Tides of hate: Rising Islamophobia amidst the Israel-Gaza war
The Israel-Gaza war sparked a rise of anti-Muslim hate in Europe. How does this surge of Islamophobia affect European Muslims?
Hate crimes amid the Israel-Gaza war
Media coverage of antisemitism in Europe has seen a significant increase since 7 October 2023, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel. Recent developments in the war between Israel and Gaza triggered a spike in antisemitic hate crimes across Europe. This is likely because some people unfairly blame Jews for Israel’s role in the conflict. Jewish communities in European countries face various forms of threats, attacks, and hate speech. Several European states have expressed concern about the safety of Jews in their country. Many Jews no longer feel safe wearing the Star of David in public and have taken down mezuzahs from their doors.
A surge of anti-Muslim hatred in Europe
The European Commission promptly acknowledged the “extraordinary levels” of antisemitic incidents in Europe. However, it took longer to recognise the surge of anti-Muslim hatred the continent faces amid the Israel-Gaza war. Eventually, the European Commission and several member states endorsed a joint declaration stressing that “antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred are equally reprehensible.”
In the United Kingdom, police forces report a considerable rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes since the 7th of October. The French Muslim Council reported receiving numerous threats, and 14 mosques were vandalised in the aftermath of the attack. Muslims in the Netherlands report experiencing increased anxiety amid the conflict and a number of mosques have taken measures to enhance security. In Germany, Islamophobic attacks are almost a daily occurrence, says a German MP.
The European Commission described the surge of hate as “reminiscent of the darkest days of Europe’s history.” In response, it announced a €30 million fund to bolster security at mosques and synagogues across Europe. The Commission also called on social media platforms to commit to stricter enforcement of hate speech laws.
The increase in media coverage of Islamophobia was also reflected on the EARS dashboard, with a peak in European news articles covering the topic in November.
Fear and prejudice
Many European countries have expressed a pro-Israel stance in relation to the Israel-Gaza war. For this reason, Muslims across Europe have voiced concerns about being scapegoated for expressing solidarity with the Palestinians. According to Lamya Kaddor, a German MP with Syrian roots, “Muslims are really afraid of being stigmatised and blamed, and lumped together with Hamas supporters.”
Amid the current conflict, there has been a rise in Islamophobia, an “unreasonable dislike or fear of, and prejudice against, Muslims or Islam.” Muslims in Europe tend to be associated with fixed negative characteristics, like being intolerant, misogynistic, and violent. These stereotypes foster biased attitudes and cast Muslims in a negative light. They create an atmosphere of fear and prejudice that shapes how Muslims are perceived and treated by others. Islamophobia contributes to discrimination, alienation, and exclusion. It stigmatises Muslims and pushes them to the margins of society. Moreover, Islamophobia can escalate into hate crimes, including verbal and physical attacks on Muslims.
This is evident in the responses to the Israel-Gaza war, which has reinforced anti-Muslim hatred in Europe. In light of recent developments, Muslims, Palestinians, and Hamas supporters are often perceived as one and the same. As a result, people often wrongly associate Muslims with war and terrorism. Some see destructive actions, like the violence perpetrated by Hamas, as representative of Islam. These unwarranted generalisations can bring significant harm to Muslims. They promote an image of Muslims as inferior, as less than human. This leads to the devaluation of their lives and the treatment of Muslim casualties as insignificant. Apart from this, it subjects Muslims to violence and abuse.
Deprived of their humanity
By reinforcing negative perceptions, the Israel-Gaza war has contributed to increasing Islamophobia and antisemitism in Europe. These equally harmful forms of racism foster hatefulness that can cost real human lives. On account of the fear and prejudice that circulates in European societies, Muslims and Jews are deprived of their humanity.
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