European Muslims in the Aftermath Term Paper

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These have led to various problem areas which have had a dramatic affect on Muslim life. They include the increase in terror activities in Europe; the rise of anti-Semitism within the Muslim community and the increase in the prevalence of right - wing parties that are often violently opposed in their actions and rhetoric to Islamic fundamentalism.

A fundamental issue that should be considered in attempting to understand the impact of the events of 9/11 on Europe is that these attacks have an effect on the balance between security and civil liberties. In other words, whereas before 9/11 there had been a focus and effort to maintain equilibrium between issues of security and democratic rights for all, including Muslins; yet after 9/11 this balance was upset and the focus tended to move more towards security, with civil rights being neglected. This change in emphasis has had an effect on the situation of Muslims. "This change in balance is particularly striking for Muslims living in Europe. The securitization of European politics leads to an externalization of Muslims living in Europe." This in effect means that Muslims are seen as "outside" the system as potential terrorists or allies to the terrorists.

2.3. Prejudice and discrimination

Possibly the most and problematic aspect of the situation of Muslims in Europe is the reality of prejudice and discrimination. This facet has a long history and begins well before the events of 9/11; and in a sense the present situation of discrimination is a continuation of the past.

However the events of 9/11 have succeeded in producing a new form and intensity of prejudice towards Muslim communities, which tends to exacerbate the already prevalent discrimination in the region.

It is important to note that in this regard that after the attacks of September 11, the European Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) issued a report which found that, "...Islamic communities have become targets of increased hostility since 11 September."

The report also found that there was in increase of the prejudice that had already existed in Europe which "fuelled acts of aggression and harassment in many European Member States." The report goes into discuss evidence of "Islamophobia" as well an increase in the suspicion of Muslim people in the region and "...increased hostility and abuse of Muslims across Europe."

In order to grasp the extent of this problem a few points may be of assistance. The neglect of the Muslim community is seen in the fact that "Few European states have gathered comprehensive data on the number and nature of the Muslim presence within their national borders. "

In fact many countries such as Belgium, Denmark, France and Greece do not allow any mention of religious in official census forms - therefore making the assessment of the Muslim population and their problems difficult. More importantly however is that in many European countries, "Muslims are an unrecognized minority, excluded from most minority rights safeguards and protection against discrimination because they do not fit national definitions of minorities."

This important aspect, prior to the events of 9/11, exacerbated the feelings of suspicion and discrimination among the Muslim population of Europe. This was of course to be worsened and increased in intensity by two factors;: namely the Palestinian question and the perception of Western support for Israel and the events of 9/11, which suggested a radicalized version of Islam that many Muslims felt to be discriminatory and unfair.

2.3.1. The media

The role of the media in promulgating a stereotypical idea of Muslins as terrorists has been the focus of numerous studies and reports. This perception has also been increased by negative public pronouncements in the media by many political and public figures, which have tended to add to these prejudicial perceptions. It was found in one report for example, that "...publicly stated attitudes of leading political figures were a factor that contributed to bringing xenophobic, racist and Islamophobic views into mainstream politics."

The ability of the media in some instances to shape public opinion and place the Muslim community in a prejudicial and negative light is a factor that can have a devastating impact on all Muslims in Europe. This has in fact happened in many instances in the aftermath of 9/11 - with a concomitant detrimental impact on the situation of Muslims in the region.

In a report by the EUMC in the 1990's it was already stated that "the mainstream press, with notable exceptions, has reproduced forms of ethnic prejudice in its routine and issue-based reporting..."

Furthermore it was also noted that many media report were "based on stereotypical simplifications:" The important aspect however is that since the events of 9/11 the amount of negative reportage has not been ameliorated but has, according to many studies, in fact increased in terms of the projection of views and opinions that that can be seen to increase prejudice and hostility.

An example of blatant prejudice after 9/11 is quoted from a report in an Italian newspaper. A journalist, Oriana Fallaci, wrote that the Italian "cultural identity cannot bear a wave of immigration made up of persons who want to change our lifestyles." He continues and states that that in Italy "there is no place for muezzins, minarets, fake teetotalers

Other reports also claim that often the media places disproportionate emphasis on Muslim extremist groups and this tends to generalize all Muslim people as having extremist views.

On the other hand, some argue that the increased press coverage of Islam after 9/11 has also had positive effects. One example given is that through this exposure, Islam has become better understood and accepted in the world.

2.3.2. Right wing groups and prejudice.

One of the alarming factors related to prejudice and an aspect that has serious consequences for the Muslim population and peaceful coexistence in Europe, is the increase of right-wing rhetoric and actions after 9/11. The events of 9/11 and later terrorist activities have provided ample ammunition for right-wing ideologists to attack Muslim groups. These groups play on the"...xenophobia and popular fears of Islam..." which is also increased by negative reports in the media. There have also been right-wing inspired efforts in many European counties to restrict immigration. Another aspect that can be related to this factor is the recent banning of headscarves in France and Germany; which serves to increase tension and the sense of isolation among the Muslim community.

2.3.3. The creation of terrorism

One of the effects of prejudice and discrimination is not only the isolation of Muslims but also the creation of an environment conducive to terrorist actions. A number on contributing factors should be borne in mind here. The first is that ethnic and religious prejudice creates a sense of desperation and unfairness in a population that has come to see itself largely as part of the European countries in which they live. Secondly, the ratio of young Muslims is very high and therefore they are more likely to be directly effected and feel disenfranchised; and more likely to take action against perceived discrimination. This has led to the suggestion that, due to the prejudice and discrimination perceived by many Muslims, Europe has in fact become a breeding ground for terrorists. This also relates to the question of a European- Muslim sense of identity which will be discussed below.

Polices and the Law

There is little doubt that in the impact of the terror attack of 9/11 has also has an impact on government and local policies towards Muslims. The public perception generated by the media will of course always play an essential part in politics and will have a concomitant effect on policies made by these elected.

While there is a strong legal framework in many European countries to ensure equality and protection against discriminatory actions and views, yet this legalization is not always implemented. "...public awareness about the legislative anti-discrimination framework is low, and existing provisions are rarely used by the most vulnerable groups, resulting in a lack of relevant case-law."

In a study of the situation of Muslims in Italy it was found that, "... Violence against immigrants, including Muslims, by both private actors and law enforcement officials is not uncommon."

Furthermore, the changes against those officials who allegedly perpetrated these crimes are often not concluded or are dropped for various reasons.

Religious intolerance

Religious intolerance on both sides of the divide is increasing in many areas of Europe. One worrying development after 9/11 is that, in the light of increased prejudice and intolerance, there has been an increase in the movement towards a more fundamentalist view of Islam among many Europeans. This has many implications, not least of which is the increase on the sense of Muslim isolation; which in turn creates further divisions between cultures, exacerbating misunderstanding and prejudice.

This increase in religiosity among Muslims can take on a negative connotation if it is linked in the public view with the rise of extremist movements. In short this prejudice and perceived discrimination can also lead to…[continue]

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