What is Islamophobia?
All week, calls have been mounting for a clampdown on racist attacks against Muslims. What is driving hate against Islam in Western countries, and especially in Europe, and how can we stop it?
Q. What is Islamophobia?
A. Islamophobia is a word used to describe discrimination against Muslims and their religion, Islam. In extreme cases, Muslims have been attacked by people who do not like their religion. Islamophobia is a problem that lots of people are worried about.
Q. Is Islamophobia getting worse?
A. Last week, 50 Muslims were killed in an Islamophobic attack on two mosques in New Zealand while they were praying. It appears that the suspect had racist beliefs. After the attack, mosques across the world, including in the UK, were closed to protect the Muslims who worship in them.
In the UK in 2017, a record number of Islamophobic incidents were recorded. There is evidence that Islamophobia has risen in other Western countries too.
Q. How many Muslims live in Europe?
A. In 2010, around 44 million Muslims were living in Europe. Of those, 2.8 million were in the UK. Muslims are Europe’s fastest growing religious group, partly because of immigration, partly because they have more children than average.
Q. What do Muslims believe?
A. They believe in a god called Allah. Their prophet, the man who started Islam, is named Muhammad. Their holy text is the Koran, which they believe contains words spoken by Allah himself and relayed to Muhammad by an angel.
The other most important parts of their faith are: praying five times a day, giving to charity, fasting at Ramadan and making the pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad.
Q. So do all Muslims believe the same thing?
A. No. There are two main sects of Islam: Sunni and Shia. They disagree about details of their faith. As with any religion, some take the sacred texts literally, while others interpret it more loosely, preferring to see their faith as a guide to living a moral life.
Q. What is behind Islamophobia?
A. In recent years, extremist Muslims have carried out a number of terrorist attacks in Europe. Although most Muslims are disgusted by these attacks, terrorism has created a fear of Islam in some parts of Europe — and the West in general.
Right-wing politicians like President Donald Trump, or the UK’s Nigel Farage, have successfully exploited this fear.
Q. How can we tackle Islamophobia?
A. We should see that Muslims play positive roles in society every day. Since Islamophobia is often also based on the idea that Muslims are sexist, projects that champion Muslim women can show that this is often not the case at all.
It is important to recognise that the vast majority of Muslims in Europe are well integrated, and have no problem with living in a non-Islamic country. A 2011 survey in the UK found that 83% of Muslims agreed with the statement “I am proud to be a British citizen” — more than non-Muslims.
- How can we stop Islamophobia in our everyday lives?
- In groups, create a new religion. What will be its name and beliefs? How will it be different from other religions?
- When a particular group of people is untreated unfairly. This could be because of their religion, skin colour, gender or something else.
- The religious place of worship for Muslims.
- A term that usually refers to parts of Europe, the UK, North America, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
- A holy month for Muslims, during which they are supposed to eat or drink nothing during the daytime. Ramadan was the month in which Allah is believed to have revealed the Koran to Muhammad.
- A journey to a special place, often a religious one.
- Different groups within a religion or belief system.
- Made use of, taken advantage of.
- People who participate fully in a society are said to be “well integrated”.