Omar Mateen, a man of Afghan origin, cruelly killed 49 people in a Florida nightclub in the worst mass-shooting in modern U.S. history. It was reported that he was affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), that he was interrogated by the FBI three times and that he had psychological issues, etc. 

Presidential candidate Donald Trump immediately took the opportunity and said, “I said this was going to happen.” Trump called President Barack Obama to finally mention the words “radical Islamic terrorism” or immediately “resign in disgrace.”

Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton did not mention these words; they defined it as an act of terror and hate. 

This is a typical incident showing how these kinds of barbaric acts fuel the already widespread Islamophobia in the West. 

In English dictionaries published 10 or 15 years ago, the words “Islamic, Islamization and Islamist” are present but there is no word such as “Islamophobia.” This word is included in more recent editions. 

That is because, leaving aside the historic factors, the emergence of Islamophobia is a new incident. What has made the concept of Islamophobia enter world languages is the climb of terror. With the rise of ISIL, terror further escalated between 2014 and 2016.  

This sad picture cannot be downgraded with words such as “provocation, foreign powers,” etc.

Muslims, especially those who engage in politics in the name of Islam, Islamic intellectuals and scholars should not settle just for condemning individual terror acts. Unless they develop a determined faith-, ethical, humanitarian- and freedom-based stance against the religious perception that has created such widespread waves of terror, it will not be possible to prevent Islamophobia.

These words of our former head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Professor Ali Bardakoğlu, should be carefully noted by everybody who has religious sensitivities.  

“If we start to regard the incident as ‘the other’s game and provocation’ then we will not be able to understand, in a healthy way, what is going on in our own neighborhood. As a matter of fact, we need to examine calmly whether or not the religious education and the religious knowledge generated in the name of Islam in various locations in the Islamic region feed these kinds of hate and violence.” 

Our scholar, the head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Professor Mehmet Görmez, also said at the opening speech of the fifth Religion Council that pro-Salafi, bigoted and pro-violence behavior “casts a shadow on Islam’s worldwide mentality of rights and justice, its message of love and mercy” and caused the creation of Islamophobic sentiments in the Western world. 

But, unfortunately, the Religion Council’s joint declaration did not include this view, instead depicting Islamophobia merely as Western animosity toward Islam.

What good can it do but fuel bigotry if we are only to regard Islamophobia as the West’s animosity toward Islam? 

It is possible to categorize the grave issues in the Islamic world under two headings. One of them is bigotry or fanaticism. This is generally called the “pro-Salafi mentality.” Today, one person is able to declare publicly that anyone who does not perform the five daily prayers of Islam is “an animal.” Such nonsense has never been uttered by any member of any sect at any period in history. A Religious Affairs Directorate statement said this was defamation, as well as incompatible with Islam. 

Just imagine such bigotry incorporated with political rage! Well, there, the second bundle of issues in the Islamic world is the politicization of the pro-Salafi religious mentality, in other words, the integration of it with political rage. 

When human energy is directed toward political clashes, do we see movements such as education campaigns and scientific campaigns in Muslim countries? 

Muslims need the Rumis, Yunus Emres, al-Birunis and Ibn Khalduns of this era, not militants and bigots.