Several Muslim extremist groups and their actions have been in the global spotlight recently. Al-Shabab in Kenya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Pakistan and a myriad of militants groups that plague the Middle East, amongst others, have all made their mark on international history with their brutality in the past several months. Inevitably, their actions drew a sharp response from public which was left shocked by their atrocities. While the public’s outrage is instrumental in pressurizing governments to take action against such groups, recent demonstrations are missing the mark; targeting the whole Muslim community for the actions of a few. These movements may still be in their infancy, but unless they are checked, Muslims, especially migrants, run the risk of becoming demonized – the lightning rod for all domestic problems.

There has been an upswing of violence against Muslims in Europe; publicly culminating into the PEGIDA movement which staged anti-Islam protests in cities across the continent. Australia is the latest country to follow this trend. A series of small anti-Islam rallies were held across Australia by the group ‘Reclaim Australia’ on Friday. The group ostensibly campaigned against Muslim extremism, yet a closer inspection of their claim reveals that the root of the problem is not Muslim extremism, but immigration laws – just like the PEGIDA movement. The protestors complained about foreigners taking their jobs and threatening their way of living; all reasonable complaints, but the problem is that these movements have chosen Islam as the ‘bogeyman’, around which the build their campaign, instead of debating immigration policy rationally. This demonizing is an effective publicity tool; relatively small demonstrations draw international focus, as well as fierce counter demonstrators who claim such rallies are racist. For the most part, classifying these movements as racist and their statements as hate speech is correct. These groups make highly inaccurate generalizations about Muslims as a people, all carrying negative connotations. It is highly imperative that such speech should be curtailed.

If it is not, these movements are bound to gain popularity. Terrorists, such as the black-clad ISIS fighters have made it very easy for the common man to visualize Islam as the problem, and instead of a calculated critique of religiously inspired militancy, it is easy to get carried away in Islam-bashing. Ironically, these protest deepen the divide between migrants and natives, forcing the former to stick ever so closely to their religious identities, instead of trying to assimilate the culture of their country of residence.