Confronting Islamophobia

EDITORIAL, 23 Apr 2018

#531 | Johan Galtung – TRANSCEND Media Service

There is an old saying: “You judge your Ego by your intentions and Others’ by facts.” In a conflict Ego vs Other, judgement is by the best intentions and the worst facts. “Islamophobia” sounds like that, as does Christiano-phobia. A supporting Saying, “By the Fruits you shall know the Tree”.

Christianity may be judged for Inquisition and witch-hunt processes. And Christians may respond, yes, this happened in Christian countries. But there are deeper truths in Christianity, such as Jesus’ Samaritan work and solidarity with those who suffer and Mary’s intercession to save us from purgatory and damnation in hell, for salvation in heaven.

Much islamophobia is rooted in images of one or more of the 57 Muslim countries, judging them by (Western-individualist) Human Rights and sometimes by more universal People’s Rights–like the plight of the Kurds in Turkey and Syria-Iraq-Iran.

Academics like myself may emphasize particularly academic freedom, not only to answer questions and respond to general queries, but to ask new questions and raise new queries.

And Muslims may respond, yes, this and that happened and happens in Muslim countries, including in Turkey today. But there are deeper truths in Islam: faith in one and only one god, Allah, and in one prophet, Mohamed, building on Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus).

And Muslims may respond: Islam is about togetherness and sharing, not about dogma. Christianity has many dogmas, Islam only those two. The opposite of togetherness is isolation, loneliness, individualism. The opposites of sharing is “let the market decide, to everybody his due”; or the welfare state, the automatic transfer from the richer third or so to the poorer.

That may be problematic for the rich Muslims in welfare states: double transfer, indirectly by the state, directly from rich to poor. Solution: both-and, there are less unmet basic needs at the bottom.

Confronting Islamophobia?

Muslims must explain better to the “infidels” what Islam is about, using The Five Pillars: the double faith in Allah and the Prophet, prayer as togetherness, zakat as sharing, one month Ramadan to remind us all what it means to have no food and water, and the hajj as a culminating experience.

Non-Muslims should learn that such is Islam: nothing to fear. Challenging, yes. But Christians and humanists also have faiths; Christians also pray and there is sharing as “giving to the poor”.

But a whole month, 6 am to 6 pm, without food and water? Three days to lose weight OK, but as mandatory part of identity? Travel all the way to Nazareth-Bethlehem for a religious ritual? Then better calling Muslims “fundamentalists”, even “fanatics”, removing the challenge.

Enters the word “jihad“: “exerting oneself for the true faith”, with stages:

  1. inside oneself fighting evil-drives (like Christianity),
  2. missionary-spreading the word, through just business-trade,
  3. defending Islam when attacked by the Crusades, Zionism, in Muslim Afghanistan. For many non-Muslims justifying all three, which spell violence.

Enter Muslims declaring violent jihad as “holy war” against the infidels, apparently using the word exactly the way non-Muslims do. They are called “jihadists”, also by themselves, not waiting for any jihad authorization from Islamic Al-Azaar University in Cairo.

Pars pro todo, part for all. All-too-human, Nietzsche would say. How to confront an islamophobia based on facts, even if only partial?

The focus changes, the initiative is moving to the Muslim camp. The outside world has a right to expect, even demand, Muslim action to set the matters straight, bringing their own Muslim deviants to order.

But they may claim, with justification, that their violence is defensive. The very division of the ummah into 57 states, 56 of them old Western colonies, is frozen violence. Time is long overdue to thaw that violence, and for that some hot violence may be needed.

They are up against emirs and pashas not gladly ceding privileges to a carpet dotted with imams. IS–not ISIS, ISL, DAESH–the Islamic State, backing politically-militarily the Islamic Caliphate (IC), understands this, and relates directly to imams. The West got lost in the image of Syria as a Western colony, which it also was from 1916 (Sykes-Picot).

A Muslim is under Allah, with no Paris-emir-pasha-king-president-PM in-between. IS and IC have a more realistic understanding of deeply Muslim Syria than a West that gets lost in (post-) colonial history.

Understanding, knowledge, a deeper grasp are needed. US ignorance and intellectual shortcomings put them way behind and the shortcomings make it unlikely for them to understand their own shortcomings. The European allies do not dare together, publicly, to deviate from USA.

The Western “freedom of expression” is in practice very limited.

That leaves IS-IC free to “confront islamophobia” their own way: as an imam-dotted ummah with Shia Islam–a major achievement–focused on Mecca-Medina, not only on Iraq-Syria-Levante. IS-IC, seen as Sunni, may see it as their mission to bridge that gap, like Pope Francis-Patriarch Kirill bridging the Catholic-Orthodox gap? That was already world history, is one more in the making? What a time to be alive!

However: there is Islam and Islam and Islam–which one is “true”? That dialogue, or rather a debate, is on as we speak, and exactly in Syria. Not only the future of Syria but of Islam, and through that much of the world, depends on the outcome, long in coming. It is saddening to note how incapable CNN–the self-proclaimed “world news leader”–and even the New York Times, are in communicating this.

Will this lead to more or less islamophobia? Islam will probably gain and expand, hence more. But possibly less islamophobia if the West also practices togetherness and sharing to overcome Western isolation.

And particularly so if the West could also learn to admit its shortcomings and the necessity to learn. Including from Islam.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of TRANSCEND International and rector of TRANSCEND Peace University. Prof. Galtung has published more than 1500 articles and book chapters, over 500 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and more than 170 books on peace and related issues, of which more than 40 have been translated to other languages, including 50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives published by TRANSCEND University Press. More information about Prof. Galtung and all of his publications can be found at

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 Apr 2018.

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One Response to “Confronting Islamophobia”

  1. David C. Doerr says:

    Whether a Moslem, Jew or Christian proclaims allegiance to Al Ilah (“The God” — Allah), El Shaddai — “God Almighty”), or the Holy Spirit, the question needs to be put forth: Is “God with us” (Emmanuel)? If the believer’s response is yes, then we ought to find out to whom He is revealed. If the rapid increase in Moslem births is a divine commission, and not a mere biological weapon, then Moslem clerics ought to be required to demonstrate that Al Ilah set forth that commission by showing us a sign from God. That was a central point of Jesus of Nazareth’s mission — that if people did not believe him, then they surely ought to believe in the Author of the works (Jn. 10:38) — the Author of the signs, wonders and miracles that he showed forth (Acts 2:22); and later, that his apostles demonstrated (Acts 2:43). This discussion is not even a visible part of the dialogue of the modern world religions. Even as. during the Age of Enlightenment, (as the late Pope John Paul II explained), the world’s body of clerics has turned its back on metaphysics. No one holds them into account to demonstrate that they truly are in communion with God.