Muslims first victims of far-right extremism in Europe

29th Nov 2019
Muslims first victims of far-right extremism in Europe

Harun Nasrullah

Islamophobic incidents rose across Europe due to the increase in far-right movements’ influence, according to the European Islamophobia Report 2018.

The 39 scholars and experts that contributed to the report found that ‘Muslims are among the first victims of the rise of far-right extremism in Europe.’

The EU funded report released last month by the Ankara Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), focused in detail on the underlying dynamics that directly or indirectly support the rise of anti-Muslim racism in Europe.

The fourth report featuring 34 countries concludes that, ‘European societies are challenged by the rise of violent far-right groups that do not only preach hatred of Muslims but also participate in the organisation of bloody terror attacks.

In France, the far-right group AFO (Action of Operational Forces) was about to physically attack hundreds of imams, Muslim women and mosques in the summer of 2018 before they were arrested. The AFO has links to Volontaires Pour la France (Voluntaries for France, VPF) that calls for “defending French identity” and “fighting against the Islamization in France.”

The media also played a crucial role in the reproduction and normalisation of anti-Muslim racism, it said. ‘There is, generally, only very little positive media coverage of Muslim communities in Europe,’ notes the report, and added: ‘Islamophobic hatred is often spread via the Internet.’ Anti-Muslim sentiments were also regularly manifested in petitions, the report said.

Islamophobic language by high-ranking politicians, mostly from the far right, normalises a dehumanizing and racist language when it comes to the portrayal of Muslims, it added.

The report concluded that although ‘European societies are progressively being shaped by racist and Islamophobic discourses, most of the European media bodies do not cover anti-Muslim attacks to the extent they deserve.’

The report also concluded that terrorist attacks targeting Muslims ‘are described as the un-meditated hate crime of a “lone wolf.”’ Violent acts result from the dehumanizing ideology of racism, and Muslims were increasingly becoming victims solely because of their faith, said the report.

Around 70 cases of Islamophobic incidents were recorded in Belgium, where 76 per cent of the victims were female, it notes.

In Austria, 540 cases of Islamophobic incidents were recorded in 2018, compared to 309 cases in 2017 – a rise of approximately 74 per cent of anti-Muslim racist acts.
In France, 676 Islamophobic incidents were documented in 2018 against 446 in 2017 with a 52 per cent rise.

Among these 676 incidents, 20 involved physical attacks (three per cent), 568 discriminations (84 per cent) and 88 of them involved hate speech (13 per cent).

In Germany, there were 678 attacks on German Muslims, including 40 attacks on mosques. Some 1,775 attacks were on refugees, 173 on asylum homes and 95 on aid workers in Germany, according to the report. In the Netherlands, 91 per cent of a total of 151 incidents of religious discrimination reported to the police was against Muslims.

Religiously motivated crime in England and Wales rose by 415 per cent from 2011 to 2018, the report notes.

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