Islamophobia: The Oldest Hatred
Majlis al-Shura (Vol 1 issue 5, Dec 1997)
News letter of the Muslim parliament of Great Britain
The Historical roots of Islamophobia
"And they ill-treated them (Believers) for no other reason except that they believed in Allah" (Al-Quran 85-8)
Today, the West has coined a new phrase Islamophobia to describe an old phenomena, hatred of Islam and Muslims. This gives the impression that it is a recent problem and Muslims are to blame for generating the fear and dread of Islam which Islamophobia implies. In fact, Islamophobia existed even when there were no Muslims living in Europe. The history of Europe has been shaped by its interaction with Islam. Its distortion, misrepresentation, and prejudices about Islam. Indeed, its wars against Islam.
To understand a prejudice you need to go to its roots. If European politicians and policy-makers genuinely wish to come to terms with Islamophobia then they must first take a good look at their own civilisation and its long and bitter history of conflict with Islam based on deliberate manipulation of Islam’s image for political, and religious purposes. Muslims must also understand that history.
The West’s current image of Islam is rooted in early themes developed by Christian writers. These have survived to become popular stereotypes.
Christianity, was the major power in the world until Islam burst onto the scene. As Islam spread, reactions appeared from both Christians living under Muslim rule and outside it. Christianity feared a loss of its followers to Islam and needed to respond. More so, since the Quran challenges Christian notions about divine revelation, the nature of God and Jesus. These initial reactions were absorbed by the Latin West and became the European view of Islam and Muslims.
The military response from Christianity in the form of the Crusades is well known. But even before the Crusades, the systematic distortion of Islam by Christian writers had begun. Islam had to be discredited since it could not be debated with. The easiest way to do this was through lies, false propaganda, and misrepresentation. This denomination prepared the European masses for the Crusades. If we examine this early literature a number of distinct themes emerge. Today’s attacks of Islam are simply a variation of those early themes.
Attacks on the Prophet (saw) and the Quran.
Early Christian writers focused their attack on the character of the Prophet (saw). The Quran and the facts about the Prophet’s life were distorted to justify Christian arguments that he was not a divine messenger. If the Prophet’s (saw) character could be destroyed, the Quran would be proved a forgery. Thus we find that the revelations of the Quran are described as epileptic fits of a man who is possessed by demons. Books about the Prophet (saw) are given titles like Demoniacus to reinforce this message. In most works he is described as a robber, adulterer, a murderer, a poor pagan who schemed himself into power, and maintained it by pretending revelation, spread it through violence, and by allowing practices that he himself indulged in. Such as having more than one wife. Elsewhere, he is described as practicing magic to convert people. He is even Satan or the Anti-Christ. He can induce visions at will to fulfill his own worldly desires. It is claimed that the Quran is a collection of Human documents, prepared by the Prophet with the help of Bahira, a Christian monk who was familiar with the old and new testaments. The Prophet (saw) was illiterate so he had to have an accomplice!
This early tendency continued and found its way into popular medieval literature. One scene from Dante’s Inferno sums up early European attitudes to Islam. In his vision Dante is walking through Hell. Each of the characters he sees is placed according to their sins and their fate. The Prophet Mohummed (saw) is to be found in the eighth out of nine circles of Hell. Before Dante reaches the Prophet (saw) he passes through the other circle, these contain a number of different types of sinners who’s sins are less than those of the Prophet’s (saw). The lustful, the avaricious, the gluttonous, the heretics, the wrathful, the suicidal, and the blasphemers. After the Prophet (saw) are placed only the falsifiers and the treacherous before one arrives at the bottom of Hell where Satan is located.
If the Prophet (saw) is next to Satan in European imagination is it any wonder that today Muslims have become associated with everything wicked.
The tradition of abusing the Prophet continued even when Christians were under Muslim rule. A Christian martyrs movement existed in Cordova, Spain. Christians would denounce the Prophet in public places, including mosques. They would continue, defying warnings, until their execution, which they considered martyrdom. Even today this tradition continues. Rushdie the hired mercenary of the West, was paid in advance to write his so called novel ‘The Satanic Verses’. This book repeats all the medieval material and lies about the Prophet and Islam. The Prophet is called Mahound, a medieval term for a Devil.
Islam as public enemy number one.
Early Christian literature had to answer a difficult question. If Islam was so evil, why were so many people attracted to it? The argument given was that evil often triumphs. Islam along with Judaism and Heresy was seen as the third, and greatest enemy of the Christian Church, and faith. In fact Islam and the Prophet were the anti-Christ as long as it was politically convenient.
Today’s comments about Islam are similar.
"There is a Muslim threat to Christian Europe it is developing slowly and it could still be checked." (Sir Alfred Sherman)
"Muslim fundamentalism is fast becoming the chief threat to global peace…it is akin to the menace posed by Nazism and fascism in the 1930s and then communism in the 1950s." (Clare Hollingworth)
"The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam…" (Samuel Huntingdon The clash of civilizations).
The Role of Violence in Islam
Early Christian literature focused on the approval of violence in the Quran, especially the verses on Jihad. This was used to show that Islam was not a revealed religion as it endorsed violence. The Quran, military battles of the Prophet (saw), and the rapid expansion of Islam under the first Caliphs, was used as evidence of this. Islam obtained power through military incursion, violence, and murder, not miracles.
Christianity on the other hand was peaceful. Such hypocrisy! They were prepared to use violence against Muslims but condemned the mention of self defence in Quran. When Pope Urban II launched the first Crusade in 1095 he declared, God wills it! God wills it! What were the Crusades if they were not a Holy war?
It is hardly a surprise that Islam and Muslims have again become associated with violence. Just look at the language that is used to describe Muslims. Fundamentalists, terrorists, fanatics, extremists, murderers. Movies from Hollywood; documentaries; books; like Jihad in America, the Sword of Islam, the Final Battle, all reinforce the same old message. Islam is a violent religion that has to be dealt with through violence just like the Crusades.
Attacks on the Moral and Social Institutions of Islam.
Latin Christians only understood their view of marriage. One partner for life and no divorce. Islam’s views on such subjects were deliberately distorted from verses in the Quran that related to marriage, divorce, re-marriage, and the position of slave women. The number of wives and concubines permitted was exaggerated. Pre-Islamic practices that survived in some Muslim areas, such as homosexuality were highlighted to prove that Islam had a relaxed attitude to such practices. The general argument was that Islam allowed promiscuous behaviour, the satisfaction of lust and permitted sin. It could therefor not be a Godly religion.
When religion ceased to become a dominant factor in Europe. Secularism took over. These early sources were then used to justify re-worked arguments. Feminists now argued that Islam subjugated women, pointing to the same references in the Quran.
Today, the same themes have been re-worked. Islam is now criticised for its lack of flexibility on sin. Islam is harsh on adulterers. Our attitude to sex before marriage and homosexuality is primitive. Islam oppresses women, and forces them to wear hijab. It forces girls into arranged marriages. Islamic punishment of criminals is primitive. Shariah is attacked. Just look at the recent hysteria in the media over the two British nurses sentenced in Saudi Arabia. Anybody reading the newspapers would think Islam was on trial not the nurses.
Ritual or Virtuous Acts of Islam.
Any ritual acts or virtuous acts of Islam were found to be lacking in comparison with Christian acts. Ramadan was compared with Lent. Muslim prayer with Christian prayer. Surah Fatihah was seen as an imitation of the Lord’s prayer. In any event anything of virtue in Islam was viewed as useless because Muslims could never obtain salvation unless they believed Jesus to be God.
Today all Muslim rituals are attacked from time to time. Muslim attitudes to halal slaughter, prayers, Ramadan, etc. Recently the medical profession has even started to attack circumcision. Early Christian literature also attacked circumcision as a false Baptism!
An attack on a specific ritual is usually accompanied by a wider attack on Islam. For example, a recent animal rights leaflet proclaimed:
"Religious (halal) slaughter is indefensible. We do not, for example allow multiple marriages, the caste system, stoning to death for adultery, public beatings or executions, amputations for theft and or female mutilations."
Tolerance and coexistence.
Europe’s attitude to coexistence has always been based on its image of Islam just outlined. How can you co-exist with people who follow the anti-Christ. Hence the view that Islam is and has always been incompatible with the West. Christians who negotiated with Muslim rulers were suspected and accused of treason, Richard I, Frederick II, Raymond of Tripoli and the Templars. Working for Muslims was a sin. Christians had to be rescued from Muslim rule because their faith was in danger, hence the crusades. Within Christendom, contacts with Muslims and Jews were not allowed. Christians were forbidden to work in Muslim and Jewish households. Muslims and Jews could not hold any position of public authority, they also had to wear a distinct clothing so that they didn’t mix. The adhan was banned as it was an offence to mention the name of Mohummed (saw) amongst the worshippers of Christ. Muslims had to be converted. They were forced to accept missionaries in their mosques so that conversion could be attempted. We all know what happened to Muslims in Spain. Islam on the other hand treated other faiths as having a contract with the state and protected their rights.
Is it any wonder that in Europe no Muslim community has survived except in former ottoman ruled lands. Yet in all Muslim lands, Christianity, Judaism and other faiths have not only survived but flourished.
The image of Europe as a tolerant civilization is recent. Europe has never been able to tolerate people of different faiths and cultures in its midst. It’s commitment to multiculturalism has yet to stand the test of time. Islamic civilization, however, has always been a multi-cultural one, because the Quran lays down the rights of others.
Of course, when we criticize European civilization we are not criticising the masses. The people of Europe should also be treated as victims. Victims of the most sophisticated brainwashing in history. It is the political and religious authorities of Europe who have generated Islamophobia for their own interests.
The propaganda against Islam serves the same purpose today. To turn the masses away from Islam. But despite all this hatred many are embracing Islam.
In fact, Europe’s targeting of Islam has been no different than that of the Quraysh in Makkah during the Prophet’s (saw) life. The Prophet (saw) and his followers were ridiculed, abused, and insulted. The Quraysh tried to belittle the Prophet’s (saw) claim to be a messenger of Allah (swt). They even hired poets to attack him just like the West hired Rushdie. They asked him to produce miracles by predicting market prices, in Jest. They threw rubbish at him. They even planned to have him killed. Boycott, starvation, isolation, bribes of money even royalty and power were all tried. His followers were also banished and dispersed.
The Quraysh launched a full scale propaganda war against the new community. They accused the Prophet (saw) of being a magician, who’s craft was eloquence. By eloquent words he was capable of dividing son against his father, his brother, his spouse and his tribe. Every visitor from Makkah was warned about the Prophets (saw) magic. They circulated counter speeches to those of the Prophet (saw). They began to argue that the Prophet (saw) wrote the Quran with the help of a Christian. He was at various times described as a mad man and possessed.
But the Quran is the true word of Allah (swt) and He knows all the strategies of the enemy and answers them.
"Or do they say "he is possessed"? Nay he has brought them the truth but most of them hate the truth". (23:70)
"When we substitute one revelation for another - and Allah knows best that they say "Thou art a forger". But most of them understand not". (16:101)
"We know indeed that they say "It is a man that teaches him". The Tongue of him they point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic pure and clean". (16:103)
"It is those who believe not in the signs that forge falsehood. It is they who lie!". (16:105)
The strategies of falsehood never change. All messengers of Allah (swt) were persecuted and declared as mad, or magicians, or impostors.
"Similarly, no messenger came to the peoples before him, But they say (of him), in a like manner ‘a sorcerer or one possessed’." (51:52)
So this hatred that we are faced with today is the same as that faced by all Prophets. They all follow one faith. It is not us or the Prophet they hate, it is the truth! Islamophobia is the hatred of truth. The oldest hatred.
"We know indeed the grief which their words do cause thee: It is not thee they reject: It is the signs of Allah which the wicked condemn." (6:33)
All the Prophets and their followers were prosecuted. But it is a testimony to the truth of Mohummed (saw), that 1400 years after his departure from this world, the Quraysh of today, the West, still felt it necessary to hire Rushdie to attack his character. And it is testimony to the truth of the Quran that today in a secular world, Muslims and their leaders still have to be discredited by calling them fundamentalists, terrorists and fanatics. Islamophobia is not just the oldest hatred, but it is destined to become the longest hatred.
There is another phenomenon which needs explaining. In Turkey and Algeria Muslims are being persecuted at the hands of so called Muslims. How do we explain this? It is simple. There is no difference between the Munafiqs and the Unbelievers. Time and time again, Allah (swt) refers to Unbelievers and Munafiqs in the same breath.
"Oh Prophet strive hard against the unbelievers and the Munafiqs and be firm against them. Their abode is hell and evil refuge indeed." (9:73)
These hypocrites are part and parcel of the established power structure of the West. Their minds are one, and their harts are one. More importantly, their behaviour and methods are one. They try to discredit those who strive for Islam by massacring innocent people and blaming it on them in Algeria. They prevent teaching of Quran in schools in Turkey. They accuse Muslims of being terrorists and fundamentalists and hold conferences with their masters in the West, on how to deal with them.
Some Muslims proudly proclaim themselves as moderates. If the example for all mankind is described as a man of violence, a magician, possessed, why do we except the West to call us, moderates? You are only a moderate as long as you serve a purpose.
Muslims today also suffer from a phobia about Islamophobia. Because we know how much hatred that Europe has towards us, we find it convenient to call ourselves Asian and Black. In the hope that the problem will go away. But it never does. The problem gets worse.