Countering Islamophobia Through Peace Messaging and Media Literacy

Islam originated from the word Salam which means peace and carries the symbolic meaning of surrender – surrendering to the will of God. A Muslim embraces Islam, the religion of Peace, with guidance from the holy book of Al-Qur'an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad – Peace be upon Him. Violence and cruelty are not in the spirit of Islam, nor are they found in the lives of faithful Muslims.

Several historical and contemporary issues are central to understanding the roots and growth of perceptions that Islam is inherently violent and hostile to all non-Muslim values. Stereotyping and media-biased flashpoints, such as the history of Islam in contrast to Christianity; Iran; 9-11; Israel and the middle east and Muslims in Europe, and the power of media in perception are some of the roots and facilitators of the creation of Islam and Muslims as intrinsically violent – and, as a result, Islamophobia.

The UN defines Islamophobia as fear, prejudice and hatred of Muslims that leads to provocation, hostility and intolerance using threatening, harassment, abuse, incitement and intimidation of Muslims and non-Muslims online and offline. Motivated by institutional, ideological, political and religious hostility that transcends into structural and cultural racism, it targets the symbols and markers of being a Muslim.

There are various ways to engage in curtailing Islamophobia and promoting peace. Religious leaders can employ these efforts or through more collaborative intra- or inter-religious initiatives: Peace messaging and support for freedom of spiritual and religious tolerance and accommodations can combat Islamophobia through inclusive discourse. There is an urgency for people of all faiths to help publicly address and condemn it and all other forms of intolerance.

There is a need to promote interfaith dialogues. Interfaith dialogues provide opportunities for interactions and negotiations to foster mutual respect, tolerance and understanding of one another's religion.

Media literacy is the ability to determine what is credible and what is not, identify different types of information, and use authoritative, fact-based information standards as an aspirational measure in deciding what to trust, share, and act on. Information is power; hence media literacy is essential in debunking and pre-bunking misinformation and disinformation, which will be instrumental in debunking myths and conspiracy theories about Islam and Muslims. This should be a continuous process for continued influence effect because the most frequent information repeated is more likely to be internalised.

People should avoid ideological trivialisations and respect one another's' creeds and beliefs. The beauty of humans is said to be buried in their diversity. Collectively and actively flagging false narratives, demanding evidence-based information, and taking more time and care when sharing information and portraying facts.

Article submitted by Hauwa Sani


The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.