RABAT – There were many causes of Islamophobia in the West but it was mainly born when an anti-Muslim right-wing wave started influencing how the public views history, according to the director general of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).
Dr. Abdulaziz Othman al-Twaijri told EFE that the “instrumentalization of history” was useful in getting extremists to attack Islam.
In discussing how a biased reading of history is used against Muslims, Al-Twaijri pointed to the case of New Zealand’s alleged mosque attacker, Brenton Tarrant, who wrote dates and names on his arms related to various historical conflicts between Islam and Christianity.
Al-Twaijri stressed that there had been a historic, unfair bias in Christianity about Islam, from the crusades to the 18th century and European colonial occupation of large Muslim-majority territories.
Al-Twaijri said that European colonialism of Muslim-majority countries not only plundered subjugated peoples but also imposed despotic regimes which came to deprive those peoples of their freedoms and dignity, factors that pushed thousands of Muslims in the 20th century to migrate to the West, mainly to Europe, in search of better jobs and lives.
The head of ISESCO accepted that the Muslim communities in Western countries must take some share of the blame for Islamophobia as they have often violated their civil obligations as new citizens of those countries.
Al-Twaijri called on Muslims living in Europe and elsewhere to protect their identity without conflicting with their duties toward the Western countries they live in.
The Saudi national, al-Twaijri, joined voices that called on the United Nations and other international organizations to declare an international day of solidarity against Islamophobia on March 15, the day of the attack against two mosques in New Zealand that left 50 Muslim worshipers dead.
Among the dates found on Brenton Tarrant’s arms was 1683, when the Ottoman Empire besieged Vienna for the second time and names like Sebastiano Venier, commander of the Venetian fleet in Battle of Lepanto fought by a Catholic league of countries against the Turks, and that of King Pelayo, founder of the Christian kingdom of Asturias in northern Spain, who is credited with starting the Reconquista of the Iberian peninsula from Muslim forces.
ISESCO was established in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, in 1982 with the help of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to promote an Islamic point of view about science and culture.