Hate mongers in several European countries have been targeting Muslims after the Paris attacks. Experts say there is an urgent need to stop demonising one religious community and develop strategies for reconciliation.
“Attacks against Muslims began the very same night of the Paris attacks,” Yasser Louati of the Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF) tells DW. The CCIF received several pictures of vandalized mosques and restaurants owned by Muslims in the morning following the terror strikes in Paris, when Islamist militants killed 127 people, Louati says.
Louati has several examples of hate crimes against Muslims in the past few days. In Nanterre, a woman with a five-month-old baby was pushed and cursed by an old man. “In Marseille, in the south of France, a young girl was punched in the face and hit with a box-cutter blade on her chest,” Louati tells DW. Most women victims were wearing a full-body veil at the time of the attack, making them easy targets, he adds, lamenting that the French government has not been as forthcoming this time in condemning attacks against Muslims.
Organisations like Tell MAMA, which maps hate crimes against Muslims say attacks against members have gone up by 300% in the UK since the Paris bombings. 115 incidents were registered in the week following 13 November .
Things haven’t been going smoothly in Germany either. Chief of the Central Council of Muslims (ZDM), Aiman A. Mazyek, explained how a mosque in the western city of Saarbrücken was vandalised shortly after the Paris attacks. “The vandals wrote ‘murderers and pigs’ at the entry of the mosque,” he told DW.
A case of rising insecurity?
Muslim organisations have been working hard to dispel insecurities against people of their religion and avoid backlash from the society they live in. After attacks like the one in Paris, Muslim representatives like Yasser Louati in France make it a point to come out with statements so that their entire community is not under suspicion.
But for Aiman Mayzek, who represents many of the roughly four million Muslims in Germany, each statement means proving their loyalty to their country every time. “I say, stop asking us to distance ourselves from these attacks. I use the example of the Muslims who died in the Paris violence. Do they also need to distance themselves from their killers?” he asks.
As a Muslim, one feels bad if one is made responsible for any attack carried out by an Islamist. “Especially for young people, this feeling can be dangerous, because if they have prejudices against a society they live in and if they generalise these prejudices, then they tend towards radicalisation,” Mazyek says.
No danger of ‘Islamisation’
“At this time, many people are reacting badly to Islam and to Muslims because of different reasons,” says Yasemin El-Menouar, project manager at the Bertelsmann Foundation in Germany. “We have the PEGIDA movement, which meets every Monday and demonstrates against the Islamisation of the West and naturally, after such terror attacks, things like these increase. That is a fact. People feel very insecure and they think, will something like this happen to us tomorrow? And a minority uses this as a reason to react [to such incidents],” she tells DW.
One way to avoid this kind of a backlash following terror attacks, is to not connect them immediately with the refugee crisis or to ask whether Muslims in Germany have mingled well with the mainstream society here, because, as El-Menouar says. “Every Muslim is then suspected to be a potential terrorist.”
Another good idea, she believes, would be to define terror as such and not label it as Islamic terror or right-wing terror. ” Extremism is one phenomenon and should also be treated that way. And the profiles of right-wing extremists are not very different from Islamists,” she adds.
The head of the German Muslim council, Aiman Mayzek concurs. He advocates more communication with mainstream society and between religions. “Above all, we need to make it clear that you cannot conquer terror through war,” he concludes.