Fanning Islamaphobia- are we tacitly legitimising the violent extremists?

For Muslims in general the word Islamaphobia is an oxymoron. How can a religion that stands for justice,tolerance,peace and equality create fear in the hearts of people?  We all know full well that it is not Islam but a perverted and twisted notion of itthat instills this fear. A more popular word to express this is “violent extremism” and whatever ideological origin it claims to come from, it is simply that, a perverted and bigoted form and set of actions and beliefs that are evil and barbaric.

As President Obama stated at a recent summit, “violent extremism runs deeper than its barbaric acts. There is a whole infrastructure and ideology of rhetoric, radicalization and recruitment.  But if we are going to effectively root out their ideology, we have to be honest about the conceptions and notions they are rooted in.”

Islamaphobia and all other actions that feed this virus ultimately serve the purpose of the terrorist or extremist. Islamaphobia as the terrorists would want it to, fractures communities,destroys social capital and changes the way in which people and communities relate to each other through fear. These are the precursors that make young people who already are disaffected or alienated “ripe for radicalization.  If governments and communities work together on a common platform of understanding we can root out this evil. The phenomena of Islamaphobia is compounded when the language, rhetoric and policies of a nation only serve to feed it further unwittingly or not and the role of communities and community /religious leaders is critical in counteracting this malady. It is also crucial that the government at all levels listen to community leaders and support them where needed if terrorism or extremism is to be defeated.

The terrorists who call themselves ISIL or ISIS are desperately seeking legitimacy by using the word Islam in their description and they should be called and referred to simply  for what they are i.e., terrorists. ISIS should be referred to as TSIL or TSIS, the terrorist state of Iraq and the Levant or shams.  The use of terms like “jihadists” or “islamicist” by authorities only serves to feed into the terrorist propaganda and their violent narrative. The words jihad and Islam are core premises in the Moslem faith and carry deep meanings that are far from their twisted versions derived by adding the suffix “ist” to them. The use of this twisted jargon creates confusion in the minds of those who are at the edge of radicalization due to a combination of factors ranging from socio-economic and political grievances and more often than not pushes them over the edge. The use of these words also deeply offends all true Muslims for whom the meaning and nuances of Jihad and Islam lie more in the realm of inner spiritual struggle and submission to an all merciful divine will.

By the same token, asymmetric policies that are designed to infringe on or curb individual rights and freedom of expression and perceivably target ethno-religious communities in the name of prevention of terrorism, homeland security or national integration may in reality have the opposite effect of driving people in to the jaws of extremism and/or alienating them. Government action should build on its platform of multi-culturalism and promote and support outreach programs that address the root causes and grievances rather than tread on social justice in trying to only curb the symptoms of extremism.Tolerance of diversity and accommodation of inclusiveness should be the guideposts for national integration and promoting a truly multi-cultural, vibrant  and understanding society which enshrines the essence of freedom of religion — because when people are free to practice their faith as they choose, it helps hold diverse societies together.

To quote President Obama again, “Ultimately, it is the voices of peace and tolerance and inclusion — the voices of the young who believe in a future of hope and progress — that will ultimately degrade and defeat violent extremism. If we empower youth to unleash their talent and creativity in the name of a brighter future, if we openly embrace and support people’s lives here in America and around the world, then we will expose violent extremism for the harmful and short-sighted lie that it is.”