need to let people see what Islam is about, with gentle speech.
The best way of dissolving the bad reputation Muslims have earned themselves is to show the world the real, positive, and beautiful side of Islam.
We need to learn about Islam ourselves and then take it to the world with wisdom and grace.
Allah emphasized gentle speech even when He sent Moosa A.S (Moses) to Firaun (Pharaoh) to convey His Message.
Allah commanded Moosa A.S. “Speak to him gently, so perhaps he may be mindful [of Me] or fearful ]of My punishment]” [20:44]
Repelling Islamophobia with Islam
Yes, many people would still continue to dislike Islam as did at the time of Prophet SAW. But even if one percent of all Islamophobes see the true, beautiful side of Islam and learn to love it, won’t that be victory enough? It certainly would.
And if our collective efforts manage to repel even one Islamophobic incident and save just one life, that would sure be a victory and step in the right direction for the Ummah.
This year marks the fourth year of the horrific Christchurch incident. And as we take the time to make dua for the Christchurch martyrs, let’s also resolve to do our best to help eradicate the root of such events – Islamophobia, with our actions and dealings.
Remember, change starts from within. And how do we change from within? By connecting with the Book of Allah.