Islamophobia worsened if not reached a “tipping point” in Europe in 2020, according to the latest European Islamophobia Report (EIR).
The report, co-edited by international relations professor Enes Bayrakli and political scientist Farid Hafez, argues that the COVID crisis has impacted the experience or manifestation of Islamophobia in Europe.
COVID and Islamophobia
“The pandemic had quite different effects on the role of Islamophobia,” Bayrakli and Hafez wrote in the report’s introductory essay.
They explained, “On the one hand, in some countries, with the forced retreat of everyday life to the intimate private sphere, physical Islamophobia has decreased. Yet, at the same time, Islamophobia has moved to the private sphere and is being spread especially in social media.”
The report also cited a decrease in physical instances of Islamophobia, while the spread of Islamophobia on social media remains prevalent.
While instances of rampant, physical Islamophia might have decreased with the COVID lockdown, “anti-Muslim hate crimes did not decrease as documentation in some countries reveals,” the report said.
The report further cited a significant increase in Islamophobic attacks in Germany as an illustration of the fact that Islamophobia has continued to surge despite a perception of a decrease in “physical Islamophobia” during the weeks of COVID-induced lockdown.
According to data compiled for the report, 901 Islamophobic crimes were committed in Germany in 2020, with 146 incidents targeting mosques and 48 targeting people.
France’s mainstreaming of Islamophobia
France is another country where a spike in far-right discourse and the government’s apparent embrace of nationalistic and sovereignist talking points ahead of elections have proven a fertile ground for the normalization of Islamophobia.
The EIR’s cover page shows a picture of Emmanuel Macron, with the report’s authors explaining that they chose to feature the French president to draw attention to a growing discrepancy between what Macron is perceived to represent and France’s increasingly grim treatment of its Muslim populations.
While the soft-spoken and multiculturalism-embracing Macron is widely regarded as “representing a centrist and mainstream political movement,” Muslims in France have faced the same hate and discrimination as their fellows across Europe.
“French and Austrian Muslims have been left in the hands of brutal state violence that has been legitimated in the name of counterterrorism laws,” the report said.
Macron faced a series of backlashes throughout 2020 after he appeared to condone right-wing discourse on the supposed threat that Islam poses to French and European enlightenment values.
He controversially claimed that Islam is a “religion in crisis” in need of reform worldwide. He also, equally controversially, spoke in support of offensive and anti-Islam caricatures while claiming to uphold France’s “republican values” of freedom of thought and conscience.
The EIR especially criticized France’s newly adopted law that urged the government to commit more resources to the “fight Islamist separatism.”
Macron has tried to tone down the new legislation’s anti-Islam undertone by arguing that France’s problem is with “Islamist separatism, not Islam.”
With reports that some countries -- Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, and Gulf countries -- have influence over some mosques on French territory, Macron maintains that France’s firm stance against “Islamist separatism” is aimed at strengthening secularism in the country and freeing Islam in France from “foreign interference.”
For authors of the EIR, however, Macron’s changing tone on questions of “French values” and secularism is a symptom of a broader reality across Europe. Islamophobia has become “quite mainstream in the political discourse of many European countries,” the report found.
In the past three months alone, France has witnessed a noted increase in vandalism against mosques and hate speech targeting Muslims.
While the French and European media in general reports on such acts of anti-Islam vandalism, it is rare to read follow-ups on the arrest of people committing these crimes.
In one of the EIR’s few positive, encouraging conclusions, the authors emphasized that many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are genuinely concerned about the pointed rise of Islamophobia in Europe. According to the report, a significant number of MEPs are troubled by the increase of hate crimes against Muslims, particularly against women in Europe.
“They committed to continue working to tackle this dangerous development,” the report said of MEPs.
Still, one of the key findings of the EIR is that European Islamophobia has gone digital amid the continued COVID crisis and the related restrictions on daily life.
“Since private life shifted largely into the digital realm, the internet and social media became the primary space for interpersonal relationships,” the report said.
The report described social media especially Facebook as a “hotspot for the documentation of anti-Muslim hate crime.”/ Morocco World News