About Us
Back Issues
Forthcoming Issues
Print Edition
Contact Us
IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 12    Issue 10   01 - 15 October 2017

How has Islamophobia changed over the past 20 years?

by Aina Khan

London, England - Anti-Muslim hatred has become more pervasive and entrenched in the UK, compared with 20 years ago, according to a report by the think tank that catapulted the term "Islamophobia" in 1997.

Runnymede Trust's latest survey, released on Tuesday, came two decades after the group first launched a groundbreaking report highlighting racism faced by British Muslims.

"Over the past two decades awareness of Islamophobia has increased, whether in terms of discrimination against Muslims, or in terms of public and policy discussion of it," the report said.

"It is good that British Muslims increasingly challenge Islamophobia. However, to challenge and end Islamophobia and all forms of racism effectively, we all need to confront and condemn it where we see it, and commit to raising awareness in others of its wider effects."

Muslims or ethnic minorities and the government should not be the only parties responsible in tackling Islamophobia. Employers, neighbours, teachers and fellow citizens should also raise awareness in cracking down on racism "wherever and however it appears", the report said.

Published in 1997, Runnymede's report "Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All" shed light on the considerable growth in anti-Muslim prejudice and the profound impact it had on the lives of British Muslims, identifying and catapulting the relatively unknown term and issue of "Islamophobia" into public consciousness.

How to define Islamophobia

Twenty years on, Britain is part of a post-9/11 and 7/7 world grappling with the rise of armed groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and insecurity at home.

Whenever attackers are discovered to be of Muslim background, the entire community often faces collective punishment.

Tuesday's report criticised the government's ambiguous definition of the term Islamophobia, stating that while it still retained some purchase being widely used amongst politicians and the public, it was poorly understood, detracting from the multifaceted nature of contemporary anti-Islam sentiment as well as the lived experiences of individuals and communities.

The term "anti-Muslim racism" was proposed instead, as it was more encompassing of the tangible impact of Islamophobia.

Farah Elahi, a research and policy analyst at Runnymede Trust said Islamophobia had now manifested structurally in policy.

"There is a completely different policy focus on Muslim communities than there was in 1997. A big part of that is around counter-terrorism strategies, but also wider than that, looking at the integration strategy," said Elahi.

"Both policy and the media have framed Muslims within a counter-terrorism deviant perspective, filtering into people's understanding of the Muslim community and the way in which they're perceived."

'Muslim penalty'

Elahi added that the proliferation of Islamophobia had stretched beyond influencing policy, leading to a "Muslim penalty" which permeated into social, political, economic and cultural institutions.

"We have an understanding of how Islamophobia impacts hate crime, but when somebody applies for a job and they get an interview, those stereotypes can remain in an employee's mind, even when they go to the doctors, when they go to school," she said.

"One of the things we wanted to show in the report is that all these things are interlinked. Policy focus and media representation which frame Muslims in a particular way feeds particular stereotypes about Muslims. They all feed off each other and the effects manifest in larger labour market penalties, larger mental health impact, and penalties in the criminal justice system."

These factors have restructured the social and political landscape for British Muslims, who are characterised by a range of stereotypes that demarcate them as the "other", a characterisation which has seen anti-Muslim hate crime in the last year rocket.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the only Muslim woman to be a cabinet member, said Islamophobia had become the "blind-spot of Britain", and that it was now a more "respectable" form of bigotry.

In the foreword to the report, she writes: "In 2011, I said that Islamophobia had passed the dinner-table test. I was speaking about those who display their bigotry overtly, but also those who do so more subtly in the most respectable of settings - middle-class dinner tables. It is this more covert form of Islamophobia, couched in the intellectual arguments espoused by think tanks, commentators and even politicians that I have spent the last decade trying to reason with."

Warsi said she was concerned by the institutionalisation on Islamophobia in some sections of the media over the last decade, calling for a parliamentary investigation into Islamophobia within the British press at the launch of the report.

"Of all the challenges to a cohesive Britain at ease with its Muslims, the hostile press environment is the most worrying. The daily poisoning of the discourse around British Muslims has intensified, and shapes our collective understanding of the challenges we face. It informs dialogue across the country, from parliament to the local pub."

She also called for an investigation into her own Conservative party, citing an anti-Muslim campaign launched by Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith against the London Mayor Sadiq Khan during the mayoral election in 2016.

(Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/islamophobia-changed-20-years-171116120107753.html)

French politicians protest over Muslim street prayers in Paris

About 100 French politicians have marched on a street in a Paris suburb in protest at Muslims holding Friday prayers in public.

The politicians, wearing tricolour sashes of office and singing the national anthem, disrupted about 200 worshippers on a street in Clichy.

Police kept the two groups apart but some scuffles broke out.

Critics say the prayers are an unacceptable use of public space in France's strictly secular system.

The worshippers, however, say they have nowhere else to go since the town hall took over the room they used for prayers back in March.

"Public space cannot be taken over in this way," said Valérie Pécresse, president of the Paris regional council, who led Friday's protest by councillors and MPs mainly of the centre-right Republicans and UDI parties.

Rémi Muzeau, the right-wing mayor of Clichy, called on the interior ministry to ban the street prayers, adding: "I am responsible for guaranteeing the tranquillity and freedom of everyone in my town."

One of the worshippers, named only as Abdelkader, told AFP news agency that they wanted a "dignified" place to worship and did not enjoy being in the street every Friday.

He said he resented the politicians singing the French national anthem during their protest.

"They were singing the Marseillaise, throwing it in our faces, even though we're French people here. We're French. Long live France!" he said.

(Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41950826)

How big an issue is Islamophobia in Poland?

by Shafik Mandhai

Like hundreds of thousands of her compatriots, Anna Lachowska left her native Poland shortly after its accession to the European Union, in the hope of finding opportunity elsewhere in the bloc.

The journey first took her to Ireland, then the Czech Republic, and later to the UK, where she spent a decade living in London.

It was there that she underwent a spiritual transformation, leaving the Christianity of her upbringing behind for a faith few in her native land knew much about.

"Islam showed me God like I had always felt I seen," she told Al Jazeera, describing how the decision prompted a reaction of disappointment from her mother.

Initially heated conversations about Islam, however, turned more conciliatory, and eventually, Lachowska's mother came to defend her daughter's decision.

"Whenever she is on the phone with some relatives from Poland, if they say something 'anti-Islamic', she bravely argues with them, defends Islam, defends my choice, alhamdulillah (thank God)."

Refugee crisis

Lachowska's relatives are not alone in their negative opinion of Islam, and the scale of anti-Muslim feeling in the country was on display at Saturday's Polish independence day march, which drew around 60,000 people, many of them from far-right groups.

One banner carried by protesters showed a trojan horse labelled "Islam" attempting to enter a fortress marked "Europe".

Inside the trojan horse was a stereotyped caricature of a Middle Eastern man with a long nose, wearing a suicide vest and carrying a banner which read "I'm a refugee."

Fears of Islam and an influx of refugees to Poland, similar to what neighbouring EU countries experienced, have been amplified by politicians and sections of the media, according to Konrad Pedziwiatr of the Cracow University of Economics.

"Most of the information people get about Islam and Muslims comes from the media, and what has been happening over the last few years especially is this tendency to lump together the issues of terrorism, the refugee crisis, and Islam," he said.

"You always had politicians who had strong opinions against Islam, but the refugee crisis helped jack the cause and helped the Law and Justice party come to power."

Poland's largest party came to power in 2015 on a platform of restoring Polish pride and keeping refugees out of the country.

Pedziwiatr explained that the rise of Islamophobia in political life had been in tandem with increasingly unfavourable coverage of Muslims in the media, especially state media outlets.

"Whenever the issue of Islam and Muslims is there, it's always (represented) in a super negative way," he said.

The combined effect of vilified political and media discourse on Islam, he argued, has brought about a "banalisation" of Islamophobia and led to many Poles holding inaccurate perceptions about the Muslim community.

Muslims make up just 0.1 percent of the Polish population, or around 35,000 people, including indigenous Polish Muslims, such as the Tatars, converts, and immigrants from all over the world.

However, the average citizen believes the number is much higher.

"Poles hugely overestimate the size of the Muslim community, the average that people think is seven percent, which is ridiculous because it means over two and a half million people," Pedziwiatr said, explaining that such perceptions were of "the Polish fear of Islam and Muslims".

Historic ties

While Poland's Muslim population is small, Islam has a presence there dating back to at least the Medieval era.

The Lipka Tatars are a Muslim community descended from Mongol conquerors who later served as soldiers for a succession of Polish monarchs.

Though initially thought to have numbered in the tens of thousands, the community now has just over 10,000 members, with just under 2,000 remaining in Poland, due to border changes and assimilation into the wider Polish community.

York University academic Kasia Narkowicz told Al Jazeera that Islamophobia had been brewing in Poland for years, in keeping "with the broader global trend of anti-Muslim sentiments".

She argued that in that atmosphere the historic contributions made by the Lipkas were largely forgotten.

"When I did research on Islamophobia in Poland in 2011... people spoke about the 1683 Battle of Vienna, which they perceived as a key event where Poles stopped Muslims at the gates of Europe," she said.

"Now they are using another battle, the 1571 Battle of Lepanto, as example of Polish resistance to Islam that saved Europe from 'Islamisation'.

"What many ... do not realise is that many of the soldiers fighting for Poland at that time were indeed the Tatars, Poland's Muslim minority."

Narkowicz was eager to stress that Poland was once home to more Muslims than it was likely to have in the near future.

"Muslims in Poland have practised their religion freely for hundreds of years without any issues ... many Poles who are now worried about a Muslim invasion are completely unaware of [this history]."

For Anna Lachowska, while the rise of Islamophobia in her native land is worrying, it is important to put the trend into perspective.

Now a resident of France, she described how she was asked to remove her headscarf while waiting in line for a travel pass, something she said would not have happened in Poland.

"I am a proud holder of a Polish passport with a hijab photo and it wasn't a problem to make it," she said.

"It's not that I am fixated about the scarf, but I cannot agree with the French fixation on this ban.

"Poland is better, more open, more respectful in this matter."

(Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/big-issue-islamophobia-poland-171113064903344.html)

Hate crimes the US rose by nearly 5 percent in 2016: FBI

by Creede Newton

Incidents of hate crimes in the US went up to 6,121 during 2016, seeing an increase of 4.6 percent compared to the previous year, according to data released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Monday.

The crimes committed, particularly against African-Americans, Jews and Muslims, rose for the second consecutive year, with a spike of 10 percent from 2014 to 2015.

A hate crime is defined by the FBI as a "criminal offence against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity".

Corey Saylor, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations who focuses on Islamophobia, said the results "confirms everything we've already known ... Hate crimes went up."

The report says that about 58 percent of 2016 incidents were racially motivated, with over half of those being directed at the African-American community.

Roughly 21 percent of the incidents were religiously motivated, with 54 percent targeting the Jewish community and about 25 percent targeting Muslims. Roughly 18 percent of the hate crimes were based on biases towards sexual orientation.

Saylor, who tracks anti-Islamic incidents throughout the US, said he would "argue that it has a lot to do with the irresponsible rhetoric used by some politicians on the campaign trail".

The results are the most comprehensive for 2016, a year which saw the Trump campaign - which ran on a nativist, anti-immigration platform - triumph over Hillary Clinton in what many called the biggest political upset in modern US history.

Rise of white supremacist groups

The months leading up to the 2016 election saw an increase in white nationalist activity, with fringe white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan seeing an increase in membership.

The increase was predicted in data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Their study (PDF) showed a 4.9 percent increase in hate crime incidents.

According to the research, Tennessee and Rhode Island saw the largest decreases in hate crime incidents, with 30 and 18 percent reductions since 2015, respectively.

Indiana and Minnesota saw the greatest increases, with 123 and 27 percent surges.

Figures from 2015 show that 51 percent of religiously motivated incidents were anti-Jewish and 22 percent were anti-Islamic.

"I think it's important to not focus solely on the number of [anti-Islam] attacks," Saylor continued. "The numbers are up across the board. I think it requires an across the board response. All Americans need to hold politicians accountable."

The FBI did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera's request for comment. As of Monday morning, US President Donald Trump has not addressed the figures.

(Source” http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/hate-crimes-rose-5-percent-2016-fbi-171113160201992.html)

Name * :
E-mail * :
Add Your Comment :
Home About Us Announcement Forthcoming Features Feed Back Contact Us
Copyright© 2017 All rights reserved.