The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Islamophobia: between the 'offender' and the 'victim' Open in fullscreen

Khalil Agha

Islamophobia: between the 'offender' and the 'victim'

Muslim migrants in the West continue to live with the mentality of their countries [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 January, 2016

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
Comment: A realistic discourse defining the 'offender' and the 'victim' of Islamophobia is key to understanding and solving the problem facing millions of Muslim migrants, argues Khalil Agha
For media professionals, "Islamophobia" may seem like a well-ingrained term of everyday use, while it holds a special meaning for politicians, even if it is possibly sometimes conflated with other terms.

As for ordinary people, the term has become largely associated with the media and election campaigns in particular. At least this appears the case in Europe and the West.

Islamophobia surfaces as a tool either to calm or stir public opinion as needed, especially following violent acts.

Here we must speak frankly about the "offender" and the "victim" without labelling the discourse or the author, as avoiding facts and reality only leads to more complications.

As the "offender", media outlets play a key role in deepening and complicating Islamophobia by exaggerating smaller incidents, often making the average reader a "victim" that feels threatened.

Viewers begin to lose a sense of security they seem to remember having always enjoyed - away from "those Muslims", who seem to pose danger in the streets and on public transport, according to the media narrative.

On the other hand, this political-media discourse fuels the "victim's" extremism.

Having lived in the UK for ten years, I have observed many signs that the entrenchment of the "victim" role only strengthens Islamophobia.
Some Muslims view host communities as 'infidels' that should be structurally disobeyed


The first is selective integration. Muslim migrants come from a vast variety of cultural backgrounds, with vast contradictions when it comes to understanding and defining "societal integration".

Thus, individuals and groups left to create their own definitions often contradict the ideas of host communities, making it more difficult to deal with them.

Some Muslims view host communities as "infidels" that should be structurally disobeyed, while others are confused between agreeing and disagreeing with their hosts.

Second, there is a lack of cultural and religious references that simplify such concepts to Muslim communities and help them with positive integration in host communities without losing cultural identity.

The third reason is the state of living between two worlds. Many Muslim migrants in the West continue to live with the mentality of their home countries, despite leaving them decades ago, and having grandchildren in their new homes.

Several recent studies of Muslim communities in Europe have detected 'grey areas' between parents and their children when it comes to culture, as each generation has its own understanding and explanation

The solution lies in bringing up children with the tolerance to accept others, and coexist without imposing their different cultures on each other.

The absence of this has created culturally confused generations that do not know where to belong, further worsened by parents' insistence on the idea of returning home "some day".

The idea of return is a double-edged sword. It is positive when teaching children their parents' first languages and many of their countries' positive traditions, but is negative when passing on ideas and behaviours that contradict with their new environments, causing confusion and duality.

Several recent studies of Muslim communities in Europe have detected "grey areas" between parents and their children when it comes to culture, as each generation has its own understanding and narrative explanations.

This brings us to the understanding of religion and committing to it. For example, many second-generation Muslims criticise their parents' shallow commitment to religion, while others find a sense of belonging to the Islamic nation by being strictly religious, thus escaping the dilemma of belonging to a society with a predominantly different ethnicity, religion, and culture.

Due to this overlap, some youths may resort to rebellion and aggression against their parents' host community - now their own community - which in turn may fail to understand the origins of such behaviour.

In response, the host community may react in a way that further complicates the problem instead of solving it.

Thus, distinguishing between the offender and the victim has become too complicated. Muslim communities in the West need to exert greater efforts to define their identities that belong to geographical and sociological aspects completely different from those in the lands of their fathers.

But evading this by insisting on the idea of returning home "some day" will not solve the problem.


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The New Arab, al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More