Data Doesn’t Support Islamophobia, But Who’ll Tell the Lynch Mobs?
Narratives of Islamophobia are exaggerated and parochial versions of what’s really happening around the world.
It is irrelevant whether beef was mentioned or not. The fact that a teenager, who not only was a Muslim, but also looked like one – with the external marker of a skull cap – was beaten to death onboard a Mathura-bound train just because of his religious affiliation, raises several questions.
The most disturbing of them is growing suspicion, bordering on hatred, for members of a particular community. A slight provocation is all that is required to push groups or individuals to extreme acts.
Why is this suspicion growing? In everyday conversations, we come across variations of the same narratives – that all Muslim-majority countries are disturbed zones, that the Muslim community’s association with terrorists the world over is a long-established fact, and that all Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.
Since many have begun to believe in these narratives, the suspicion has taken the form of outrage that is mostly latent, but which turns violent at times, disturbingly with increasing frequency now.
But does data support such narratives? Our analysis shows that these narratives are hugely exaggerated and highly parochial versions of what is actually happening around the world.
Only a Fraction of Muslims Part of Jihadi Network
According to a 2014 CNN report, “If we tally up the low and high estimates for all these (terror) groups, we can begin to have a sense of the total number of jihadist militants that are part of formal organisations around the globe. We found that on the low end, an estimated 85,000 men are fighting in jihadist groups around the world; on the high end, 1,06,000.”
For a 1.7 billion-strong community, is the proportion of Jihadi elements so alarmingly high to paint other members with the same brush? There is no denying that jihadists pose a serious threat.
But they are rogue elements and all communities have their fair share of lunatics. They deserve to be condemned and prosecuted. But spare a thought for millions of others who are unnecessarily blamed for things they have never done.
Muslim Countries Are War Zones?
A recent Economist report lists 50 most dangerous cities with very high rates of homicide. It says that “Latin America remains the world’s most violent region not at war. According to data from the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian thinktank, 43 of the 50 most murderous cities in the world last year, and eight of the top ten countries, are in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Incidentally, none of these dangerous cities and countries have a sizeable Muslim population.
There is no denying that Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Pakistan too are disturbed zones. And they are disturbed zones because of ongoing civil wars for years.
But it is also true that many other Muslim countries like Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are as peaceful as other countries are. Are we being fair by clubbing all of them together and projecting a certain image of a community?
Are Muslim Jihadists Behind All Terrorist Attacks in the World?
Is it so? The latest European Union report on terror situations in member countries finds that out that of the total 142 “failed, foiled and completed attacks” that were reported in 2016, 13 were jihadist terror attacks. The number of jihadist attacks, in fact, have come down from 2015, according to the EU report. Jihadi attacks, however, have been deadlier and therefore widely reported.
Let me add a disclaimer here. Way back in 2008, I was at the receiving end of constant narratives of Islamophobia. The impact was so severe that I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. After weeks of medical attention, I could regain my balance. The scars, however, lingered on for months.
While professional requirement demanded that I should talk to cross-sections of people, irrespective of their religious affiliations, I would look for excuses not to interact with members of a particular community. But for the facts listed above, I would not have been able to overcome the perceived Islamophobia then.
My request to all lynch mobs and their ideological patrons directing their ire against a particular community is: Get hold of facts and analyse them for yourself. You will arrive at the same conclusion, that Islamophobia is based on nothing but vague and fictitious impressions.
Before you pounce on me for highlighting one case of lynching and ignoring the other, let me conclude by saying that the other lynching incident involving a Kashmiri police officer is equally reprehensible.
(This admission season, The Quint got experts from CollegeDekho.com on board to answer all your college-related queries. Send us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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