Let’s Talk About Islamophobia (Part 2)

Over recent months, there have been mass Anti Islam protests in Germany, Dresden in particular. Organisers, under the banner of “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident” (PEGIDA), announced that the rallies would commemorate the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack. Critics, however, say that protesters are taking advantage of the attacks to attract supporters and incite hatred against refugees and foreigners.

A record of 17,000 protestors rallied against Islam in Dresden just before Christmas. Many more have protested over January and there is a planned march on the 12th of March. The protesters have been dubbed the “pinstripe Nazis”

Antony Loewenstein, an atheist Jew, journalist and Guardian columnist, said that because a lot of his family died in Dresden during World War Two, the thought of “anti-Islam Nazis marching through the streets is shocking.” He said,

“These current marches are a chilling reminder that racism, hatred against minorities… and dishonest appropriation of anti-Communist history is alive and well. PEGIDA panders to ignorance and fear in a population that feels increasingly disconnected from globalization, blaming asylum seekers and Islam for problems of a privatized state.”

What’s shocking about this is the rate at which these protests escalated, gaining thousands each week. Furthermore, being labeled ‘pinstripe Nazis’ does not seem to deter them nor does it seem to remind them of the similarities to the actions of those that have been condemned globally. It’s increasingly worrying how similar the situation is becoming to the 1930s and it worries me to question: to what extent will it be enough? Muslims have been persecuted in the past, and more so recently throughout the Western nations, and the blatant protests in Germany against a certain religion feels alarmingly like what has happened in the past.

Are these protests justified?

Rabah Kherbane published a letter to the Huffington Post titled, ‘A Muslim’s Response to the 25,000 Anti-Islam Protestors in Germany‘. I hope that this letter puts things in perspective and reveals how unfounded these protests are and that it should worry the vast majority as to what consequences the further persecution of muslims could amount to.

Dear 25,000 Anti-Islam Dresden Protesters and Pegida,

I hear you marched in your thousands against my religion. Last week, and last month. You marched against immigrants, foreigners, and anyone a shade darker. I will not draw comparisons to Nazi Germany. I will not call you bigots, I will not insult you, and I will not label you. But we do have a problem.

You marched with banners claiming your city is overcrowded with Muslims. Yet 0.1% of Dresden are Muslim. You marched claiming immigrants are cramming your schools and leaving your children to travel miles for an education. Yet 2.5% of Dresden are foreign-born.

You claim that Germany is being invaded by Muslims. Yet only 5% of Germans are Muslim.

You march “against the Islamization of the West”. Yet within a century containing two World Wars, the decolonisation process, countless civil conflicts, foreign intervention, globalisation, and further displacement, Muslims remain a fringe minority in Europe. Less than 6%. A pretty lousy colonisation process, no?

You marched against refugees and asylum seekers, claiming Germany is their target for welfare and social security. Yet according to UNHCR, there are 51.2million refugees worldwide. Germany caters for less than 0.01% of them. Is that too much to ask? Is such a humanitarian obligation too large for the Refugee Convention 1951 your government ratified? Or is it actually punitive, for example, in comparison to Lebanon where every fourth person is a Syrian refugee?

Protesters, you are not alone. In my country, Britain, we have our own anti-immigration party. Ukip won their first seat in Clacton with nothing but anti-migrant rhetoric. Yet only 4.3% of Clacton are foreign-born. In a Parliamentary-based system, where each constituency elects a representative to voice their views, there is nothing Ukip can do for the people of Clacton.

Do you see a pattern? Perhaps I should explain. Your kind tend to establish themselves where their “problem” does not actually exist. Is this therefore an issue of negative perception? Fear of the unfamiliar? Intolerance in ignorance? Scapegoating an underclass? Media misinformation?

I will elaborate. London has a 36.2% foreign-born population. Relatively, that is fifteen times the population of foreigners in Dresden. A far greater diversity. Ukip poll the lowest in London compared to the rest of the country– in every demographic, foreign or not. London is a metropolis of brown, black, and white working side by side. We thrive. I saw an atheist today. Guess what? I did not try to convert him nor behead him for blasphemy; I helped him off the bus. He was 74 years old.

Does that make sense?

Your only insight into Islam is a box in your living room. Confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance infest the information you expose yourself to. Information which dehumanises and polarises anyone unlike you.

You enjoy the far-right media portrayal of Islam. It makes you feel good. Superior. Better. The barbaric Muslims, we are. We disrespect women, and we impose our beliefs on to others.

Yet did you know that Turkey, Indonesia, and Bangladesh, all Muslim majority states have had more elected female heads of state than almost every other Western country? Did you know that the Quran explicitly says “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256), and our Prophet clarified “whomever hurts a non-Muslim will not smell a whiff of paradise”?

Did you know that your twisted misrepresentation of my religion helps the terrorists? Did you know that you and the terrorists agree on what seems to form an integral part of your identity: that Islam is violent? Did you know that you even use the same methodology to proclaim this; taking a verse out of context and evading any intellectual discourse?

What are Muslims to you, anyway? Arabs? Less than 20% of us are Arab. Indian or Pakistani? Again, less than 20%. Turkish? Less than 5%. Nothing else? That is more than half of us you cannot identify.

You assume our identity by our race. Is it not disheartening to you that such a narrow world view is legitimately held by so many? Does it not display a perspective so constrained to the contents of immediate life and prejudice? Is that not likely to lead to ignorant assumptions and offence in face of what is unbeknownst?

What becomes of the German Muslim, I wonder? Is he spared because he is white? Or is he declared a traitor and shunned? Is it difficult to choose between racism and neglecting a fellow countryman? Choose neither. Choose education. Tolerance. Kindness.

Detach from the vicious cycle of far-right media (who are unfamiliar with foreigners) feeding the far-right populace (who are unfamiliar with foreigners) what they should think about foreigners.

I ask you, have you ever met a Muslim? “Met” is not a synonym for shouting abuse at or stabbing to death in or outside their home. No, have you ever sat with a Muslim? Talked to a Muslim? Worked with a Muslim?

You should. At an airport perhaps, where we are 42 times more likely to be searched, and thus declared safe for human interaction.

A Real-Life Muslim (not the ones on TV)

Islamophobia is an issue that needs to be addressed. Hate crimes have peaked recently and that needs to be brought to the public eye, especially if the media isn’t going to do their part in providing a just and unbiased portrayal of events happening worldwide. We must attempt to prevent further escalation of Islamophobia and the hate crimes that come along with it before these crimes on individuals spirals into something much worse. Yes, the threats that IS poses to the world is an extremely pressing issue, in Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey in particular, but it’s also absolutely crucial to realise and remember that the actions of IS in no way represent the millions of peaceful followers of Islam.


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