An Islamophobic backlash is not the way to deal with Europe’s suffering

Craig Harrison writes for us on the response to ISIS attacks in Paris and the recent local elections in France.

Last month was one of the darkest that Europe has ever seen. Terrorism of any kind is abhorrent, but the scale and indiscriminate nature of the blow struck at the heart of France on 13 November mean that the attacks in Paris will forever be etched in the memory of anyone old enough to comprehend the devastation.

The desire to do something has been inevitably strong, and in the case of the UK Government, apparently too powerful to ignore. In France itself, the shadow of last month’s attacks also seems, to some extent, to have swayed the electorate – who swept the far-right Front National to victory in nearly half of the 13 regions in mainland France during recent regional elections (according to early estimates). And further afield, in the U.S, the ever controversial Donald Trump has been predictably hawkish, calling for a temporary ban on Muslims entering America.

These reactions are perhaps understandable. Anyone watching news coverage of the attacks – listening to ever more gruesome details emerge, until eventually learning that around 130 people had lost their lives – can’t have helped feeling that revenge should be taken.

But while there is no question that we have a duty to respond, reverting to bigotry, discrimination and Islamophobia is not the answer.

Muslims are not the enemy of the democratic West. To arrive at blanket judgments on an entire religion, with around 1.6 billion active practitioners, is to forsake the very things that make us different than those who commit acts of terrorism.

Tolerance. Freedom. Equality. These are the values and principles of democratic society that we hold most dear. It is these principles that we endorse every time we visit the ballot box. And it is these things that give us the moral right to look at the actions of international terrorist groups and denounce them for their heinous crimes.

May history condemn us if we decide to sacrifice these principles. Make no mistake, Islamophobia is just violence in different dress, and the bigotry and intolerance that fuels it are just as much of a scourge on the West as the threat of groups like ISIL.

We cannot turn to the Muslims in our own communities and blindly lump them together with those who commit violence in the name of a warped understanding of a peaceful religion. As strong as the urge is to find a dog to kick, everyday Muslims are not responsible for the acts of terrorists. They can be held no more accountable for the violence of a tiny minority – who claim to be acting in the name of Islam – than can the peaceful majority of white people for the acts of a white supremacist claiming to serve his race.

The solidarity shown around the world with the people of Paris demonstrates how much good we can do when we push together in the name of freedom and democracy. To turn that energy for good and channel it into hate is to throw away an opportunity to look evil in the eye and say ‘we are better than you’. Islamophobia is not the way.

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  • whatif1984true

    How can one disagree but here there is little hope. Terrorists have always been seen as representative of the communities they come from/live in.
    In the past we didn’t seem to be racists but maybe it was only because so few outsiders wanted to join our warring society. Now however we have more outsiders coming and the racism can now be seen.
    Whether bigotry begets racism or it is all the one meme, does it matter?
    My guess is Islamophobia is here and it will stay and probably grow.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The only weapon against fear is faith, and faith is a broader concept than can be defined by studying and practicing religion.

  • 7 percent global minority

    There is no such thing as “Islamophobia” since it is not irrational to fear a 3rd world death cult. Jihad is an inherent instruction within the Koran, and it seems that so many want to bury their heads in the sand and not confront the reality that the problem isn’t Islam itself. Just open your eyes and look at terrorism around the world today – wherever Islam comes into contact with anything else there is conflict.

  • Kevin Breslin

    How’s the sand around your ears?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While Da’ish is unquestionably an aggressive concept, Islam is not a “death cult”, it’s a world religion with infinate shades of rich opinion represented within it. While factions may be “vehemently anti Christian”, in a extremist manner perhaps, but still showing clear a family resemblence to a mirror image anti-Islamic stance, they are just that, factions, not the entirity of Islam, any more than some of our home grown paper thin interpretations of Christianity do not in any way sum up a very similar complexity of belief and doctrine across the wide range of “Christianities”, none of which may be considered to have exclusive claim on “Christianity” itself.

    The loathing of “otherness” is not integral to any one religion or ideology and where this finds agressive or violent expression in actions, in any civilised society it should be constrained by law, otherwise no one member of our community can ever begin to feel safe from someone else’s prejudice. After all “first they came for the Jews……..”

    The mesaure of any society will always be how it protects its most vulnerable members, not how it facilitates the “free expression” of its most belicose and aggressive. At this point by far the greater number Muslims in Britain and Ireland are not engaged in organised aggressive action against us, and, when automatically blamed in this way for the actions of a faction, are rapidly on the way to becoming the most vulnerable members of our society.

  • Kevin Breslin

    This Dutch experiment where people were read passages from the Bible and were told they were from the Qu’ran shows people’s capacity to be prejudiced about anything.

  • @davidcmoore1

    The Front National were on course to come top before November 13th. Their continued rise is not based on Islamophobia, a lesson that the socialists and Republicans need to learn quickly. I’ll hopefully get round to posting after Sunday but their success is based on tapping into the disenchantment of working class, mainly rural, generally younger voters. The FN play a wonderful blame game and have built up the simplified rhetoric that immigrants have taken your jobs. However, taking on the responsibility of moderately serious local government will be a challenge for a party with no track record.

  • TruthToPower

    As a Christian, you will not find me cheering on gay marriage etc but at least I belief in their right to life, equal opportunities and dignity and protection in law. Name one single Islamic country where a gay person can live in peace and security of self and being ?
    Liberals are curiously silent on this

    Also what’s strange about liberals is that the only middle eastern country where gay and female people are treated with dignity and safety is Israel , a besieged country bedevilled by terrorist attack day in day out by Islamic Palestinians yet constantly attacked and boycotted by liberals.

    The main reason why many Muslim people in the West are reasonably minded and even liberal in many respects in because they have been influenced by the prevailing Judeo Christian ethos of the countries they live in.

    Where such influence is scant, their political and societal attitudes however are quite different as we know.

  • TruthToPower

    Some years ago, a sample of folk in Englsnd were presented with a range of party manifestos minus the party name. The most popular was the BNPs. When told, their reaction was like that of the person that the yummy snack they just ate was a spider.

    The poll conducted after the party label was revealed reverted to the norm of the day.

    Funny things you humans

  • submariner

    Name one single Islamic country where a gay person can live in peace and security of self and being ?

    Jordan, Turkey, Mali, Indonesia

  • TruthToPower

    Indonesia has no anti discrimination law against LGBT
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Indonesia

    Mali, not great either

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Mali

    A lot better in Turkey I must admit but the great work of Attaturk is slowly being dismantled by Erdogan. Planned constitutional protections were shelved in recent times

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Turkey

    But all not a patch on Big Bad Israel

  • Hugh Davison

    Eh? Beziers 1209: “Kill them all, God will know His own”

  • Hugh Davison

    Us humans (or We humans – not sure of the grammar here)!

  • Hugh Davison

    Palestinians (‘dirty Arabs’) are NOT treated with dignity and safety in Israel, and even less so in their own (occupied) land.

  • Greenflag 2

    Ah the Jovian or is it Neptunian finally comes clean on his extra terrestrial origins 😉

  • Greenflag 2

    Try bringing your Bible into Saudi Arabia or a bottle of whiskey . Freedom of religion doesn’t exist in some of these countries . Neither does democracy . Unfortunately the Wests attempts to impose democracy on some of these states has backfired and made a bad situation worse . Israel is another issue .

  • Kevin Breslin

    A UK soilder has weighed in to the debate, pretty much coming out against the prejudices involved in Islamophobia.

  • John Collins

    Hugh
    I like the case where Solomon sorted out the problem of the two ‘mothers’ who each claimed the child was theirs. He simply sought his sword and prepared to cut the child in two fair halves with a view to given each of them half the tot. That had the desired result.

  • John Collins

    Yes indeed TTP and Christian communities in Moslem countries have been killed, raped, robbed of their property and have had their places of worship bombed and destroyed and there seems to be nothing done about it. The funny point is that under such dictators as Saddam Hussein, The Shah of Persia and the current Syrian one these people were reasonably safe.

  • npbinni

    The ‘backlash’ that people keep talking about never happens!

  • TruthToPower

    Because they can’t be trusted. They are the very people who plant the bombs and fire the bullets. Would you be nice to those who try to kill you? I wouldn’t

    Occupied land? This is an odd statement. Most of them originate from post war Jordan who expelled them.

  • TruthToPower

    Very true

  • Hugh Davison

    And there was I thinking it was the IDF that dropped the bombs and fired the bullets. How about some truth to power, TruthtoPower?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Name one single Islamic country where a gay person can live in peace and security of self and being ?

    Turkey?

    …in 20 out of 57 Muslim-majority nations same-sex intercourse is not forbidden by law.

    The Ottoman Empire (predecessor of Turkey) decriminalized homosexuality in 1858. In Turkey, where 99.8% of the population is Muslim, homosexuality has never been criminalized since the day it was founded in 1923.[62] and LGBT people also have the right to seek asylum in Turkey under the Geneva Convention since 1951.[63]

    Same-sex sexual intercourse is legal in Albania, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Niger, Tajikistan, Turkey, West Bank (State of Palestine), most of Indonesia, and in Northern Cyprus. In Albania, Lebanon, and Turkey, there have been discussions about legalizing same-sex marriage.[11][12] Albania, Northern Cyprus and Kosovo also protect LGBT people with anti-discrimination laws.

    There are CHRISTIAN countries in the Caribbean harsher on homosexuality than Islamic Gulf states and not just slightly liberal ones like Bahrain and Qatar. Trinidad and Tobago can jail a man 25 years for sodomy.

  • Kevin Breslin

    And look at the bit about the Ottoman Empire which is considered an Oriental culture not an Occidental one, decriminalizing homosexuality long before the UK were castrating the likes of Alan Turing, jailing Oscar Wilde (albeit indirectly), and which still hadn’t decriminalized homosexuality while England hosted and won the World Cup.