By Iffat Ikram
Every person around the world seeks to live in a society where there is equality, justice, peace, where they enjoy equal rights and where they find dignity of labor. These might seem like a bare minimum desire for some of us, while for the rest, these wishes are a luxury. We all know how deep the roots of inequality are in our societies; these instances of inequality range from gender based and sexuality based discrimination to race based discrimination.
The word ‘Islamophobia’ has always sounded very funny to me because it literally translates to ‘Fear of Muslims,’ which as a Muslim gives me mixed feelings because it is more hate than fear.
Globally, the image of a Muslim has been synonymous to terrorists and extremists for decades now. Airport security, and in some cases even hospitals have shown skepticism to Muslims entering their establishment. The headscarf worn by many Muslims has been banned in many amusement parks across the United States. This is just where the hate begins, but it deeply affects the minds of people.
Islam has always been stereotyped as a violent and highly restrictive religion, and popular movies and books feed into this stereotype. Being a Muslim, I have been subjected to many stereotypical and insensitive questions. One of the widely known stereotypes around Islam is that all Muslims are thought to be from Arab or the Middle East, while in reality Islam is a very diverse religion, with people from all over the world. Another major stereotype around Islam is that people believe that Islam oppresses women.
The truth, however, is that every religion, race or belief has both good people and bad people. Defining a religion by people who commit horrible crimes, ‘extremists’ as we would call them, is utterly racist. These extremists are only a minority in Islam, while the majority of the religion rejects violence of any kind. In fact, a study by Pew Research Center showed that countries with a significant Muslim population expressed negative views against ISIS.
Women, around the world, face inequality, be it pay-gaps or the lack of women in positions of power, and it is not restricted to Muslim women or any particular race. These inequalities are, in fact, created by society, by people while the Quran, the sacred scripture of the Muslims, clearly states that men and women are equal in status. Countries around the world have had women as their head of state, and Muslims have taken pride in that.
To be very frank, I have lost count of the amount of times I have been asked whether I am a Muslim or an Indian and I have lost track of the times I have said ‘both’. Being a Muslim in India means that I am a minority citizen. There are minority citizens in every country and history has seen how civil wars have risen out of conflicts between minority citizens and majority citizens.
Then again, India is a secular country and religion should not be a reason for conflict in a secular nation, right? Ideally, yes. It should not be. But how many ideal nations do we see around the world?
India is not alienated to the widespread image of Islam. In fact, there has been a staggering rise in the stereotypes against Islam since 2014. Muslims face discrimination throughout the country and personally, I have met people who would admit that they ‘hate’ Muslims. Another research by Pew Research Center showed that 93 percent Muslims view Hindus, the majority religion of India, in a positive light while only 65 percent Hindus feel the same way about Muslims.
There have been instances where Muslims were called as ‘Bangladeshi’ which translates to ‘Citizens of Bangladesh’ in the land where they struggled for and attained freedom. The current BJP government feeds into this hate with their actions. In 2019, they passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which grants Indian citizenship to people from all religions except Islam. A study by USCIRF also showed the high level of restrictions around religion, especially Islam, in India.
In the recent years, dangers around Muslim lives have seen a staggering rise. I have seen and read about Muslims who were scared of revealing their identity, which is a disheartening message for the world. In India particularly, Muslims have been brutally killed and lynched for consuming beef. These people attack minorities in the name of protecting cows. Hate crimes against Muslims have risen immensely across the country.
I do not reckon myself as religious, however, I do believe in equality, I do believe in justice. And with all that has been happening around the world, with the increasing dangers around Muslim lives, I think this is about time we all speak up. This is the time to be united and act as citizens of the world, as we condemn any and all sorts of hate crimes.
Iffat Ikram is a high school sophomore from Assam, India and a blog writer for Youth Upholding Democracy. The views reflected in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Youth Upholding Democracy.