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Islamophobia And Prejudice Against Muslims: Stop Equating Islam To Terrorism

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There has been a history of prejudice and violence against Muslims in the United States of America, Europe and other countries of the world. Recently, we have seen it even in India. We see many videos of using religious slurs against Muslims.

In the USA, it had increased after the 9/11 attack, since the terrorist involved in the attack were Muslims and every Muslim was thence seen with suspicion. Muslims have always condemned these attacks; still somehow because of politics, people are brainwashed and they are made to hate a certain community. All of this just for vote-bank politics. It happened with the Jews in Germany during Hitler’s time and it was worse, far worse than what Muslims are facing today.

During the annual gathering of South Asian Sunni Muslims in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh this week, almost 1.5 million attendees signed a document protesting global terrorist activity. There have been multiple occasions when Muslims and Muslim organizations have come up and condemned terrorism in the name of Islam. But sadly, people only see the dark side of the alley.

Most of the terrorist attacks that happen are in Muslim-majority countries. Even mosques, sacred places of worship, are bombarded. How can a Muslim attack their own mosques? Last year, there was an attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. We have seen hundreds of cases of shootings and killings on schools in the USA and killing of Muslims in the name of cows but no one calls them terrorists. Why is it that after so much condemnation from the Muslims, they are still labelled as terrorists? The main reason that I can see is politics.

The Politics Of Hate

Islamic fundamentalism started in 1995. No doubt, the fault was on Muslims’, people who started it were ‘so-called Muslims’, although it is debatable if they were Muslims in the truest sense or not. Russia invaded Afghanistan, they fought back for their independence, then the United States interfered and that’s how the whole story begins. I have heard someone say that bad luck for Muslims in Middle Eastern countries started when oil was discovered, and countries like the USA took benefit of that and to get oil from them- be it making two countries fight or fuelling civil wars in the countries and killing their leaders. They have turned the whole of the Middle East into their arms and ammunition market. Today, most of the revenue that the USA makes is by selling the weapons of war.

The USA is very reliant on oil/ Photo: CNN

Islamophobia has, in a way, helped Islam also because, since the 9/11 attack, people started hating Muslims; but at the same time, they also got interested to learn about religion. Studies show us that today Islam is the fastest-growing religion. But the real problem is that no one thinks about the innocent peace-loving Muslims who own small shops, do simple jobs, and want an easy life and education for their children. Further, because of the rise in the number of Muslims, people are mad that they are going to take over.

This feeling is what politicians feed on and take benefit of. Be it in the USA or India, we have seen, that if the USA attacks the Middle East in the name of nationalism if, saying that they have eradicated terrorists, people get happy and vote for them. In the same way, the feeling of nationalism and an attack on Pakistan is enough to win elections in India. Nobody gives a damn about those soldiers who die in the process of attacking another country or asking the necessary questions.

Although in the USA, this is an old trick and people have slowly started realizing it, but this process is still very new for the people of India and they are going to realize in a very long time from now.

Media also has a significant role in it. Since Muslims in the whole world do not have any control over mass media, leaving one or two organizations, the media portrays them in bad shape because of the intimidation by the governments. Hate speech or even violence by a non-Muslim goes unnoticed whereas something said by a Muslim becomes the topic for prime time debates. People love watching debates and that’s how the fire of hate is fuelled. We have seen people chant Jai Shri Ram and these people are unaware of what Shri Ram has preached all his life In the same way, those terrorists do not know what Prophet Muhammad has preached all his life.

Islam is derived from the Arabic word “salam” which means peace, and we should look at Islam like that. Just because somebody has a Muslim name doesn’t mean that he is a true Muslim. Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist who was involved in 26/11 knew nothing about Islam, so would it be alright to say that Kasab attacked in the name of Islam? It was just brainwashing that could have been done in multiple ways. When it’s an attack by Pakistan on India, it’s by a country, not by any Muslim.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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