For many European Muslims, the holy fasting month of Ramadan comes this year at quite a troubling time of intensifying anti-Islam campaigns and a continuing rise in Islamophobia.
In the Belgian capital Brussels, thousands of right-wingers are planning an anti-Islam mass rally on September 11, the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the US, outside the European Union headquarters.
The "Stop the Islamization of Europe" (SIOE) group will defy a decision by Brussels Mayor Freddy Thielemans to ban the demonstration.
The group, which alleges that Islam and democracy are incompatible because of the teachings of the Noble Qur'an, is planning several protests to take place simultaneously around the world, notably in the US, Canada and Australia.
Organizers have already circulated a plethora of anti-Islam leaflets like "to love liberty is to combat Islam," "let's be united in the face of the Islamization of Europe," and "stop the construction of mosques" as well as posters portraying a Muslim man performing prayers crossed with red.
"They are disregarding the sensibilities of Muslims ahead of the holy month of Ramadan," Omar Bradi, from the Brussels-based Belgian Muslim Youths organization, told IslamOnline.net.
He said Belgian Muslims are planning a peaceful parallel march.
Belgian Muslims are estimated at 450,000 out of a 10-million population.
Sami Dabbah, the spokesman for the Coalition Against Islamophobia in France, accused the right-wing media of intensifying venomous campaigns against Islam before Ramadan.
"Islam has apparently come once again to the fore but from a negative perspective," he told IOL.
Dabbah said the right-wing media is used to highlighting Islamophobic security reports from time to time to keep the fear environment.
French newspapers reportedly recently, citing security authorities, that many halal stores in the European country channeled money to hardline groups.
The French Public Information Service has also leaked a report that Islamic schools are being closely monitored because second and third Muslim generations were increasingly learning Arabic.
It put at 50,000 the number of Muslim students who learn Arabic in schools run by what the report described as hardline Muslims.
"Islamophobia has even reached public institutions in France," Dabbah said.
France is home to the largest Muslim minority in Europe, estimated at some seven million.
"In the past, Islamophobia was all about terror charges leveled against some people, but it has been linked now to Islamic symbols," he argued.
If a hijab-clad woman enters a state body to process some papers, civil servants are quick to tell her 'take off your hijab, you're in France'," Dabbah said.
The issue of hijab was thrown into the international limelight after France adopted in 2004 a law banning hijab in state schools, encouraging many European countries to follow suit.
A recent British study accused the media and film industry of perpetuating Islamophobia and prejudice by demonizing Muslims and Arabs as violent, dangerous and threatening people.
On the Rise
With rightists assuming power in some European countries, Islamophobia has been on the rise across the continent.
"Security authorities, for political motives, depict Islam as the main threat to Europe," French researcher Vincent Geisser told IOL.
"Security apparatuses are the driving force of many political agendas in the continent," added the author of "The New Islamophobia."
Following the attest of two German reverts and a Turk for allegedly stockpiling chemicals to make bombs, German officials have called for monitoring Germans who embrace Islam.
Guenther Beckstein, the interior minister in the state of Bavaria and a leader of the southern wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Party, pressed for a new law authorizing online surveillance of Muslim reverts.
Authorities say that 6,000 Germans embraced Islam in 2006 against only 1,000 in 2005.
There are 18,000 Muslim reverts in Germany, according to the German Islam archive.
In June, Germany's top cardinal warned against "uncritical tolerance" which could lead to Islam enjoying equal standing with Christianity in the country.
In July, the private secretary of Pope Benedict XVI of the Vatican warned of the "Islamization of Europe" and urged defense of Europe's "Christian roots."
The pontiff himself drew international criticism last year after quoting a Byzantine emperor who associated Islam with violence.
Though Islam is the continent's second religion, Muslims across Europe are facing venomous campaigns against building stately mosques.
Last Mod: 12 Eylül 2007, 10:00