The sick rarely remember precisely when their illness started. Me, quite the opposite, I remember as if it was today: September 11th 2001 at 3.30pm I saw falling towers of World Trade Centre in New York.
That moment my phobia started, it was still nameless. Only later did it turn out that I am not the only one fallen sick and that illness is called Islamophobia. It is an unfounded fear of Islam, like other phobias, which are neurotic disorders, caused by situations or objects, which are objectively not dangerous at all.
Initially, I was telling myself that it cannot be an illness. A belief that people demanding introduction of sharia law in place of democracy, forcing women to dress in black sacks and cutting off their clitorises, forbidding music and alcohol and cutting the throats of old priests are terrifying religious fanatics, who should be fought politically, militarily and in any possible way, I thought to be a demonstration of a common sense. Like every madman I thought that I’m sane – but at least I had some doubt and tried to fight the disease.
We have then sort of editorial meetings during which we hold hands and chant: Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam. They are simply radical extremists.
I was telling myself that there is truly nothing to be afraid of. That although terrorists originated from the most Muslim country in the world, in fact plunging a plane into a New York’s skyscraper could have been easily done by Baptists. My phobia persisted, however, and was increasing with every terrorist attack, perpetrators of which – completely by chance – were people shouting „Allahu akbar”. Every time I began to recover and think I have got rid of that unfounded fear, a new terrorist attack would be carried out, unfortunately neither by Methodist nor Quakers, again causing a relapse.
In vain was I reading comments of various responsible politicians and wise journalists who would explain that terrorists from London, Madrid or Paris had nothing to do with Islam. With admiration I was accepting their in-depth understanding of Islam – when in the onslaught of their duties they found time to get to know Islam so well, I thought with delight – but repeatedly uttered assurances that „Islam has nothing to do with terrorism” were not convincing to me. Phobia persisted.
Not without fault are my professors from the time of my sociology studies. If I told them during the seminar that the followers of a certain religion are, year after year, responsible for roughly 90% of victims of terrorist attacks worldwide, but the religion they follow, which they themselves state to be their sole motivation to act, had absolutely no connection with their acts – then my tutors would not allow me to graduate with PhD but perhaps even not allow me to continue studying beyond the first year.
They simply indoctrinated me during the course of the studies to the point where I couldn’t tell myself: „It is nothing, data and facts are unimportant, it matters more what wise people from the newspapers say”. And the illness has persisted. For fifteen years now.
It didn’t help, following advice of prominent politicians, to attempt alteration of Islamophobia to a phobia of extreme radicalism or radical extremism. Since I could not find people who identified themselves as radical extremists or the book called „Radical extremism”, which they could invoke, phobia returned.
Luckily, I found support among the others affected, from the website Euroislam.pl. It’s always nice to see that I’m not the only one ill-stricken and suffering but that there are others sharing my torments. We support each other when symptoms return, for example after one has watched a video of throwing off the roof in Mosul, by unschooled in Koran activists, persons less interested in creating a traditional family. We have then sort of editorial meetings during which we hold our hands and chant: „Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam. They are simply radical extremists”.
I signed up to Islamophobes Anonymous. Every week we shared positive news on the subject of Islam. Someone would say that it was the fastest growing religion in the world, someone else pointed out that only a small percentage of one and a half billion Muslims support terrorists – but to me or to the others the positive news did not help. Alas! This small percentage of one and a half billion is tens of millions worldwide and in Europe tens of thousands willing to kill, we thought, and our unfounded fears instead of decreasing, only grew. On the tenth anniversary of the onset of my illness I had to give up.
Professional therapies did not bring results. Nor simple behavioural therapies, in which after uttering sentence „Islam is religion of peace” I was getting sweets as a reward. Even my favourite fudge couldn’t convince me that it’s the truth. I was only able to say with conviction: „Islam is a religion of pieces”, but the therapist was not happy and discharged me. Psychoanalysis didn’t help, it turned out that talking about my dreams, in which men dressed in black and speaking in strange tongue cut my throat, does not improve my condition. It was also not helpful to partake in psychotherapy, in which I unsuccessfully tried to reach to the origin of my unfounded fears that during Christmas fireworks display I might be ran over by a driver who would not read Koran carefully.
Luckily, I succeed in not passing this Islamophobia onto my innocent offspring although it had bad consequences. My son had to repeat class when during history lesson he asked what arguments were used by the Muslims to peacefully take over the Constantinople in 1453 and what happened to the Christians living in the city.
My daughter was expelled from school when she said that Sobieski is not a hero but a terrorist, because instead of proposing to Kara Mustafa a compromise to share Vienna along Danube river, he brutally attacked him with the hussars.
The approach to a phobia can be to avoid these situations and objects which can trigger it. And I tried this method. I stopped reading news online and the newspapers, I stopped watching TV, I quit Facebook and didn’t travel abroad. It was going well until I met a school friend, who in search of a better life moved to Sweden many years ago but now has decided to come back, exchanging pâte for Polish bread with liverwurst.
Already after 10 minutes all my my symptoms relapsed. Although I suspected that the country where she lived was not Sweden, as there are no rapes, robberies or areas without access to strangers, but she insisted that this was Sweden and that it is inhabited by a few hundred thousand people who want to fashion this country entirely differently to what I had imagined. Then I gave up and went back to reading, listening and watching and the phobia is in full swing. For fifteen years now.
I know that the chances of healing are slim but somehow I’m an optimist. Secret services manage to prevent vast majority of terrorist attacks in Europe; more and more people demand that newcomers to Europe should behave in accordance with the local not desert customs, and even among those newcomers there are many like mayor of Rotterdam, who told the supporters of desert customs from one and a half thousand years ago: „get lost”
That is why I have a great hope that I will not have to write a similar article to commemorate thirty years of my illness.
P.S. I dedicate this article to thousands of wonderful people who devote their lives to the struggle against the non-existent threat which they wrongly fear.