Let us begin by regarding the roots of global extremism and Islamophobia. Centuries of conflict have left deep scars upon the collective psyche of Muslims and non-Muslims alike, in many parts of the world. The spread of Islamist extremism and terror in recent decades has revived, and exacerbated, this ancient trauma. And although this long history of conflict is inextricably tied to military and political rivalries â€“ rather than the substantive (ie, spiritual) teachings of religion â€“ the fact remains that Muslims and non-Muslims alike have been deeply enmeshed in nearly 14 centuries of armed conflict.
This, in turn, has led to a biased perception, characterized by widespread stereotyping, unfounded generalizations and prejudice, among Muslims regarding non-Muslims and vice versa. As a result, conflicts that have nothing to do with the substantive teachings of religion are often attributed to religion itself.
The spread of a shallow understanding of Islam renders this situation critical, as highly vocal elements within the Muslim population at large (ie, extremist groups) justify their harsh and often savage behavior by claiming to act in accord with Godâ€™s commands, although they are grievously mistaken.
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