Muslims have long suffered from discrimination and hate speech leaning toward racism throughout the world, yet in recent years the situation seems to have gotten worse with several incidents such as the Christchurch attack of March 15 in New Zealand, the Quran burning of April 29 in Denmark and the Bærum mosque shooting of Aug.10 in Norway, all of which happened this year.
“We do not intend to blame the whole of European Union society, we try to say that there are problems. As the report puts forth, there is an increase in attacks and harassment,” Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakçı said at the event yesterday, urging European states to take action against rising anti-Muslim sentiments.
Answering the question of what the EU’s main challenge was today, the deputy minister said it was the rise of anti-Islam acts. “There are many solutions and recommendations to the problem, yet I think the best solution is the membership of Turkey to the EU,” Kaymakçı said, adding that by this means the EU can change its image and lead to an EU in which all beliefs are respected.
“European societies are challenged by the rise of violent far-right groups that not only preach hatred of Muslims but also participate in the organization of bloody terror attacks,” according to the European Islamophobia Report of 2018 recently published by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), which is the fourth edition complied so far. One of the authors, Enes Bayraklı, pointed to the fact that “Islamophobic terrorism occurs even in remote and peaceful countries such as New Zealand,” during the opening ceremony of their project against anti-Islamic acts yesterday in Ankara.
Accordingly, the most targeted people are women and especially those with headscarves; in Belgium, 76% of victims of reported Islamophobia are female. In Austria, 540 cases of Islamophobic incidents took place, while 676 took place in France and 678 in Germany in 2018. However, only 12% of Muslims discriminated against in the EU report this to the authorities.
The 844-page report created in cooperation with the EU and several other institutions raises questions in itself. “I hope this report will get thinner by time,” Kaymakçı said.
In order to fight misperceptions and discrimination toward Muslims, Turkish officials will organize panels throughout Europe, raising awareness. The rise of far-right parties, online Islamophobia and legalizing Islamophobia with laws such as the hijab ban and attempts to close mosques as witnessed in Austria, are among the main problems.
Anti-Muslim hatred has significantly risen in Europe in the recent years. Far-right extremism and xenophobia have fueled anti-Muslim hatred in Western countries, where terror attacks by Daesh and al-Qaida are used as an excuse to legitimize those views. Although enmity toward Muslims is not a new phenomenon, it intensified after 2001 when two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Since then, for almost two decades, Islam has been unjustly tarnished with labels that have negative connotations and portrayed as a religion of hate and violence with anti-Western sentiment and women's oppression. This trend of intolerance has triggered deadly attacks against Muslims and immigrants since then.
There have been some projects introduced recently in Muslim-majority countries to tackle the issue. As one of them, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia had agreed to establish a joint channel with the aim of fighting anti-Muslim sentiments during a trilateral meeting at the 74th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York last month. The channel is envisaged to display series and films on Muslim history, educate and inform people on Islam, to eliminate misperceptions and tell the world the oppression Muslims face and fight the false idea that portrays Muslims as terrorists.