Foreign Policy Blogs

Islamophobia and Radicalized Perceptions


The current U.S. presidential election has placed Islam and Muslims on the center stage of a nasty campaign politics. Fear politics and interpersonal political rancor have ultimately secured Donald Trump the GOP nomination.

Though for the past decade and a half Islam and Muslims were facing vicious campaign of relentless demonization by the right-wing alliance and its media affiliates, never before has Islamophobia become so ever-present in the public square. And unless there is a collective and sustained push-back against it, the current trend could allow a tiny population of bigots to establish Islamophobia as the new normal.

This year, Eid al-Adha, the holiday commemorating Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son as believed by Jews, Christians, and Muslims coincides with the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I have confidence in the American spirit and people’s capacity to cope with any contrasting emotions, but I cannot say the same about the predatory political exploiters. Some of them, if not all, will try to twist this sensitive timing to aggravate the emotional wounds of many, including those who lost loved ones, for political expedience.

Ugly Face of Islamophobia

Islamophobia has been on the rise in many parts of the world, and in the United States. Aside from numerous incidents of harassment, physical assaults and mosque vandalisms, on a bright afternoon, two New York City Imams were approached from behind by a suspect who shot them, execution style, in the back of the head. “This was a most horrendous and despicable act that can only be described as a cold-blooded, premeditated assassination,” said Assistant District Attorney Peter McCormack.

The impetus driving these polarizing attitudes is two-pronged: Muslim violent extremists who commit atrocities in various countries and office-seekers such as the Republican Nominee, Donald Trump, who keep projecting apocalyptic scenarios and pander to those who had disillusionment predisposition toward the Obama presidency, those who are frustrated by the domestic impact of globalization, and those who are the uninformed excitables within the society.

All About Lenses

As a foreign policy critic, a khateeb (one who delivers Islamic sermons), an activist whose political views are spread across the public domain, I cannot think of any other country where I would be able to find a safe space to speak my mind without the threat of having to pay a hefty price for that.  However, I must confess that there are many Islamic governments that would’ve thrown me in a dungeon or had me, in one way or another, silenced. That is the sad reality. Not because Islam endorses such repression, but because in those countries, governments or rulers lack the support of their public therefore have zero tolerance for any form of criticism.

How we see each other depend on the lenses through which we see one another. These lenses help us concoct false narratives about each other to create false dichotomies. These narratives help concoct hateful divisions and distrust between East and West, Muslims and people of other faiths that are sustained by relentless fear and smear. Against this backdrop hate is weaponized.

On both sides one could find political opportunists who only pander to the baser and excitable elements of both societies, whipping up people into a frenzy of hate, rage and violence. And it is not difficult when there are layers upon layers of disinformation and misconception.

Role of Interfaith Dialogue

As I wrote in the tenth anniversary of 9/11 “dialogue cultivates an environment where the common good is evaluated and negotiated; and trust is built and sustained.” I was recently honored with a back-to-back invitation by St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church to present on Islam and engage some of the membership on faith. In order to make the dialogue more substantive, we agreed to not tiptoe around and openly ask questions. So we talked about Shariarh, Jihad, where Christianity and Islam intersect and how human-beings have resorted to reducing God of all creation into a tribal god of their liking.

Our local mosque routinely hosts Meet A Muslim events that attract community members, faith leaders and officials who are interested to know about Islam from practicing Muslims. Unfortunately, some on both sides of the fence are under the impression that these kinds of fellowship are nothing other than a conspiracy intended to dilute and ultimately declare One World Religion under the leadership of Pope Francis. We must ignore these paranoiac elements from the fringes and continue chipping off the wall of suspicion.

Where Do We Go From Here?

These are extraordinary times that demand extraordinary approaches. We cannot afford to be blindfolded by our own biases. We all have much to lose.  Life leads us to various intersections; how we get through them ultimately depends on our attitudes and our willingness to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes.

Granted, both moral reasoning and political sanity are in short supply in these days, but these shortcomings should never defeat our spirit, morale, and our sense of optimism. Instead, they should motivate us to reach out to others, mend fences with others, and set good examples for next generations to build on.

Our minds have been overloaded with negativities; however, we as human-beings are still capable of coping, especially when we cooperate to overcome mutual threats or enemies. So, as Mahatma Gandhi prudently observed in an era less threatening than our current one: “The future depends on what you (and I) do today.”

Donald Trump may continue to whip up the emotions of his loyal political base into existential paranoia, however, we—those of us who are determined to swim against the tides of violent extremism and schism—should never get weary of detoxifying history by diligently scrutinizing hate narratives. We should tirelessly keep attempting to galvanize the best in our human spirit and inspire our capacity to empathize. For nothing affirms our humanity more than our capacity to empathize. And, as in love, empathy reaches optimal effectiveness when it is a two-way street.

  • Salim Said Salim

    This is Analytical and useful article. It is the sad reality we are in today as a result of postulating clash of civilizations and branding all Muslims as terrorists or potential terrorists by the West , with their generous support with the tyrant and ruthless rulers in the middle east and Isreal , there is no astonishing to see more hatred and radicalized conceptions .Not only in the Muslim world , but in also in the West due to media and elite efforts to overload minds of the their people with negatives against Islam and Muslims .

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you Salim. Well said.

    • Narinder Dogra

      Very creation of Pakistan says a lot about Islam.
      I was in Lahore, now in Pakistan, I had just started going to school, when small groups (20 max) roamed free in bazars shouting, ‘Islam in danger!’
      Then schools closed and bazars closed and we left for India. Rest is history.
      Islam was never in dander.
      Millions lost lives on false slogan,’Islam in danger!’

  • tamimisledus

    Dislike of islam has risen as more and more have found out about its totalitarian nature.

    The source of the all-out hatred of non-muslims by muslims can be found in the koran, the unholy text of islam.
    Hatred of non-muslims by muslims has increased as more and more muslims have been born,

    • Abukar Arman

      I can see how such fallacy might pass the smell test in the Facts-Don’t-Matter island, but not in the commonsense mainland.

      If as you are convinced “the unholy text of islam” is the problem and that the Holy Qur’an was revealed (and Islam practiced) more than 1437 years ago, why were there not hundreds (if not thousands) of ISIS-like terrorists wreaking havoc across the globe & turning Western countries upside down? Were the 1.5 billion Muslims suffering from collective amnesia that caused them to forget the Qur’an….until the Neocons poisoned the well and asking “who” and “why” became ridiculed, if not criminalzed, questions?

      Until we start having an honest and open discourse on how a radioactive foreign policy has cultivated radioactive religious extremism, the world will continue to grow more unsafe for you, me, and others. Best

      • tamimisledus

        If as you are convinced “the unholy text of islam” is the problem…
        You need to learn about muslim history. Muslims have been waging war against non-muslims, on (when stronger) and off (when weaker). That is the history of many hundreds of thousands of ISIS-like thugs committing genocide throughout Europe and Asia.

        If as you are convinced “the unholy text of islam” is the problem…
        The unholy texts of islam put hate before love, war before peace, muslims before non-muslims, superstition over reason, ignorance over knowledge, primitive (muslim) societies over advanced non-muslim societies, muslim men over women, ……..

        the Holy Qur’an was revealed (and Islam practiced[sic]) more than 1437 years ago,
        To clarify, the poisonous doctrine of islam was created by muslims 1400-1500 years ago to justify muslim conquest and plunder, although the roots of its evil go quite a lot further back.

        until the Neocons poisoned the well…
        The well has always been poisoned, poisoned by muslims. The muslims were fighting against non-muslims to expand the muslim empire since islam was created, long before the West came on to the scene. Conquest and slavery is in the muslim DNA. You, like all muslims over history, are just using the neo-cons as an excuse for muslims to conquer and plunder.

        how a radioactive foreign policy has cultivated radioactive religious extremism,
        islam has always been extreme. It did not become extreme because of the West. muslims designed it that way from its very creation. “Radioactive religious extremism” has always been, and always will be, a non-negotiable fundamental part of islam.

        the world will continue to grow more unsafe for you, me, and others
        So long as there are muslims, the world will be unsafe for me as for all non-muslims. I don’t care for your safety, as you will turn against me and my fellow non-muslims as soon as (or even before) you are no longer at threat from your fellow muslims.

        The best for me is to see the total neutralisation of islam and those who support its aims.

        I can see how such fallacy might pass the smell test in the Facts-Don’t-Matter island, but not in the commonsense mainland.
        You are a muslim, you live in a land of delusion, where you just make up lies which you then call truth. Your judgement on matters relating to islam is worthless.

  • tamimisledus

    Through the past millennium and a half, non-muslims have been facing conquest by muslims, death from muslims, subjugation by muslims, denial by muslims of basic human rights, provocation by muslims, lack of respect from muslims.
    muslims come to the West because their own societies have failed. Arriving here, they fail to see how much better those societies are than the ones they have left. Far from integrating into those societies, they do all they can to turn successful Western societies into failed sharia societies like those they came from.

    Islamophobia is an invention by muslims, created in order to deflect attention away from the true nature of islam.
    It is an invention designed as part of the plan to bring about submission of West to muslims.
    And if that plan succeeds, humanity will revert back to the Stone Age.

    • Mohamed Farah

      So basically what you are saying is French police banning burqa’s is not islamaphobia. A society that claims they are democratic, that women can wear whatever they please, yet again Muslim women aren’t allowed to wear the clothing of choice. You are also saying three young Muslims being kicked off of a plane because a hater told police they were Isis without proof is not islamaphobia. Allow me to educate you on said matters! Those are two disgusting examples of sort of islamaphobia that exists in societies all over the world. Also bear in mind that both example happens in past month alone. So please, before you make ill advised comments like that, keep in mind islamaphobia is a real issue and there are people suffering because of it everyday

      • Abukar Arman

        “…keep in mind islamaphobia is a real issue and there are people suffering because of it everyday”. Well said.

        • tamimisledus

          “islamophobia” is not a real issue.
          There are many more people suffering from islam than from the fictional concept of “islamophobia”.

          • Abukar Arman

            Got it. Peace!

          • tamimisledus

            With islam, there will be no peace until all the world (including non-muslims) submit to the primitive, intolerant, superstitious, ignorant, irrational, incoherent, regressive, imperialistic, totalitarian doctrine of sharia (=islam).
            That is why non-muslims must do all they can to frustrate the plans, clearly documented in its unholy texts, of the so-called religion of islam.

      • tamimisledus

        I am basically saying what I said.
        The drivel you are spouting is just a flimsy pretext to avoid having to address the issues I raised.

      • tamimisledus

        During the month of July, 2016, there have been 1700 deaths at the hands (by bombs, guns, knives, fire, etc.) of muslims. To which must be added over 2000 injured.

      • tamimisledus

        During the last month (and the months since islam was founded), non-muslims have been persecuted, demonised and marginalised by muslims throughout many sharia states.
        All in accordance with the unholy texts of islam.

  • Hassan Abdulle

    {Quote from the article} ” I must confess that there are many Islamic governments that would’ve thrown me in a dungeon or had me, in one way or another, silenced. That is the sad reality. Not because Islam endorses such repression, but because in those countries, governments or rulers lack the support of their public therefore have zero tolerance for any form of criticism” .
    Let make this addition Mr. Arman “the fact is all those countries you have implied have the full support and backing of USA, and those are the types of rulers the west wishes for the islamic world, and that is why i call west’s model of governance: internally democratic and internationally dictators.
    They impose dictatorship on others and when the victims react brand them with their war mongering terminologies, and as a result of that the youth of those respective nations react violently, they call them terrorists but i call them, “traumatized youth”.
    Traumatized by the hypocritical approaches of the west. in the sense that they preach democracy on the platforms and lobby for dictatorship and oppression in the Muslim world inside their rooms. the west are the innovators of radicalism in the Muslim world, Al-qadida was not there until USA invaded the middle east, ISIS was not there until USA attacked Iraq, so it is the war planes that first come to the Muslim nations before the bombs go to western capitals, we can not heal symptoms of the problem until we deal with the root causes, and in this case root causes are American war planes invading the world, let the Muslim nations elect their leaders, practice democracy and USA comes in the form of friendship and support and not in form of “invading and interventionism”.
    Intervention has only contributed to the increasing conflicts in the world from Vietnam to Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia etc. it is a vicious cycle of life to fight results and not the causes. you can only use water to extinguish fire with water and not fire, you can’t use missiles to stop radicalism, simply try the simple and more productive solution.
    Ambassador. Arman thanks for this insightful article and to be honest with you this blog of yours is like my study room, next time we are expecting you to lecture the American societies about the truth on the ground in the Muslim nations, and the west’s negative approach to this reality, they are blinded by the selective US media headlines.

    Thanks and regards,

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you Hassan for the feedback. Much of what you stated is true but I am not sure if I could wholly agree with this “…the fact is all those countries you have implied have the full support
      and backing of USA, and those are the types of rulers the west wishes
      for the islamic world” mainly because it takes away the autocratic agency from Muslim despots such as Bashar al-Assad (Qaddafi, Saddam, etc.) That said, I understood the point you were trying to make. Thx

      • Hassan Abdulle

        Thank you Ambassador, Also consider the examples of Egypt, Algeria, and most of the Gulf states, removing a tyrant from Iraq and installing and evil one in Egypt is doubtful, uprooting tyranny is just selective and it depends on how friendly they are to USA remember the examples of Qaddafi and Saddam and their stance against USA- simple as that. Thanks

        • Abukar Arman

          There is no argument against the double-standard. Precisely what discredited American foreign policy in the Middle East.

  • Mohamed Mohamed

    “Until we start having an honest and open discourse on how a radioactive foreign policy has cultivated radioactive religious extremism, the world will continue to grow more unsafe for you, me, and others”.
    You said everything I wanted to say Abubakar. So many people -non muslims and muslims- mistakenly look only at the endings and consequences without asking the big question “What caused this and how”.

    • Abukar Arman

      Thank you, Mohamed.

    • tamimisledus

      islam caused this.
      This is part of muslim tactics used to justify their conquest of non-muslim lands, and subjugation of non-muslims.
      The consequences, if not stopped, could be the ending of human progress and reversion to the simple-minded barbarity of sharia (=islam)

  • tamimisledus

    This whole article is typical muslim propaganda, a wholly one sided mixture of innuendo, misrepresentation, half truths and downright lies, combined with a smear campaign against those who are willing to shine a light on the true evil nature of islam and its muslim followers.

  • tamimisledus

    You ascribe the death of two imams to islamophobia. As no motive has yet been to the murder has been established this is a slur.
    Before I go on, let me make you aware of a principle of Western Justice. A man is assumed innocent until proved guilty, and until he is proved guilty, his motives have not been proved.
    It is not enough to say that an individual who has been harmed is muslim, therefore it must be due to islamophobia (by non-muslims) as you seem to propose. In the UK there was a recent case where a muslim was killed by a fellow muslim. No islamophobia there.

    But what makes your reference to episode even more corrupt is that you have failed to put this rare incidence side by side side with the many incidences over the years, including 9/11, of muslim atrocities. I won’t elaborate, as I am sure that, you must already be aware of them.

    islam is morally and intellectually bankrupt. In your analysis of this incident, these two aspects are complementary.

    • Hassan Abdulle

      “A man is assumed innocent until proved guilty” well said, establishing the motive will take time and when it is out this will be the result “mentally ill person” but if the victim would have been non-muslim, immidiately after the incident the press would have published the motive as “terrorism act” so ask your self are the Muslims immune to mental diseases?

      • tamimisledus

        I ask myself if muslims are immune to islam.
        Of course they are not, by definition.
        I then come to the only conclusion.
        muslims have been infected with a doctrine of hate, intolerance, superstition, irrationality, ignorance, misogyny, muslim supremacy including all the worst aspects of the human psyche.

        • Hassan Abdulle

          You need sufficient brainstorming to critically think and reason what is happening around you using your common sense. Muslims are the opposite of all the definitions you have over used, you always read your news papers insulting and depicting our prophet associating our religion to terror, but it is impossible to read such cruel and hate-mongering stories from our papers, we don’t offend Jesus or Christianity in our pens if you don’t agree rush and report to your nearest clinic, you may be suffering from that common mental illness.

          • tamimisledus

            I just read what islam is, both in its unholy texts, and as shown in history, both told by muslims.

          • tamimisledus

            *allah*, the psychopathic thug of islam, as he *reveals* himself in the koran, has nothing but hatred for Christians, Jews, and all non-muslims.
            He consistently demonizes non-muslims whom he characterises as sub-human, *promises* that muslims will rule over the whole world and all non-muslims, and commands muslims to inflict violence and terror, with his support, on anyone who does not submit to islam.
            When you worship *allah*, you are also offending Christians and Jews.

            That is all in the koran.You should try reading it some time.
            But don’t forget to read the parts where *allah* offends non-muslims of all kinds, and threatens violence and terror against them.

          • Abukar Arman

            First, I would like to thank you for being a priceless testimony on my behalf (the point that I was trying to make in the article).

            Second, I would like to ask you to do your part in helping us keep our discourse civil. I don’t want to insult your faith and whomever you consider your God. In fact, as a Muslim, I cannot because God forbids me to & it defies the teachings of Prophet Muhammad

          • tamimisledus

            Nothing you have said or ever will say can change the evil inherent in islam and the beliefs of its followers.
            islam is morally and also intellectually bankrupt and its followers are morally and intellectually depraved.

          • tamimisledus

            You are a liar.
            You worship *allah* who continually insults anyone who is not a muslim.
            Are you trying to persuade me that, as a muslim, you ignore what *allah* says, and contradict what *allah* says about non-believers.
            Like all muslims, you lack respect for any one else’s faith.

            You are liar and a hypocrite.

          • tamimisledus

            If you want to keep discourse civil, you should stop worshipping *allah* who demonises anyone who is not a muslim.
            You are a hypocrite.

          • tamimisledus

            As is the case for your original article, this document is typical muslim propaganda, a wholly one sided
            mixture of innuendo, misrepresentation, half truths and downright lies.
            It is not worth the paper it is written on.

          • tamimisledus

            No matter what dirty tactics you use, and how ever much you and your bigoted
            friends try to stop me, I will continue to reveal the evil in islam.

          • tamimisledus

            muslims are exactly as I described.
            You are a prime example.

      • tamimisledus

        First you claim it is an instance of “islamophobia”, which you now seem to retract when faced by the evidence.
        Now you claim to be able to foretell the result of the trial.
        I could ask where you got these delusions from.
        But I don’t need to.
        They come from years of indoctrination in the irrational, incoherent doctrine of islam.

  • Stand Above

    I am part of a campaign called Stand Above which helps unite the community in standing up against islamophobia, violent extremism, and other forms of discrimination in order to raise awareness and promote unity and tolerance. I wanted to share our video with you in hopes that you could share it with your followers and help us raise awareness for our campaign. Thank you so much for your time. I hope you enjoy.


Abukar Arman
Abukar Arman

Abukar Arman is a former diplomat (Somalia's Special Envoy to the US). He is a widely published analyst. Focus on foreign policy/Islam/Horn of Africa /extremism. Twitter: @Abukar_Arman or reach him via e-mail: [email protected]