When news broke about the unfortunate film “Innocence of Muslims” I decided not to watch the trailer, for the purpose is no different from other previous attempts to denigrate the personality of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). But I eventually did after a prominent Islamic scholar asked me to find the trailer and email it to him. It was simply disgusting.
The producers of the film knew very well what the reaction would be, and Muslims have again become so predictable. Instead of responding with reason, some people resorted to violence, which completely negated the approach of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Some pundits argue that the producers of the film have the right to free speech, but this is completely hypocritical, because recently when Prince Harry was pictured naked in Los Angeles on holiday, the entire British media, except The Sun newspaper, decided not to publish it. In fact ITV (Independent Television) in one of its news bulletins couldn’t even use the word naked, instead the station chose to describe the picture of Harry as “not well dressed”. Right now there is a row between the British royal family and a French magazine that published the topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William.
Misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims, particularly in the West, is a long and historical phenomenon, and the root cause of it is what scholars now describe as Islamophobia. Edward Said was among the scholars who drew attention to it in his classical work, Covering Islam. But even before him, there had been a scholarly debate about the origin and meaning of Islamophobia, which could help explain the attempt to present Islam and Muslims as backward and unfit for modern societies.
Writing in the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies in 2011, Fernando Bravo Lopez unearthed some of the early discussions about the origin of the use of the term Islamophobia. Lopez suggested that one of the early works cited in reference to the origin of Islamophobia is linked to L’Orient vu de l’Occidentby E´ tienne Dinet (1861-1929) and Slimane ben Ibrahim (1870-1953), who are considered by some authors to be the first researchers to use the term Islamophobia.
Lopez added: “Despite its title, L’Orient vu de l’Occident is not a book dealing with the vision (or, better still, visions) of the East as seen from the West, but rather limits itself to studying a handful of authors, not all of whom receive the same treatment. More specifically, most of the book is devoted to criticizing the work of two authors: the Belgian Orientalist who joined the Society of Jesus, Henri Lammens (1862-1937), and the French Arabist Paul Casanova (1861-1926). Both, according to Dinet and Ibrahim, had equally mistaken visions of Islam and particularly of its prophet Mohammed. But they were not mistaken for the same reasons or to the same extent”. However some years later, both Dinet and Ibrahim revisited the subject of Muslim hatred in Europe which they published in another work called “Le pe`lerinage a` la maison sacre´e d’Allah. They devoted several pages to ‘Europe’s hostility towards Islam’ (1930, pp. 173-84), establishing what may well be the first typology of Islamophobia”.
Of recent, there have been several attempts to understand and define the reasons for the unnecessary fear and demonization of Muslims in the West. One such effort was the establishment of the Runneymede Commission which came up with a report in the 1990s in Britain entitled Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All. The most recent comprehensive work on this subject was the book released by Chris Allen called Islamophobia. The entire book was devoted to understanding and defining Islamophobia, and after a lengthy discussion, it will be good to provide an excerpt from the definition offered by Chris Allen.
According to him “Islamophobia is an ideology, similar in theory, function and purpose to racism and other similar phenomena, that sustains and perpetuates negatively evaluated meaning about Muslims and Islam in contemporary setting in similar ways to that which historically, although, not necessarily as a continuum, subsequently pertaining, influencing and impacting upon social action, interaction, response and so on, shaping and determining understanding, perceptions and attitudes in the social consensus – the shared languages of conceptual maps – that inform and construct thinking about Muslims and Islam as the other“.
To be continued…
Dr. Yusha’u (email@example.com), a former staff of the BBC, teaches journalism at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, England. He is a weekly columnist for PREMIUM TIMES