Speakers at webinar have issued a strong caveat about Islamophobia being rapidly mainstreamed in Europe, saying it is time that leaders of Muslim countries urgently and proactively engaged with European leaders to address this serious problem.
They were speaking at a webinar hosted by the Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI), an Islamabad based think tank, to discuss the growing number of Islamophobic incidents in Europe, said an IPI press release on Tuesday.
The speakers worried that the tacit support extended to Islamophobic organisations and individuals by European governments was directly helping them advance their agenda and project Islam and Muslims as a threat to the European societies.
UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission Chairman Massoud Shadjareh pointed out that Islamophobia was becoming a “culture” in Europe and such attitudes towards the Muslims were being reinforced by governmental policies, actions of political figures, and the security machinery targeting followers of Islam.
“Attacks such as pulling off the veils of Muslim women, spitting on people and calling Muslims 'terrorists' are becoming the order of the day. Recently, hardline media outlets are also propagating and disseminating Islamophobic propaganda," he maintained.
Speaking about the history of Islamophobia in Europe, the human rights campaigner said though the phenomenon is very old, events like the twin towers attack of the World Trade Centre in New York better known as 9/11 give credence and legitimacy to such rhetorical sentiments.
"The counter-terrorism policies adopted by the European governments singled out Muslims and Islam as a threat and acted against them. This provided enabling conditions for Islamophobic sentiments to flourish."
IPI Researcher Mobeen Jafar Mir, who presented his paper on Islamophobia on this occasion, while agreeing with Shadjareh’s assessment said that the use of provocative phrases by European leaders further helped in the spreading of the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim sentiments.
“Islamophobia gets intense when popular leaders also use controversial terms, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s using the term ‘Islamic Extremism’ and French President Emmanuel Macron’s usage of words like ‘Islamic Separatism',” he maintained.
Similarly, Islamophobia is also whipped up through works of conservative think tanks, like the Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion, now merged with the Henry Jackson Society, which normalises the anti-Muslim discourse," Mobeen added.
Islamophobic Groups like Stop Islamization of Denmark and English Defense League, Mobeen claimed, enjoyed the backing of their respective governments. Their anti-Islamic rhetoric is later translated into national foreign policy discourse, he added.
IPI Executive Director Prof Sajjad Bokhari, speaking on this occasion, said that there was “a clear and present danger” that anti-Muslim sentiments in Europe could inflame further because of poor governance and economic losses suffered by those societies due to mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The problem, he said, has a “far-reaching political and humanitarian impact".
“Leaders, representatives, academics and religious scholars from the Muslim world have to come forward and play a constructive role in stemming the rising tide of Islamophobia,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2021.