Editorial: Islamophobia Needs a Dedicated Response

By Omer Bin Abdullah

March/April 2023

This year March 15, the UN-designated International Day To Combat Islamophobia, falls a week ahead of Ramadan.

Last March, the UN unanimously declared that this annual observance, which is always held on the same day in 140 countries, is meant to show Islam’s true face to those who hate it.

Pakistan, then headed by former prime minister Imran Khan, introduced the resolution by saying that Islamophobia has emerged as a new form of racism that includes, among others things, discriminatory travel bans, hate speech and targeting girls and women for their attire. It calls for expanded international efforts to create a global dialogue that encourages tolerance and peace, and is centered on respect for human rights and humanity’s diverse religions and beliefs.

Understandably, the resolution was opposed by India, France and the EU — that includes many who enjoy the results of colonial rule. Both France and the EU also insist that the term has no agreed-upon definition in international law. 

And here lies the responsibility of Muslims, especially those living in countries that are rife with Islamophobia — despite reciting mantras such as democracy, equality and freedom of belief. Muslims living in countries that pride themselves on their democratic setups should assert themselves meaningfully. “Representation” doesn’t start and end with invitations to taxpayer-funded events hosted on tax-funded real estate, but in effecting positive change.

Now is the time for Muslims to consider what we have gained and lost by participating in the “democratic” process via political parties [restricted to two entities], especially when they and their leaders never shy away from accepting “gifts” and giving “speeches” to any group that has a visible and, in fact, active Islamophobic and colonist agenda. Isn’t it time for us to build our own political units to both represent ourselves and our fellow citizens by finding a way to free ourselves from these unhelpful people as well as from the lobbyists’ apron-strings and self-serving agendas?

In short, shouldn’t we finally start out on the path opened for us by Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s new prime minister? This issue presents several articles for your consideration.

Muslims should realize that things are doable. Polls conducted in 2022 by the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll found that Jewish presidential candidates would face the lowest public opposition, closely followed by Catholic and Mainline Protestant candidates. For Republicans, an atheistic candidate is most strongly opposed. Democrats most strongly oppose an Evangelical Christian candidate. 

Muslims need to find ways to create an image through education, service and enterprise that will take them to these heights. The time is now.

Anwar Ibrahim’s installation warms the hearts of Muslim North Americans, for he has participated in their organizations, among them MSA, which became ISNA, and with learned societies such as the International Institute of Islamic Thought. All of our prayers are with him as he moves to script new horizons for his abused nation.

As our Jan.-Feb. issue was going to press, ISNA hosted its 11th Annual West Coast Education Forum: “Reinvent and Design the Islamic Schools of the Future.” On Jan. 13-14, Islamic school educators, administrators and leaders dedicated to providing the best Islamic education to our community met in Orange County, Calif., to share ideas and learn from each other.

In this issue, we are proud to share the good news of a small community’s milestone: In December 2022, a six-member team finished translating the Quran into Cham (see the article on pp. 34). The culmination of this eight-year effort was celebrated with great joy amidst San Jose’s Cham Muslim community. This is very fitting, given that their ancestors have preserved their culture against outside influences for the last 200 years.

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