There is a certain sense of déjà vu. However, instead of a copy of the Holy Quran, a mosque was burnt, in Eskilstuna, one of the neighbouring cities of Stockholm, the capital, where the Quran was burnt by a rightwing politician. Luckily there was no loss of life, but a mosque spokesman did say that there had been threats received before. Muslims, about 20,000 loom large in the total population, which was 67,000 in 2015. The standard condemnations will once again be issued, But clearly, the renewed wave of Islamophobia is continuing, and the sight of haplessness of Muslim countries’ haplessness would be risible, if it were not so painful.
One of the most important reasons for this is their disunity, which means that they cannot take a united stand on this or any other issue. This renders their collective forum, the OIC, singularly toothless, as members pull in different directions, in accordance with their narrow national interests. Another deeper problem is the inability of the members to speak for their own peoples, because they are, with a few exceptions, unrepresentative regimes. If Muslims could truly express their sentiments, they would probably come up with a more forthright stand on Islamophobia.
It is not just Sweden, but elsewhere, there are problems. Apart from the persecution of the Rohingyas and the Uighurs, Indian Muslims are being targeted. A Muslim father and son from India have recently come to Karachi after a tortuous journey involving going first to Dubai, then going to Afghanistan and crossing into Pakistan via Chaman, have claimed refuge, and expressed readiness to go to a Pakistani jail rather than return to persecution in India. This is just one example, though more extreme than average, of how Muslims are made to feel in their own country. Perhaps Pakistanis can empathize not just because Muslims are persecuted, but because only recently, in Jaranwala, the burning of churches made many Christians feel like aliens in their own country.
One part of the solution is for the Muslim countries to develop the necessary strength to fight this menace. This involves a development of their economies, of their educational institutions, and other aspects of ‘soft’ power, so that when they speak out against Islamophobia, they are listened to. At present, assuming the disunity could be ended, does the world, particularly the West, have enough reason to heed Muslim voices?