Islamophobia too easily overlooked in the West
Islamophobia too easily overlooked in the West
An inquiry into Islamophobia within the British Conservative Party delivered its verdict last week. While it has not found the party guilty of institutional racism, it has certainly highlighted worrying trends. What he did not do, however, was to end the debate – a debate that is increasingly relevant, as anti-Muslim hatred remains so prevalent not only in the UK but in many. majority non-Muslim country.
Without delving into each finding, what is clear is that members of the Conservative Party have, in recent years, made a large number of anti-Muslim comments. The party leadership is at fault, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In 2018, before becoming Prime Minister, Johnson described in a newspaper article Muslim women who wear the burqa as ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’. Last week he again refused to apologize, admitting that he “would not make such remarks now that he was prime minister”. It’s as close to confessing that he was wrong as he will go.
Remarkably, the panel determined that “in a democratic society it should be careful not to be overzealous in its scrutiny or censorship of language”. Imagine if this had been said about derogatory comments about blacks or Jews. The outcry would be huge. The double standard remains that Muslims, and indeed Arabs, are often fair and that those who engage in Islamophobia are held to a different standard from those who make anti-Semitic or racist comments.
Few said that at the time of the report’s release Johnson was preparing to welcome anti-Muslim Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Downing Street. Orban’s record of anti-Semitic comments has also been overlooked, even by many who have spoken so loudly on the issue in recent weeks. He is accepted by some because he is a paid member of the Anti-Semitic Club for Israel and a warm friend of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Prominent conservative Muslims like Baroness Warsi, the party’s former president, believe that a fully independent investigation is necessary – not a party-appointed investigation. This is what happened when the Labor Party was accused of institutional anti-Semitism. Islamophobia within the Conservative Party needs to be treated just as seriously.
Once again, Islamophobia is not getting the attention it deserves or the recognition of the extent of this problem. Likewise, anti-Arab racism is rarely mentioned in mainstream discourse, although it is too frequent and vicious, if it is often included in the debate on Islamophobia. Imagine the outrage if one of the most revered synagogues in the world were invaded by the armed forces of a foreign state using stun grenades, tear gas and bullets, as happened at the mosque Al-Aqsa.
Conflict breeds hatred. Escalations in the occupied territories and in Israel over the past two months have seen tensions erupt elsewhere. Once again, outbreaks of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have littered the streets of Europe, the United States and elsewhere. Fanatics feel empowered and empowered to unleash their pent-up fury on those unrelated to events in the Middle East, as if it is somehow justified in their disgusting little universe. One of the worst examples was an incident in London, where six cars drove through a largely Jewish neighborhood with obnoxious passengers shouting unprintable obscenities against Jews.
It seems that these extremists feel empowered by conflicts to express their hatred. Jewish communities in Europe are not responsible for Israeli crimes, just as Muslims around the world are not responsible for the crimes of Al Qaeda or Daesh.
Unfortunately, such hatred is not confined to the streets, but is also found in newspapers, broadcast media and, perhaps most importantly, online. Collective demonization is common. The presence of a few blatantly anti-Semitic banners at a protest in London led some to demonize the 180,000 protesters as being anti-Semitic and participating in a pro-Hamas march, as opposed to a march dedicated to Palestinian rights. Top football stars like Paul Pogba and Mo Salah have been criticized for their solidarity with the Palestinians, as if supporting Palestinian freedom and rights is a crime. The New York Times ran a front page filled with images of the 67 Palestinian children recently killed in Gaza, but it was too much humanization of the Palestinians for some, who put on a big show by canceling their subscriptions.
For all the myriad examples of Islamophobia and anti-Arab attitudes that can be found in the Western media and in political discourse, what really highlights the scale of the challenge are the policies of the different western governments towards the Arab and Islamic worlds and the global reaction. to events in the Middle East. If an Arab is executed in front of a camera by Daesh, hardly anyone will bat an eyelid, but if he is a Westerner, hold the first page. If Americans were killed by the thousands, do you think America’s leaders would say, “We’re not counting bodies?” But when 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are stranded in a blockaded open-air prison for 14 years under subhuman conditions and the world does nothing, what message does that send about American and European attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims?
American and European racist attitudes are most evident in terms of immigration. Rather than welcoming Syrian refugees fleeing an extraordinarily brutal regime and Daesh ultra-extremists, many EU states are putting up barriers. Denmark is even trying to send the Syrians back to their country, declaring it safe. In 2015, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete stop” of Muslims entering the United States and he tried to make this a reality when he became president. The Republican Party has not yet distanced itself from this policy.
Muslims see that, more often than not, the denigration of Muslims is extremely profitable on the electoral front.
Such positions do not cost politicians their work. Muslims see that on the contrary, more often than not, the denigration of Muslims is extremely profitable on the electoral level. This is particularly visible in France, where President Emmanuel Macron has stepped up his rhetoric, describing Islam as a faith “in crisis all over the world”. Her likely opponent in next year’s presidential election, Marine Le Pen, was no slouch and recently proclaimed that France was in danger of “civil war”.
Holding members of one political party accountable for their racism is admirable. However, this is only a minor step when real and lasting change must also be led from above. Leadership needs to challenge a host of inherited attitudes and prejudices against Muslims and Arabs, as well as others, that still inform politics. Right now, it’s hard to see where that leadership is coming from.
- Chris Doyle is Director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding based in London. Twitter: @Doylech
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