Muslims and Islam and Xenophobia
The word Europe alone brings out a variety of negative and positive connotations. It has not only been seen as geographic but also as a normative power. It is the foundation of diverse philosophies and political views, concepts and ideas which in the current centuries have helped change and shape the world. It is the continent in which the revolution of French arose, demanding for equality liberty and fraternity and also was the source of the modern day democracy yet it was the starting point for two world wars. It is in Europe where fascism and Nazism were born and also it’s in this continent where communism and capitalism emerged from. The end of cold war and the emerging victory of the capitalism system in the west brought to an end the frightening enemy –communism. Now the European Nation desperately needed a new enemy and it was easily found. The rising up of the Islamic Revolution in Iran from 1979 and the regime of Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan posed as a new opponent to the European Union. Then came the September 11, though this was not the first terrorist attack on planet earth, it was indeed the biggest sudden attack against the United States of America which made President Bush to establish a fight against terrorism and the target group was the Muslims. This led to the rise of Islam phobia which basically means the fear of Muslims and Islam and Xenophobia which highlights the fear of foreigners, immigrants and strangers among the European Citizens. For over the past five years, majority of the European governments have enacted prohibition or any laws regulating the putting on of veils by Muslim women in public places and schools. Not only did the European marginalize Islam’s, but they also extended their discrimination against those races that were different from them such as indigenous Native Americans, to Jews, to Blacks, to Asians, to Hispanics among others.
Exploring xenophobia and Islam phobia in France
France became among the first European countries to introduce a ban on covering faces with veils in all the public places in spring of 2011 and the commencing of April 2011 and those who did not adhere to the regulations were detained by police. This led to the expression of outrage by majority of the people in France and other international communities as they viewed this law as discriminatory towards the Muslim women. The French ban was perceived as a form of gender Islamophobia that focused its hatred and fright of difference onto the clothing and bodies of the Muslim women. In addition to the burning of veils as a symbol of in difference, France went a head and prohibited the construction of mosques as a physical manifestation of the Muslim community. In addition to that, French xenophobia arose as a result of post-colonial bitterness and the contempt on the immigrants who were lazy thus not contributing to the welfare of the nation. The people in the French nation viewed immigrants as intruders whose main aim was to take advantage of their countries welfare services that were very generous. It was evident that those who suffered from Xenophobia and Islamophobia came chiefly from the Islamic traditions. However, there are some debates going on about anti-Semitic violence in France which has been triggered by high profile cases like the conviction and condemnation of comedian Dieudonne M-Bala due to the inciting of racial hatred and comparing the Jews community to slaves traders and also other incidents such as the Rue des Rosiers that touched on anti-terrorist measures, National Security and Civil rights. This movement was also supported by the France Interior minister Nicholas Sarkozy by supporting victims of the anti-Semitic violence in Sarcelles through the invitation of their families to go see him in solidarity televised display.According to the statics carried out on racial violence in France, it was found out that the racist and anti-Semitic crimes convictions had risen up by 43 percent in March 2005 as declared by the Justice Minister. However, in 2006January, the statistics carried out by the police revealed that the incidences of anti-Semitic and racist had gone down by one-third in 2005 in relation to2004.
Exploring xenophobia and Islam phobia in Germany
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Muslim population in Germany is the largest after France in Western Europe. In approximate 3.0-3.5 million Muslims stay in Germany and out this population only 20 percent have German citizenship the reason being that, some of them are Germans who have been converted to Islamic religion.Almost 70 percent of the above population is of Turkish origin. Their immigration to Germany started in 1960s due to labor shortage in Germany. Even though these laborers were supposed to vacate Germany after completion of their work, half of them remained in the country. Though the immigration was composed of men, they were later joined by their wives and families and concentrated around the industrials areas of Dortmund, Darmstadt, Hamburg, Nurnberg just to mention a few. A few of them settled on the former German Democratic Republic territory. These labor migrants together with other laborers from the former Yugoslavia and North America represented the first wave of Muslims to station themselves in Germany. From the early 1980s, there resulted an increase in the number of asylum seekers who were majorly Muslim from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey. In addition to that, there were also secular Muslim immigrants from Iran especially students in 1960 and some migrated to Germany from Bosnian and Kosovor since they were fleeing wars that had resulted from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia thus creating an enormous move across Europe to Germany.
Evidence of xenophobia and Islamophobia in Germany
Unlike France, there is no general prohibition concerning the putting on of veil or head scarf by Muslim though there is an existing debate about the issue of teachers wearing headscarf. However in the year 2003, the effort to forbid a Muslim teacher from wearing the headscarf by Land Baden-Wurttemberg was ruled out by the Federal Constitutional Court. Various states in Germany such as Hessen have passed laws banning teachers and all public officials from wearing Hijab though the conflict still continues. In the labor market, the religion background s of employees’ are not always registered in the German employment statistics since estimations are always based on national origins.The rates of unemployment are very high among the non-Germans and the worst hit by the situation are the Turkish nationals. Compared to foreigners, the Germans who do not posses any qualifications are employed in large numbers compared to foreigners especially among the young Muslim population. The immigrants who are young are often concentrated in the semi-skilled or unskilled labor and always receives training in professions that are narrow such as the textile, car and mining industries and also in handicraft or commerce and various categories of self-employed jobs hence being underrepresented in the public service field. For young Muslim women, there main areas of specialization are in hairdressing, acting as dentist assistants or medical secretaries. As a matter of fact Muslims face the same limitations as other immigrants do in the labor markets .These limitations are such as the formal and informal discrimination triggered by their lack of German identification and insecure residence status. Individuals who do not posses the German citizenship are only allowed to work if there is no member of a European Union or unemployed Germany identified to fill the job gap thus making it extremely difficult for Muslim immigrants to get a descent job. In the German public sector, recruitment of Muslims is restricted as they do not have German citizenship hence the presence of few police officers in Germany with a background in Muslim. On the other hand, the asylum seekers always have to hold on for a long period of time before they are permitted to do any job since they do not have work permits. For example before 2004, all foreigners had to wait for about five to six years before they joined the Germany labor market. High rates of discrimination are more rampant in semi-skilled jobs compared to the high qualified ones thus making the Muslims to tolerate to the harsh conditions of their workplaces such as no attending prayers on Fridays as they are supposed to be at work, lack of canteens that do not serve Islamic foods such as the halal foods as there are no legal regulations in place to address such kind issues. In addition to the above, some members of Muslim organizations that are legal have always been excluded from various field of employment such as the security in the civil service as they are always referred to as Islamists.
German has the obligation to provide instructions on denominational religious in various schools and this has been carried out by religious communities that are under government supervision. However in some federal states, religious guidelines have been given on voluntary basis to the children of Islamic faith even though it has bee proved difficult for Muslims to develop religious instructions due to failure of regional governments to identify Islam as a religious community. Even though religious education is a constitutional right in Germany, there has evolved some arguments in public sector that this right only applies to Christian religions or to those religions that are traditionally present in Western Europe thus making Islam to be excluded from the list. In the housing sector in German, there is also evidence of discrimination as there is no exact data on Muslim in the housing market. The Muslim migrants are always found settling on overcrowded and places with poor conditions with lack of amenities but paying higher rents. Foreigners in the German context are always disadvantaged in the housing sector as they have less secure rental contracts and also stay in poor residential environments and are less likely to become home owners. Apart from migrants being discriminated they are also segregated as Muslims in Germany concentrates themselves in the urban areas always referred to as ethnic districts. These made the inhabitants of these districts to identify themselves with these areas especially the young Muslims in German with immigrant backgrounds who were not always accepted by the majority of the German society. Segregation has always been identified as an economic, social, religious and ethnic issue evidenced by poor people living in the same area with immigrants since both groups are limited and do not have any other choice rather than accepting what they have and live within their limits as they are disadvantaged with the existing housing markets.
Majority of the Muslims community in German are facing exclusion from participating in politics as they do not have German citizenship thus making them not to participate in voting or actively involve themselves in the political arena.  The problem of political participation by the Muslims has been attributed to discrimination that had been taking place in various institutions of learning and also the limited opportunities in the political stage. The German population itself does not like the Muslims as from the results of interviews that were conducted. A survey that was conducted in 2003,showed that 46 percent of the population agreed that Islam was a backward religion, 34 percent pointed out they did not trust the Islamic religion people where as 27percent supported the idea that immigration to German should be banned for Muslim people .From the findings of another survey carried out in 2004, 93 percent of the German population associated Islamic religion with the oppression of women due wearing of Hijabs and headscarf’s where as 83percent linked them with terrorism and in 2006 only a few of the German population reported appositive opinion of Islam as a religion. The association of Muslim with terrorism and extremism has been the main reason for lack of Islamophobia and solidarity.
How Xenophobia and Islamophobia are viewed by Critics
The two concepts have been criticized on various grounds. Critics content that even though the concepts are real, they are just another manifestation of racism and there is no need of classifying them in their own category.Others argue that, Islamophobia is just a term used to suppress criticisms so that they do not point out issues related to the Muslim populations living in the western countries. In addition to that, some argue that the term spares no one the need to critically examine what is really happening within the Europe’s Muslim communities. Edward Said considers Islamophobia as a secretive share in the general anti-Semitic western tradition where as Daniel Pipes writes that, Islamophobia relates to two distinctive phenomena that is the fear of the radical Islam and fear of Islam as a religion.
Islamophobia as a concept formulated by Runnymede has been criticized by Fred Halliday who is a professor on different grounds. He claims that the hostility target in the modern age is not anything to do with Islam and its principles though the target is Muslim and their actions therefore suggesting that the accurate term to be used is Anti-Muslimism.He adds that Islamophobia is often based on the negative stereotypes about Islamic religion and is often translated by various people into attacks on Muslims. In addition to that, he points out that, various types and strains of discrimination against the Muslims and Islam differ across nations and cultures. According to the British academic and writer Kenan Malik, the charge of Islamophobia has led to the confusion of the discrimination against Muslim with the existing. Islam criticism and this confusion have been used to silence Muslim reformers and Islam critics. He also writes that, Muslim groups have become more vulnerable to exclusion socially and also from attacks compared to other foreign groups and this has promoted the existence of a culture of victimhood where all the failings are always attributed to Islamophobia. In the view of Kenan Malik who is a British writer and an academic, he doesn’t think that Islamophobia is a form of racism but a belief system.
Initiatives taken by German as a country to Fight Islamophobia and Xenophobia
Even though there has been existence of xenophobia and Islamophobia in the Western European countries such as France and Germany, there have been efforts taken by the various governments and activists groups to ensure that the Muslims and other immigrant are treated like any other citizen in the nations they reside. Taking an example of German, in order to confront discrimination, the Germany government adopted a general law on Equal Treatment in 2006 which favored the Muslims as it allowed them to access better housing standard in German. The law also enabled the Muslims to participate in voting and vying for various posts in the government. For example in the year 2005-2009, five of the politicians nominated were from the Muslim background. Also in the new German parliament that was elected in September 2009, 20members with a migration background were elected with nine of the members having a Muslim background, three of them having an Indian parent background thus bringing out the transformation in Western Countries in accepting the Muslims. The German political parties have also gone mile stone a head by recognizing the needs of the Muslim communities by establishing an Islam forum to address their problems. Though the forum aims for providing dialogue between various Muslim representatives, the state and the non-Muslim civil societies does not give Muslim representatives an opportunity to make decisions politically though the form is given support by various politicians including Bundestag Rita Sussmuth who was the former president of German and Angela Merkel the chancellor.
German government has also taken the initiative to involve Muslims in a very special way through the initiation of the German Islam Conference which was came into existence in 2006.And in the world today it is the only international initiative that recognizes interlocutors for Islam. Also in the summer of 2009, the first Muslim party known as the “Alliance for peace and fairness “was launched in Germany and it appeared on the ballot in 2009 elections. The party’s main aim was to support the Muslim’s right in Germany.
Though there is still discrimination among the Muslim and immigrants in the European Union, there are some efforts being done to minimize these acts though they can not be eliminated completely. Countries in the west have often linked the Muslims and Islam to terrorism and therefore in order to guide their national security they have taken precautionary measures of not trusting the immigrants by letting them know about their administration secrets. These are what have contributed to them being denied privileges of working in the civil sector such as the military. Efforts by the German and France to combat Islamophobia and Xenophobia have yielded some fruits even though there are individuals who are extreme racists who don’t value individual s from other nations especially the blacks. Majority of the population in German views Muslims and Islam as terrorist and need not to be trusted because they can be your friend and then turn against you later thus proving it difficult to end racism in German. France have also reacted to the issues of xenophobia and Islamophobia through carrying out of various debates and their Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy showed his support for the anti-Semantic violence victims in Sarcelles one of the cities inhabited by immigrants by inviting their families to see him and hear their cries in televised display of solidarity.
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