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AfricaIslamophobia

How Can African Muslims Help Combat Islamophobia?

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AfricaIslamophobia

How Can African Muslims Help Combat Islamophobia?

In 2017, Muslims in South Africa expressed concerns over an increase in Islamophobic attacks. This was a few days after a pig snout was found at the entrance of the Nurul Islam Mosque, which celebrated its centenary anniversary in 2011.

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In 2017, Muslims in South Africa expressed concerns over an increase in Islamophobic attacks. This was a few days after a pig snout was found at the entrance of the Nurul Islam Mosque, which celebrated its centenary anniversary in 2011.

In 2014, the Center for Peace and Gender (CRG) defined Islamophobia as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims and therefore fear and dislike of all or most Muslims.”

Islamophobia has been present in the Western discourse since the Middle Ages, when negative stereotypes about Muslims helped build popular support for the crusades. Descriptions of Muslims as uncivilized and violent also helped rationalized European colonial domination of most of the Muslim majority world. 

According to the BRIDGE, a Georgetown University initiative, Islamophobia often used to promote discriminatory policies that serve the interests of political actors. It is propagated through well-funded networks of ideologues, media voices, think-tanks, social and political organizations. Islamophobia manifests itself in public and private spaces where Muslims are viewed as suspect or unwelcome, and in some situations, even praying and insignias of Islam like the headscarf are prohibited. 

Like other parts of the world, Islamophobia is evidently manifesting in Africa. In 2017, a Nigerian law graduate, Firdaus Amasa Abdulsalam, was denied call to bar for refusing to take off her hijab. The school alleged that Firdaus had violated the Nigerian Law School’s dress code by wearing a headscarf. In response, Ms Firdaus said that her freedom of religion, which is enshrined in Section 38 of the Nigerian Constitution, is being infringed upon, where she challenged the decision in court. After a legal battle, she was later called to the Nigerian Bar. 

Firdaus’ hijab saga is just one among many incidents of Islamophobia in the most populous black nation. Late 2014, a Lagos High Court in Ikeja issued a verdict of banning the headscarf in primary and secondary schools in the state. While delivering the judgment, the presiding judge, Justice Grace Onyeabo, insisted that legalizing the hijab in primary and secondary schools will affect the secular nature of Lagos State. 

The case was filed by a Muslim students’ body, Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), after Aisha, a JSS II student of Kadara Junior High School, Ebute Metta, was flogged 43 strokes of cane on the assembly ground by her principal, E.C Ukpaka, because Aisha did not remove her hijab after coming out of Islamic Religious Knowledge class, in February 2013. 

A Nigerian Muslim woman recently tweeted that a Pension Manager of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) had rejected her because she refused to remove her headscarf. 

I was asked to choose a pension provider and I chose FCMB, in my passport photograph I’m veiled and was told that they won’t accept it, I need one without hijab. So I chose another provider,” said @MsMoonGazr in a tweet:

In the continent, Islamophobia is not just peculiar to Nigeria. In some parts of Africa, Muslims are portrayed as violent, misogynist, and untrustworthy. 

In 2017, Muslims in South Africa expressed concerns over an increase in Islamophobic attacks. This was a few days after a pig snout was found at the entrance of the Nurul Islam Mosque, which celebrated its centenary anniversary in 2011. Located in Simon’s Town, the mosque is one of the renowned tourist centers in South Africa’s Cape Town. 

Following this discovery, mosques elsewhere in the country were attacked. 

Dr Faisal Suleiman of the South Africa Muslim Network (SAMNET) had expressed dismay over the attacks, saying they could escalate if those responsible were not brought to book. South Africa Muslim Network also said it had received information on how Muslim women were discriminated in shopping malls and intimidated while driving in some suburbs in addition to the mosque attack. 

Islamophobia has now become a menace that all Muslims in Africa can tactfully combat, however. This could be done through portraying the true teachings of Islam in the pulpit and the society as well. 

Islamic clerics and followers alike should take the courage of informing the public that terrorism is not conterminous with Islam, as faithful Muslims are victims of terrorist attacks too. 

African Muslims from academia, non-profits, and the judiciary should set up advocacy Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), that will speak whenever an Islamophobic attack is going on. 

Muslim lawyers within the continent should also make it an obligation to challenge any government policy that infringes on the rights of the Muslims in court.

Islamophobia is a threat to all, amidst the global rise in extremism, fascism, and xenophobia. We must continue to show solidarity and strength in numbers, as we advocate the true teachings of Islam.

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