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Islamophobia should be a criminal offense

February 3, 2023 at 5:05 pm

Muslim men hold banners against islamophobia on November 10, 2019 [Pierre Crom/Getty Images]

Islamophobia needs to be recognised as a crime, a senior Malaysian official said on Friday, calling for “firmer” response by Muslim countries towards incidents of burning of the Muslims’ holy book, the Quran.

“Anything that is Islamophobic can actually be considered as something which is criminal in nature. So, much like anti-Semitism is a criminal offense in many other countries,” Abdul Razak Ahmad, a Special Representative of Malaysia’s Foreign Minister, told Anadolu in an interview.

“We should also make Islamophobia a criminal offense, especially in Muslim countries,” said Ahmad, who praised the role of Turkiye for its strong reaction to a recent spate of Quran burning in Europe that drew the anger of Muslims worldwide.

Referring to one such attempt in Norway, in which authorities withdrew a permit previously given for a Quran burning following a warning from Ankara, Ahmad said the episode demonstrated the effectiveness of Turkish diplomacy.

“It shows that, you know, Turkish soft power works. And I think this is what we should do to actually be confronting these people and to engage with them and to tell them that, ‘look we are offended and this is not the right way to do things and this is not a manifestation of an egalitarian society. And they should stop’,” said the Special Representative on peace-building and countering Islamophobia.

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Ahmad said that Turkiye, Saudi Arabia and very few other countries had shown leadership against Islamophobia.

“I think our concern about Islamophobia is really about the globalisation of Islamophobia, how Islam has been misinterpreted, how Islam has been subject to hatred by people who have minimal understanding of the religion. It’s a very narrow understanding of the religion itself.”

He stressed that it was important for Malaysia and Turkiye to work together in addressing Islamophobia, which he described as a global issue affecting the Muslim community.

The West has to be realistic, he underlined. “Freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of speech can never be at the expense of undermining other people’s religion, undermining faith and undermining co-existence.”

He also stressed that Islamic countries need to be more “responsive” towards the issue.

“They can burn another 1,000 or 1 million Qurans, but you can never eliminate the teaching of Islam from the hearts and mind of the Muslims.”

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