IPOH: Negative images of young Muslims by the international media play into the hands of Muslim extremists and shape the political agendas of some right wing groups in the Western world, says the Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah.
He said the international media has been portraying young Muslims either as the perpetrators of violence, as terrorists or as its victims.
“The dissemination of negative stereotypes of Muslim youth as violent plays into the hands of extremists in the Muslim world.
“Muslim immigrant populations living in the West, whether recent refugees or second-generation nationals, are similarly often portrayed as unemployed, marginalised and disaffected, and susceptible as a result to recruitment by terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda and IS (Islamic State).
“Such misperceptions also serve the political agendas of some right wing politicians in the West who generate support by stirring up nationalistic fears. The successful Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom demonstrated just how effective this approach can be,” he said in his keynote address at the opening of the 2016 World Conference on Islamic Thought and Civilisation here yesterday
Sultan Nazrin said the terrorist attacks perpetrated by extremists on Western targets also deepens these negative stereotypes.
“Islamophobia is a very real concern for many Muslim youth growing up in the West who are experiencing growing and increasingly open hostility,” he added.
However, Sultan Nazrin said the disaffection and associated violence that was presented as a trend was in fact an exception to the overall development that is benefiting young Muslims across the world.
“There are many Muslim-majority countries with high and rising levels of human development,” he said.
Sultan Nazrin also said Muslim youth living in Muslim-minority countries in the West enjoy even higher levels of development. And those benefitting from the available opportunities vastly outnumber those very few who reject them in favour of fanaticism and violence.
Misperceptions, however, persist in reflecting the gulf between the West and the Muslim world due to the complex historical and geo-political factors and manipulation by extremists who seek to gain from this polarisation.
“Some of the issues appear almost intractable, particularly the worsening conflicts in Palestine, Syria and Iraq, in which Western interests and agendas play a key role.
“The escalating abuses perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people generate deep and justified grievances among Muslims throughout the world.
“Competition over access to the region’s oil and gas resources is another key factor that creates further mistrust of the motives of the West,” he said.
“The upsurge in terrorist attacks on Western targets and the killing of civilians has also exacerbated existing antipathy towards the Muslim world and the erroneous association of Islam with this violence,” he added.
Sultan Nazrin said it was crucial that the moderate majority from both the Western and Islamic sides take the initiative to promote reconciliation.
“This is necessary to ensure that Muslim youth in Muslim-minority countries can pursue their lives without fear and prejudice.
“It is also vital to prevent further escalation that only feeds the agendas of extremists on both sides,” he said.