06 April 2016
Anti-Muslim rhetoric and discrimination can heighten religious identities, drive social seclusion and increase attitudes of intolerance amongst segments of Muslims who are vulnerable in society. This in turn legitimises the prejudicial beliefs underlying discriminatory practices. This polarising dynamic, in part, contributes to a cycle of violence in certain Western societies.
Yet another horrific attack (this time in Brussels) grabs the news headlines. Since 9/11, such shocking instances of deadly attacks by Muslim minority citizens in Western countries, and growing religious intolerance expressed in parts of Muslim societies, feed into worldwide fears of terrorism and creeping religious fundamentalism. Fear drives the public sphere to effectively typecast Muslims based on globalised images of the “Islamic terrorist” or the “religious fundamentalist”, which results in discriminatory practices that target and affect Muslims disproportionately.
However, very few Muslims pose actual security risks as terrorists or religious fundamentalists, nor are discriminatory practices limited to concerns over security. Instead, Islamophobia also acts to typecast Muslims as the “uncompromising other” or the “complicit silent Muslim majority”, which are perceived as equally threatening to the majoritarian ethos, and should therefore be removed, controlled or subordinated. This polarising tension is further compounded in some polities that are unable to accommodate legitimate manifestations of religious identities in the public sphere, which heightens inequalities that are ultimately detrimental to social harmony.
… Saleena Saleem is an Associate Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. This is part of a series running up to an upcoming RSIS conference on “Islam in the Contemporary World” on 28 April 2016. A version of this was published in Berita Harian.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 08/04/2016