I have much affection and respect for the Muslim communities. I had the opportunity in 1967 and after to travel to Muslim countries – Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sumatra/Java (Indonesia) plus numerous annual visits to Palestine between 1993 to 2019. I learnt to appreciate the virtues and not deny the vices of the Muslim world. I take much the same view of the West – much to appreciate and much to feel deep concern about.
As a founder of Prajna Vihar School in Bodh Gaya, India in 1992, we begun an inter-religious school to cultivate harmony and understanding between teachers and young people of different faiths and secular beliefs. Action speaks louder than words.
Despite the brutality of English colonialism, occupation and wars on many Islamic nations, Muslim communities treated me with traditional kindness and hospitality every step of the way. I know friends who live in NATO countries, who have cycled in recent years (excluding Covid years) through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and into Hindu-Muslim India and onto south-east Asia. They also received immense hospitality from Muslim communities in their travels.
Perception of a Unique Threat
It seems many in the West have identified themselves with certain Western governments and the media, who stereotype Muslims to justify invasions of Islamic nations. Yes, Westerners, with anti-Islamic views, criticise other Middle East religions, but preserve their tirades against Islam, often perceived as a unique threat. Anti-Muslims often regard the West as the civilised world and regard Muslims as a threat to global civilisation. Do we treat Muslims as the infidels, the non-believers in Western superiority?
Anti-Muslims lack a meaningful critique of violence and war, whether inflicted by the nation state, such as the USA/UK or military organisations such as NATO. Western governments, especially the USA and UK, have inflicted terrible suffering on millions of Muslims, as well as thousands of Western troops in the battlefield of Muslim countries. There is evidence to show the certain Presidents and Prime Ministers, military commanders and more have engaged in war crimes. International Criminal Court (ICC) does not apply to powerful Western leaders. ICC punishes losers, except when the USA government loses wars, such as against the people of Afghanistan or Vietnam.
We need an understanding of the range of causes and conditions for those determined to inflict revenge on others when using political or religious motives. Otherwise, we block or suppress the opportunity for shedding light on the wilful military attacks, whether briefly or over years, on 14 Muslim countries. People focus on the murderous intent of Islamic extremists and the savagery of terror in the Islamic world. Violent religious extremists often have a history of obsessive psychological problems, sometimes triggered by traumas/phobias in warfare that USA or NATO launched.
Manipulation of such vulnerable minds to support violence, terrorism and suicide bombers is abhorrent. I have had discussions on the issue of violence with people in Palestine, challenged any Palestinian, who supported armed struggle, suicide bombers including stone-throwing at IDF soldiers. Figures show 87% of suicide bombers have lost a loved one under Israeli army occupation or have unresolved mental health issues, such as prone to rage or submissive behaviour. Families worry sick every time their teenage children go out intent on throwing stones at Israeli soldiers.
I know Palestinian families who have succeeded in stopping loved ones intent on revenge when the parents found out about a planned suicide attack involving their children, often young adults. I have spoken to some of these families on my visits. I have listened to stories of arrests, imprisonment and torture of Palestinians as well as IDF killings/night-time assassinations in front of wife and children, and breaking bones of civilians. Uncivilised behaviour in conflict and warfare manifests in both directions and from both sides.
In the West, we need to take a long, hard look at our prejudices against Muslims and any other religion, nation or culture.
- Encyclopaedia defines Islamophobia as “Prejudices and aversion to Islam and Muslims, as well as actions and practices that attack, exclude or discriminate against persons on the basis of being Muslim.
- Commission of British Muslims. UK, defined Islamophobia as: “An outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination.
- Commission stated that Islamophobia includes: “Opinions that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, that it is inferior to Western cultures.
Around one in 20 people in Britain follow Islam. Such people of faith make an important contribution to the religious, cultural and social diversity here. We need their presence to help dissolve the Little Englander mentality. Western citizens invite Muslims to engage in Western political life and will elect them to high office. This is a step in the right direction. There is a growing recognition that Muslim culture and established roots of Muslims in their adopted country, within a generation or two, have much to offer us.
Persistent Dark Perceptions
Due to persistent dark perceptions, anti-Muslims show a lack of experiential, cultural and philosophical depths of the benefits AND limits of religious beliefs.
The Buddha referred to hard, jaundiced views as Adharma – not the Dharma (teachings/practices for awakening), against the Dharma. Adhamma means a false doctrine leading to and endorsing suffering. (Numerical Discourses of the Buddha. Book of Fours, section 17-19). The Buddha regarded such views as a delusion in the mind.
Anti-Muslims lack a meaningful critique of violence and war, whether inflicted by the nation state, such as the USA/UK or military organisations such as NATO. A prejudiced mind offers little in the way of insight into the terrible suffering inflicting on millions of Muslims, as well as thousands of Western troops in the battlefield of Muslim countries.
We can propagate views which permit free speech and freedom of information, as long as the content agrees with the White House or Downing Street. Ask Edward Snowden about the consequences to freedom of speech when exposing mass surveillance programmes by the US Government or Julian Assange about publishing government material about the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House threatens such dissidents with long prison sentences for daring to expose what the government does in the name of the people.
We read of voices in the Muslim community in the USA fearing to make their concerns heard in the public about the vitriolic attacks on their faith. Muslim leaders in the USA keep a low profile; otherwise, they face FBI questioning under the laws of Homeland Security.
The Mind’s Worst Disease
The Buddhist tradition has stated for centuries that being For and Against is the mind’s worst disease. The Buddha used the language of dukkha (unsatisfactory-suffering) to describe such mind states including at the intellectual level, despite detachment from emotions. The clenched fist, so to speak, of those who grasp onto views of aversion to others hinders insights, non-dual seeing and wisdom.
The identification with names and forms feeds suffering through being rigidly for one thing and against something else. This unexamined duality confirms avijja (ignorance/blind spots/absence of knowing. From ignorance, unwise views arise, which harden and dominate consciousness. Identity and self/ego build up around a rigid anti standpoint. This might show as self-righteousness, arrogance and minimising the worth of others. This is dukkha.
The duality of for and against tells us about the mind of the holder of such views, not about the priority given to the object. The more we are for one thing, the more we will become against something else. There are two sides to a coin. We cannot have one side of a coin without the other side.
Who coined the word Islamophobia?
Whoever coined the word Islamophobia allows anyone to be anti-Muslim while denying a phobia.
Islamophobia? Why does phobia only apply to Islam?
We do not use phobia for those who are anti-God, anti-religion, anti-Christianity, anti-Buddhism, anti-Hinduism, anti-Judaism, Black citizens, Gay/Lesbian/binary citizens and more? We do not say Godphobia, Faithphobia and so on.
Does the concept Islamophobia itself reveal a Western prejudice?
Let us never invest the mind with prejudices, so we recognise the virtues and vices found among the many and the few.
We may need to wash our mouth out with soap before telling others to do so.
Western governments, military invasions and endless propaganda to undermine Muslims reveal deep seated problems in our psyche. Some survivors of invasions can become violently angry. Remember what happened after the suicide attacks using US planes by Saudi Arabian citizens on 9/11 to kill innocent US citizens. The American government immediately ordered US planes to bomb innocent citizens of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Revenge begets revenge.
People of faith, including Muslims, people not of faith, need to face up to the consequence of prejudice.
There seems to be a slow descent into authoritarian rule among more and more Western nations while heaping blame on other regimes.
Where is the real threat to Western life?
We witness an ongoing existential crisis among Western nations – poverty, widespread strikes, corruption, corporate greed, environmental abuse/disasters, pollution, economic crisis, personal/national debit, waves of crimes, sexual violence, gambling, pornography addiction, child abuse, drug addiction, dependency on pharmaceutical drugs, obesity, racism, sexism depression, chronic anxiety, self-image and more.
Where is the wisdom and compassion in our foreign and domestic policy?
The rotting fish starts at the head.
May all beings examine harmful views
May all beings be free from delusion
May all beings live with wisdom.