There’s a new disease in the world. It started from the Western region and gradually crept across the entire world. It has jeopardized world peace and unity and put made religion at the forefront of modern politics. Even today religious movements like anti-Love Jihad, ‘Ghar Wapsi’ ‘Gau Raksha’ threaten our fragile unity. But Islamophobia isn’t unique to just our country. Even in the West, it continues to be a debatable topic. This article attempts to draw certain parallels between how politics carves Islamophobia throughout the world.
Politics with religious goals
Religion shadows every segment of modern society. While the term ‘church and state’ is quite popular referencing the importance to segregate religion from politics, in most cases, it loses purpose. The most definite quandary is when political leaders themselves have certain religious biases. In some cases, religious leaders themselves are elected to political seats, and thus begins the dissemination of pseudo-faith. This collision of religion leaning on the political to reach its goals has many examples, especially in India.
Yogi Adityanath, who became the CM of Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in the country, is also a firebrand Hindutva activist and the leader of Hindu Yuva Vahini – an outfit which has been involved in communal violence. Uma Bharati, a sannyasin, is a minister in the National ministry and another firebrand Hindutva activist. While Sakshi Maharaj is an MP in the Parliament and a monk. And, all the fore mentioned have criminal cases on their names, related to communal violence, hate speech against the minority Muslims of India. What’s appalling is not their appointment to power, but what this means for general peace. Nothing, it means nothing! Such politicians use their seat to propagate their own faith and mask the problems of the state with religion. For example, cows obstructing traffic? Propagate ‘Gai hamari mata hai’ and voila, problem masked.
This isn’t only restricted to India. In Europe, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban is a devout Christian with strong anti-Muslim opinions. He sees the Muslim refugees from the Middle-East as ‘invaders’. He thinks that the foreign culture of Islam would damage the Christian fabric of life in Europe. And as head of the state, he assumed the prime responsibility of convincing the citizens that Islam is the enemy. Did people believe him? Of course they did. A person in power speaking to you with authority. His following and aura alone is enough to propagate Islamophobia.
Just like him is the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and former French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. Both of them are known Islamophobes and devout practicing Catholics.
What did they do?
While these leaders might not be the explicit cause of any Islamophobic movements, but the respective fundamentalists in the country have been emboldened to carry out anti-muslim activities.
Sebastian Kurz ordered the closing down of 7 Mosques and banishing 60 imams last month after passing a controversial law that banned headscarves. In India, the ’Ghar Wapsi’ movement headed by the RSS and VHP includes a series of conversion of non-Hindus back to Hinduism, especially those who converted to Islam under “Love Jihad”. As a result, in May 2017, about 43 Muslims from UP were reconverted to Hinduism by RSS. When asked about this incident, Himanshu Tripathi, a leader, spoke about how 100s of Muslim youth took part in the ceremony.
Even in the US, the crime statistics mirror the Indian statistics. Due to president Trump’s anti-Islamic rhetoric, crimes against Muslims have shown the sharpest spikes since 2015. These do not just include attacks on mosques or other religious icons but also on lethal attacks on individuals. Of the total incidents involving hate speech and violence towards Muslims, 87% of the crimes took place between the mid-2015 and March 2018. This means majority of the crimes took place just before the US election cycle, and the rates haven’t come down since. Why?
Why do they do this?
All these were crimes instigated not by innate hatred but by political brainwashing. When the person you brought to power, when the one you believe in and look up to tells you what’s wrong, you accept it. Of course, none of this is any different from what’s happening in devout Muslim nations like Sudi Arabia. A state run by religion is never a good formula for development, but that is a conversation for another day. Mixing of religion and politics isn’t exactly a novel concept. But there was a reason to keep religion out of politics. When the former seeps into politics, the latter is reduced to a mass persuasion weapon only to be used against the minority. It then absolutely fails to protect the minority from the bias of the majority.
And hence, this common narrative of Islamophobia gripping both the West and India is not an isolated one. It is a manufactured one, by our very leaders and politicians. Maybe it’s time to choose leaders who don’t have one leg in the politics, and the other in religion.