According to a report just published by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Islamophobia is growing in the EU. This will come as no surprise; the growth of far-right anti-Muslim parties across Europe plus a wealth of anecdotal evidence of hostility toward Muslims are proof that, since 9/11, Islamophobia in Europe has become widespread. It is also institutional: The opposition to Turkish EU membership from France and Germany is purely because Turkey is a Muslim country; in the UK, the current battle in Parliament over the government’s plans to place suspected terrorists under house arrest has to be seen against a background of the political and media message that terrorist equals Muslim; only last week, a British minister warned the Muslim community that it had to accept being targeted by the police because of the threat by Islamic extremists.
“Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims in the EU” makes depressing reading. In Germany, it points out, 80 percent of those surveyed last year associated Islam with terrorism. In France, the recent law banning women from wearing the hijab in public places has increased discrimination against Muslim women. In the Netherlands, it points to a growing hostility to Muslim schools, which are perceived, without any evidence, of undermining integration. In Athens, the Greek Orthodox Church has campaigned against building a mosque in the city center and one near the airport.
I have not noticed much in the way of islamophobia here in the US. Perhaps it is due to sampling error. Perhaps it is because having liberated and allied with 50 millions Muslims in the fight for democracy and freedom, Americans understand that Islam is not the problem but radical Islam is. Being active and perhaps even pro-active, we have gotten a sense of control of the future and thus are cautious but not fearful.
The Europeans, having chosen to stand on the sideline, have adopted a passive stance toward the problem of radical islamofascist. Without action, there is no sense of control, which makes fear more likely. Without allying with moderate Muslims, a conceptual barrier has been created separating the Europeans from all Muslims, lumping the terrorists with the moderates. Both factors lead to an environment that fosters fear and distrust of Muslims. Act or be acted upon.
I suspect islamophobia will only grow in Europe. By confronting the islamofascists head on, the Americans have created an environment possible to accept peaceful Muslims like those in Afghanistan, Iraq, and here in the US. This process may be similar to confronting racial discrimination head on in the Civil Rights movement. Certainly racism still exists, as islamophobia will still exist here in the US. But the degree of the problem will be much more manageable.