The Wellsprings of Islamophobia: It's Not Where You Think

We are now in the countdown to Ramadan. By next jumu'a, we will have already begun the month of Ramadan. As I have noted for a number of years now, every Ramadan is an occasion for the Ummah to pause and reflect upon the past year, how that year compares to the years before it, and to think of the coming year, the challenges ahead, what must be achieved, and what must be accomplished.


As we approach the month of Ramadan, the United Nations, acting through the offices of its Human Rights Council, is discussing a resolution that would be presented in the General Assembly condemning Islamophobia as a particularized menace to tolerance and world peace. The U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on religious freedoms noted in her report the explosion of Islamophobia in the world in which we live. She prepared and submitted the report to the Human Rights Council, and the report will then become part of the preparatory work by the General Assembly to condemn Islamophobia. In her report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur noted something that we all know: Islamophobia has reached out of control proportions, and it is one of the main threats to international peace in the world.


The United Nations bringing attention to the problem of Islamophobia and adopting a resolution condemning Islamophobia or designating a day for the condemnation of Islamophobia is a dual-edged matter. On the one hand, one is inclined to welcome any recognition by any international or civil body that Islamophobia is a particularized form of religious bigotry and racial hatred, that Islamophobia does not respond to rational discourse, and that Islamophobia is not a rational category that can be engaged; like all forms of pathological hate, it is beyond rationalism; like racism or other forms of phobia and bigotry, it is fundamentally irrational; it is built on assumptions that defy engagement and rebuttal, because they are wholly irrational assumptions. On the other hand, however, it is very easy to imagine, especially for Muslim countries, that by putting all this energy into the United Nations to get a resolution condemning Islamophobia, they have accomplished or effectuated a solution to this endemic worldwide problem. 


In fact, it is rather interesting that while the U.N. is discussing Islamophobia, I noticed a report that was recently published. The report is titled, “Islamophobia in the Digital Age: A Study of Anti-Muslim Tweets” by Umar Butler. The report is rather limited in its range, coverage, and methodology, but at the same time, it is remarkably telling and alarming. The report simply studies the use of Twitter to spread Islamophobic messages. That is all the report covers: the use of one social media platform to spread hashtags or other forms of tweets that carry consistent anti-Islamic messages.


The messages that this report designates as “Islamophobic” are genuinely shocking and horrific. It did not focus on tweets that philosophize about the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamism, or “political Islam.” It focused on tweets that are indisputably Islamophobic. I will read samples of what the report considered to be Islamophobic tweets. For instance, samples of these tweets say, "It is not stupidity and arrogance, it is terrorism and the jihadism of Indian chuslims. F the pig religion." Of course, the “pig religion” here is Islam. Another tweet reads, "Muslim people cannot be classified as human beings, they are not more than animals. Even animals are better because they always separate between terrorism and their religion. However, they are both two-sided similar coins." Another tweet: "These Islamists breed children as either cannon fodder or food for pedophiles. They do not value children or females! Adult males have no ethics, morals, compassion, honor, or love! They are inferior!" Another tweet: "Islamists are hiding as liberals in India, because of being in minority. God forbid the day they even become one fourth of majority, they will wreak such havoc in India, that no democracy can endure. But thanks to #TablighiJamaat support, their real face is exposed now." Another tweet: "I'm talking about love jihad, where somebody hides/fakes their identity to lure girls into love and later convert them, and also instances of taking them to Syria for selling as sex slaves! Even Mughals used to have sex slaves. Legacy continued now." Another tweet: "There are forces active across the country that are targeting susceptible and vulnerable Hindu women, luring, brainwashing and forcefully converting them into Islam - in a systematic, planned manner. Hindus MUST wake up to the perils of love Jihad! #LoveJihadKills."


Some of these tweets have obscene language that I cannot read in a khutbah. Other examples include: "I am not surprised representative Ilhan Omar is a whorish slut. What else would you expect from a woman who is a Sharia-loving Muslim and a Democrat?" Or: "Disgusting, clueless girls. They follow Trashida"—they mean Rashida Tlaib—"and the Jihad Squad's Omar, who hate the host country that took them in. Love it or leave it. They should go find husbands in Syria and lose their citizenship." Or: "We need to ban halal slaughter and also ban mosques in our country. Mosques are the breeding ground for terrorists and hatred towards Christians. Halal slaughter belongs in the dark ages." The final example I will read, although there are so many to choose from: "Government will never ban halal as they would lose the Muslim vote. Zakat tax on halal meat is funding Islamic mosques and schools in the UK essentially, the taxpayer is paying for an archaic culture to be embedded here. Brilliant idea Puffin regarding taking children to slaughterhouses.”


As we get ready to meet Ramadan, what deserves pause and reflection is that in over 85% of cases, Twitter refused to remove tweets that are Islamophobic. Upon being alerted that material posted on their site was inciting hatred and intolerance, Twitter removed tweets only 15% of the time. In these rare instances, it was mostly involving tweets that used excessive or extreme obscenities to express a point of view. 


Another significant element is that, as the report notes, 85% of Islamophobic tweets are generated by four countries. Ranked number one in the world in terms of Islamophobic tweets is India. India has become a central hub for the generation of Islamophobia. Hindu nationalist organizations also spend a considerable amount of resources in propagating Islamophobia in the United States, Canada, and the UK. What makes Indian Islamophobia so effective around the world has nothing to do with a colonial legacy or a history of imperialism in the past century. It is, quite simply, wealthy Hindus who are willing and committed to spending millions of dollars to malign Islam and slander Muslims. Not just in India, but also in the UK, U.S., and Canada.


Second in rank after India is the United States. The vast majority of Islamophobic messages are generated by the same political organizations that invented Islamophobia in the first place. These are the same organizations with the same figures of old, figures like Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson. After the United States is the UK, and after the UK is Canada. India, the United States, the UK, and Canada are responsible for up to 85% of bigoted messages against Islam on Twitter.




In many ways, what the report does not say is even more interesting than what it does. Look at the color-coded map that the report includes. It is clear that Islamophobia is a worldwide phenomenon. Islamophobia is a reality in countries like Russia, China, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and most South American countries. In fact, with the exception of South Africa and Nigeria, the only region in the world that does not seem to generate a great deal of Islamophobic tweets is Africa.


It is not an exaggeration that Islamophobia has truly become a global phenomenon, just as the UN's Special Rapporteur freedom of religion noted. The spread of pathological hatred toward Islam and Muslims has spread to the entire world. According to the report, the top 10 countries in generating Islamophobic content are as follows: India, the U.S., the UK, Canada, Nigeria, Australia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, and Israel.


Pause and reflect. Nigeria, Pakistan, and the UAE are all Muslim nations. Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates generate more Islamophobic tweets than either Israel or Germany. But what is interesting about this report is that it does not seem to account for population percentages. In other words, Nigeria is far more populous than the United Arab Emirates. Germany's population is far bigger than the United Arab Emirates. So, when a country as small as the UAE generates more Islamophobic tweets than either Germany or Israel, that deserves a considerable pause.


The third point to note is that the involvement of Muslim countries in generating Islamophobic content does not stop there. If we were to study the report carefully, we would discover some truly alarming facts. Indonesia and Malaysia generate a considerable amount of Islamophobic content. Saudi Arabia and France generate the same amount of Islamophobic content, although Saudi Arabia has a much smaller population than France. In fact, Saudi Arabia generates more Islamophobic content than either Egypt or Iran, and Saudi Arabia generates more Islamophobic content than Spain. Egypt, too, is among the Muslim countries that generate a considerable amount of Islamophobic content. 


This reminds me of an article that I mentioned in a khutbah some time ago, titled, “Arab Regimes are the World's Most Powerful Islamophobes.” The article was from 2019, and it noted that some of the most prominent Islamophobic organizations receive funding from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and that some of the Islamophobic content generated in countries like Egypt and the UAE is indistinguishable from the Islamophobic material generated in countries like Italy, Spain, and Germany.


We must, again, pause and reflect. Not only is Islamophobia a worldwide phenomena, but it is now clear and indisputable, except by those intent on remaining blind and oblivious, that Muslims themselves play a considerable role in generating and disseminating Islamophobic content, and that countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt play a prominent role in the production and maintenance of Islamophobic discourses.


This points to an irony, a paradox, and a deep-seated hypocrisy about the U.N. resolution. The same countries sponsoring the U.N. resolution are responsible for keeping the Islamophobic industry alive and active. This resolution is to be sponsored by countries like the United States. Countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE say, on the one hand, that it is “intolerant” to speak about Islam in a demeaning fashion, but these same countries are clearly authoritarian and despotic countries. These are countries in did no one would be allowed to generate content on a medium like Twitter if the government does not want it.


Try to generate content that is critical of Sisi in Egypt. Try to generate content that is critical or even simply not flattering toward MBS and Saudi Arabia. Try the same with the UAE. You would be silenced in an instant. The evidence clearly points out that much of this Islamophobic content is not spontaneously generated by civil society—if civil society exists at all in these countries. Rather, those who generate Islamophobic content belong to artificial, government-directed, government-invested bots that act upon the orders of these despotic states to influence world opinion in one way or the other.


The paradox does not stop there. This resolution that is supposed to condemn Islamophobia is joined by countries like China, a country that is directly responsible for a genocide against Muslims. What is fascinating is that while China is responsible for a full-scale genocide against Muslims, the Chinese state itself does not allow or sponsor the generation of Islamophobic content. In fact, as populous as China is on Twitter, it produces less Islamophobic content than Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, or Egypt.


We live in a world of illusions and mirrors, but this is an obvious point. The real point is to ask oneself: why are countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Egypt part of the Islamophobic industry? They try to represent Islam. They go to certain conferences and speak as Muslim states. In the U.N., they may join the Muslim block and make eloquent speeches about Islamophobia. Why, then, do they then turn around and invest resources in propagating and spreading Islamophobia? It begs the question: why do we see countries like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Egypt, and Pakistan produce so much Islamophobic content? 


We always go back, time and again, to consider the political interests being served by certain discourses. It is simple intelligence to consider the flow of data or information and ask: what interests are being served? The problem is an all-too-obvious point. Yet, it is a point that so many Muslims choose to miss. They want to live their lives and not pay any attention to the fact that these are despotic and tyrannical states. These are states marked by deep-seated inequities and injustices. These are countries in which the rule of law is absent and the rule of justice is a mirage. What all these countries fear is an Islam that would hold them accountable for their injustices and their immorality. And that is the undeniable fact.


Saudi Arabia has registered record profits through Aramco of over $160 billion. Talk to any member of the Saudi opposition now scattered all around the world, and they will tell you that the ruler of Saudi Arabia is spending this money irresponsibly and is driving Saudi Arabia to the ground. Profits of over $160 billion, and what does Saudi Arabia choose to do? 


Following the insane vision of 2030, the NEOM project, and the new Ka'ba, the so-called Mukaab, Saudi Arabia immediately signs a contract with Boeing to buy a new fleet of planes so that they can fly people from all over the world to visit NEOM and the Mukaab in Riyadh. Meanwhile, at this very moment, Rohingya Muslims are starving to death. Human trafficking in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh is out of control. In the camps in Bangladesh, you do not know if you will find your child next to you when you wake up. There is a good chance that your child, especially if they are a girl, will be abducted and sold into sexual slavery. I can tell you that investigators, many of them ex-military, who specialize in trying to help parents track their trafficked children will watch illegal porn sites that contain the abuse and rape of children. The reason they watch these porn sites is in the hope of seeing a girl that has been abducted from a Rohingya camp. The same holds true for Syrian girls. You can hear these little girls scream in Arabic as they are being raped, begging God to help them. That is the truth. That is the reality. 


As we sponsor a resolution condemning Islamophobia, you may have heard that a fire broke out that killed hundreds in a Rohingya camp. The fire is now believed to have been intentionally set. Has Saudi Arabia used even a small portion of its profits to help the Rohingya? No. As we are sponsoring the resolution, the UAE has rounded up Afghans and is sending them back to the Taliban in Afghanistan, without explanation. The roundup of Uyghur Muslims continues in countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Emirates. It is well known among Uyghur populations that the only safe places are the same Western countries that generate so much Islamophobic content, i.e., the U.S., UK, and Canada.


That is precisely the point. Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Egypt know very well that they can hegemonically control secular civil critics. They know very well that secular critics have no cache or mobilization powers in the streets of Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or the Emirates. So they do not care about these critics. They know very well that the real risk to the logic of despotism and tyranny, to the inequities in society, is that posed by a lively moral, and ethical Islam. An Islam that demands justice. An Islam that demands human rights. An Islam that says, "Who said a ruler based on their whim gets to decide how the entire treasury of a country is spent?"


In the past, the way these same rulers would manifest their Islamophobia without ever telling the populace that Islamophobia has become anchored in the heart was to serve their colonial masters. In our day and age, that is old-fashioned, with perhaps the exception of the comical visit that Trump paid to Saudi Arabia, where he told the king, "You must pay." This was a throwback to colonial imagery and colonial dynamics. Today, these states expend an enormous amount of resources on mediums like Twitter, bolstering, supporting, underscoring, and emphasizing Islamophobic messages, so that any Muslim who talks about principles, ideals, and justice immediately becomes suspect.


How can you be moral if your Prophet is accused of immorality? How can we believe anything a Muslim can say about justice if Islam itself supports an unjust institution like slavery? You have immediately undercut and delegitimated any voice for a moral, ethical, and just Islam. If your Prophet, your Qur'an, and your civilization is suspect, then you have no grounds to stand on. That is the real Islamophobia. That is the real issue. That is what we need to think about as we get ready to live through another Ramadan in our lives.


That is the nature of tyranny. It is when there is no civil society that mirrors the discursive, open-ended thought dynamics of society. It is when there is no serious intellectual content being produced because these entire countries are marginalized and the only central thing in the lives of these countries is the ruler. Over 100 million Egyptian citizens are inconsequential. They are neither here nor there. They simply do not matter. All that matters is the little clique of people around the ruler of Egypt. The same goes for Saudi Arabia, the Emirate, and every other Muslim country anchored in a culture of despotism. Everyone except the elite surrounding the ruler is disposable. They do not matter. So far as the ruler is concerned, take away one million, two million, three million, or the entire population. It does not matter, because people do not matter. It is entirely illogical to have a reality in which a small clique of people are the center of the universe, and the millions who constitute the population are simply in the margins. They do not matter. It is so illogical that the only way to sustain and maintain it is to preemptively delegitimize possible voices of conscience and morality.


These folks know very well that you cannot delegitimize possible voices of conscience or morality unless you undercut the very foundations that such people would stand on. "Islam wants justice? What are you talking about? Islam never cared about justice.” “Islam wants fairness and liberation of women? What are you talking about? Your Prophet was X, Y, Z.” “What are you talking about? Islam is fine with slavery.” “Your Shari'a is the embodiment of immorality, what are you talking about?" So you have managed to marginalize not only the entire population of Muslims, but morality and ethics itself. So much so that Muslims can live through their entire Ramadan oblivious to what is happening to the Uyghurs, to Muslims in India, to the Rohingya, to the fact that the percentage of trafficked Muslim women and children has reached unprecedented levels.


It used to be that among victims of trafficking who end up on underground, illegal, and abusive porn sites, you would occasionally find a Muslim from countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Today, however, wherever you turn, you find Syrian, Yemeni, Libyan, Sudanese, Egyptian, and Tunisian women and children end up in this type of trafficking. But the despots of Islam have created a world that is insular and uncaring, so much so that Muslims are now at peace with the idea that you can be a great Muslim if you limit your discourse to the hijab but ignore the plight of Muslims who are trafficked and raped. To accept the unacceptable, to make rational what is irrational, for Saudi Arabia to make $160 billion a year but do nothing to liberate trafficked Muslim women and children, so long as they sponsor a resolution condemning Islamophobia.


This is the type of logic that is embraced and celebrated by the despots and tyrants of Islam. Keep in mind that the despots and tyrants of Islam are not just sitting in Egypt, Saudi Arabia or the UAE. They are sitting in your local Islamic centers and mosques. The very logic of this amoral Islam is reproduced every time your local Islamic center, mosque, or Islamic organization exercises dictatorship and censorship. Every time it chooses to speak about what is morally neutral and ethically oblivious. Every time the choice is made about what the khutbah is about. They don't just sit in lands far away. They sit right next to you in your own backyard.


The immorality and irrationality that has now, sadly, become the norm is something that we should never become accustomed to. To give just one instance, there have been more extra judicial killings exercised by Israel against Palestinians. An Israeli death squad was captured on camera executing Palestinians. No trial, charges, or anything. Omar Awadin, a 14-year-old riding a bicycle in front of his parents' store, was shot to death and killed on camera by an Israeli death squad. Look at the logic of immorality and irrationality. Israel claims to be a democracy. It never stops reminding the world that it is the only democracy in the Middle East. In international bodies, Israel is a champion of gay rights because it is a matter of human dignity. Israel is a champion for the abolition of the death penalty. At the same time, they turn around and put Palestinian children to death every day.


Israel is going through a political crisis because Netanyahu wants to change the law to take away the independence of the Israeli Supreme Court. Ben-Gvir just published an article telling the world how Israel is a victim of racism and anti-Semitism, how Israel is the only democracy in the region, and how anyone who says that Israel is an apartheid state is an anti-Semite. These same people, mark my words, are going to solve their political crisis by launching a major assault against Palestinians in Ramadan. Netanyahu has always solved his political problems by attacking and killing Palestinians. 


We Muslims have a very poor memory. We do not study, read, or do our homework. The UAE has just signed a major commercial deal with Israeli firms. For the first time in history, a Jewish representative, Rabbi Jackie Tabick, was welcomed at the meeting of the Muslim World League, and was met with warmth and kindness. But it is what Rabbi Tabick said that gave me pause. It is amazingly telling. The rabbi was asked about the barriers to interfaith dialogue. Her response was very informative. She said, "There is, of course, an elephant in the room, the Israel-Palestine situation…” But the rabbi continued, "Political debates, however, are often used to reinterpret anti-Semitic tropes."


What is she saying? She is saying there is an elephant in the room—the Israel-Palestine issue—which is the same elephant that the servants of tyranny do not notice. But she also underscores the Israeli position that when a person criticizes Israel for its inhumane policies and consistent rights violations, they are “reinterpreting” anti-Semitic tropes. In other words, she is saying, "Yes, I am here with you Muslims. Yes, you fumbled over yourselves to welcome me. Yes, I am very happy that you opened your door, but I am conceding nothing, and I am giving you nothing. I am not meeting you halfway, part way, or any way. If you criticize what we do to Palestinians, then you are an anti-Semite.”


This is the ethics and morality of tyranny. This is why God warned us repeatedly not to worship taghut. In fact, in Surah Al ‘Imran (Q 3) and Surah An Nisa’ (Q 4), God repeatedly told us to beware of those who are taghut, those who worship no principle, who embrace no ethic, who do not engage in moral thinking, and who are even not interested in moral thinking. The only thing they are interested in is to be in the service of tyrannical, irrational, and immoral power. Power for the sake of power. That is taghut. Did God not warn us that this will become our state if we worship anyone but God? The rabbi, with all her dignity intact, blesses Muslims with her presence at the meeting of the Muslim World League, reaffirming what she sees as their rightful position.


Once again, God shows us the enormous power and potential of those who have capital, money, and an ideological vision. It is now well known that Israel now even discriminates against leftist Jews and Jews who are not as hawkish and right wing. It is now well known that all of this is because of two American billionaires, Arthur Danczyk and Jeffrey Yass, who funded a think tank called the Kohelet Policy Forum. This think tank is what propelled the entire Netanyahu movement recently, and it is behind the entire project for the completion of the colonization of Palestine, for an aggressive policy of stealing Palestinian territory, and also for the silencing of democracy for Jews in Israel.


It is remarkable. We clearly know, as Muslims, that Islamophobia has become a world phenomenon. We have clearly seen what Islamophobia has done in Bosnia, Myanmar, Kashmir, China, and what Islamophobia continues to do in Europe, the U.S., Australia and Canada. It is indisputable that Islamophobia has become a hegemonic power in the world. And we know that what allowed Islamophobia to become so powerful is that there are enough people in this world who are willing to fund such a malignant, systematic, and powerful worldwide movement. We know the tyrants of Islam have adopted an entirely irrational and ineffective philosophy in response to Islamophobia, that is, that the solution is to educate people about Islam. Really? Is Islamophobia just about education? Do you really think that the response to Islamophobia is to just explain things so that Daniel Pipes will finally see the light? These people do not realize that Daniel Pipes is far more educated than 100 of them combined. We know all of that, and we have seen what capital can do for Hindu nationalism and for organizations like the Kohelet Policy Forum.


So, as we prepare to meet Ramadan, do our prayers, supplications, and worship, I must ask, once again, where are the Muslim rich? Where are the Muslim wealthy? They still want to play it safe. They want to fund conferences that talk about rhetoric and dogma. But they never fund anything serious, ethical, or active. Muslim millionaires sit on all their money, spending their money on ineffective projects that perpetuate the Muslim, moral, and ethical ghetto. 


I really do not know how these Muslims hope to have their fastings or their du’a’s accepted. If this is their last Ramadan, how do they imagine that they have a prayer of ever being blessed, forgiven, or accepted in heaven? I really do not know.


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