This was one of the topics discussed at a virtual roundtable “Anti-Islamism in the West”. The event was hosted by the International Assembly of Muslim University Professors and supported by the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations on Sunday (November 1, 2020).
Hojjatoleslam Dr. Abdolhossein Khosropanah, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Assembly and Vice-Chancellor for Humanities and Arts of the Islamic Azad University; Dr. Mohammad Baqer Khorramshad, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Assembly and Professor of Allameh Tabatabaei University; Dr. Mohammad Reza Majidi, Director of European Studies of the Assembly and Professor of the University of Tehran; Mr. Massoud Shajareh, Chairman of the London Islamic Human Rights Commission; Mr. Imad Hamrouni, Head of the Ahlul Bayt (AS) Institute in Paris; Dr. Khaled Beydoun, Professor at School of Law, University of California-Berkeley; and Dr. Arsalan Eftekhar, Member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Religion and Politics, University of Washington, were speakers at the roundtable.
Following is an excerpt from the topics discussed in this virtual event.
Conceptual and Functional Reasons for Islamophobia in the West
Hojjatoleslam Dr. Abdolhossein Khosropanah, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Assembly and Vice-Chancellor for Humanities and Arts of the Islamic Azad University, commenting on the roots of anti-Islamism in the West said: Since the advent of Islam, opponents made movements against Islam and even went forward up to the plotting to assassinate the Prophet but of course all the attempts failed.
The Chairman of Board of Directors of the International Assembly of Muslim University Professors added: After the Holy Prophet of Islam, the wave of Islamophobia continued and with Crusades for about two centuries, many people were killed on both fronts.
Hojjatoleslam Abdolhossein Khosropanah further remarked: In the current century, anti-Islamism continues, of course in different forms, and in order to address it, two questions must be answered – in the course of which the conceptual and the functional reasons are raised.
As for what concept supports this anti-Islamism, he said: the first answer is the rationality of the foundation itself which means the reasoning intellect, it means a rationality that has nothing to do with revelation and religious sources and says it takes advantage of its intellect and logic without being related to revelation and religion, and all Western intellectual foundations end to the same point.
The self-founded rationality was formed in the Middle Ages and in the mid-21st century became instrumental rationality and was abused by Western governments and later was turned into relativist rationality.
Islamist rationality has no right or wrong basis and does not accept a truth called Islam and does not even accept Christianity. Because religious principles such as revelation are not compatible with the self-founded rationality. Therefore, opponents of Islam in the West are in fact anti-religion which is based on the rationality of relativism.
In response to the question on the reason for Islamophobia in the West, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of International Association of Muslim University Professors added: Modern media and Hollywood-made films are working hard to turn the view of the world people to the world of Islam into a negative one and the roots of anti-Islamism in the West are the same media.
Saying that Western media portray Muslims as advocating violence and bloodshed, he remarked: Today, one of the most important targets of the media is to create a false image of Muslims, and the response to the reason for functional anti-Islamism in the West is the same media propaganda that seeks to inject the idea of a reverse and incorrect Islam to the world.
Hojjatoleslam Khosropanah said: Before the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in Hollywood movies, a flag used to be shown with the same image we later witnessed within the ISIS.
He noted: To fight against anti-Islamism concept we should use divine rationality and to confront the functional reason we should use the capacity of the media and stand with logic and ethics and introduce noble Islam, and this is possible.
Hojjatoleslam Khosropanah, referring to the insulting measures of France, said: Behaviors like that of the French President will prepare the ground for many to go and study and learn about the true Islam.
Behind the Scenes of Islamophobia in the West
Massoud Shajareh, Chairman of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, referring to the behind-the-scene developments in Islamophobia in the West said: Islamophobia is on the rise in the West and there is no doubt about it. When we talk about fear, it is a natural feeling, but fear of Islam is not natural and there is no reason for it because it is a completely artificial concept.
The Chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission added: Two groups in the West are fanning the flames of Islamophobia: A group that is largely illiterate and has no understanding of the realities of today’s world and Islam; but in the second group, there are people in Western governments who seek to spread Islamophobia.
Massoud Shajareh stated: We have always witnessed throughout history that there has been a kind of biased view of various Islamic groups that attribute its mental ideas to them in such a way that they have tried to create a kind of demonization of Muslims and to beat the drum of Islamophobia.
The Chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission said that in order to institutionalize these ideas in Western societies, they employ various statements against Muslims, such as accusations of terrorism, etc. that are attributed to Muslims and Islamists. Therefore, people like Trump or some university professors seek to spread Islamophobia in Western societies. This is a planned work that is not limited to a group of people and has been supported by the Western media. Meanwhile, targeted operations have been carried out against Muslims in Western societies which have intensified each year.
Massoud Shajareh added: Actions and statements of some Western officials have also fueled the situation and created an atmosphere of fear in which Islamophobia has grown. As from 2015 onwards, the Islamophobia statements of Western officials have increased every day, which has an impact on the Western audience. As with the issue of Brexit, British officials have attributed many problems to the immigrants and Muslims.
Reasons for Islamophobia in France
Dr. Mohammad Baqer Khorramshad, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Assembly and Professor of Allameh Tabatabaei University, asking three questions, three hypotheses and two solutions commented over the issue of Islamophobia in France and said: Why anti-Islamism exists in France? What are the internal causes of anti-Islamism in France? Is the Islamophobia, as French politicians claim, caused by the behaviour of the Muslims themselves, or are there other factors inside France?
The Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Assembly added: The first hypothesis is that secular fundamentalism is one of the factors intensifying Islamophobia in France. Today, secular fundamentalism has become a strong current in France, and the President of France, in order to define himself within its framework, makes the sharpest anti-religion statements and has become one of the spokesmen of secular fundamentalism in France.
Professor of Allameh Tabatabaei University, about the second hypothesis said: fundamentalism brings fundamentalism. French fundamentalists, including Macron, should know that they are pouring gasoline on the fire of fundamentalism in the world. While secular thinking was supposed to be pouring water on the fire of Christian fundamentalism, it has now become a catalyst for fundamentalism, which has resulted rapprochement of the world towards instability, insecurity and deprivation of peace which is dangerous to both France and humanity.
Mohammad Baqer Khorramshad further stated: The third hypothesis is based on the fact that the West insists on imposing its values on others, including Muslims, in a way that is done at any cost and by force. In fact, it is the refuge of the spirit of the Crusades in France and its continuation in an atmosphere of fundamentalism pursued by the ruling secularists in France.
The university professor added: The secularists ruling over France are seeking to widen the gap between Muslims and the West more than ever so that it would lead to violence. But, considering this issue, we have to see what the solution is. The immediate solution seems to be for France’s political intellectual leaders to return to a kind of moderation; that is to say, French political and intellectual wise men should try to weaken the extremists in order to prevent further violence and expand the scene for those who are more moderate. This is possible.
Khorramshad also said that the diversity of religions, faiths, cultures and languages must be respected otherwise the future will not be bright. He further remarked:
French politicians have turned to anti-Islamism or blowing on other dimensions of fundamentalism to solve their internal problem. Perhaps it might be accountable in the short run and Macron will be able to win the French vote in the next election, but in the long run he will expose France and the world to a very serious threat.
He continued: Because of the characteristics of Islam, some secular French fundamentalists insist that there should never be peace between Islam and the Western world. In fact, it is not the Muslims who are disturbing the atmosphere, but the rulers of France who are disturbing it. Perhaps their analysis is that if the atmosphere is calm, Islam will have good components for presenting views.
Misrepresentation of Muslims in Western Societies
Arsalan Eftekhar, Member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Religion and Politics, University of Washington, was another speaker at the webinar who, by asking the question, “how is Islamophobia growing?”, said: We were witness to a very tragic event in New Zealand in which 52 Muslims were killed, the images were broadcast live, and this event was not only the worst terrorist attack on New Zealand soil but also one of the most horrific acts of Islamophobia in contemporary history.
He also referred to the killing of Myanmar Muslims and said: The issue of Myanmar Rohingya is another example that we have seen in recent years that Muslims were massacred because of racial issues. On the other hand, we are witnessing that people are in power in Myanmar who have also won the Peace Prize. Of course, we were witness to the human rights reaction in the world which took place following these incidents and the Nobel Prize was withdrawn.
Arsalan Eftekhar also said that the idea of Islamophobia has spread not only by the Trump administration but also in the United States since 9/11 and now have been institutionalized and that most members of the recently changed US Supreme Court have raised concern over this issue.
Dr. Eftekhar, referring to the roots of Islamophobia in the West and France said: Renaud Camus, the famous French writer with the theory of illusion, says Muslims and blacks have come to replace whites in America and the West, and today this view is being propagated in Western media. Today, racial strife in the West is based on the same proposition to transform Muslims and immigrants in Western societies. This view is used even in Far Eastern countries such as India, China and Myanmar.
Political Targets behind Macron’s Support of Insult to Holy Prophet (PBUH)
Dr. Mohammad Reza Majidi, Director of the European Studies Group of the Assembly and Professor of the University of Tehran, in his speech, referred to the roots of Islamophobia and said fear of religion goes back to the distant past and even before the advent of Islam there had been anti-religious currents, but after the victory of the Islamic Revolution it has intensified.
The director of the Assembly’s European Studies Group also spoke about the political reasons for Macron’s recent remarks and said: The recent statements of the French President in support of desecration of the Prophet (PBUH) were not made by a philosopher or sociologist but by a politician on the eve of the elections, and these statements can be considered populistic and demagogic with an aim of winning the elections, as in recent years, the discourse of many Western candidates to win the elections has been based on these populist approaches.
Dr. Majidi also added: Macron has cited recent statements as an example of freedom of expression while we are facing a double standard in the West which has always been noticed in the approaches of Western officials to various issues. As in the case of the Holocaust, we do not see such a freedom of expression, and any comment on it is met with the harshest reactions. Therefore, these dichotomies are among the problems to which Western politicians have no answer.
The university professor added: Today, Macron is trying to use Islamophobia to gain the support of the rightists, but it may be to his detriment, such as the sanction on French goods in Muslim countries. Therefore, although Macron has used Islamophobia as a tool to achieve political gain, such approaches can pave the way for widespread wars and violence.
Trump’s Role in escalating Islamophobia in the West
Dr. Khaled Beydoun, Professor at School of Law, University of California-Berkeley, was another speaker who said: With Trump coming to power, a new dimension of Islamophobia emerged in the American society, although it was not a new phenomenon and dates back to the past.
Khaled Beydoun added: Although Islamophobia is not a new phenomenon, what Trump did was making efforts to catalyze a reactionary and prejudiced attitude against Muslims to such an extent that today Muslims are deprived of many of their own legal rights. The future of Islamophobia in the United States also largely depends on the outcome of the US presidential elections; because Trump has introduced Islam as a serious threat to the United States.
Role of the French Zionist Lobby in Escalation of Islamophobia
Imad Hamrouni, Head of the Ahlul Bayt (AS) Institute in Paris, also spoke at the webinar on Islamophobia in the West and said: Islamophobia began with the Islamic Revolution of Iran. In the 1980s, Muslims in Europe did not have much practical commitment to Islam, but today, after the elapse of four decades since the Islamic Revolution, Islamism and adherence to Islam and presence of women wearing hijab in Europe have increased greatly.
The Head of the Ahlul Bayt (AS) Institute in Paris added: The role of the Zionist lobby in the West, especially in France, has made this country to become the flagbearer of Islamophobia. The Zionist lobby is deeply present in the French government.
Imad Hamrouni said: The French governments supported extremist Islam so that revolutionary and social Islam would not grow, and they also developed extremist groups to lead French society to believe that Islam is a violent and anti-social religion.
Rise of Islam Caused Panic in European Societies
Mohammad Ali Momeniha, International Deputy of Basij Mostazafin Organization, referring to the growth of Islamism in European countries said: Politicians of these countries, with regard to the danger they feel from the growth of Islamism in their countries, are seeking to stop this process. But in practice, the media and propaganda measures they took in this regard to show the Islamic communities and Muslims being backward and cause reduction of attraction of young people to this divine religion did not bring much good results for them.
Momeniha added: With regard to this issue, they tried to increase the confrontation and gap between Muslims and other residents of these countries and by creating hatred prevent the growth of Islamism. Recent events in France can be analyzed in the same context.