Islamophobia in Europe: Racism repackaged?

Arwa Al-Rikabi ARAB NEWS

“Islam and Muslims are incompatible with rationality”…Who do you think said this? It sounds like something Geert Wilders (leader of Party of Freedom-Netherlands) or Nick Griffin (chairman of British National Party) would say, but it is the French Orientalist Ernest Renan who declared this in the Sorbonne University more than a century ago. This old animosity and ignorance of Islam closely resembles the rising trend of views and sentiments expressed in the Europe of today.

A 2012 Amnesty International report titled “Choice and Prejudice: Discrimination Against Muslims in Europe”, for instance, states that: “Discrimination against Muslims in Europe is fueled by stereotyped and negative views… Regrettably, some political parties’ messages and the portrayal of Muslims in some sections of the media reinforce these views.”

The report focuses on several areas of discrimination, namely: Employment, education, and the establishment of places of worship. Marco Perolini (Amnesty’s expert on discrimination) comments on this noting that: “Muslim women are being denied jobs and girls prevented from attending regular classes just because they wear traditional forms of dress, such as the head scarf. Men can be dismissed for wearing beards associated with Islam… Rather than countering these prejudices, political parties and public officials are all too often pandering to them in their quest for votes.” The report accuses political parties of “pandering” to prejudices in a quest for votes and says that anti-discrimination laws are not “appropriately implemented in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.”

Opinion polls seem to confirm all the above. For example, in 2010 the French Institute of Public Opinion conducted a comparative survey on Islam in France and Germany. In France, 68 percent of those polled thought Muslims are not integrated in society mainly because they refuse to do so. Similarly, in Germany 75 percent believed the same. Just as crucially, 42 percent of French and 40 percent of Germans consider the presence of Muslim communities a “threat” to their national identities. This survey also showed that half of Germans are opposed to the construction of mosques even when there is a demand from believers. According to a UK report in 2010, almost 70 percent of the English think that Islam encourages repression of women. As for Spain, the Observatory on Racism and Xenophobia (fear of foreigners) reported that in 2010, 37 percent of Spaniards believed that it is acceptable to expel a student from school because she wears the headscarf; the same percentage stated that protests against building Muslim places of worship should be supported.

It isn’t difficult to understand these negative views if we examine the political and media discourse in a several European countries. In the UK, for instance, Islamophobic rhetoric riddles the media with compunction. Famous columnists, such as Polly Toynbee wrote: “I am Islamophobic, and proud of it”, while Rod Liddle declared: “Islamophobia?…Count me in”. In 2008, The Independent published an article wondering whether Liddle or Toynbee could so proudly declare the same about Anti-Semitism; not a chance of course. However it is a testament to British society that these condemning voices exist. Peter Osborne once wrote in The Independent lamenting the treatment of Muslims: “We do not treat Muslims (our fellow citizens) with tolerance, decency, and fairness we so often like to boast is the British way.” Still, these voices are hardly loud enough since misinforming Anti-Islam discourse continues to prevail and affect Europeans. This type of propaganda is tacitly sanctioned and nourished by many media outlets as well as political and public figures such as Tony Blair. The former prime minister of the UK sees the battle between Islam and the West as “existential” writing in his autobiography (The Journey) about the need to: “Take the time, spend the treasure, shed the blood, believing that not do so is only to postpone the day of reckoning, when the expenditure of time, treasure, and blood will be much greater”.

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0 replies

  1. As the non-Ahmadi Muslims weigh in a response, they will have to change themselves also to some degree regarding human rights.

    They may want to begin with punishment of apostasy and freedom of speech and proselytize for the non-Muslims. The reality of our Global village is that only non-Muslims are speaking through internet, media and movies and Muslims are for all practical purposes silent, for one reason or the other. The Muslims just need the broad vision to stop taking the blame and just accept things over which they have not control and just reflects the medieval mentality of the middle ages. A good starting point may be:

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights and not the Cario Declaration!

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