Islamophobia in Europe

WHILE ISLAMOPHOBIA, CONNECTED to forms of anti-Arab racisms and colonial and imperial histories, certainly existed prior to 2000, it exploded in Western countries after the attacks of September 11, 2001 by the jihadist organization al-Qaida. A new enemy had been found and laws discriminating against Muslim populations blossomed in Europe, North America and Australia, but also elsewhere, such as in India, Russia and China.

Western states built up Muslims as a dangerous “other” in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The so-called “War on Terror” helped the USA and its allies to justify imperialist wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the wider region of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) under the guise of combating terrorism.

At home, in both Europe and the United States, new counterterrorism policies and measures very largely targeted Muslims, who have been treated as legitimate objects of suspicion, and other non-white populations. Building on this “otherness” and “dangerousness,” authorities have increased laws and means to monitor Muslims, to control their every move, and to constantly ensure their adherence to so called “Westen Values” or in France “Republican Values.”

Islamophobia has continued to grow in the USA and European countries over the past decade, with governments exploiting the rise of a new jihadist organization, the “Islamic State” (IS), and the arrival of millions of refugees from the MENA region to deepen their racist and repressive policies. The refugees of course are fleeing the deadly repression of authoritarian and despotic regimes, such as in Syria, the rise of the IS in Syria and Iraq, along with foreign interventions.

European Union (EU) countries are home to 20 million Muslims. Increasing number of far right and fascistic political parties throughout the continent have scapegoated Muslims and other non-white populations. National Rally (formerly known as the National Front), the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the English Defense League, Spain’s Vox Party and the Austrian Freedom Party are some of the political parties that share a common discourse and policy to rid Europe of its “Muslim issue.”

These far-right political movements, however, are not the ones that have implemented the racist and exclusionary policies against Muslim populations. It’s the social liberal and right-wing governments that have done so. Successive center-right political leaders have, for instance, repeatedly spoken against “Islamist terrorism” (German Chancellor Angela Merkel) and the incompatibility with European values of so-called “Islamist separatism” (French President Emmanuel Macron).

The article will discuss the growing Islamophobic political atmosphere and rising violence against Muslims in Europe, which also served to attack more generally the democratic rights of wider sectors of the society, especially leftist groups and activists.

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