20 Aug 2022


Muslim Westernophobia: The Fear of Islam in the West

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Academic level: University

Paper type: Term Paper

Words: 3070

Pages: 11

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The Muslim and the Western world are involved in an intense conflict cycle due to their cultural, political, and religious differences and understanding. The Muslim fear of the West emerges mainly due to the unsettled nature of Western relations with the Islamic world. The phobia towards the West also emerges due to the friction that various conflicting desires and interests generate, which then spread into the cultural aspect and leads to the politicization of identities in which the Western values and ideals are considered to be problematic and threatening. In turn, this creates an environment of suspicion, disrespect, and distrust (Yambert, 2012) . The Muslim fear of the Western is centered on various levels including politics, diplomacy, and security, which is aggravated by complications emerging from ideological and intellectual incomprehension besides the cultural matters. 

Many Muslims are concerned with the Western views on important matters such as oil issues, geostrategies, Palestine, and support to autocratic regimes (Yambert, 2012) . Western media also overstate the significance of religion and culture as the basis of Muslim Westernophobia. It is, however, important to avoid exaggerating the extent of the issue because the Islamic world is not fearful of the West unanimously. Many Muslims share specific moral, cultural, political, and social beliefs and expectations (Yambert, 2012) . Despite this Muslims are increasingly afraid of the Western world. The Muslim society has historically tolerated other religions even though exceptions exist. Tolerance enabled Islamism to spread across the world during the early period. Later factors such as Christian intolerance, colonialism, and imperialism adversely affected Muslim perceptions of non-Muslims (Hollander, 2005).  . The consistent support that the West offers to Israel while ignoring the Palestinians today besides other factors has made many Muslims question their views of the West. It is, however, vital to understand that many factors explain Muslim phobia towards the West. 

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The current paper examines the basis of Muslim Westernophobia by describing the meaning of Muslim Westernophobia, the reasons behind it, and the potential ways of resolving it including solutions from Muslim based organizations in the West. The objective is to offer a better understanding regarding the various factors that have led to Muslim Westernophobia to inform decisions regarding the various ways Muslim Westernophobia can be addressed. 

The Meaning of Muslim Westernophobia 

Muslim Westernophobia means the hostility, bias, or opposition to the Western policies, culture or people. The Muslim world holds broader Westernophobic views against mostly the United States and the Europeans, which mainly originates from the perceived Western imperialism that occurred in the past and present (Cornell, 2007). Other factors such as the literal interpretation of the Islamic faith also contributes to this phobia (Cornell, 2007). Understanding the basis of this fear involves deeply describing the various causes of the phobia. 

Reasons for Muslim Westernophobia 

One of the main basis of the Muslim Westernophobia is the memory of colonialism. The oil discovery in Saudi Arabia during World War II transformed the role of the Western world in Islamic world politics. Western powers, particularly the United States increased their geopolitical stake in the Islamic world through investments to ensure the region’s stability. The involvement of the Western powers led to the rise of phobia towards the West because these powers in their effort to deal with perceived radical nationalism in the Islamic world mostly supported conservative autocratic governments (Yambert, 2012). As the Western powers increased their influence in the Islamic society and politics by protecting and supporting the oppressive governments to protect Western interests, Islamic movements were formed to protest these powers (Yambert, 2012). The Iranian revolution is an example of the change that emerged to resist Western influence in the Islamic society. 

After the Soviet Union ended its control of Afghanistan and after the Iranian revolution, the Western world increased its presence in the Persian Gulf, which inspired the emergence of militancy to protest the increasing might of Western power in the Islamic society. For the Muslim world, the fear of the west in response to Western political influence in the Muslim society is related to religious interests in which Western presence and intervention are seen as cultural secularization or injustice. 

Muslim Westernophobia is also based on the Palestine issue in which Israel is seen to be committing injustices by occupying the Palestinian lands. The Support to Israel to the detriment of the Palestinians is the core of Muslim phobia towards the West. The strong stance in the West against the formation of a Palestinian state further aggravates the fear (Hammond, 2007). Other factors such as the war in Iraq and Western interventions in other Muslim countries such as Afghanistan in which the West focused on the need for the Arab world to practice democracy combined with the substantial aid that the West offers to Israel create the perception that the Western society is against the Arab world support for Palestinian independence (Hammond, 2007). Another reason for Muslim phobia towards the West is the negative views of Muslims about the social and economic dimensions of the global order. 

Many Muslims view the Islamic law and justice idea to be a mechanism through which rulers are limited in their power to ensure justice for all, not as a harsh idea that sanctions societies as viewed by the West (Yambert, 2012). The idea is similar to the Western notion of the rule of law. Muslims consider the West to be hostile and uncomprehending toward their religious and cultural views, which makes them critical of the Western idea of the global order that they consider to be unequal and unjust (Hammond, 2007). Additionally, many Muslims are concerned with being viewed negatively because of supporting Islamic social and economic agenda that enhance social justice since Westerners may view this as being unsecular even though the underlying issues also concern non-Muslims. 

Muslims also feel targeted by the Western world because they think that the West considers them to be weak. They feel not allowed to participate in the global community because they think that the Western world long term objective is to dominate the global technical and natural resources (Yambert, 2012). The West considers Islamic ideologies to be standing against globalization, which is not the case and originates due to Western misperceptions about what the Islamic world values. For example, Muslims consider Jihad as the basis of their ethics and faith (Yambert, 2012). The West, however, consider jihad as the source of violence and terrorism because the idea is uniquely related to Islamic ideas and culture. Muslims are offended by the perception that their religion supports violence and by the Western views that blame their religion for the Western sense of insecurity (Yambert, 2012). The issue of terrorism is an example of why many Muslims fear the West. The Islamic world considers the western understanding of terrorism to be simplistic and crude while the West views Muslims as being permissive and tolerant toward violence (Yambert, 2012). Muslims view the issue of war on terror as a cover for the economic and political objectives of the West. Based on Islamic understanding, there are other significant types of political violence besides terrorism, which means that the obsession of the West with terrorism disguises other pervasive violence within societies in the West and the level to which the Western world commit violence in the Islamic world. 

Muslims are also concerned with terms such as Islamic terrorism because the term relates terrorism to the Islamic religion. They find this to be very offensive because of the absence of corresponding terms such as Hindu terrorism despite state violence or terrorism against civilians in some countries. Muslims understand that they also must deal with the issue of terrorism since terrorism also threatens the traditional, social, and cultural values of their societies. Their main concern is being forced to comply with the Western demands in fighting terrorism instead of formulating their strategies regarding the nature of terrorism and how to respond (Yambert, 2012). Based on the Muslim society, the Western view of terrorism in the Islamic world is normative and ahistorical. The Western view thus obscures the real social, economic, and political basis of anti-state violence. Violence resistance in the Islamic world is rooted in resistance to indigenous oppression or anti-colonial struggles, not in religious faith or anti-Western views (Cornell, 2007) . Muslims consider that the Western society should condemn all forms of terrorism including state, group, and individual if terrorism means violence against innocent people. 

Another cause of Muslim Westernophobia is the cultural issue in which many Muslims feel the pressure of Western life on their culture. They feel that the Western powers want non-Westerners to emulate Western societies, which they consider as cultural confrontation and retrenchment (Yambert, 2012). Muslims are concerned with this as they consider it to be a cultural assault on their traditional values caused by the economic prosperity of the West. 

The Western consumerism culture makes it challenging to empathize with the issues facing Muslims in which the deep and traditional Islamic culture leads to Muslim phobia towards the West. This is evidenced by the presence of Islamism in the Arab world (Hollander, 2005). Radical Islamist perceptions have significantly influenced the traditional Islam interpretation including the negative attitudes towards the West since the 1990s (Hollander, 2005). Based on studies, radical Islam emerged as a rejection of Western ideals like religious freedom, equal justice, and free speech not as a reaction to Western foreign policies (Hollander, 2005). Regarding the democratization matter, Muslim view it as a project by the Western world to protect the Western security interests. 

Muslims do not consider Islamic radicalism and terrorism to be a new thing to their world. It is only after the West was targeted that the Western world began promoting democracy as a key objective of its foreign policy concerning the Islamic world (Cornell, 2007) . The West justify this strategy by arguing that democracy is pragmatically and morally a good idea (Yambert, 2012). Muslims, however, view democracy suspiciously due to the discrepancy that emerges between the Western arguments in support of freedom and democracy as moral and universal rights and the war on terror (Yambert, 2012). For instance, Western countries support various autocratic regimes in the Muslim world because of preferring to work with stable governments than with unreliable or unstable democratic regimes concerning the war on terror. Examples include Egypt and Pakistan where the West is unwilling to encourage democratic reforms. 

A majority of Muslims, nevertheless, prefer democratic reforms while the Western countries hesitate to promote democracy in the Islamic society even though they advocate it in their rhetoric. In turn, this cause Muslims to increasingly become suspicious and frustrated by the Western countries regarding issues such as democracy. 

Besides, different events have undermined the credibility of the Western world concerning their promotion of the rule of law, human rights, and democracy. These events include how the West occupied Iraq, the existence of Guantanamo bay and events happening there, and the increasing evidence of the existence of interrogation facilities for terror suspects facilities linked to the CIA. The West also continually redefine the democracy idea in which they initially emphasized electoral democracy but shifted to liberal freedoms. For example, the US initially emphasized its support for any elected government in the Islamic world but then began stressing the importance of freedom instead of democracy when encouraging the Muslim world to change (Yambert, 2012). The change of terms demonstrates the Western support for some countries in the Muslim society that are undemocratic but appear to be open to implementing liberal freedoms than other countries in that society. 

The change from electoral democracy to liberal freedom is due to Western concerns regarding situations where Islamic forces are elected democratically and use their power to interfere with the democratic institutions. Regardless of the reason for changing democracy terminology, it raises suspicions in the Islamic society regarding the real intentions of the Western world. For instance, the Western world did not accept the outcome of the 2006 democratic elections in Palestine in which Hamas emerged victorious because of the Hamas views about Israel. The Muslim interpreted this rejection of the voice of the electorate as the inability of the Western world to accept the voice of the people in the Muslim world if the outcomes are different from the wishes of the West. 


Resolving the issue of Muslim Westernophobia requires a deeper understanding of the importance of religion. Religion marks identity and inspires action in very simple ways. Adherents of the Islamic religion, for example, seek a spiritual world view, marker of group identity, and ethical principles from their religion. These aspects also shape their political action and ideology. Their faith stresses the importance of religious attachment, spirituality, and duty to the Islamic school of thought. Islamic religion also inspires pride in the intellectual, social, and political history of Muslims in which the political views of Muslims vary based on the needs of their societies and Muslim convictions. 

Additionally, the intellectual views they form toward various aspects of the society such as authority or scripture influence the Muslim political views. It is vital to consider the association between politics and religion in any historical or social context based on the specific case that emerges. This understanding allows non-Muslims to view the modern Islamic views as being related to the challenges and processes existing in the Muslim world and the entire world. It is also vital to shift the discussion to the wider issue of the association between religion and identity and public life. Most Islamic movements base their political actions in their religious views in which they consider the deep ideological and intellectual models of their communities to handle modern global issues such as democracy, development, empowerment, and modernization. 

Other factors to consider when forming views about Muslims include the political and social issues surrounding their behaviors such as the issue of the need for women to veil themselves. Most Muslims consider such actions to be their religious duty and a mark of religious belief. The Western world should let the Islamic world base its actions on its sources of inspiration instead of attempting to apply its values and ideals to the Muslim world. In turn, the Muslim people would change their views regarding the Western world by considering it not to be intrusive into the Muslim way of life. This can also help the Muslims to avoid viewing the West suspiciously. 

Additionally, the West should understand that democracy is not a solution to the issues facing the Muslim societies. The Western support of democracy concerning the Islamic world is still in the democratization process, which is a challenging path since the process takes time to mature. Concerning the hidden motives of the democratization idea being presented to the Muslim world, Muslims view democracy as lacking credibility and motive. The Western society can resolve this by being considering its approach to promoting democracy especially the Western meaning of democracy and their intention. The absence of credibility is the main issue promoting Muslim Westernophobia. The Western world can, for example, describe democracy simply to eliminate its negative image. Another issue concerns the presumed Western hidden agendas and imperialism. Most Muslims today will not trust Western intentions due to the suspicions that Muslims have towards Western ideas and values given their past experiences. 

The West can overcome this by changing Western diplomacy and foreign policy in the future to support shared aspirations and allow Muslims to draw inspiration from their sources. The West should also understand that democratization does not solve the issues that Western countries are concerned about such as terrorism and radicalization. Other factors such as the Palestinian issue and occupation should also be considered and be addressed to gain the trust of Muslims. Muslims use the Palestinian issue, in particular, to show their resistance to injustice. 

Additionally, regarding the issue of the existence of detention facilities and torture of suspected terrorists, the Western world must adhere to its values particularly the rule of law when dealing with suspects. The Islamic world views the illegal detention and torture of terrorist suspects, who are predominantly Muslims, as the opposite of the rule of law. The failure to respect the rights of suspects in these circumstances undermines the Western values that the West want the Islamic world to adopt. To the Muslims, the West is just the same as the autocratic regimes in the Arab society because these regimes also do not respect the rule of law and resort to violent means including illegal detentions and torture when dealing with opponents and other suspects. 

Muslim organizations in the West have also used various means to resolve the issue of Muslim Westernophobia. For instance, the whyislam organization publishes articles about various issues such as the meaning of human rights in Islam and the relationship between Islam and other religions to educate the public about the Islamic religion and to teach Muslims about the importance of understanding how other religions function and view issues such as human rights. In turn, this allows Muslims to understand the existing differences between different religions (Why Islam, 2012). Other organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America organize various interfaith discussion programs to connect the Islamic world to non-Muslims to allow all people to develop mutual understanding and respect (ISNA, n.d.). They also support various global interfaith discussions that focus on ways of enhancing peace through understanding the underlying issues that affect the various religions. 

The organization also works with the U.S government and other Western policy groups to enhance a deeper understanding of the Muslim world that can be useful in helping the groups consider how to work with Muslims in achieving their objectives. For example, the organization raises awareness regarding the need to close all state-sponsored torture facilities that target Muslims and other groups to promote a positive view of the Western world. Additionally, the organization works with various religions, the US government, policymakers, and Congress members to find ways of implementing functional peace programs in the Arab world including offering recommendations on how to address the Palestine/Israel issue to the satisfaction of both parties and the Muslim world. 


It is easy for the Islamic world after considering the past Western world behavior such as western exploitation, aggression, intolerance, and dispossession to form generalized views about the Western society. The West, however, does not consider itself to be exploitative or aggressive because of its emphasis on values such as free speech, democracy, and religious tolerance. Muslims residing in the West are free to practice their faith and laws are in place to protect their rights. Some issues, nevertheless, such as the displacement of the Palestinians from their homes and the issues of linking terrorism to Muslim compels the Islamic society to view the West as its main political and religious enemy. 

Additionally, the West promotion of democratization in the Muslim society while supporting autocratic regimes contributes to the negative views that Muslims hold towards the West. Potential ways of resolving the issue of Muslim Westernophobia encompass understanding the relationship between religion and politics in the Muslim societies and letting Muslims get inspiration from their sources instead of attempting to encourage Muslims to adopt Western values and ideals. The Western world should also demonstrate the credibility of its values such as the rule of law by complying with those values always, not ignoring them under certain circumstances such as by illegally detaining and torturing terror suspects. 

The West should also define and describe democracy in simple terms and allow Muslims to find their ways of dealing with political issues instead of promoting different democratic ideals to suit the Western security interests. Muslim organizations in the West can also contribute to transforming the negative views of Muslims towards the West by working with Western governments to help them understand the important values and ideals that matter to Muslims to allow them to formulate policies that help them to focus on the aspirations that both worlds share. 


Cornell, V. J. (2007).  Voices of Islam . Praeger Publishers. 

Hammond, A. (2007).  What the Arabs think of America . Greenwood World Pub. 

Hollander, P. (2005).  Understanding anti-Americanism : its origins and impact at home and abroad . Ivan R. Dee. 

ISNA. (n.d.).  Interfaith Relations . ISNA. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from http://www.isna.net/interfaith-relations/ 

Why Islam. (2012).  Human Rights in Islam . Facts about the Muslims & the Religion of Islam - Toll-Free Hotline 1-877-WHY-ISLAM. https://www.whyislam.org/islamicteachings/human-rights-in-islam/ 

Yambert, K. (2012). The Contemporary Middle East: A Westview Reader . Westview Press. 

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