An academic and an author researching Islamophobia in the US, Khaled Ali Beydoun spoke to Anadolu on Tuesday, pointing to the role of the US in the increasing globalization of anti-Islam protests in Asia and Europe.
“The US has exported Islamophobia to Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and beyond, in a destructive way,” Beydoun said.
The professor at the Wayne State University School of Law also said the US administration laid out a new framework for the Muslim identity with the rhetoric of “war on terror” after the Sept. 11 attacks, as March 15 International Day for the Elimination of Islamophobia draws close.
“The more Muslims appeared more like Muslims, the more they were suspected of being involved in terrorism,” he said.
“United States provided a new language of counterterrorism. In addition to that, there was a new legal and policing architecture that came into play that the United States sort of engineered, and governments across the world adopted, specifically governments that had a vested interest in persecuting Muslims adopted this new American language and adopted this new American policing paradigm to crack down on their own Muslim populations.”
Pointing out that the “war on terror” campaign of the US is effective in a wide area from Asia to Europe, Beydoun said: “Before 9/11, Uyghurs living in China were not defined as terrorists, extremists, or those affiliated with transnational terrorist networks.”
“Uyghurs were more often described as ‘separatists, subversive, rogue, and criminal,’ but this new American language of terrorism has equipped the Chinese government with unlimited power to neutralize the Uyghurs as if they were terrorists. The same applies to India, Myanmar, Sweden, France, UK, and the whole world,” he said.
Citing his studies, Beydoun also said: “First of all, I can say that China is the worst because China is an authoritarian government that practices the most horrific forms of Islamophobia, such as concentration camps and ethnic cleansing. Focusing on Islam, it is a kind of ethnic cleansing aimed to destroy the Uyghur people through genocide.”
Noting that India ranks second in anti-Muslim sentiments, Beydoun said: “In India, which has the second-largest Muslim population in the world, (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi regime and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are using Hindu supremacy as a tool to destroy Muslims in the country. And it does this in very horrific ways, using the Law of Citizenship (which excludes Muslims), the headscarf bans in the states, or the usurpation of the citizenship of Muslims.”
Putting France in third place, Beydoun noted: “I would say France is number three because France has set sort of set forth the template like it’s become like the Western model for how to crack down and marginalize Muslims by way of law. We see this most strikingly in policies such as the headscarf ban. France promotes Muslims’ freedom of religion, erodes with expanded policies, including the veil.”
The professor also said that after France, the country where anti-Muslim sentiment is felt the most is the US.
“The US is the catalyst for the ‘global war on terror’ that spreads and globalizes Islamophobia with anti-Muslim language, perhaps even more powerfully than any other government in the world. Because the US is a superpower, isn’t it? It’s the most powerful country and government in the world, claiming to be a democracy. The US has exported Islamophobia to Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and beyond in a devastating way,” he said.
Referring to the situation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Beydoun said: “We cannot ignore what is happening in Myanmar. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have been killed and hundreds of thousands of them have been displaced by ethnic cleansing in the country. All Muslim villages, towns, and communities have been destroyed by a militant Buddhist government.”
Speaking about the role of law and the media in the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in recent years, Beydoun said: “As a law professor, I observe that law is always the most effective way to advance and expand Islamophobia. Like the headscarf law in France, the Citizenship Law in India.
“Secondly, the media. Media immortalizes Islamophobia by spreading negative ideas, negative stories, negative stereotypes,” he said, adding that the media is the enabler of Islamophobia.
Pointing out that Muslims who are discriminated against, marginalized, or killed due to anti-Muslim laws are not sufficiently covered in the media, Beydoun said: “In my first book, I wrote that Muslims are newsworthy only when they are the bad guys, not when they are the victims. After all, there is a Muslim terrorist that every media organization talks about. Isn’t that so? Few media outlets talk about it when Muslims are the victims of the horrific state-sponsored terrorism in China.”
Emphasizing that the “fear of Islam” is deliberately produced by politicians in societies, Beydoun continued:
“Islamophobia is a combination of fear and hatred. Politicians want to advance their own political, economic, and geopolitical interests by using Islamophobia as a tool. Governments know what they are doing. Politicians know what they are doing when they use Islamophobia as a weapon to support them. For example, former US President Donald Trump has declared Islamophobia as a weapon. He knew that if he used it as a campaign tactic, it would mobilize his base and get more support for his campaign.”
Beydoun also said Western society is afraid of Islam, the essence of which it did not know, and added: “They hate Islam because they don’t know anything about it. There are ideas that Islam is associated with terrorism, that Muslims want to conquer and change European culture, that Muslims oppress women, and that Muslims have no desire to fit into the society they enter. I think that’s why ordinary citizens, it’s France, UK, Spain, Italy, and other countries, hate and fear Muslims they know little about.”
* Writing by Emre Basaran