Islamophobia and the Economic crisis

Recently, Institute for Race Relations published a very interesting paper that sheds some light on the recent bouts of Islamophobia and the backlash against immigrants in many countries in Western Europe.

In this paper they analyze the speeches of right-wing politicians of countries like Germany, France, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Austria, Norway and Denmark to find out what traits may be in common behind the racist rhetoric. It is no surprise that the findings of the Institute for Race Relations are all related to the widespread economic crisis around the world.

A common thread in all of these speeches and heated rhetoric is the blaming of immigrants, a great percentage of them Muslim, for the current economic crisis; that is, instead of blaming the true culprit: the greed of financial institutions that engaged in corrupt practices and dubious financial transactions.

Blaming the “foreign brown men” has always been a staple of European politics and is nothing new, the same rhetoric was being spewed by Enoch Powell nearly half a century ago. The real problem today is that this form of hate speech and scaremongering has now become widespread among right-wing politicians and political parties across Western Europe. Racism is still the issue, thinly disguised with talk about religious beliefs or foreign cultures instead of the color of one’s skin. The Institute for Race Relations has observed that these politicians are actively promoting a message of traditional and wholesome values under attack by the “Muslim threat” (often rather insultingly and with crude language,) and the often misrepresent immigrants as people that are constantly demanding special accommodation and privileges and that refuse to integrate into European culture.

It is no coincidence that these attacks on religion and immigrants come at a time of economical crisis and rising unemployment. They are forced to find a scapegoat, a way to explain the situation that is being lived. Often with the cooperation of the left-wing political parties, these right-wingers have made it a common practice to blame the crisis and unemployment on Islam and immigration rather than on bankers and faulty financial policy. All around Europe and in the United States it is particularly worrying that the Right has been increasingly integrating into their voter base and ranks the extreme far Right. Elements that a decade ago were considered fringe political groups, shunned and alienated from mainstream politics (groups that were considered goofy conspiracy theory lovers at best and Neo-Nazis at the worst,) are now an active part of the political discourse of many Western Nations. It is a worrying prospect for the future, that what was formerly considered unacceptable hate speech and what was once absurd conspiracy theory is now given credibility. The future may hold anti-Islam practices that are institutional if these people get enough power in their respective countries. A worrying prospect indeed.

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