Imran Khan blames Muslim leaders for Islamophobia.

The growth of Islamophobia is because Muslim leaders failed to combat anti-Muslim sentiments in the West by explaining the truth about Islam, says Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In his keynote address at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia here on Tuesday (Feb 4), he said the inability to remove Islam from the Western world’s definition of terrorism made matters worse for the more than one billion Muslims worldwide.

The PM said  Islam has no connection with terrorism. “I am pursuing the vision of the founding fathers of the country to make Pakistan a real welfare state.”

He singled out key events such as the Iranian Revolution, the reaction of the Muslim world towards Salman Rushdie’s controversial book, The Satanic Verses, and the 9/11 attacks as pivotal moments that saw Islamophobia growing in the West.

According to Imran, the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which resulted in the toppling of the monarchy there, saw Western countries fearing for the first time that Islam would go against their interests.

In addition, Islamophobia became worse in 1988 with the controversy over Rushdie’s book which outraged Muslims due to its blasphemous content and earned the writer a death sentence from Iran.

“I consider that the biggest failure of Muslim leadership.

“They should have explained why it mattered so much. Westerners have a completely different attitude towards religion compared to the Muslim world.

“We needed to explain to them why it (the book) caused us so much pain. As a result (of this failure to explain), Islam was seen as intolerant by the Western world,” said Imran.

He said in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda against the United States on Sept 11,2001, Muslim leaders should have objected when the Western world called these attacks an act of Islamic terrorism.

“What do the terrorist acts have to do with us?

“Rather than saying Islam had nothing to do with it and delinking Islam from the attacks, the Muslim world, unfortunately, started using Western terminologies such as ‘moderate Islam and radical Islam’.

“Islamophobia grew even more because Muslim countries did not stop and question this and say that Islam and terrorism had no linkage,” he added.

He said nobody, for example, linked the Japanese kamikaze pilots during World War Two with religion nor was this the case when Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels assassinated India’s former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

“No one linked religion to them but Islam and terrorism got connected,” he said.

To combat Islamophobia and the rampant misconceptions about Islam, Khan said Pakistan, Malaysia and Turkey were planning to form their own media.

The idea to form a dedicated TV channel towards this end was first announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in December last year.

“There’s a need to give people an idea of what the misconceptions are as well as what the real Islam is.

“There is also extremist propaganda luring young people towards extremist ideologies.

“Therefore, we hope to come out with a media that also gives our children and non-Muslims an understanding of what real Islam is,” said Imran, who is currently in Malaysia for a working visit from Monday (Feb 3) to Tuesday (Feb 4).