We cannot begin to defeat authoritarianism without first combatting Islamophobia – Middle East Monitor


Discrimination and outright hatred towards Muslims has risen to “epidemic proportions”, the United Nations said as it issued a warning to mark the centenary of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. Launched on the third anniversary of the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand, in which 51 Muslim worshipers were killed by a far-right terrorist, the occasion is observed with a special event in the General Assembly, where world leaders insist on the need for action concrete. against the increase of hatred, discrimination and violence against Muslims.

Many governments have since taken steps to tackle Islamophobia by establishing anti-crime legislation. Measures have also been taken to prevent and prosecute hate crimes and by running public awareness campaigns about Muslims and Islamists designed to dispel negative myths and misconceptions. Marking the first anniversary of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out that anti-Muslim bigotry is part of a larger trend of resurgent ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazism , stigma and hate speech. vulnerable populations.

Guterres’ statement highlighted a crucial aspect of anti-Muslim racism that makes Islamophobia more harmful and dangerous than other forms of discrimination: state sponsorship. The post 9/11 years are unique because of the way democracies and autocracies have cultivated, weaponized and exploited the fear of Muslims to advance their ideological agenda. Whether it is to promote the kind of narrow ethno-nationalism Guterres mentions or to justify security measures that violate human liberties, fear and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims are used to fuel unimaginable human rights abuses. it was the responsibility of the state to make and protect it.

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From the Uyghur Muslims of Xinjiang who are facing genocide at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party to the 200 million Muslims from India who are also facing the threat of genocide according to the expert who predicted the massacre of the Tutsi in Rwanda, or the millions of Palestinians subjected. daily humiliation and abuse of human rights by Israel, Islamophobia unites state-sponsored governments from all ideological spectrums in their persecution of Muslims.

While China, India and Israel are at the extreme end of a significant global phenomenon of the backsliding of democracy and a move towards authoritarianism, countries such as Austria, France and many others are not far behind in to treat Muslims. In the name of fighting terrorism, democratic principles such as equal treatment of citizens have been attacked. Institutionalized suspicion of Muslims has not only increased to “epidemic proportions”, as the United Nations has noted, many states, as well as regional and international bodies, have responded to security threats by adopting measures that disproportionately targets Muslims and defines Muslims as high risk and on. risk of radicalization. Such measures have coincided with widespread negative portrayals of Islam, and harmful stereotypes that portray Muslims and their faith and culture as a threat. They have served to perpetuate, validate and normalize discrimination, hostility and violence towards Muslim people and communities, not to mention hateful conspiracy theories such as the Great Reparations that underlie current fears about Muslims.

As the latest European Islamophobia Report shows, government policy remains the main driver of anti-Muslim prejudice. Governments have set the agenda and facilitated taboo-breaking language and behavior that has normalized anti-Muslim racism in ways that were unimaginable even during the so-called “War on Terror,” following a terrorist attack 9 /11.

Who could have imagined that the “us and them” rhetoric, as well as discriminatory measures used to justify America’s fight against Al-Qaeda, would inspire Chinese President Xi Jinping to pursue a policy of genocide towards Uyghur Muslims? The “War on Terror” template has been adopted by the likes of Xi Jinping. For example, in 2014 when Uyghur terrorists took dozens of lives in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, state media referred to the attacks as “China’s 9/11”. Xi urged Chinese officials to follow America’s post-9/11 script, launching a crackdown that would send a million Uyghurs into concentration camps.

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Closer to home in Europe, the rise of Islamophobia is mainly due to States trying to establish their own version of Islam or government efforts to criminalize Muslim activism. Political parties on the right and the left were almost indistinguishable in this respect. Not only has anti-Muslim racism been normalized, a political party’s ability to spread racist tropes about Muslims has become a determinant of who wins and loses an election. In Hungary, for example, the threat of Muslim migrants “flooding” the country and breaking its “Christian foundations” continues to define its political discourse and has kept the likes of the far-right nationalist leader, Victor Orban, in power. since 2010.

Orban is not alone in this regard. Muslim communities in Europe are estimated to be around 25.8 million people, or around 4.9 percent of the region’s total population, but nevertheless a hateful story of Islam taking over the continent and destroying Western civilization – view which conveniently ignores the contribution of Islam and Muslims. the “West” animates much of the political discourse, from Budapest to Paris and London and across the Atlantic to Washington and beyond. With the UK’s Tory Party demonstrating through its hateful language around refugees – mainly arriving from Muslim-majority countries – Orban and his far-right colleagues are not the only ones capitalizing on irrational and trumped-up fears of terrorism and violent crimes sexists to malignant Muslims.

Calls for a boycott of French products – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Of course, reports and ideological views portraying Muslims as an internal security threat by right-wing commentators and anti-Muslim think tanks fuel Islamophobia, but the hatred generated could not be normalized without government sponsorship and endorsement. This is precisely why Amnesty International, in its 2022 report on Islamophobia in Europe, said: “State authorities have repeatedly targeted Muslim individuals and communities under a range of overly broad and vague anti-terrorism and national security laws . including through both overt and covert surveillance and monitoring measures, has cultivated a generalized suspicion of Muslims in Europe which has provided fertile ground for the ongoing erosion of their human rights, including access to education, employment, housing, sport and their human rights. freedom of speech, religion, association and right to non-discrimination.”

As the world tries to combat Islamophobia today, let us be honest and admit that the fight against anti-Muslim racism is a contest between the values ​​of tolerance and freedom that underpin our modern society. the culture and values ​​of intolerance, hate and narrow-mindedness. attempt to undo the progress of culture and civilization. The world is undergoing a political transformation once in a century, where the rise of authoritarianism has accelerated through the vilification of Muslims and the faith of two billion people on the planet. We cannot begin to overcome regressive ethno-nationalism, neo-Nazism and hate speech directed at vulnerable communities, without first reaffirming our commitment to combating the rise of Islamophobia.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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