For the last few years, there has been a steady rise in Islamophobia in Western countries. What is driving the prejudice and hate against Islam, particularly in Europe?
What is Islamophobia?
Islamophobia is a term used to describe irrational hostility, fear or hatred of Islam, Muslims and Islamic culture, and active discrimination against these groups or individuals within them.
Are Islamophobic attacks getting worse?
A growing body of research points to the proliferation of Islamophobia across Europe in recent years. In the UK, record numbers of Islamophobic hate crimes were recorded in 2017, and across the continent there have been similar findings on the growth of explicit Islamophobia. Here some recent examples:
In Switzerland in December 2016, a 30-year-old man enters a mosque in central Zurich and starts firing at a handful of men who were drinking tea after evening prayer. Three are wounded.
In June 2017, a 48-year-old man in London drives a van into a group of worshippers who had just come out of a mosque after a late-night prayer, killing a 51-year-old man and injuring nine others.
In Spain, the number of crimes directed towards Muslims increases following deadly attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils as mosques in the cities of Granada, Fuenlabrada, Logrono and Seville are desecrated and firebombed in August 2017.
What are the core beliefs of Islam?
The core belief of Islam can be summed up in the declaration of faith: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” This is one of the five pillars of Islam, which form the core of Islamic doctrine. The others are praying five times a day, giving to charity, fasting at Ramadan and making the pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad, once in your life.
The holy text of Islam is the Koran. Unlike the Christian Bible, the Koran is believed by most Muslims to be the unaltered and final revelation of God. Like other Abrahamic religions, Islam also teaches a final judgment in which the righteous are rewarded with paradise and the unrighteous punished in hell.
What lies behind Islamophobia?
The fear of terrorism, combined with the arrival of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, has produced a surge in support for nationalist and Islamophobic political parties. Parties that campaigned against Muslim immigration are now in government in Hungary, Austria, Italy and Poland — and they are powerful opposition forces, shaping the debate, in Germany and France.
What about 9/11?
True, those attacks in the US drastically changed public opinion towards Muslims. Since then, terrorist acts such as the attacks by violent jihadists in London, Paris, Brussels and Barcelona have increased fear and anxiety. The use of Islam by extremists to justify their terrorist acts has made many Europeans regard Islam as a threat and fear Muslims as the enemy. Since 2001, some media outlets in Europe have succumbed to reporting based on stereotypes and used the actions of Islamists to stigmatise Muslim populations.
How can we tackle Islamophobia?
We can highlight the many everyday roles Muslims occupy in society. And since Islamophobic perceptions are often based on the idea that Muslims are sexist, projects that champion Muslim women, their work and their voices help to break down these preconceptions.
- Is there a tension between Islamic values and European values?
- Research the life of a famous European Muslim and give a five-minute presentation about them to your class.
- Declaration of faith
- This is called the Shahada.
- Zakat, or alms-giving, is obligatory for all Muslims who are able to do so. It is the personal responsibility of each Muslim to ease the economic hardship of others and to strive towards eliminating inequality.
- Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan, ending at Eid al-Fitr. From dawn until dusk, Muslims may not eat, drink or smoke anything, unless they are in desperate need. Most Muslims also abstain from eating pork according to Islamic (and also Jewish) dietary laws (Halal).
- The three monotheistic religions (believing in one god) claiming the prophet Abraham as a common forefather.