Normalization of racist rhetoric against Muslims threatens European societies

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The far-right group “Pro Chemnitz” stages an anti-Muslim protest at the entrance to the stadium of Chemnitz FC, Aug. 30, 2018.

The reproduction and normalization of anti-Muslim rhetoric triggers racist practices, posing a threat not only to Muslims but also to the security and stability of Europe

Anti-Muslim sentiments have been one of the main agendas of the Muslim communities living in the Western world in recent years, caused by the growing number of anti-Muslim attacks. According to experts, the main reason behind the culmination of these anti-Muslim attacks is the discriminatory rhetoric of politicians and media targeting Muslims, even to the point that such remarks have become a “new normal” and threaten not only Muslims, but all European societies, by leading to the collapse of values and principles that the Europe embraced before.

Speaking to Daily Sabah, Enes Bayraklı, director of European Studies at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), who is the co-editor of the annual European Islamophobia Report published by SETA since 2015, said: “The rhetoric that politicians use against Muslims has been getting more radicalized all across Europe. We even see the legalization of some restrictions targeting Muslims in some countries,” SETA has been annually publishing the European Islamophobia Report for the last four years. This year’s report covers 34 European countries and draws specific profiles for each country by focusing on the practices of Islamophobia in different areas of daily life and politics. The report sheds light on “Islamophobic terrorism and the impact of anti-Muslim discourse upon human rights, multiculturalism, and the state of law in Europe.” “It is the most comprehensive report about the issue, providing brief information about active far-right groups, discriminatory practices and laws against Muslims in each country,” Bayraklı said.

Looking at the main findings of the report, Bayraklı said that the normalization of discriminatory rhetoric against Islam and Muslims is the most striking phenomenon.

According to Bülent Bilgi, president of the Union of International Democrats (UID), European societies have been living in a comfort zone since the end of World War II and added recent migration waves have threatened those comfort zones. “These concerns and fears were fueled by the rhetoric used by populist and far-right politicians, media, and even some mainstream political parties,” he said and added they made people believe their civilization is under threat. Bayraklı underlined that the activity and influence of far-right paramilitary groups have increased all across Europe. He stated that a Europol report also highlighted the dramatic rise of far-right groups’ activity, however, they did not touch upon anti-Muslim ideology as one of the main reasons.

On the other hand, the SETA report gives actual examples of anti-Muslim practices from all countries analyzed.

Enes Bayraklı, Director of European Studies at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) .

In Austria, 540 cases of anti-Muslim incidents were recorded in 2018, compared to 309 cases in 2017 — a rise of approximately 74% of anti-Muslim racist acts.

In France, 676 anti-Muslim incidents were documented in 2018 against 446 in 2017 with a 52% rise. Among these 676 incidents, 20 involved physical attacks (3%), 568 discrimination (84%) and 88 of them involved hate speech (13%).
In Germany, there were 678 attacks on German Muslims, including 40 attacks on mosques

Bigger danger close for Muslims in Europe

“Unfortunately, all these developments point that a similar terror attack in Europe to the one in New Zealand is very possible in the near future,” Bayraklı said criticizing the lack of preventive measures in Western countries following the 2011 Norwegian terrorist attacks by Anders Breivik, that killed 77 people.

In July 2011, Anders Breivik killed eight people with a van bomb in Oslo before shooting dead 69 participants of a Labour Party Youth League summer camp on Utoya island.

On March 15, 2019, 51 Muslim worshipers at two mosques in New Zealand in March were killed in a terrorist attack by Brenton Tarrant.

While Breivik targeted the Labour Party, or “liberal elite” as he called them, for allowing immigrants to enter Europe, Tarrant went “straight to the target,” directly attacking the Muslim community.

One question is posed here: what can be done from now on? Bayraklı suggested that far-right groups must be cracked down on, anti-Muslim discourse and attacks must be seriously analyzed and punished, and Islamic foundations and institutions must be protected.

“Most importantly, the rhetoric in media and politics that normalize anti-Muslim racism must be fixed. Because, the radicalization starts with the language and narrative. Then, groups affected by this rhetoric are getting mobilized and target Muslims,” he added.

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