17 years ago, no one had heard of Islamophobia. While some scholars claim that Islamophobia existed in premise before the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001, others counter that argument by saying that it increased in frequency and notoriety during the past decade. But the focus of this  article is whether Islamophobia exists within the student community of the University of Delhi (DU).

“Why do you wear this?”, “Can you take it off?”, and “I want to see your hair!” In the last two years as a student in DU, my friend Wasila had been at the receiving end of many such remarks. In conversation with DU Beat, Wasila Nizami, a student pursuing Political Science Honours in Miranda House, questioned, “If the student community in the country’s most liberal environment holds this kind of mindset, what will the rest of India think about those who wear headscarves over long, black dresses?” When asked whether she has tried to bring this to the notice of the authorities, she answered, “Forget the authorities. Even those who claim to represent us-members of the Students’ Union-would not respond appropriately to allegations of Islamophobia.”

Cases of failed justice for harassment committed against the Muslim students in DU has driven home a feeling amongst the affected that they are not respected by those who follow other faiths within the varsity. Shabnam Sultana, a student pursuing History Honours from Ramjas College, told DU Beat, “Most college departments refuse to accept that religious bullying takes place in their campuses.” Speaking on her own troubled experience as a student following the tenets of Islam, she remarked, “From the time I take the e-rickshaw to college to the time I take the e-rickshaw to my PG, I feel concerned about my own safety because my hijab gives out my identity.”

Even to outside observers, it is becoming evident that this premier institution has a tendency to ostracise and single out students belonging to the Muslim community. Jahnavi Sharma, a PhD scholar in JNU and a DU graduate, told DU Beat, “In canteens, classrooms, and common rooms, a Muslim student might be singled out and called a Pakistani or the ISIS. It might be said to evoke laughter or might be meant as a joke, but it’s not. It actually amounts to bullying and tormenting.”

Should we treat every attack on a Muslim student as Islamophobic? If a Kashmiri student is assaulted, is this a form of political violence or an Islamophobic incident? But not only in terms of their physical attire, Muslim students feel a sense of discomfort even in terms of the intellectual scenario prevailing in the varsity. They do not feel comfortable discussing terrorism in class, and most are of the belief that there is no safe space or forum on campus to discuss the issues that affect them. Arshad Jawid, a student pursuing post graduation from the Department of Statistics in DU, said, “Muslim students, even at the post-graduate level, hesitate to engage in political debate, let alone contest the DUSU elections.”

A professor at Miranda House told our correspondent on conditions of anonymity, “Sometimes, even the professors can be the perpetrators of Islamophobia. I have had Muslim students coming to me with stories of professors who espouse views that malign an entire faith.”

Our question of whether Islamophobia exists in DU or not was met with mixed reviews, as was expected. But as we conclude this article, we realised that the question we started out with is not important. What is important is to acknowledge that our universities are places which are meant to provide a safe space for all students to engage in debate and discussion, free from the fear of persecution, harm, and bigotry. Islamophobia or not, the first step is to accept that there’s a problem. This issue plagues the student community of DU, and hence we won’t get answers to this problem in the news studio debates with Arnab Goswami nor will we find the answers in Patricia Mukhim’s editorials. The answers will materialise when students start walking out of classes, demand the resignation of professors with parochial mindsets, and stage protests to draw attention to discrimination on campus.

17 years ago, no one had heard of Islamophobia. Now even when we hear of it, isn’t it ironic that we choose to ignore it?


Feature Image Credits: Artist Unknown, Image has been  taken from Feminism and Religion

Vaibhavi Sharma Pathak

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How many times has the sight of men clad in skull caps instilled a sense of fear in you? What makes the recitation of Quran and the offering of Namaz in public places an astounding spectacle? To answer these questions well, retrospectively, it is important to understand what Islamophobia is.

Islamophobia, as the name suggests, is the irrational and unfounded fear of Muslims and/or Islam, often times used as a political rhetoric. The term surfaced in the late twentieth century, only to reach an unprecedented peak, post the 9/ 11 terrorist attacks. The perpetrators of the same were 19 men affiliated to Al-Qaeda, a militant Islamist organisation. Having mentioned the involvement of an Islamist group in this dreadful act, it became all too inevitable for the Muslim community as a whole to not be viewed under the same radar as terrorists. Treated just as such since, their community has been under tremendous pressure from agencies all across the globe.

Their blatant ostracism from the mainstream affairs of the world is not a pleasant sight to behold. US President, Donald Trump, openly campaigning for an absolute ban on Muslims entering The States is a sickening ploy, more so because it was a political propaganda camouflaged as a mitigation measure against rebellion. He garnered an unbelievably huge response to his unlikely candidacy at the presidential elections by fanning the already seething flames of hostility towards Islam in the US.

Prominent American Muslim, Edward Mitchell IV of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told Al Jazeera that it is one thing to read anti-Muslim rhetoric on the internet or to see it on Fox News and it is an other thing to hear it from the president of the United States. The same can be said about Theresa May, only she does not out rightly admit to racism. Theresa May, Prime Minister of The United Kingdom turned a deaf ear to the incessant wailing of Muslim worshippers, celebrating Ramdaan at London’s Finsbury Park Mosque, when a white van swerved sharply off the road and slammed into the crowd, killing one and injuring at least eight others. However, earlier in the same year when jihadists orchestrated an attack on London, in which eight people were killed, May was infuriated and issued a statement saying that there was far too much tolerance of Islamist extremism in the UK and announced civil liberties restriction. What May did in the latter, was indeed the right thing to do to in order to safe guard the interests of her citizens, however, the lack of reciprocal prosecution in the former suggests bigoted sentiments of the Prime Minister towards Islam.

The present day plight of Rohingya Muslims, the most vexed ethnic Muslim community in the world, is nothing short of horrific. Having to flee away from Myanmar, their home land, they find themselves negotiating the terms of refuge in neighboring nations, having to live without an identity, for what seems like an indefinite period of time. Mob lynching cases in India have been on the rise since the BJP government attained power in 2014, not to mention, the categorical slaughter of Muslim men under the pretext of beef consumption and cow annihilation. Pehlu Khan, Mohammad Aklaq, and Junaid Khan, are a few names out of a couple hundred that resonate with indignation and lost pride.

World domination as against a particular community, based on the suspicion of radical ties of a few with certain established militant organisation, is an extremely poor choice, especially when we are living in a polar world, where the dissemination of information is the freehold of media houses, a privilege which ought to be exploited, like all others. “If I was not a Muslim and all I knew about Islam is what I saw in the evening news, I might be afraid of Muslims too,” says Mitchell to Al Jazeera, highlighting the deplorable state of moral policing in media and print stations.

It is important to separate religious affiliations from counter terrorism. Terrorism is not the sole propriety of a particular community. The sinful acts of a few radical extremists should not lead the remaining 1.6 billion into apologetic surrender. It is the job, not just of the government but also of the masses to scrutinise the current scenario and come up with a mechanism to weed out the rotten lot and save Islamism of religious defamation.


Feature Image Credits: The Express Tribune Blog

Lakshita Arora
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