From Islamophobia to Westophobia: The Long Road to Radical Islamism

Date01 April 2016
Publication Date01 April 2016
AuthorAmeer Ali
AIA 3.1.indb Article
From Islamophobia to
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
Westophobia: The Long
3(1) 1–19
2016 SAGE Publications India
Road to Radical Islamism
Private Limited
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2347797015626792
Ameer Ali1
Islamophobia or the fear of Islam in Christian West is as old as Islam itself, and
Westophobia or antipathy towards the West is its younger sibling born in the
wake of European colonization of Islamdom. During its high noon, Islamdom
ignored the West, because the West could hardly provide anything novel or
useful to enhance the strength and prosperity of the caliphate. There was thus
no Westophobia in the Islamic quarter until the colonial era, but there was
certainly an undercurrent of military hostility and a superiority complex because
Islamdom then was a hegemon. Colonialism reversed everything. The humili-
ation that Islam and Muslims endured politically, economically and culturally
under European colonization created contradictory responses ranging from
Westernization, Westoxification and Islamization. However, the failure of the
Western secular models to promote democracy and development with justice
and equity, and persisting grievances against a West-manufactured world order,
provoked a wave of Westophobia which in turn has produced in the West a
more pernicious brand of Islamophobia. Amidst this spiralling negativism, a new
generation of Islamists are becoming extremely radicalized.
Islamophobia, Westoxification, Westophobia, Islamization and Kamalism
Since the explosive entry of the Islamic State of Iraq and Shams/Levant or Da’esh
(hereafter IS) in 2013 on the international stage as a criminal enterprise, the issue
of Muslim radicalization and measures to prevent its infection and spread has
taken the centre stage of national security policy, particularly in the Western
1 Lecturer in Economics, Murdoch University, Australia.
Corresponding author:
Ameer Ali, School of Management and Governance, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150,

Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 3(1)
world. The fact that many young men and women from different parts of the
world are being recruited to fight for the cause of IS has created special problems
not only to these recruits’ respective governments but also to their families and
friends. This radicalization of Muslims, however, is not simply a late twentieth
and twenty-first century phenomenon but has its genealogical antecedence in
the long historical past. This article traces that genealogy and discusses some
of the root causes of radicalization that bedevils the international community at
the moment. The understanding of these causes is imperative if the world leaders
were to exert some control over this disturbing menace.
Figure 1. The Long Road
Source: Author’s Own.
Terminologies and Definitions
Islamophobia as a neologistic construct appears to have entered the current affairs
vocabulary sometime during the last two decades of the previous century,1 although
in its French version, islamophobie was introduced by two Muslims in the immedi-
ate aftermath of the First World War (Sayyid & Vakil, 2010, p. 38). However, in its
connotation as a pathological hatred and fear of Islam and Muslims, Islamophobia,
as Ziauddin Sardar argues, ‘has a long memory’ (Sardar, 1995) and goes back to the
days of the patristic Latin Christendom when Christian theologians and monarchs
condemned Islam as heresy, its prophet an impostor and Muslims infidels, irrational,
paynims, barbarians and even subhuman (Lewis, 1994, p. 22; Lyons, 2014). In fact,
the anti-Muslim tirade appears to have started with Saint John of Damascus, himself

born about 50 years after the Prophet’s migration to Medina (Daniel, 1960, p. 3).
Westophobia, on the other hand, although neologistic and entered the current affairs
vocabulary almost contemporaneously as Islamophobia,2 has its origins in the post-
colonial intellectual resistance to programmes of West-inspired mimetic moderniza-
tion in Muslim countries. Jalal Al-e Ahmad’s critique of this imitation—which was
manifested not only in Iran’s ‘White Revolution’ under Mohammad Reza Shah
Pahlavi but also under the dictatorship of his father Reza Shah—in his Gharbzadagi,
written originally in Persian in the 1960s but translated later into English by others,
gave rise to a number of equivalent terms in English, such as Occidentosis,
Westoxification, West-struckenness, Westitis and Westomania (Adib-Moghaddam,
2007, p. 49; Ahmad, 1984; Mottahedeh, 1987, pp. 296–299, 307–316). Gharbzadagi
as Westoxification
refers to the blind mimicking of Western models of moderniza-
tion with its scientific and technological accoutrement but with total disregard to the
mimicker’s political, economic, social and cultural context. Westophobia is, in short,
the antonym of the English substitutes to Persian gharbzadagi. On a broader canvas,
the Islamophobia–Westophobia binary is the latest in the family of such constella-
tions that provide the edifice for what Adib-Moghaddam identifies as the ‘clash
regime’3 in which the world finds itself today. However, the pathway from
Islamophobia to Westophobia was not a straight jump but, as will be made clear,
went through different stages.
Origins of Islamophobia
To start with, the fear of Islam or Islamophobia in medieval Christendom was the
fear of a rising political hegemon, Islamdom,4 which, within a few decades after
the death of its founder in 632 CE, had exploded beyond the Arabian peninsula,
swiftly subjugated the war-wearied Byzantine and Persian empires and proceeded
to bring Syria, Palestine, Egypt and the rest of North Africa from the Roman
world under Muslim rule. To the Latin Christian establishment, the Islamic heresy
led by Muhammad, the anti-Christ, posed an existential threat. Yet, the
Islamophobia that emerged in Latin Christendom at this time remained largely an
elitist and papal phenomenon.
Christendom’s response to Islamdom’s challenge was understandably militari-
stic and not dialogic or evangelical. After several setbacks, the Battle of Toulouse
in 721, and 11 years later, the one at Moussais-la-Bataille in Poitiers where the
Umayyad army of Abd al-Rahman was defeated by the Carolingian General Charles
Martel, were the first two of the military victories that Christendom achieved in its
encounter with Muslims. It is from these encounters, memorable to the Christians
but insignificant to Muslims,5 that one also finds the origins of Europe and European
identity. For the first time in history, the victors at Poitiers came to be called
‘Europenses’ (Lewis, 2008, p. 172) and that in turn became Europeans, and that
part of the world inhabited by them came to be known as Europe. Indeed, ‘Islam’
according to Massad ‘is one of the conditions’ (Massad, 2015, p. 1) of Europe’s
emergence and identity. Islam became one of ‘Europe’s external others’ (ibid.).
Henri Pirenne pithily captured this historic nexus when he wrote, ‘without

Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 3(1)
Mohammed Charlemagne would have been inconceivable’ (Curtis, 2009, pp. 2–3;
Massad, 2015, p. 15; Pirenne, 1957, p. 234).
Before Islam, it was Christendom and not Europe that identified the diverse
communities that lived in legendary Europa, ‘the land of the Sunset’.6 It was in
the last quarter of the eleventh century however, and with the commencement
of the first Crusade that Islamophobia became a populist project in Europe.
Pope Gregory VII’s denunciation of pagans and Saracens, and later, Pope
Urban II’s address at Clermont set the framework for an ‘anti-Islamic discourse’
that was to become at first the Christendom’s and later, after the French
Revolution of 1789, the West’s standard measure of judging Islam and Muslims
without bothering to find out from the ‘other’ what it actually believes in and
does (Lyons, 2014). The anti-Islamic discourse, born out of the Crusades,
received further intellectual sustenance from the Orientalist project after the
Enlightenment and provided the political and cultural justification for European
colonization of Muslim lands in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The
same discourse became the basis of justification for the British massacre of
Muslims in Delhi after the 1857 mutiny, and in the twenty-first century pro-
vided the pretext for the US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan (Lyons, pp. 111–154).
In promoting this anti-Islam discourse, the role played by patristic theologians in
medieval Europe is replayed in the West and particularly in the United States by
comprador intellectuals, establishment journalists, conservative think tanks and
native informers. Thus, the Islamophobia that we witness at present ‘is the
lingering effects of a crooked history’ of an anti-Islamic discourse ‘that not only
legitimized colonial and imperial domination …, but also managed to repro-
duce itself in the post-colonial and sustain its underlying xenophobic codes up
to the present day’ (Salama, 2013, pp. 189–190).
Christendom versus Islamdom
Christendom’s anti-Islamic discourse did not mean that the Christian and Islamic
worlds lived in isolation from each other. Economic, commercial and intellectual
intercourse increased over time, but it did not remove or alter the...

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