September 11, 2001, was the day when the world changed completely, affecting almost every global citizen one way or another. Muslims became global enemy number one, and many of them were hunted down and targeted by the authorities and the public for their beliefs. The kind of brutality the entire Muslim Ummah experienced at the hands of the western democratic world still has effects on the current generation, even to this day. I mean, look at the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the 2011 Arab Spring, and the recent 2023 Palestine-Israel crises.
The early 21st century is genuinely a dark period for the entire Muslim Ummah, except for some oil-rich Arab nations aligned with the West. Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington wrote an essay back in 1993 called “The Clash of Civilizations,” which was later expanded into a book of the same name. He described a post-Cold War period where the next global crisis will be conflict between major religions, a conflict based on culture and beliefs. Initially, many people saw his work as overly simplistic in nature and completely ignored the concept of cooperation between different cultures and religions. Fast forward to 2023, and the work of Samuel is more relevant today than ever before. The event of 9/11 was just the beginning of the time of Islamophobia, which still exists to this day.
The idea that the world has changed and that the western civilization acknowledges the value of a Muslim’s life and the right to practice his or her religion is a complete illusion given to us by the western community. The idea that representation of Islam in the United States is growing and has a significant amount of influence on US policies is another illusion, considering the current crises that we are witnessing in Gaza. Islamophobia is a trend that is now becoming a threat to our way of life, and it is essential for us to understand why it exists in the first place.
The idea that extremist elements are the reason for Islamophobia is not the only answer. Yes, they do play a role considering their violent nature of hurting people including non-combatants such as women and kids yet there is a similar case for the western community as well. The conquest of freedom and democracy for the third world launched by the west by toppling a few national governments, dropping some bombs, and starting a twisted version of democracy in a completely different environment generates hatred within the local population. Locals are affected by the bombs dropped in the name of democracy and freedom since their whole family is wiped out during the process of installing a democratic system and western values, so in the end, what you have is a young bearded man who lost his loved ones for American freedom and will likely become what the global community identifies as terrorists.
It is crucial for both Muslims and the West to understand that the only true end to Islamophobia can only come when both acknowledge the ground realities. For us Muslims, it is necessary to promote the concept of peace and constructive dialogue since our religion prefers this as a primary tool when engaging with non-Muslims. Jihad is the last option and an extreme case of a scenario when every other option fails. It is also important for the West to understand that the religious fanatic or terrorist that you see as a threat is a victim of western interventionism and imperialism. A person losing his loved ones to the bombs dropped by the West in the name of democracy will likely generate a deep hatred for western culture in the long run. Hatred, which will likely convert into his will to launch his own Jihad.