We, the stakeholders of British Society, share a consensus that the Muslim community faces tremendous challenges in merging itself within British Society at large, with which it continues to struggle.

Why do we have these challenges? There are multiple reasons as to why these struggles exist. Public debate is usually centred around responsibility, causes and impacts, and the shifting of blame and denial of involvement.

I believe there are a lot of key questions that have yet to be answered and even more questions still yet to come that will add a myriad of complications to the situation.

There is a severe lack in the understanding of Islamic scripture and the extent to which misguided interpretations have shaped cultures and mindsets of communities is far-reaching. The fusing of the concept of Jihad and the concept of violence, for example, when in fact the whole concept of Jihad in the scriptures of the Holy Quran is rooted in war affairs and intended for the basis of the national security of any Muslim country. This widely-accepted misinterpretation has now led to the consequence of Jihad becoming equivalent to an act of terror and thus the labelling of Islam as a ‘violent’ religion. This contradicts with the reality and true nature of Islam. As Madeleine Albright was once quoted saying, “Both the Bible and Quran contain enough to start a war and enough to ensure lasting peace.”

An un-nuanced and routine response to such a crisis is adds fuel to the fire. Name-calling, labelling and blaming, and then throwing the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ into the fray is not part of the solution.

When society is faced with a crisis, two factors need to be tackled: ambiguity and uncertainty, reducing them to the minimum extent possible. In this case, the term Islamophobia does the exact opposite.

The term Islamophobia, instead of contributing to the understanding of the issue, i.e. the hostility towards Muslims – instead confuses individual Muslims with the religion of Islam itself. If this is unintentional. It is an unforgivable mistake.

My personal inclination towards the term Islamophobia is that it is biased and contains incomplete information that aims to deceive.

If the notion of Islamophobia constitutes attacks on people, homes, institutions, properties and mosques, then that would be an apt definition. Yet according to existing law, all the above are already considered acts of anti-Muslim hate crime.

Then question that needs asking is – what in that case is the added of employing the term Islamophobia?

My main concern with the term Islamophobia is that it is becoming increasingly a political tactic that is used to silence thought, ideas, freedom of speech, intellectuals, academics, newspapers, politicians, think-tanks and political parties alike. Questioning Islam falls well within Islamic teachings. Inciting hatred against Muslims and attacking their property is a disgusting criminal act.

If the term Islamophobia is taken to mean what it suggests, i.e. fear of Islam or specifically, an irrational fear of Islam, then which Islamic sect are we referring to here? There is a significant presence of Shiite Muslims and various strains of Sunni Muslims in the UK and around the world, and the historic animosity between the two is well-known. How will we describe their endless attacks on each other’s version of Islam? Is this an act of Islamophobia or not? If not, then why not? Since they are constantly attacking and questioning each other’s faith? If a non-Muslim British person was involved in these debates, would that make him/her Islamophobic?

Here are two examples that will further rebuke the notion of Islamophobia and expose the weakness of the term.

  • In November 2007, two boats carrying 150 illegal Egyptian immigrants to Italy capsized drowning 26 people. A grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Ali Gomaa, whilst attending the University of Cairo’s celebration of its 100th anniversary was questioned on the Islamic Sharia ruling for the drowned individuals. His blunt reply took all of Egypt by shock and caused an uproar when he proclaimed that the drowned people were greedy individuals and not to be considered Martyrs, because if they are able to afford 25 thousand Egyptian dinars as a smugglers fee, then they should have instead invested in a small business in their own country, and that this greediness was the cause of their demise. My question here is, is it possible to label the grand Mufti of Egypt an Islamophobe? Imagine if this response after such a tragic incident involving illegal immigrants came from a British intellectual figure, such as Douglas Murray for example – would he be considered an Islamophobe? If yes, then by that logic, Dr. Ali Gomaa, the grand Mufti of Egypt himself is an Islamophobe.
  • I’m wondering how many of us here in Britain are aware of the religious debates on domestic violence in the Muslim world? Domestic violence in Muslim majority countries in the Middle East has reached alarming levels. There are hundreds of fatwas (religious edicts) from well-known scholars justifying the act of wife beating; they all vary in differences in whether
    • the act should involve the use of a stick or just hands
    • which parts of the body are prohibited or permissible to hit
    • what reasons justify the hitting

Sheikh Salah Al-Fawzan, a council member of senior scholars which is the highest religious body in Saudi Arabia said on Saudi national TV Channel 1, when questioned on the legitimacy of wife beating, he said -that it was the husband’s right to do so under the strict rules that surface wounds or bruising were not to be inflicted and no bones were to be broken. He went to say that it is permissible to cause slight pain to a certain extent and finished by saying: “The person who does not fear punishment is bound to misbehave”. This fatwa was published on YouTube in December 2017.

Sheikh Abdul-Muhsin Alobeikan, a member of the Saudi Shura council, stated a fatwa on the 24th of October 2008 in the Saudi newspaper Al Shams which said that if a husband beat his wife, the wife has the right to defend herself in using the same methods as her attacker.

These are only two examples of many in an endless sea of Islamic debate amongst Muslims themselves. Is it safe in Britain for British citizens to freely engage in such debates without the fear of being labelled an Islamophobe?

Islamophobia is a type of political poisoning, convincing British Muslim communities that their religion is feared, and they are a threat, while simultaneously compelling non-Muslim British society to believe that their Muslim counterparts have a special type of right and that immunises Islam from being questioned in Britain for fear of being seen as an Islamophobe.

I’m afraid if the normalisation of the term Islamophobia succeeds, which to some extent has already happened, we will begin to see the birth of a new type of “Muslim Leader” in Britain.

Leaders from Muslim communities will seize this as a career opportunity, investing in the notion of Islamophobia by reaching for two goals – compensating for their failures in British society by over-stating the success of putting attention on the Muslim community and simultaneously ‘defending’ them from British Islamophobes, thus acting as the ‘hero’.

If these so-called Islamic leaders are successful in their efforts, they will use their positions to build relations with the rest of British Society, opening windows of opportunity for themselves as representatives of British Muslim communities.