Dismantling Islamophobia With Compassion and Understanding

Dealing with Islamophobia is understandably distressing but seeking support and advocating for inclusivity and respect can make a significant difference. It is important for society to come together to create a more understanding and compassionate environment for all.
by Postgraduate Certificate in Islam in Contemporary Societies (PCICS) 2024-05-24 • 27 min read
The PCICS programme offers recent graduates from the Asatizah fraternity with the relevant skills and knowledge to provide religious guidance in this ever-changing, highly diverse, and plural postmodern world. The PCICS programme dedicates ample attention to both religious and social sciences to develop a critical-creative thinking mindset, alongside equipping our Asatizah with relevant 21st-century competencies and professional proficiencies.
2024-05-24 • 27 min read

This article was co-written by Ustazah Nur Mawarti Binte Zazali (lead), Ustaz Muhammad Firdaus Bin Abdul Malik, Ustazah Siti Raudhah Binte Abu Bakar, Ustaz Muhammad Faizeen Abdul Malik and Ustaz Hayyan Muhyiddin Bin Kamaruzaman, as part of their PCICS’ Capstone Project. The PCICS Capstone is an application-based assessment platform for learners’ to examine real-life contemporary challenges and offer innovative solutions to these issues. 

Islamophobia is a global issue that is not specific to any particular era or region of the world. It can be summed up as prejudice, discrimination, or animosity against Islam and/or Muslims by means of harassment, abuse and intimidation, both in the offline and online realm1.

Dismantling Islamophobia with compassion and understanding, Understanding Islamophobia

As new concepts emerge, Islamophobia has also occasionally been discussed alongside Xenophobia, which can be characterised as fear or dislike of individuals from different cultural backgrounds or anything perceived as unfamiliar and foreign. These evolving beliefs often reinforce one another, creating overlapping prejudices. Consequently, Muslims and other communities face the intertwined challenges of both Islamophobia and Xenophobia2.

Where Islamophobia is prominent, its ramifications can disrupt Muslims as a group and individually, impacting their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. Some would even go so far as to conceal their identities to avoid being identified as Muslims, which might jeopardise their safety. This concealment and fear of discrimination can significantly limit Muslims' opportunities within society and their access to its resources.

In a poll taken directly after 9/11, 60% of Americans reported unfavourable attitudes toward Muslims. Many Americans associate Muslims with fear-related terms such as violence, fanaticism, radicalism, war, and terrorism3. While statistics suggest that the 9/11 incident contributed to an increase in prejudice and exclusion of Islam and Muslims, other factors such as historical, political, and cultural aspects have also shaped and influenced it over time. 

In December 2023, there have been reports of a drastic increase in incidents relating to or caused by Islamophobia since October 7, 2023. In the United States (U.S.) alone, Muslim organisations have received 2,171 complaints of Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias since October 7, an increase of 172% since the year before  In the United Kingdom (U.K.), hate crimes against Muslims spiked by 140% compared to the previous year4. These statistics, which took a span of three months, not only confirm the concerning trend due to the crisis in the Middle East but could also undermine peace efforts to foster understanding and a cohesive society. Corey Saylor, the Director of Research and Advocacy from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) commented: "In 2022, our numbers showed the first-ever drop since we started tracking incidents," he says. "And then to see all of that erased, it's real insight into how easy it is for someone to just flip the Islamophobia switch back to on."5 

Some argue that Islamophobia also has a role in the oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Palestinians are wrongly portrayed/stereotyped as inherently violent or threatening due to their Muslim identity, which are then used to justify oppressive policies such as checkpoints, settlements, and restrictions on movement and access to resources6. This bias can also manifest in media portrayals and political discourse, shaping public opinion and influencing government policies. Claims of anti-Semitism are sometimes weaponised to silence criticism of Israel's policies towards Palestinians, rooted in Islamophobic biases7

Read: The Importance of Social Cohesion in Islam

Impacts of Islamophobia

It is crucial to recognise that Islamophobia affects not only Muslims but also individuals who are perceived to be Muslims based on identifiable markers, such as having Arab-looking features. As a result, one does not have to be a Muslim to bear the consequences of Islamophobia. This broadens the impact of Islamophobia beyond just the Muslim community, highlighting how prejudice and discrimination can harm anyone perceived to belong to a targeted group. Such recognition is essential for fostering empathy and solidarity across diverse communities facing discrimination.

Unfortunately, there have been instances where Muslim minorities in the United States have faced prejudice when seeking goods and services, employment, or education. Discrimination against Muslims in these areas can take various forms, including denial of service, employment discrimination8, and harassment in educational settings9.

Compassion with each other among different races and religions, Islamophobia

Additionally, Muslims may face obstacles in obtaining citizenship or legal immigration status due to preconceived beliefs that they pose a threat to national security or are potential targets for terrorism. This bias can lead to discriminatory practices in immigration policies and procedures, affecting individuals' ability to secure legal status or citizenship solely based on their religious identity or ethnic background10.

Islamophobic policies can occur globally and are not exclusive to Western countries.

In England and France, Muslims have been subjected to harassment11 because of their attire, such as wearing the headscarf12 and the loose garment known as the abaya13. The clothing and outerwear worn by Muslim women have been prohibited in schools and public spaces, which limits their ability to express their identity and promotes bias against them.

In India14, Muslims are experiencing discrimination and being deprived of their rightful educational and economic privileges. Despite achieving excellence in academic performance, Muslims face difficulties securing employment and frequently find themselves in jobs that do not necessitate their educational qualifications.

In Sri Lanka, the Muslim population accounts for roughly 9.2 percent of the total population, placing them in the minority15. On March 13th, 2021, the Sri Lankan government announced the closure of over 1,000 Islamic schools, or madrasahs, due to concerns that they posed a national security risk16. The Sri Lankan Muslims saw these abrupt measures unfavourably and perceived them as undermining their Muslim identity and impeding their religious freedom. During the pandemic, the Sri Lankan government implemented a mandatory cremation policy for Covid-19 deceased individuals in 2020, which prevented Muslims from burying their dead in accordance with their religious funeral rites. Despite facing criticism, the government considered the Muslims’ burial practices to be regressive17 during the pandemic and continued to enforce the policy for at least a year. 

The Uyghur Muslims in China18 have faced severe discrimination, which includes limitations on their religious activities. The authorities seek to change traditional beliefs and community behaviour by forcing participation in events that promote Chinese culture and values. These actions involve engaging in practices that directly contradict the principles of Islam. For instance, the Uyghur Muslims were directed to consume alcohol during the Chinese New Year festivities or coerced into eating pork to honour the Year of the Pig. Authorities may see a refusal to participate as indicative of extreme tendencies.

These documented cases show that discrimination against Muslims is a worldwide phenomenon that manifests itself in a variety of ways and across a wide range of countries and regions.

Islamophobia can also directly impact these victims’ mental health, which includes:

  1. Depression and low self-esteem: Consistent exposure to Islamophobic attitudes and actions can result in feelings of isolation and alienation. Individuals may begin to internalise negative perceptions about their identity, which can lead to feelings of depression and low self-esteem.

  2. Social withdrawal and isolation: Individuals who are fearful of being targeted or ostracised as a result of Islamophobia may withdraw from social engagements. This isolation can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, hurting one’s mental health and overall well-being.

  3. Stress and anxiety: Islamophobia may contribute to chronic tension and anxiety in Muslims. Fear of discrimination, verbal or physical abuse, or negative stereotypes can lead to feelings of insecurity and hypervigilance.

Issues in one part of the world can affect people in other places. This is especially true nowadays when the world is hyper connected due to rapid advancements in technology, particularly in telecommunications and the internet. This means negative attitudes or actions towards Muslims in one country can indirectly harm people in another part of the world. That is why it is crucial for everyone to come together and find ways to counter these harmful beliefs and behaviours. By working together, we can create a more inclusive and supportive society for everyone, regardless of their background or beliefs.

Read: Four Ways to Nurture a Generation With Compassion in an Online World

Dealing with Islamophobia

Islamophobia is a complex phenomenon. While political motivations can certainly play a significant role in shaping attitudes toward Islam and Muslims, there are also underlying psychological factors and societal influences at play.

Media portrayal of Islam and Muslims that are skewed or sensationalised can contribute to negative perceptions and stereotypes. Additionally, the actions of certain individuals or groups who claim to be acting in the name of Islam for political gain can fuel fear and prejudice.

Misinterpretations or misrepresentations of Islamic texts from the Quran and hadiths might also foster misunderstanding and fear. Terms like "jihad" are often misunderstood and misused, further contributing to misconceptions about Islam.

Read: What is Jihad?

Alhamdulillah, Singapore is known for its multicultural and multi-religious society, where different religious groups can practise their faiths freely without fear of systemic discrimination.

Jamie Mosque, Sri Mariamman Temple and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple outlining the street along South Bridge Road in Singapore.An example of social and religious harmony amidst architecture and heritage, visitors can find Jamae (Chulia) Mosque, Sri Mariamman Temple and Buddha Tooth Relic Temple outlining the street along South Bridge Road in Singapore.

The government of Singapore actively promotes religious harmony and has implemented policies to ensure the rights and freedoms of religious minorities, including the Muslim community. 

Singapore's legal framework for promoting religious harmony encompasses constitutional protections, such as the guarantee of freedom of religion under Article 15, alongside specific legislation like the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act (MRHA) and provisions within the Penal Code addressing hate speech and religious insult. The MRHA empowers the government to preempt and address actions threatening inter-religious peace, while Penal Code sections offer legal recourse against discrimination. These laws work in concert to ensure everyone can practise their faith without fear of persecution, contributing to a cohesive and inclusive society.

However, we must continue working hard and proactively preserve religious harmony. While Singapore has been successful in maintaining interfaith relations, there is always the potential for tensions to arise, especially with the misuse of social media and the internet.

Therefore, ongoing efforts are necessary to counter Islamophobia and promote understanding and tolerance. Here are some examples of initiatives you can consider:

Dialogue and Engagement

Mutual understanding with friends of different beliefs to counter Islamophobia

One practical approach for cultivating meaningful engagement in promoting solidarity and social cohesion is to keep the ground talking. For example, hiwar (inter-religious dialogue) is a conversational tool that allows communities to establish common ground and strike a balance. This encourages mutual tolerance and increased understanding among adherents of other faiths while staying inclusive. Opportunities and safe spaces like this allow individuals of diverse faiths to connect in person or virtually to debunk negative stereotypes and connotations to establish trust, friendships, and a more resilient Singapore free of tension and conflict.

A good example would be Harmony Circles, which play a crucial role in fostering dialogue and understanding among diverse religious, ethnic, and community groups at the grassroots level. Through their programmes such as interfaith dialogues and guided interfaith visits, the Harmony Circles provide valuable opportunities for individuals to engage in meaningful conversations, gain insights into different faiths and beliefs, and build bridges of understanding. 

Visit Harmony Circles’ Facebook and Instagram.

Another example is Harmony Centre, which is initiated by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to foster deeper understanding of Islam and Muslims within Singapore's diverse society. Through years of concerted efforts, including mosque open houses and collaborative programs, the centre offers insights into different faiths. The centre also functions as a hub for interfaith engagement, facilitating dialogue, learning, and relationship-building among different faith communities.

By promoting a nuanced understanding of religions, organising interfaith dialogues, and strengthening social bonds, the centre plays a pivotal role in mitigating Islamophobia and fostering a more cohesive and resilient society in Singapore.

Visit: harmonycentre.sg 

On 24th July 2023, the Mufti of Singapore, Dr. Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, alongside Mr Asri Aziz, Director, Strategic Engagement, Ustazah Liyana, Head Harmony Centre hosted a delegation from the Alumni Council of the Asbury Theological Seminary.  The guests were brought on a guided tour around the Centre, followed by an introduction to Singapore’s religious and social landscapes, and the role of the Centre in bridging its relationship with the Christian community and local churches.

Community Initiatives

Initiatives aimed at countering Islamophobia through increased social engagement and community service are crucial for fostering unity and understanding among diverse racial and religious groups. By involving individuals of all ages in activities that promote mutual respect and cooperation, such initiatives help dismantle stereotypes and foster empathy. 

Through joint efforts with other communities, bridges of solidarity are built, creating a strong collective stance against prejudice and discrimination. Civic engagement further strengthens this unity, leaving little room for Islamophobia to thrive as people come together to address common challenges and uphold shared values of inclusivity and tolerance.

Similarly, exchange programs between unique schools such as madrasahs and Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools, and other educational institutions, play a pivotal role in breaking down barriers and promoting interfaith dialogue. By fostering relationships between students from different backgrounds, these initiatives cultivate empathy, respect, and understanding. The inclusivity demonstrated through fundraisers and support activities transcends religious boundaries, showcasing the power of compassion to bridge divides.

Ultimately, such collaborative efforts not only benefit the recipients but also enrich the participants, empowering them to become advocates for social justice and champions of diversity. Through these initiatives, communities can collectively work towards a more inclusive society where all individuals are valued and respected regardless of their class, race, religion, or language.

Harnessing Social Media 

Social media is a crucial tool in addressing and countering Islamophobia, largely due to its extensive influence in contemporary society. In Singapore, individuals spend an average of 2 hours and 14 minutes each day on social media platforms19. This substantial amount of time presents a significant opportunity for communities to utilise these platforms to fight bigotry. By sharing accurate information from reliable sources, social media users can raise awareness and promote a deeper understanding of Islam.

Furthermore, actively engaging with and countering hateful narratives is essential in debunking myths and stereotypes about Islam. This proactive approach helps to break down the stigma surrounding the religion, fostering a more inclusive and tolerant society. Through these combined efforts, social media can effectively contribute to reducing Islamophobia and building a more accepting community.

Read: The Muslim Response to Provocation

Youth-led Initiatives

Youth-led initiatives play a crucial role in promoting understanding due to their unique ability to connect with peers, challenge stereotypes, and drive grassroots change. With their fresh perspectives, energy, and enthusiasm, young people are often at the forefront of social movements and innovation. By empowering youth to lead efforts in promoting interfaith understanding and inclusivity, we tap into their potential as change agents who can inspire their peers and communities to embrace diversity and reject bigotry. Additionally, youth-led initiatives foster a sense of ownership and investment in the values of pluralism and tolerance, ensuring their continued relevance and impact in shaping our society's future.

For example, students Alex Low and Iman Yazid initiated their plans to ‘digitise harmony’ by developing a new online playbook for local interfaith events. Their initiatives bring great inspiration, particularly for the places of worship they frequent in Geylang Serai - the Heart of God Church and Masjid Khalid respectively.   

Embracing Mercy and Compassion: Lessons from the Prophet Muhammad's Character

Above all, it is worth highlighting how the Prophet s.a.w. encouraged peaceful relationships and glad tidings with those around us. Although the concept of Islamophobia, in the form of irrational fear and hate, can also be seen back during the Prophet’s time when he was denied and shunned by the idolaters of Makkah, the Prophet’s mercy remained unwavering as he dealt with the community patiently and peacefully.

Read: The Prophet of Mercy: Showing Care and Concern for Others 

When confronted with hatred and prejudice, Muslims are constantly reminded to respond with peace. Allah s.w.t. says in the Qur’an:

وَعِبَادُ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلَّذِينَ يَمْشُونَ عَلَى ٱلْأَرْضِ هَوْنًا وَإِذَا خَاطَبَهُمُ ٱلْجَٰهِلُونَ قَالُوا۟ سَلَٰمًا

“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them (harshly), they say (words of) peace.”

(Surah Al-Furqan, 25:63)

Consequently, in several examples, the Prophet’s character also became the decisive factor in individuals' adoption of the religion. 

During the Prophet’s journey in Taif, his invitation to Islam was met with harsh unreasonable rejection and hostility. The people chased him and threw stones at him, showing no mercy. Feeling a deep sense of sorrow, the Prophet s.a.w. sought solace in Qarn Ath-Tha’alib (name of a place). As he looked up at the sky, he witnessed Angel Jibril a.s. reaching out to him, conveying a message from Allah s.w.t. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was granted the authority to command the angel of the mountains to respond upon the people of Taif who had unjustly hurt him.

Rather than harbouring resentment and desiring harm upon them, he expressed his hope that Allah s.w.t. would bestow upon them offsprings who would wholeheartedly worship Him alone and embrace the prophetic message. This event displayed Prophet Muhammad’s profound sense of hope even in times of hurt and distress.

Read: The Muslim response to provocation

As such, let’s motivate one another to counter hate with love as Islam is a religion that promotes peace, love, and compassion.

Understanding Islamophobia, Countering Islamophobia

Read: 4 Lessons of Love and Mercy from Prophet Muhammad


Without a doubt, dealing with Islamophobia can be incredibly challenging and distressing. It is important to remember that you are not alone in this struggle. As a society, we all need to come together to support and learn from each other.

It is okay to feel hurt, angry, or frustrated by the discrimination and prejudice you may face. Remember that your feelings are valid, and it is essential to seek support from those around you. Whether it is through your community, friends, or professional help, reaching out for support can make a significant difference.

Remember that change takes time, but by standing together and advocating for inclusivity and respect, we can work towards a more compassionate and understanding society. Let's remind ourselves of the core values that Islam teaches us. Islam is a religion that profoundly promotes peace, love, and compassion. It's about building bridges, fostering understanding, and nurturing the bonds of humanity. When faced with hate, let us respond with love. When confronted with ignorance, let us counter with knowledge and kindness.

But let us also remember that Islam stands firmly for justice. Justice is a cornerstone of our faith, ensuring that truth prevails and fairness is upheld. It means standing up against oppression, advocating for the rights of the marginalised, and ensuring that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.


1 What is Islamophobia? United Nations.
2 Yılmaz, A., & Geylani, D. (2022). Islamophobia, Xenophobia and Racism. Siyasal Bilgiler FaküLtesi Dergisi, (İSMUS), VII/2, s.25-32. 
3 Samari, G. (2016). Islamophobia and Public Health in the United States. National Library of Medicine, 106(11).
4 Saber, I. F. (2023, December 21). ‘Seen as less human’: Why has Islamophobia surged amid Israel’s Gaza war? Al Jazeera.
5 Ibid.
6 Zine, J. (2023, November 24). Islamophobia and Anti-Palestinian Racism. ReOrient: The Journal of Critical Muslim Studies.
7 Finkelstein, M. (2024, February 29). Islamophobia and spectacles of Muslim death. Red Pepper.
8 Omoigui, N. (2022). Islamophobia affecting majority of Muslims at work. HR Magazine.
9 Nittle, N. (2021). Muslims students often feel unsafe or unwelcome in schools, report shows. The19th News.
10 Patel, F., & Rachel, L. (2017). The Islamophobic Administration. Brennan Center for Justice.
11 Bulman, M. (2017, July 4). Man who ripped off woman's veil while shouting "You f***ing stupid Muslim” is jailed. Independent.
12 Menendez, E. (2019, December 10). Woman who ‘choked’ Muslim girl, 14, with hijab let off with caution. Metro.
13 (2023, August 27). France to ban wearing abaya dress in schools: Minister. Al Jazeera.
14 Sevencan, S. (2024, January 8). Activist decries discrimination Muslims face in India. Anadolu Ajansi.
15 Iftikhar, A. (2021). Fear of a Muslim Planet: Global Islamophobia in the New World Order (p. 55). Skyhorse Publishing.
16 Farzana, H. (2021, April 12). What is behind the anti-Muslim measures in Sri Lanka? Al Jazeera.
17 Ibid.
18 Roberts, S. R. (2020). The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Internal Campaign against a Muslim Minority (Vol. 76). (p231). Princeton University Press.
19 Howe, S. (2024.). Social Media Statistics in Singapore [Updated 2024]. Meltwater.


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