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European Islamophobia Report Reaffirms Large Scale Islamophobia

European Islamophobia Report Reaffirms Large Scale Islamophobia

Categories: Latest News

Monday February 07 2022

The European Islamophobia Report 2020 reaffirmed the large extent of Islamophobia in Europe and provided policymakers with the underlying realities of its prevalence in Europe. It concluded that there was no real improvement to Islamophobia in Europe and had “worsened, if not reached a tipping point”. Such findings highlight the imperative and continued work needed to tackle Islamophobia across all levels. Moreover, many of the report’s findings present parallels to the Islamophobia present in the UK.

Social media was recognised as one of the main places where, during the pandemic, reports of Islamophobia were rampant. Specifically, Facebook was named a ‘hotspot for the documentation of anti-Muslim hate crime’. Indeed, far-right movements utilised social media, including Facebook, to mobilise their Islamophobic efforts online, such as the Generation Identity movement in Hungary. Efforts to curb the spreading of Islamophobic hate online in countries like Hungary have been largely unsuccessful as banned groups re-brand to continue posting and mobilising online. Moreover, online Islamophobia related to the pandemic was not too dissimilar in the UK, as anti-Muslim conspiracy theories linking Muslims to the spread of COVID-19 were rife in social media platforms in the UK. International conspiracies connecting Muslims to the spread of Covid-19 found its way onto the networks of British social media servers as groups in the UK popularised these conspiracies to the extent that counter-terrorism police investigated far-right groups accused of “trying to use the coronavirus crisis to stoke anti-Muslim hatred”. As such, the lack of primary legislation within the UK and across European countries to combat online hate further perpetuates and facilitates the dissemination of harmful Islamophobic content.

The report surmises that the movement of private life into the digital realm undoubtedly led to an increase in pathways for Islamophobic tropes and sentiments to be widely shared on social media platforms. Consequently, individual Islamophobia or anti-Muslim activity inevitably achieved a greater reach upon being primarily spread online during the global pandemic. Therefore, this highlights the need for social media companies to eradicate hatred and Islamophobia on their platforms by putting in place their own mechanisms that will flag up or prevent such posts from being shared.

On the other hand, the political sphere, particularly mainstream politics, contributed significantly to increased Islamophobia in 2020. The report gives examples of how far-right politics has led to overt Islamophobia in open political spaces, such as the comment made by Austrian FPÖ chairman Norbert Hofer, who stated during a party convention that “Corona is not dangerous. The Koran is much more dangerous”. Such prejudiced rhetoric can lead to extreme consequences and retribution against Muslims whilst facilitating a growing indifference to Islamophobia across Europe.

Furthermore, the report highlights how mainstream politics has embraced an Islamophobic agenda under the guise of fighting terrorism and radicalism. For example, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz stated, “We have to fight two challengers: First, the corona pandemic and second to fight even stronger against terrorism and radicalisation in Austria and Europe.” Whilst MEND recognises the importance and very much supports reasonable and non-prejudiced measures against terrorism in Europe, such a statement by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz proves problematic when assessing his past attitudes towards Muslims, which reveals an anti-Muslim bias agenda in his stances towards counter-terrorism. This demonstrates that it is not just far-right politicians or politics that can harbour and incite Islamophobia. Rather, it can exist and be propagated in parties not overtly aligned with far-right sentiments.  

The overt Islamophobic rhetoric of politicians, both far-right and mainstream, translates into a more draconian reality of laws and policies that are largely damaging to Muslim communities across Europe. For example, the far-right Danish People’s Party put forth a bill in December 2020 to ban headscarves in public institutions. Similarly, following a more explicit anti-Muslim agenda, the Belgian Constitutional Court issued a ban on “political, philosophical, and faith symbols on the grounds of neutrality”. The report, however, found that this would largely impact Muslim women who wore the headscarf, than any other group. Additionally, in the UK, the report identified a form of mainstream ‘Islamophobic scepticism’, which has become normalised to the extent that there was opposition to a legal definition of Islamophobia from the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Consequently, such laws and policies that form a part of the justice system leads to Muslim communities being significantly disadvantaged. It deliberately excludes Muslims from liberty and justice, thus displacing them from an equal footing with the rest of society.

The European Islamophobia Report of 2020 presents a bleak trajectory for Islamophobia in the UK and Europe. As such, it is crucial that policymakers consider the policy recommendations put forward by groups seeking to counter Islamophobia, such as MEND, and work towards a greater collective in combatting Islamophobia, which has for too long gone unchallenged by the hierarchies of states.

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