Islamophobia – a fear or hatred of Muslims – has fiercely grown its roots in the modern world since 9/11. Grassroots efforts are eradicating it.
Attacks on Muslims, the rise of right-wing political parties and organisations who fuel their hate with anti-Muslim narratives and anti-Muslim laws across Europe, like hijab bans, speak volumes about how the world sees Islam and its 1.8 billion adherents.
More recently, the atrocious murder in London, Canada of four members of a Muslim family sent immense grief throughout the world, particularly within Muslim communities. Inhumane subjugation of Muslims in India, China and Myanmar continues in the background. Portrayals of Muslims as terrorists on television feed dangerous stereotypes and even political parties harbour anti-Muslim sentiments – recently in the UK, polls have shown the Labour party and the Conservative party harbour serious Islamophobia.
It doesn’t seem to be getting any better either. According to Gallop (2010), Muslim Americans are more than twice as likely to face religious discrimination compared to US Jews, Catholics and Protestants. (https://news.gallup.com/poll/157082/islamophobia-understanding-anti-muslim-sentiment-west.aspx)
Books and publications against Islam and its teachings continue to be published and the wider perception of Islamic beliefs remain mystified.
But the question is, how can we put an end to this? Commendable efforts by Muslims are certainly being made – whether in the political sphere or even through prominent Muslim personalities in the media.
However, it is at the grassroots where the real change comes. The damaging portrayal of Muslims in mass media, especially in the West, has created a phobia for Islam and Muslims. Where it’s essential to change the narrative seen in the media and the anti-Muslim narratives pushed by political figures and others, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, every day, also seeks to change the view of Islam in the day-to-day public sphere.
As Ibn Rushd, the great Andalusian Muslim polymath, noted, “Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hatred and hatred leads to violence.” The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat has been on a monumental – yet often kept in the background – mission in removing this widespread ignorance about Islam.
The four walls of the Jamaat described by Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra – Majlis Ansarullah, Lajna Imaillah, Khuddam-ul-Ahmadiyya and Atfal-ul-Ahmadiyya – under the constant guidance of Khilafat, have been showing to the public – in all seven continents – the beautiful teachings of Islam.
Through countless local, regional and national interfaith seminars, “Meet a Muslim” campaigns, street leaflet distributions, charity endeavours and just by being good, practising Muslims in society, Ahmadis have been doing the hard groundwork. These efforts are, from time to time, published in Jamaat periodicals and news institutions; however, for the most part, they take place in the background.
Ahmadi mosques are renowned for having close relationships with their local populaces and countless stories have been narrated by our missionaries where people hated Islam or were fearful of mosques, but the new Ahmadi mosque became a means of their education.
Starting at the grassroots and eradicating Islamophobia, one person at a time, is what will create the change Muslims so desperately desire. After all, the Promised Messiahas had said that he “desired to go from door to door like beggars and propagate the true religion of Allah.” (Malfuzat, Vol. 3, p. 291 )
Educating – especially through our practice – neighbours, work colleagues, friends and family members about the basic Islamic teachings is what Ahmadi Muslims are taught to do by their leadership. This is what brings change in the long run.
Often, monumental and widely publicised debates, events and projects are given the limelight as the most important endeavours in tackling Islamophobia. The reality paints a different picture, however. These are worthwhile temporarily, but the lasting change comes from day-to-day painstaking efforts.
Today, most people who are not Muslim, unfortunately, are completely oblivious to or misinformed about what Islam teaches. Even academics, politicians and teachers have often fallen into the misinformation trap.
How many times have we heard a politician or even an academic, after listening to a speech of Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa, comment after that they never knew Islam had such peaceful and serene teachings. This happens across the world, wherever Hazrat Amirul Momineenaa speaks.
We, as a Jamaat, have witnessed how, despite persecution, despite governments revolting against us and people trying their utmost to silence us and spread hate against Ahmadis, Allah the Almighty continues to bless this Jamaat, under the leadership of Khilafat, and granted triumph after triumph. Islam Ahmadiyyat, through the every-day – often unheard of – efforts on the grounds, continues to spread even in the most hostile environments.
To tackle Islamophobia in the most effective manner, the continuous tabligh – preaching – of Islam at the grassroots level is crucial.