A rise in Islamophobia was pointed out at the UN’s event on International Day of Human Fraternity and repeatedly by President Erdogan. How has this translated within Western Europe? Covid-19 seems to have pushed intolerance to the surface all over the world. A 53% jump in Islamophobic attacks in France highlights a more generalised anti-Muslim sentiment spreading over Western Europe.
On International Day of Human Fraternity, the Pakistani representative Aamir Khan noted that “In many places […] Covid-19 has aggravated the clash of cultures and religions, inciting new waves of violence.”. This comes right after outcry over the treatment and targeting of Muslims from President Erdoğan who “noted that attacks on Muslims’ sacred values have been disregarded by Western governments under the pretext of freedom of expression.”, seemingly referring to Macron’s reaction after Paty’s murder. The President rose concerns over the Turkish diaspora as he reported to “receive almost on daily basis news of the people who face attacks or see their rights usurped just because they are Turks and Muslims”.
Rise in Islamophobic attacks
Germany is home to the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe, with about 4.7 million Muslims, of which “3 million are of Turkish descent”. It has seen a rise in Islamophobic attacks with “900 attacks against Muslims and Islamic organizations” being reported last year. Like in other countries, minorities have been the target of racist policing in “Turk hunts”. Similarly, France has been the West’s breeding ground for Islamophobia recently. The country is home to the largest Muslim population of Western Europe, estimated at 5 million. However, the country has struggled to conciliate its Muslim population with its republican value of laïcité and has ensued in systemic stigmatisation of its people. It has placed Muslims as the scapegoats of terror attacks and has often confused Islam with Islamic extremism. This amalgam has resulted in a 53% jump in Islamophobic attacks from 2019 to 2020 and attacks on mosques increased by 35% the same year. These sorts of attacks seem to be fuelled by narratives surrounding recent terror attacks: in the UK there was a 692% increase in Islamophobic attacks after the Christchurch shooting. This shows an overall Islamophobic sentiment, fuelled by politicians and the media: 59% of news coverage on Muslims is negative in the UK. A frantic search for terrorists is created, while perpetuating neo-colonial tropes by attaching an intrinsic element of violence to Islam and declaring Political Islam, not Islamist Extremism, as the enemy.
A tailored national Islam and Political Islam as the misguided enemy
President Erdoğan describes how “Muslims are being taken under pressure with projects such as European Islam, French Islam, Austrian Islam”. Indeed, after Paty’s assassination, Macron introduced a “Charter of Principles” that was adopted by the French Council of the Muslim Faith. It includes “limiting homeschooling, a ban on preaching in sports clubs, a purge on religious symbols from public services and outlawing virginity certificates”. The French state has also closed multiple Muslim organisations such as BarakaCity and human rights group CCIF (Collective against Islamophobia in France). In Austria, a similar project was proposed that would ban “Islamist” organisations, allow preventative arrests and wider authority for police to close any institution deemed as radical and introduce the stripping of radicalised citizens’ nationality.
Britain’s Islamophobia: more covert?
A recent interview on BBC’s Woman’s Hour of Zara Mohammed, the “youngest person and first-ever woman to be elected head of the Muslim Council of Britain” portrays a more covert form of Islamophobia. In the interview, the presenter asks repeatedly, in a patronising tone, whether there are female imams. This depicts a white liberal feminists’ vendetta in proving that Muslim women are “not doing enough to promote the leadership of women”.
Islamophobia proves to be more pervasive in the British landscape, as in 2020, “the Muslim Council of Britain sent a dossier of 300 allegations of Islamophobia against Prime Minister Boris Johnson and members of the Conservative Party to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission” after a 2019 poll showed that 47% of Conservatives believe that Islam is “a threat to the British way of life”. This portrays the risk of Britain following its neighbouring countries in further stigmatising Muslims and thus, the need for us to call on early actions when seeing instances of Islamophobia.
At JAN Trust we believe in the freedom of everyone to express their religion freely. We work to help Muslim communities ease their fears of Islamophobia by providing a safe space for them to integrate into British society. We put a focus on fighting radicalisation through information. To find out about our Web GuardiansTM programme to empower mothers against online dangers, like gangs and extremism, please visit our website: http://webguardians.org/
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To report incidents of anti-Muslim hate: https://tellmamauk.org/