Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, recently published an insightful op-ed in Newsweek about the double standards in our national discourse on Islam and modernity.
Among the points she makes is that “Othering” Muslims into a singular, scary foreign mass, and equating that mass with the worst fringe elements of Muslim societies while ignoring the achievements of Islamic civilization, is at the heart of what she calls “Muslimphobia.” On the contrary, Islam has always been diverse and pluralistic since the very beginning. She writes:
Let me remind you, however, that Islam has never been monolithic but has from the start been a vast container for diverse cultures and ethnicities. The homogenization of Muslims into a fearful and unknowable “Other,” separate from the beauty and nobility of Islam and its civilization, is at the root of Muslimphobia.
The problem is that Islam, as understood by scholars and academics, is far removed from many laypeople who get their information about Islam from blowharding bloggers, pompous pundits, and fragmentary media soundbytes. The challenge for us is that we need to take this academic knowledge and make it more accessible to ordinary people searching for answers on the web. She says:
People turn more and more to the Internet for information about Muslims and Islam. Yet intelligent resources remain on the shelves of academic journals, inaccessible to average citizens. We need to connect the academic study of Islam with the public who is seeking information, just like we need to consider the needs of young Muslims looking to their traditions for tools to build a new modernity.
This is a really important point. Most people who fall for anti-Muslim memes don’t mean harm, but rather they’ve been misled by a professional Islamophobia network. All they need is some good information and a little kindness. That’s a jihad we can all partake in.
The entire article is worth reading and we’d do well to follow up some of her insights.