In retrospect, the aftermaths of the 9/11 incident- Muslims around the world are facing the menace of Islamophobia and this widespread jeopardy is seemingly pushing towards enduring hostile configurations based on impediments of religious misinformation, indoctrination and politicization. Over the past few years, this anti-Muslim syndrome has taken dreadful strides, further provoking the fault lines driven by identity contentions. Consequently, with geopolitical intrigues and daunting traditional and non-traditional challenges, the global world is witnessing intensifying Islamophobia trends, further endangering the prospects of inter-faith harmony and shattering the key emblems of the peaceful co-existence between the different ideologies and religions. Given circumstances ought to seek the root cause of such prejudice orienting from communities that are relatively perceived as modern, educated and had connotation of civilized society. In response, various valid justifications are more or less associated with the nature and idiosyncrasies of the general population, irrespective of their environment and social status. For instance, in contemporary times, the outbreak of Islamophobia Vis-a Vis phenomenon’s momentum and outreach is driven by the xenophobic culture, racial slurs, wrong attributions, negative profiling and stereotyping of ideology at large. This particular notion is escalated in the fundamentalist non-Muslim majority states where Muslims are being subjected to hate crimes at the societal level and growing anger against the Muslim ideology resulting in contention and fragmentation.
Several factors have been identified as the main contributors to such a worrisome trend: mounting far-right ideologies, refugee crises, immigration, negative perceptions amid adherents of different faiths, and provocative rhetoric by media with an aim to dente Muslim identity. Notably, the West has become the hub of this noxious anti-Muslim drive. At the community level, there is a drastic surge in hate crimes against Muslims both offline and online, as well as discriminations in education, employment, housing and healthcare, and other sectors that have become an unscrupulous trend with mayhem repercussions. Besides, Islamophobia is also gaining prominence, with girls and women being targeted due to the mode of their dress and the general notion that Muslim women are oppressed and thus must be liberated. This a dismaying factor that Islamophobia continues to find strong reverberation in political proceedings where it has been propagated for the mileages seeking and personal interests persuasion, eventually leading to the institutionalization of Islamophobia through the introduction of heinous legislation and policies in the western world. Furthermore, various academic research studies in Europe and elsewhere entails that Islamophobia has become of the most prominent viewership aspects of media discourse – in the account of this right-wing political parties and groups that tend to exploit and build on the general fear of Islam for electoral gains and maintain the status their status-quo. In various states, particularly in the West (Europe and the US included), anti-immigration and anti-refugee rhetoric have taken an anti-Muslim overtone and have often become the central theme of campaigns by far-right parties to project anti-Muslims sentiments in the masses. It is also noted with grave concern, that several Western media outlets continue to propagate fear and negative stereotypes against the Islamic ideology and its followers, notably by acting as a platform for widespread dissemination of anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Appraisal suggests that Islamophobia is also increasing in some non-western states where Muslim societies and minorities face discrimination, hatred and violence. Muslims in India and Kashmir under the fascist Modi regime structurally marginalized and the projection of Hindutva Ideology through the means of brute force is another simmering ploy to subvert the Muslims. The world has also witnessed the large-scale cross-border forced displacement of religious minorities e.g. Rohingya Muslims. In the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there has been a perceivable rise of negative narratives and hate speech in some countries holding the Muslim minorities responsible for the dissemination of the COVID- 19, under misinformation campaign and “fake news,” mainly in the social media by the proponent’s rhetoric. Likewise, countless incidents witnessed such as mosque burning, provocative statements in social media, mail threats, Holy Quran burning and desecration, insults of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), physical assaults, and verbal abuses. Another changing pattern of Islamophobia was witnessed on a Burqa-related issue in the western states.
Pakistan’s efforts in Countering Islamophobia
Pakistan has emerged as one of the leading actors to combat the growing menace of Islamophobia in recent years. It has taken various initiatives at the domestic and international level to contain the growing anti-Muslim sentiments and also religious misperceptions. The Prime Minister voiced deep concern over growing religious detestation, ultra-nationalism and worsening global rigidities, factors that have accelerated ‘Islamophobia’, subsequently causing attacks against Muslims in many states of the world. It is pertinent to mention that Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to sphere head the combating efforts for subverting the intolerance, discrimination and violence based on religion or belief against the Muslim community across the world. Pakistan at the 14th session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Saudi Arabia June year 2019 echoed the voice that the Muslim leadership in any uncertain incident of a blasphemous stab against the Holy Prophet (PBUH), that always seems deficient, henceforth, it has to be collectively uplifted to create harmony and unity against the rising anti-Muslim propagations. At the culmination of the session, Prime Minister Imran Khan also asked the members to foster an extensive collective Strategy OIC on Fighting against Islamophobia that would be implemented through adopting law and regulations.
Similarly, in the year 2019, Pakistan has also highlighted the issue leading global forum at the United Nations (UN) in which Pakistan’s envoy Dr Maleeha Lodhi moved the UN Strategy and Plan of Action to combat Islamophobia and hate speech. Notably, she also presented a six-point agenda on the behalf of Pakistan against anti-Islamic narratives and prejudice.
- Pakistan urged for the Legislation by states to address growing racism and ideology-based abhorrence against any community or religious identity.
- The Special Envoy also urged for strict surveillance of social media platforms to avert hate speech and negative stereotyping of any identity, in particular the Muslims, which has drastically increased in recent times
- The special envoy also called for the formulation of a “focused strategy” to counter the menace of Islamophobia worldwide
- Since popular sentiment against the Muslims is of propaganda and misinformation, therefore, the envoy called for better investments in research-based studies to find out the rooted cause of such ill-conceived anti-Muslim rhetoric
- Strategies should be adopted to increase the engagement of women and youth for the promotion of rational and reality-based narratives of any religion
- Lack of education and awareness is another grey area that needs to be addressed, in an account of this special representative asked the global forum to increase investment in education
The state’s envoy also emphasized the exigency for states to formulate laws to address the challenges of xenophobic culture. Consequently, this effort from Pakistan to combat the anti-Muslim sentiments at the global forum resurfaced the urgency of addressing this issue in the global arena. Furthermore, the Muslim community has also thrown their weight behind the key initiative taken by Pakistan.
Likewise, in the year 2019 to highlight the growing anti-Muslim incidents in India, Pakistan has communicated the representatives of OIC member countries based in the UN. To contemplate the arranging of an urgent online meeting, Islamabad highlighted state-backed cornering of a specific religious community to have a spillover impact. Prime Minister Khan has called the Islamic bloc to deliberate on the oppression faced by Muslims in India and the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K).
Islamophobia has emerged as one of the gravest concerns that have jeopardized the contours of harmony and cooperation. The scourge of Islamophobia, fueled by populism, hate speech, and lack of knowledge and disinformation, is causing unimaginable suffering to Muslim minorities around the world. Islamophobia has taken many forms including inter alia negative profiling, mob lynching’s by cow vigilantes, discriminatory laws, attacks on women for wearing hijabs, ban on minarets, negative propaganda and disinformation campaigns, manifestos of far-right parties, deliberate vandalism of Islamic symbols and holy sites, and attempts to link and equate Islam with terrorism. Such acts imperil our shared aspirations for a peaceful world and a harmonious future for all. Pakistan has always supported and continues to lead international efforts for building bridges between cultures and civilizations. The current government vows to build a better understanding of Islam and Islamic precepts. Furthermore, Pakistan took various diplomatic, measures to bring international solidarity cohesion, and cooperation between the states. It also stood against global evils of fragmentation and societal disharmony and remained determined to promote the values of peaceful co-existence as well as inter-faith and cultural harmony.
In the year 2020, Pakistan’s National Assembly passed a Resolution on Combating Islamophobia, the drafted resolution condemned in sturdiest terms the resurgence of blasphemous, and Islamophobic acts by roguish actors in some parts of the world. The bill also urged the Secretary-General of the OIC to continue to monitor the phenomenon of Islamophobia and take radical measures for presenting Islamic countries’ unified position on the matter particularly the subject of blasphemous caricatures of the Holy Prophet and desecration of the Holy Quran. Furthermore, the draft bill by Pakistan also called all non-OIC countries to provide a legal framework to Muslims residing in their territory for addressing their unpretentious grievances. Pakistan also took the initiative of undermining Islamophobia at all the global platforms, for instance during a trilateral summit in Malaysia in the year 2020, Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speech at the International Institute of Islamic Studies highlighted the West predominantly associating the Muslims with Terrorism, that is merely a wrong attribution to the Muslim. He further proclaimed that the drastic intensification of Islamophobia is due to the deficient efforts of the Muslim world to combat this wrong rhetoric in the west. This vulnerability led the west to symbolize the Muslims with terrorism only, irrespective of true values, ideology and teachings of Islam. He further stated that these wrong religious perceptions should be curbed and there is a dire need for the promotion of the true values of Islam as religion. Islamic leadership have to collectively convey the message to the world that targeting the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and the Holy Quran would be painful for the Muslims and this false trend is also further increasing global ideological detestation.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also proposed a combating strategy through disseminating the real content through print, electronic and social media platforms. For that Pakistan, Turkey and Malaysia jointly decided to start a new English language Islamic television channel with a worldwide telecast.
The fundamental objective of the TV channel will be to deal with challenges including Islamophobia faced by the Muslim world also promote the real image of Islam worldwide.
Apart from OIC, Pakistan continued to raise its voices at the UN General Assembly and it attained a resounding diplomatic triumph when the prestigious global forum adopted a consensus-based resolution – sponsored by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other OIC countries – on the protection of religious sites. The adoption of this resolution is a part of the efforts initiated by Prime Minister Imran Khan to combat Islamophobia and outlaw attacks on Muslims religious shrines, symbols and sacred personalities in certain countries. The resolution condemns all acts or threats of violence, destruction, damage directed against religious sites that have continued to occur across the world, especially in India. The resolution denounces any moves to obliterate or forcibly convert any religious sites. It also expresses concerns on the rise of racial and religious intolerance and negative stereotyping of religions and condemns any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that promotes discrimination, hostility or violence. The adoption of the resolution is also a rebuke to the Hindutva extremists in India who have launched a systematic and government-backed programme to eliminate the heritage and legacy of Islam in India through the destruction of Islamic shrines and monuments and to the transformation of India’s Muslims into second-class citizens, or non-citizens. The adoption of this resolution has generated hope that by denouncing violent attacks on religious sites, the international community joins hands in promoting a culture of peace, based on mutual respect, understanding and tolerance. Pakistan will continue to play a leading role in this endeavor to ensure worldwide inter-faith harmony.
In the aftermaths of the French Blasphemous incident, Pakistan strongly condemned the incident and urged the global community to take staunch actions for such ill-convinced incidents that have repeatedly hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community across the world. Apart from the UN, EU, and other global forums, Prime Minister Imran Khan also wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Head of one of the leading social media platforms ‘Facebook’, to remove the blasphemous content from that platform because that has not hammered the ideological beliefs of the Muslims but it was driving the global anguish in the Muslim community. Furthermore, the Prime Minister also asked the Head of Facebook to carry out similar measures to promote the real image of the Muslims through effective utility without and biases and irrationality. To create global awareness and real preaching of Muslim ideology, Pakistan also pitched the idea of 15 March to be declared as an International Day against Islamophobia at the OIC platform and the majority of the Muslim countries endorsed this proposal.
While addressing the 20th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Heads of State (SCO-CHS) conference 2020 via video link, Prime Minister Imran Khan also highlighted the “global community must put together collective together persistently oppose radical factions and xenophobic tendencies, including chauvinistic dogmas stimulated by neo-Nazis — and Islamophobia around the world”. Adding further, he also called for divisive policies to promote inter-faith harmony and cross-cultural affinity through denouncing all kind of hatred.
The process of countering Islamophobia further diversified at the UN platforms as well, for instance, Pakistan sponsored a resolution referring to the right of self-determination for masses exposed to the colonial, extraneous and alien occupation. This resolution was adopted by mutual consensus by the UN the General Assembly. Such effort paved the path for promoting global harmony and it would ensure the plausible prospect of cooperation. Pakistan also raised the issue of Islamophobia in the UN persistently and it has become an imperative agenda aligned with the core, values and strategic policy during the reign of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Apart from creating awareness in the West, Islamabad remains proactive in highlighting the existential threats faced by Indian Muslims by extremist Hindutva ideologists in India led by the Modi regime. Another notable accomplishment- in the year the UNGA also approved Pakistan-led resolution on “inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue” by an overwhelming majority. Thus, it depicts that Pakistan has adopted a twofold strategy at all the forums. First, to build a counter-narrative against islamophobia through legislation and laws approved by the global body, secondly, it has also pushed policy of creating inter-faith harmony. Thus, such policy initiatives have created a balance and it has also projected an inclusive framework of peace and unity. Such a gesture also able to address the existing misperceptions about the Muslim states that have wrongly accused of radical approaches.
Most recently, the Prime Minister Imran Khan has visited Sri Lanka in which he raised the issues of Muslims minorities with the country’s premier and president respectively. He discussed the two leaders about a ban backed by influential Buddhist monks and enforced in the year, April 2020. In the aftermaths, Sri Lanka announces an end to the forced cremations, marking a win for the island nation’s minority Muslims. The diplomatic effort by PM Imran Khan got heap phrased by the global proponents of the inter-faith harmony.
Furthermore, Pakistan and Turkey persistently cooperating to highlight the issues concerning the Muslim’s ideological prestige and values. In account of this, during the recent visit of Turkish FM Mevlut Cavusoglu to Pakistan, both the states reaffirmed their resolve to expand the sphere of measures to combat the globally escalated menace of Islamophobia and promotion of better understanding of the veneration of the Muslims to the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
Apart from individual efforts, Pakistan has been proactive in highlighting the concerns of the Muslims on all the global platforms to ensure the fundamental rights of Muslims. For instance, it took the initiative of presenting a Resolution to designate 15 March as the ‘International Day to Combat Islamophobia’ during the 47th Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM), held in Niamey, Niger, in November year 2020.
To conclude, despite numerous constraints, Pakistan has emerged as one of the leading actors to raise its voices against Islamophobia and it has taken countless initiatives to bring harmony to the Muslim world by the effective utilization of all the diplomatic platforms. However, the surge in hatred and antipathy against Muslims have been increasing drastically and it requires a collective global effort to overcome such an alarming trend that is pushing the masses towards hostility stemming from the identity. The Muslim community across the world have to stand up together to address such heinous challenges. In this regard, the utility of OIC, GCC platform could serve a key role to highlight the Muslims subjugation and denouncing hatred of anti-Muslims radical ideologies towards religious beliefs. Apart from this, the regional and global platforms must be utilized to build a rational narrative of the Muslims based on the true ideological voices. The Muslim community must focus on the subversion of the ill-conceived tags of misattribution with the radial and fanatic ideologies. The global world is entangled in dauntless challenges; with such a simmering crisis, this issue requires preferential treatment at the individual and collective level. The modern tools of diplomacy, such a Track II, p2p linkages and usage of modern technology tools would assist to build the positive image of the Muslims and it will bring cohesion among the societies that are divided because of radical slurs and prejudice worldwide.