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(“Islamophobia: New Form of Anti-Semitism”, Leuven Academic
Querterly, Brussels 2005)
Mehmet GÖRMEZ Assoc. Prof.
Vice President Of Religious Affairs
• Dutch Prime Minister and current
EU leader Jan Peter Balkenende
warned sometime ago (in July
2004) that Europe must not let
Islamophobia cloud a decision later
this year on whether to start
membership talks with Turkey.
• This means that here is serious
concern that Islamophobia is an
important threat for the future of
• As a Muslim I note that whenever there
is evidence of Islamophobia or hatred
against Islam and Muslims the signs of
anti-Semitism are also not far behind.
• Let us constantly remind ourselves that
anti-Semitism is far from dead in
• Our greatest challenge as human
beings today is to follow a method of
critical independent thinking.
• Let us then keep critical independent
thinking in dealing Islamophobia.
• All racist discourses based on religion are
interchangeable. This is the point behind the title of my
talk here: Islamophobia: Another Form of AntiSemitism.
• “In recent years a new word has gained currency…
• It was coined in the late 1980s, its first known use in
print being in February 1991, in a periodical in the
United States.
• The word is not ideal, but is recognisably similar to
‘Europhobia’, and is a useful shorthand way of referring
to dread or hatred of Islam –and, therefore, to fear or
dislike of all or most Muslims.
• 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 a history that is difficult to say that it has been
able to tolerate people of different faiths and cultures in its
midst. Its commitment to multiculturalism has yet to stand
the test of time.
• Islamic civilization, however, has always been a multicultural one. The zimmi law, the people of the book are all
the bases of this `multiculturalism. The spirit of this Islamic
`multicultralism` can be best expressed in the following
SAYING-Hadith of the Prophet of Islam:
`Whoever takes `the Protected-Zimmi` person as enemy
takes God as enemy`
• To understand a prejudice you need to go to its
• 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.
• All types of false and malicious allegations were
laid against the fundamentals of Islam. The
personality of the Prophet was attacked in ways
that was not done even by the pagans of Makkah.
• Muslims must also understand that history.
• In marked contrast to Christian attitudes to
Islam, Muslims have historically respected
Christianity as a sister religion that shares
the same prophets and many of the same
moral values.
• Muslims would welcome a rapprochement
that heralded an end to Islamophobia. For
this to be realised, however, Westerners
have to shed their racism and face up to the
realities of past and recent encounters
between Muslims and Christians.
• In a recent article in the New Statesman,
Ziauddin Sardar gets to the heart of the
matter when he writes that
• "the west's hatred of Islam stems from,
more than anything else, the denial of its
true lineage.
• The western world as we understand it is a
child of Islam. Without Islam, the west however we conceive it today - would not
• And, without the west, Islam is incomplete
and cannot survive the future."
• Such dread and dislike have existed in western
countries and cultures for several centuries.
• In the last twenty years, however, the dislike has
become more explicit, more extreme and more
• Islamophobia is perpetuated by false media stereotypes
of Muslims, especially after the events of September 11,
• Compared to Europe, Islamophobia has evidently a
much harsher and more repulsive face in the United
States by conjugated action of latent ignorance of the
American People on this subject, Zionist glorification
and the events of September 11.
• It is not intrinsically phobic or prejudiced, of
course, to disagree with or to disapprove of
Muslim beliefs, laws or practices.
• Adherents of other world faiths disagree with
Muslims on points of theology and religious
• By the same token, agnostics and secular
humanists disagree with Muslims, as with all
religious believers, on basic issues.
• In a liberal democracy it is inevitable and healthy
that people will criticise and condemn, sometimes
robustly, opinions and practices with which they
• It is legitimate to criticise policies and practices
of Muslim states and regimes, for example,
especially when their governments do not
subscribe to internationally recognised human
rights, freedoms and democratic procedures, or
to criticise and condemn terrorist movements
which claim to be motivated by Islamic values.
• Similarly, it is legitimate to criticise the
treatment of women in some Muslim countries, or
the views and attitudes which some Muslims
have towards ‘the West’, or towards other world
• Debates, arguments and disagreements on all
these issues take place just as much amongst
Muslims, it is important to recognise, as between
Muslims and non-Muslims.
How, then, can one tell the difference
legitimate criticism and disagreement
on the one hand
or unfounded prejudice and hostility,
on the other
• In order to begin answering this question it
is useful to draw a key distinction
• between closed views of Islam on the one
hand and open views of Islam on the
• Phobic dread of Islam is the recurring
characteristic of closed views.
• Legitimate disagreement and criticism, as
also appreciation and respect, are aspects
of open views.
In the following tabulation, (taken from the 1997 Islamophobia Report by the
Runnymede Trust, an independent research and social policy agency in UK)
eight main features of closed views are itemised, and
contrasted in each instance with eight main features of open
A disadvantage of such tabulations is that the various points
which are itemised, each in its own tidy little box, can appear
separate from each other.
In point of fact closed views feed off each other, giving and
gaining additional resonance and power and giving each other
kickstarts, as it were – they are joined together in vicious
circles, each making the others worse. Also they sometimes
provide codes for each other, such that whenever one of them
is explicitly expressed some of the others may also be present,
tacitly between the lines.
Similarly it happens that open views feed off each other, and
give each other additional clarity – they interact in virtuous
circles, each making the others stronger and more productive.
The biggest obstacle
in challenging Islamophobia,
the lack of monitoring on the basis of
the lack of hard information
statistics on the experience of Muslims.
In the
In all faith communities there should be closer
connections between anti-racism and work to improve
inter-faith relations.
Legislation should be introduced prohibiting direct and
indirect discrimination on grounds of religion or belief.
A statement of general principles should be drawn up on
reasonable accommodation in relation to religion and
cultural diversity in the workplace and in schools, and
case-study examples of good practice should be
A study should be made of the police responses to hate
crimes containing a religious component.
A network on the role of religion in the public life of a
multi-faith society should be set up to make
recommendations on legal and constitutional matters.
For example, Erasmus Projects should be encouraged to
this end.
• Dear Friends, in concluding,
• My humble message to share with you
would be this:
“If we want to construct a new civilisation of
peace without the clash of civilisations and
ethnic-racist ideologies…
THEN what we need is
NOT another Enlightenment theory
but a worldwide approach of
Love, Mercy, and Compassion for the Other.”