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Islamophobia :A real threat or a relevant political instrument?

By Sarah Safa* — From the mocking of children victims in a time of war, on the example of how, in a very bigoted, xenophobic, and intolerant way, the Syrian child, “Aylan Kurdi” was by a fanatical “Charlie Hebdo” French magazine, without any objection or position registered by the French government in order to prevent if not denounce such immoral cynicism, to the latest declarations of the head of the Italian Eurosceptic Party, Mr. Matteo Salvini, who’s calling on for engaging in war against Islam as he declared it to be “incompatible with European values and threatening the European society “.[1]Last few years, lot of western media organizations sought to report many different incidents that were attributed, and in which were sometimes involved and many times not, some “Muslim “refugees coming from a “backward” and “baffled” Arab world, only familiar with criminality and terrorism… .

There is no doubt that Islamophobia has been rising in the West and across the European continent in the recent last few years, to become a strong political instrument, and a common foreign policy systematically pursued by many countries, involving, discriminatory policies : travel bans from major “Muslim” countries, anti-Muslims declarations and tweets to even reach some daily practices, shaping therefore the behavior of people and societies amidst a rising of a “ terrorist threat “ attributed to Islam and in some cases to Muslims in general, and leading to an increase in the number of violence against Muslims according to official reports.

The US President Donald Trump, for example, several times tweeted anti-Muslim videos, inciting Islamophobia, when titled like “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!,” “Muslim Destroys a Statue of Virgin Mary!” and last but not least, “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!”, a tweet that was first posted by British leader Jayda Fransen, a woman who was convicted last year by a British court of harassing a woman wearing a hijab according to official sources. [2] Or even when he suggested a fake story praising a general who shot Muslims with Pig’s blood-soaked bullets.[3] More recently, Trump’s attorney general went on degrading a religion practiced by more than 1.8 billion persons by calling it “a toxic ideology”.[4] In December 2017, the US supreme court ruled in favor of the Trump’s controversial travel ban against six “majority-Muslim” countries involved themselves in a violent war on terror on their soil, Syria, Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen…[5] .
In the same way, some of Germany’s right-wing parties like the AFD, warned against what it called an Islamic invasion “the expansion and presence of a growing number of Muslims. More recently, on January 2017, the Gatestone Institute published a long report entitled “The Islamization of Germany in 2016; Germany is no longer safe “[6]. Something that was also and very frequently stated by different French presidents advancing that France has a problem with Islam and immigrants.
Disgracing the Muslim communities, such terrorist acts in Europe and not elsewhere have always been attributed to Islam but when similar acts are committed against Mosques or Muslims, whether in Europe or elsewhere, they just go unknown, unrevealed and unnoticed…

Now, far from trying to defend Islam as a religion, and far from pointing at the hypocritical and delusive foreign policy which has encouraged the rise of Islam to power by constantly providing and over a long period now a great support for the different Islamic organizations, what led to the destruction of a liberal, diverse and secular nationalistic societies, from the overthrow of the Shah regime in Iran, till the assassination of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya…Most of Arab leaders today if not all, officials, diplomats, scholars, journalists and all different categories of the Arab civil societies believe to be facing an existential threat, an attack on their identities and their cultures, by terrorist groups invented to perform and execute a very dangerous and ugly political project architected by some conflicting States over economic interests and running a great business from the “war of religions” ideology.

During more than 50 interviews, that has been done by the think tank, Beirut Center for Middle East studies, with Arab scholars from different Arab countries, show us that people if not to take into consideration the many official declarations whether of secular governments or theocracies, denounce terrorism and claim that Islam is innocent from such acts and attributes. “People see in the rise of political Islam as an invincible great policy tool which is taking over the secular, multiethnic, and multi-faith environment and ground reality atmosphere of the Arab societies, and in some cases transforming civil rights into religious aspirations.” And according to the same study, many of the “Arab” nations believe to belong to many different ethnic groups more than of being “Arabs”.

On the ground, in the wider Middle East and the African continent, the so called Islamic state and other similar terrorist groups are involved in massacres and are committing atrocities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan till Egypt and Lebanon etc.… in something that more precisely looks like a systematical ethnic cleansing or genocide. A reminder in this context seems to be vital: essentially, 90% of victims of the “Islamic terror ” are Muslims. 90% of the soldiers who face it are Muslims. And all such terrorist groups are supported by superpowers engaged in proxy wars. So, given the fact that western powers and their engaging forces in the Middle East know these facts, why is Islamophobia rising and which political agenda does it serve?

After the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush visited an American mosque and gave a speech in which he described Islam as a peaceful religion, declaring the following: “These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand  that.”[7]

In the same way, President Obama gave a very famous speech during his first visit at the Islamic Society of Baltimore’s Mosque, in which he praised Islam and American Muslims and underlying America’s responsibility to “protect its Islamic citizens and respect faiths of every kind” ….[8]

Recent few last years, the rise of right-wing parties has been very remarkable in nearly all of Europe, according to a study executed by lead writer and researcher of the Factcheck blog at Channel 4 News, “at least 30 million people have voted for broadly similar right-wing populist parties in EU countries in the last five years”,[9] with the FPO again in power in Austria, the PIS in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary, the North League in Italy, the AFD in Germany, the True Finns in Finland, the FN in France and so on, and a majority seats for right-wing parties in the European parliament during last elections.[10]

The Rise of the political right-wing into power, didn’t come as a response of the recent terrorist attacks but much more because of the rising of criticism about the performance of the European Union and its policies, its engagements in wars in Africa and the middle east amidst an unsolved economic crisis, unemployment, the high-cost of living and lower wages and other failures, rising general frustrations and discontents among the European societies, but despite that. In the meantime, the American government and most if not, all EU leaders showed a political reorientation in advancing “Islam” as a major threat, and were very explicit about spreading antimuslim surges, denouncing an “Islamic” culture incompatible with western values, leading to a greater Islamophobia. Same leaders and in the same time, didn’t miss any occasion to warn and denounce any form of antisemitism, the way, the German chancellor Mrs. Angela Merkel and her Austrian counterpart did very recently during the occasion of the Holocaust Remembrance Day.[11]

According to a recent report that was published by Haaretz, entitled : “ Israel’s affair with Hungary’s far-right”,[12] criticizing the establishing ties today between some extremist European right-wing parties, with the actual Israeli government of Netanyahu. And according to the same report, a joint conference held in Hungary, by the Israeli Likud party and the Fedesz, a far-right anti-Semitic party, who was glorifying authors of Hungarians who were engaged in persecuting Jews, is today raising concerns about Jew’s safety and security from Islamic terrorism, migrants and Pro Palestinian activism. The conference was entitled: “Are Europe’s Jews safe? Challenges of Europe’s: Migration crisis and the threat of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism», and in which Mass migration and International terrorism, the problems of refugees and immigrants, the infiltrators, Arab and Muslim communities, and the BDS activity, were portrayed as common threats, for parties finding similar ground and shared interest today in illustrating an “Islam” endangering the European continent and an Israeli government who decided to annex and by force an East Jerusalem, whipping away all the Palestinian’s dreams for establishing a State and denying Palestinian Muslim’s and Christian’s right to exist.

[1] Crispian Balmer, “Northern League Leader says Italian society threatened by Islam”, Reuters, www.reuters.com, (accessed January 20,2018).

[2] Peter Beinart, Trump’s Anti-Muslim Political strategy, the Atlantic, www.theatlantic.com, (accessed January 20,2018).

[3] Maxwell Tani, Trump just cited a debunked story about a general who shot Muslims with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood to send a message to terrorists, www.businessinsider.com, (accessed January 20,2018).

[4] Anthony Zurcher, What Trump team said about Islam, www.bbc.com, (accessed January 20,2018).

[5] Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Trump travel ban : Timeline of a legal journey, www.foxnews.com, (accessed January 20, 2018).

[6] Soeren Kern, The Islamization of Germany in 2016 “Germany is no longer safe”, www.gatestoneinstitute, (accessed January 20, 2018).

[7] Office of the Press Secretary, “Islam is Peace” Says President, www.whitehouse.gov, (accessed January 20, 2018).

[8] President Obama’s Speech on Respecting Islam, www.youtube.com, (accessed January 20, 2018).

[9] Patrick Worall, The rise of right-wing populism in Europe, www.channel4.com, (accessed January 20, 2018).

[10] http://www.europarl.europa.eu/meps/en/hemicycle.html

[11] Germany’s Merkel warns of increased anti-Semitism on Holocaust Remembrance Day, AFP, www.dw.com, (accessed January 20, 2018).

[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7odmrkgL4sc

*Lebanese Journalist and Researcher


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