PETALING JAYA: Fear, caused by a lack of understanding of Islam, is one of the major causes of Islamophobia, according to an Islamic preacher and syariah expert.
In Malaysia, this trepidation is most prevalent among non-Malays, Nurul Haq Shahrir told theSun yesterday.
In some ways, he added, this same fear had also led to prejudice against Islam.
Nurul Haq was commenting on a report that Malaysia planned to work with other Islamic countries to counter Islamophobia.
The proposal will be discussed when Malaysia hosts several Islamic countries at the Kuala Lumpur Summit from Dec 19 to 21.
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu told Parliament that the initiative by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was in response to rising fears of terrorism and its frequent link to Islam around the world.
The heads of state of four countries – Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey and Qatar – have confirmed their attendance at the summit. Discussions with other countries on sending representatives for the meet are ongoing.
Nurul Haq blames the poor understanding of Islam on lack of efforts to disseminate Islamic messages to non-Muslims.
“Islamic religious authorities must engage the people and clear their doubts or answer their questions with facts and figures, not just rhetoric. Malaysians need religious literacy.”
He said Malaysia should also stop giving recognition to foreign Islamic speakers whose ideologies were unclear even to Muslims.
He cited Yusuf Qaradawi, who was awarded the Mahal Hijrah accolade even when he was red flagged by Interpol and wanted in Libya for issuing a fatwa to kill former leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Universiti Teknoloji Malaysia geo-strategist Prof Dr Azmi Hassan noted terror attacks like the recent one by Usman Khan in London were among reasons for Islamophobia.
He said communities not exposed to Islam and which rarely interact with Muslims were the most vulnerable and prone to subscribing to such stigma.