In the face of growing threats posed by a rising Islamophobia in Europe, experts say that first and foremost European countries need to stop denying the existence of Islamophobia and recognize the Muslim community's problems, which also threaten the core values of Europe.
"The European societies show a tendency of denying the existence of Islamophobia and the problems Muslim people face which is rather dangerous," Farid Hafez, a political scientist from Salzburg University, told a panel at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) yesterday. The program was held to present the European Islamophobia Report 2017.
"Muslims are excluded from the general society, they are treated differently because of their religion and I think it is a bigger problem for democracy than for Muslims," said Hafez, who called for the recognition of Islamophobia as a problem. According to the report, which examines various cases of verbal and physical assaults on Muslims in Europe within the scope of Islamophobia, there were 908 incidents in Germany targeting Muslims, compared to 664 in Poland, 364 in the Netherlands, 256 in Austria, 121 in France, and 56 in Denmark.
In Germany, 100 attacks on mosques were reported by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) and 908 attacks targeted German Muslims. According to the Observatory of Islamophobia, 121 Islamophobic incidents were reported in France.
Delivering an opening speech at the panel, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that blaming immigrants or foreigners as the sole reason for the problems in Europe is not humane or just. "For instance, immigrants are not responsible for economic problems that stem from wrong government policies. On the contrary, the immigrants contribute to those countries' development," he said.
Çavuşoğlu added that the hate speech, which has been widely used by these politicians, is a crime in all European countries, underlining that the populist politicians have been stoking the prejudices within the society against immigrants.
Touching on the negative rhetoric toward foreigners and Muslims during the French elections, Yasser Louati, from Justice and Liberties Committee in France, told the panel that 2017 was a tough year for them.
Louati highlighted the media's role in Islamophobia, saying that, "When a state funds a news outlet and it publishes Islamophobic news, then it means that the state is supporting racism." The Turkish foreign minister also said that Islamophobia needs to be considered a crime and more sensitivity in relation to the issue need to be shown as it is the case for the incidents regarding anti-Semitism. He also said that nongovernmental organizations, academicians and politicians may turn this negative trend toward Muslim people. In order to face Islamophobia, it was stressed in the report that "the legal and political recognition of Islamophobia is of utmost importance. Therefore, a European-level conference on Islamophobia should be organized with the support of at least one European Union member state or the European Parliament." "In this context, the European Parliament should adopt a resolution on combating Islamophobia with concrete policy recommendations and ways forward – as it did to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsysism," the report suggested.