In today’s world, as the hijab endures the label of a symbol of oppression, the holy book of Quran, a means of violence, practicing Muslims, as patent terrorists, the ever-trundling wheels of islamophobia are fueled up more than ever, trampling over the core practices of Islam.
With nearly one-fourth of the world population being Muslim, Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world. Although many assign the fast growth to demographical data built on fertility rates, it is also crucial to notice the conversion rates. “Observers estimate that as many as 20,000 Americans convert to Islam annually”, stated the Huffington Post. According to another study by Pew Research Center, “Islam is expected to experience a modest gain of 3 million adherents through religious conversion between 2010 and 2050.”
On diving deeper into the reasons for the rapid conversion, people found the doctrines of Islam to be lucid and pragmatic along with emanating peace and beauty; contradictory to the conventional beliefs of the masses. This peace emerges through logical values, further strengthened by a few cherished, obligated, and innocuous practices. Despite the thriving statistics, the irony lies in the fact of the misinterpretation and consequent negative media coverage against Muslims and Islam. Exceeding from the TV screens and insular psyche, the wildfire has spread out on the streets and within Muslim homes, burning their core practices; of hijab and Quran, to mention a few.
Take a look at how the political phenomenon of terrorism and the social issue of oppression is blamed upon the peaceful practices of Islam, accelerating the viciousness of islamophobia.
Hijab: A notion firmly rooted within Islam, Hijab is a concept centering on the privacy and modesty of both men and women. In a misogynist world, however, this doctrine has become a case of a behavioral norm rather than a religious moral by making the subject women-centric, with hijab exclusively being associated with the headscarves worn by women. Nevertheless, the hijab serves as a crucial source of identity for numerous women across the globe; something that they are robbed of. Labeled as “oppressive” and “threatening”, the public expression of hijab is, unfortunately, a very controversial issue in the contemporary world. While people casually boast about the freedom of wearing anything, debates have been ignited over Qur’anic misinterpretation and female seclusion, over the mere wearing of this small piece of cloth, with the Indian state of Karnataka being the most recent example. Banned, penalized, and looked down upon in various countries, the unarmed cloth continues to be veiled in controversy.
Salah: One of the prime forms of worship in Islam, Salah, better known as Namaz, is a ritual prayer whose performance is obligated upon Muslims five times a day. An integral part of the lifestyle of Muslims, these prayers call for discipline and punctuality, other than being a form of worship. While people can perform the prayers individually at their homes, it is highly preferred to pray in a congregation. One can only imagine how this 15-minutes, almost-hushed act, has been put up on the stage of the turbulent controversy. Salah in the open land endures the label of an international conspiracy and a threat to the nation, with the latest example being the protests in Gurugram against Friday prayers in public spaces. “I will not stop my fight until this becomes illegal”, said Dinesh Thakur of Bharat Mata Vahini. In countries where grounds are turned into political/religious battlefields every day, a peaceful gathering for an acutely vital purpose, what may even appear as emanating secularism, is protested against. “People are forced to pray out in the open because we have no other choice”, stated Altaf Ahmad, co-founder of the Muslim council in Gurgaon; a place where attempts to build mosques have been met with hostility and resistance. On an international level, China is notoriously known to have banned prayers in three jurisdictions in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region. The confiscation of prayer mats and intrusive homestay programs add to the imposed restrictions on peaceful religious practice.
Mosque: The English word ‘Mosque’ is derived from the Arabic term, Masjid, which means a place for people to prostate; commonly viewed as a position during worship. As a gathering place, the mosque intends to guide and instruct people in their religious and terrestrial obligations while directing a healthy relationship with their environment, thus playing an authoritative role in the cultural and social lives of Muslims. The instilled hate and misconceptions by non-Muslim extremist groups have portrayed the mosque as a center of disorder, which has led to numerous attacks on mosques globally. The sites have become targets for vandalism and shootings across the world. Whether it is the 2019 Christchurch Mosque shootings in New Zealand, the 28 years long Babri Masjid dispute in India, or of course, the recent fixations of saffron flags over mosque tombs by Hindutva groups across different states, the religious sites face destruction due to fraudulent political and vicious personal reasons through elements of destruction and political gimmicks.
Quran: Considered the sacred word of God superseding every previous writing, the Quran is the holy book of Muslims. According to Islamic belief, the Quran is the literal transcript of God which was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by the angel Gabriel. Other than serving as a guide to belief in One God, the Quran explains the purpose of existence, and teaches moral, social, and spiritual values, intending to lead a dignified life in sync with the Islamic morals for a successful hereafter. With the 2020 Sweden violence, and Quran burning protests in Norway being notorious instances, the burning of this holy book emerges as a new, vicious medium to carry out islamophobia in the contemporary world. Violent narratives like vilifying the community and the justification of terrorism, are created by distorting the Arabic texts in the book according to the parti pris of fanatics, misconstruing Islamic concepts.
As the core practices of Islam continue to face distortion in the know-it-all world, nothing but unfiltered islamophobia transpires through the cloak of misinterpretation and confusion.
Maryam Hassan is pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Zaina Shahid Khan