Muslims perform prayers for Eid-al Fitr to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at a park in London.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The first European Islamophobia Summit will take place this coming weekend in Sarajevo and a member of the summit advisory panel told The Jerusalem Post that the continent is in a “dangerous moment.”
“People in Europe had previously been uncomfortable with the Muslim presence, but the refugee crisis has brought the issue out into the open,” said Muddassar Ahmed, who also is a patron at the Faiths Forum for London.
Cultural misunderstandings are becoming more common and long-time established Muslim communities that have been present on the continent for 40 to 50 years are having to deal with discrimination caused by the influx of Middle Eastern migrants and refugees, he said.
“We are at a dangerous moment with Brexit and the rise of far right parties in the EU,” said Ahmed, adding that anti-Semitism and anti-immigrant feelings are on the rise.
The summit will include political, academic, and civil society leaders in order to seek policy solutions to increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“Islamophobia operates by constructing a static ‘Muslim’ identity, which is attributed in negative terms and generalized for all Muslims,” states the summit website.
The summit will result in a report to be presented to European policy makers and the signing of a joint Istanbul-Sarajevo Declaration on Islamophobia, reflecting a renewed commitment to deal with anti-Muslim hate crime in both cities.
“The EU is looking more volatile than it has for many years” and that is why it is important for sensible politicians to join us, commented Ahmed, adding that former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw would be attending the summit.
Dr. Bernard Kouchner, the co-founder and former president of Doctors Without Borders will also attend.
Questioned as to the counter argument that Islamophobia is not the correct term since increased scrutiny of Muslims is based on a rational fear, he responded that “politicians across Europe make a big mistake when they conflate terrorism with the problem of integration.”
“If you look at migrants through a security lens you do a disservice,” he argued, noting that many native born residents were carrying out attacks.
He also mentioned the murder of British politician Jo Cox last week by a man who is suspected to have carried out the attack for nationalist motives.
The murder shows what happens “when you don’t control these right wing movements,” asserted Ahmed.
Less than 100 years ago Europe also “blamed minorities in its midst,” and therefore Europe needs to be careful, he warned.
Referring to the recent terrorist attack in Orlando, Ahmed said, “The European Islamophobia Summit condemns the recent horrific attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando and offers its deepest condolences and thoughts to the families of the victims.”
Academic adviser to the summit, Dr. Farid Hafez of Salzburg University, said, “Islamophobia represents a major challenge to European democracy, freedoms and its values of tolerance and pluralism.”
“Against the backdrop of calls by US presidential candidate Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the USA and Hungary’s Prime Minister...
and Slovak Prime Minister both stating Islam has no place in their countries, the need for a summit uniting political, academic, media and civil society leaders against Islamophobia is timelier than ever,” he said.
On the other side, Lt.-Col.
(res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies told the Post that “a phobia is something irrational, an imagined fear, while fear from Islam is real since it is based on terror and other things.”
“Fear is a very healthy feeling towards threats and if someone feels threatened by Muslims and Islam his fear is rational, not irrational,” he argued.