France, Austria, and Denmark most Islamophobic countries in the region, according to a report on Islamophobia in Europe
Countries in Europe are allowing hate crimes against Muslims by legalizing Islamophobia, and introducing laws which are banning or limiting their religious practices, according to an expert.
“Each year, we see a new country come up with a new plan, with a new law, or a party in Europe to ban something, a religious practice of Muslims,” a professor at the Istanbul-based Turkish-German University, Enes Bayrakli, told Anadolu.
“This can be minaret ban, mosque ban, hijab ban, or burka ban. … These kinds of regulations are being materialized each year and it is becoming more and more normal in Europe.”
On the occasion of International Day to Combat Islamophobia, March 15, Bayrakli spoke to Anadolu about the current situation of Muslims in European countries.
“It (Islamophobia) is being institutionalized and legalized more and more. There are debates in different parts of Europe to legalize Islamophobia,” he said.
The co-editor of an annual report termed European Islamophobia Report, Bayrakli also shared highlights from the upcoming 2022 report, noting that three countries emerged as the most vulnerable ones for Muslims in 2022.
“Three countries are on the forefront -- France, Austria, and Denmark.
"Unfortunately, in these countries, debates on Muslims are very radical, and the governments are taking really harsh positions towards Muslim NGOs and the individuals who are combating Islamophobia.”
About the UN's International Day to Combat Islamophobia, he said this can be a corner stone in the global fight against Islamophobia.
Speaking about the year 2022, which started with the Moscow-Kyiv war last February, Bayrakli said the war has changed political agendas in many European countries, stirring a new debate regarding refugees.
“This old debate about refugees and that Europe is full and cannot accommodate more refugees has suddenly collapsed. Suddenly, Poland was ready to accept millions of refugees, Germany was ready to shelter and accommodate millions of people from Ukraine.”
He also referred to the media coverage in Europe and the US, which suggested that refugees from Ukraine were welcomed because of their skin color, and some suggested that they were more civilized as compared to Syrian refugees.
Europe, on the other hand, has been closing borders and erecting walls to stop refugees coming from other regions through the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, resulting in deaths of thousands of people, he said, adding: “This has shown how racist this discourse was. It was all about religion, as these refugees were rejected because of their religion and skin color.”
Negative tendency towards Muslims to increase
The bias and negative sentiments about Muslims would likely increase this year, not only for individuals but also for the institutions, Bayrakli said.
“Each year, it is becoming more and more difficult for Muslim individuals but also for Muslim NGOs.”
Bayrakli explained that "Muslim NGOs," especially in France, were under immense pressure from the French government, and many had been closed down by the government without any court case or evidence of extremism or radicalism.
“This atmosphere of suspicion about Muslims, about their institutions, about their mosques, about their religious life, private life is being fed into the narratives in these countries by politicians, media, and intellectuals. Unfortunately this is becoming more and more acceptable and normal.”
Avoiding the term Islamophobia
Many countries in Europe now are refusing to acknowledge Islamophobia and are refusing to use it as a term in their speeches and narratives, Bayrakli also said.
Citing examples, he said the Council of Europe has appointed a coordinator against anti-Muslim hatred, while they refrain from using the word Islamophobia as they are under pressure from countries like France.
“There is a political resistance not to acknowledge the problem of Islamophobia. They are trying to get away and play around this problem so that they don’t use the word. When you don’t use a word, it, of course, means that you do not politically acknowledge that there is a problem," he said.
Report and findings
An annual report has been recording Islamophobia incidents and events each year since 2015, Bayrakli said.
The report for 2022, to be released next week, will shed light on the situation of Muslims in some 23 European countries, he noted.
Talking about policy recommendations that the report suggests, he said: “Islamophobia has to be acknowledged politically as a problem. I think this is the first step. Then, we can talk about the strategies on how to combat Islamophobia.”
The expert also stressed the significance of the daily recording of hate crimes against Muslims, as well as publishing the data annually.
He suggests NGOs and academics to work on Islamophobia from different perspectives, and to conduct field research.
Islamophobia is not only prejudice against Muslims, Bayrakli also said, adding: “It's all about racism, Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism. It is a new form of cultural racism. And It has to be understood this way, so that we can fight with this problem in a more systematic manner."