Islamophobia refers to any kind of acts or thoughts showing hatred or discrimination towards Islam as a religion as well as a culture aimed to the Muslim community; may it be violent or not. In today’s European politics, Islamophobic sentiment can be easily noticed in any countries, ranging from the banning of certain face veils in France or niqab in Belgium for Muslim woman to the prohibition of building any more minarets—mosque towers—in Switzerland (Younge, 2012). While the Europeans—considering them as a great faction of the Western civilization that has been trying to promote its overwhelming tolerance for centuries—are being unreasonably paranoid, this cause then surfaces a big question seeking for an answer to why the Europeans have been acting in such way.
(Image Source: Independent Australia)
Historically, it actually is no wonder that the Europeans—or in a larger picture, the Western community—are being so anxious knowing how much the Islamic community in Europe has grown so much for the past decades. Amongst all the possible reasons, it is the traumatic effects of the Holy War that might explain it best.
Back to the early eleventh century, on 25 November 1095, Pope Urbanus II commenced the expedition to Jerusalem—now widely-known as the first Crusade (Armstrong 2001a, p. 9); which was considered as the first act of cooperation by the new Europe subsequent to the Dark Age as well (Armstrong 2001a, p. 28). Prior to the arrival of the expedition—later then known as the Crusaders or the Crusade warriors—on July 1099, the three major religions were all living relatively in peace under the Islamic law for more than 460 years. But the peace was all gone shortly after the Crusaders massacred 40.000 people ruthlessly (Armstrong 2001a, pp. 11—12); which then marked the beginning of a series of more religious wars to come; referred to as the Holy War. Ever since, the relationship between Muslims, Christians, and Jews have never been as good as it ever was once.
Even though the holy war itself is long-ended, the sore memories that the wars might have imposed are seemingly still tormenting the Europeans for generations; which explain why they have always been so sentimental and paranoid when it comes to addressing religious issues or specifically Islam; since it was the war against the Muslim, indeed, that they fought the hardest.
In addition, it is believed that the Holy War is strongly related to the progressive enthusiasm the Europeans possessed. It does not just revolve around religious issues, but also plays a greatly significant part on the construction of the Western identity (Armstrong 2001a, p. 582); which makes this understanding could be regarded as the starting point to explain how the emerging Islamophobia in today’s Europe is relevant to the painful history of the Holy War.
However, it is possible that this argument is a lot more relevant to explain the Islamophobic sentiment surfacing for about the past decade in particular. It all reappeared right after the September 11 United States World Trade Center terrorist attacks on 2001 by the suspected Al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden’s command. Responding to the incident, former US president, George Walker Bush, initiated the war against terrorism campaign; which has become one of the most important issues on today’s global security.
Unfortunately, on one of his speech regarding the attack, Bush named the campaign against terrorism as the Crusade in the modern world (Armstrong 2001a, p. 9). Bush’s usage of the word Crusade to refer to the war against terrorism—which has been constructed to be somehow identical with Islam in general instead of solely the extreme ones—triggered an unending debate since the Crusade has always been such a highly sensitive issue for a lot of people. Notwithstanding the US is not geographically a part of Europe, as a hegemonic power in the international system, its influence is supposedly significant to the dynamics of the globalized world.
Aside from the prohibitions on certain religious attributes—burqa, niqab, or veil—Islamophobia could also be observed on the social level of analysis through discrimination, hate speeches, excommunications, repressions, and structural violence. This is possibly what makes the people who are Islamophobic feel like their hatred is justifiable in the name of freedom of speech and the rights to criticize. Consequently, they even ditinguish Islamophobia from anti-Semitism by arguing that the former does not involve violent acts as the latter does (Kalin, 2012). But sadly, while they are equivocating that it is their basic rights whether to like or to hate anything, the paradox is that on the same time, they are violating other people’s basic rights by prompting such an unreasonable cause.
(Image Source: Colombo Telegraph)
The urgency of this issue itself is obviously not debatable; to the extent that Islamophobic acts have become extremely violent in Europe. The best case to show this motion is probably the recent Norwegian massacre on July 2011—in which seventy-seven civilians were brutally killed through sequential bombing and mass shooting in just a few hours—committed by Anders Behrig Breivik, a 32-year-old man who, without showing any remorse, justified his irrational cruelty by saying that it was necessary in order to save Europe from Islam; a notion that outrages the whole world (Kalin, 2012). Breivik’s murderous Islamophobic ideology proves that Islamophobia in Europe is a real cause that needs to be stopped as soon as possible by the European governments; not making it worse instead by issuing policies that even—in certain cases—encourage Islamophobia.
Understanding the relevance between today’s Islamophobia and the long-gone Holy War requires a broad mind and causality approach on how the traumatic effects are bequeathed through generations in Europe. The more this problem is left unresolved, the more it would harm Europe as a collective community.
Above all, the Norwegian massacre proves that Islamophobic acts could also lead to extreme violence—aside from the discrimination, hate speeches, excommunication, repressions, and structural violence—mostly in a community where such acts are incited; firstly causing systemic and psychological defects but ultimately ends up in form of physical violence; catalyzed by the distorted history, misguided heroism, as well as misplaced and unreasonable fears; the same things that could have happened to the Jews or the Blacks in the past.
Furthermore, to devise a comprehensive solution to resolve the complicated issue, it is a must for the governments, political figures, religious leaders, and other involved parties to come together as one regardless of their different identities, beliefs, or even social and historical constructions; otherwise they might as well wait for the history to repeat itself through the outburst of another Holy War.■
Armstrong, Karen (2001a) Perang Suci: Kisah Detail Perang Salib, Akar Pemicunya, dan Dampaknya terhadap Zaman Sekarang. Jakarta: Serambi.
Kalin, Ibrahim (2012) Europe, Islamophobia, and Violence. Today’s Zaman [Accessed 15 October 2012].
Singh, David Emmanuel (2010) Hundred Years of Christian-Muslim Relations. Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies, 27 (4), pp. 225—238.
Younge, Gary (2012) Europe: Hotbed of Islamophobic Extremism. The Nation [Accessed 15 October 2012].