Muslims in Europe feel danger from increased hostility over the Gaza war
Jian Omar, a Berlin MP of Syrian Kurdish origin, believes he is not protected by the police after being targeted with hateful leaflets mixed with glass and feces, a broken window and an attack with a hammer since the Palestinian movement Hamas October 7 attack against Israel.
More than 30 community leaders and advocates consulted by Reuters said the three incidents at Omar’s campaign office were part of growing anti-Muslim hostility in Europe that politicians have sometimes stoked after the Hamas attack. They added that other incidents were not reported due to low trust in the police.
“I feel really alone,” Omar said, “and if you can’t protect someone with the status of an elected official, how should others feel?” He added that police were investigating the matter, but told him they might not provide more security at his headquarters.
He continued: “Imagine if a white German politician was attacked by an immigrant or refugee,” indicating that security forces would do more in such cases. Berlin police did not respond to a request for comment.
Hate crimes have increased dramatically in Europe since the October 7 attack, which Israel says killed around 1,200 people, and the subsequent Israeli invasion and bombing of Gaza which killed more than 15,000 Palestinians, with anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 1,240% increase in London. increases were recorded in France and Germany.
Official data shows a clear, smaller increase in anti-Muslim incidents in Britain, which is uneven compared to the other two countries. According to people consulted by Reuters, some of whom requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, the data does not fully capture the scale of attacks and hostilities against individuals and mosques, including children, targeted in schools.
Jewish groups and leaders in the three countries said failure to report all incidents is also common among victims of anti-Semitism.
Zara Mohammed, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the language used by the government, such as describing pro-Palestinian protests as “hate marches”, made the war against antisemitism and for Muslim rights and of the Palestinians a challenge. zero-sum game in many people’s minds.
He added: “Ministers have been really inconsiderate, and this promotion of culture wars and inciting communities against each other is really unnecessary, and is very divisive and dangerous.” The British government did not respond to a question about the official use of this language.
The feeling of vulnerability among European Muslims has been exacerbated by the election victory won last week by far-right Dutch populist Geert Wilders, who had previously called for a ban on mosques and the Koran in the Netherlands. Deadly violence against Palestinians has occurred in the United States since October 7.
At the Ibn Badis mosque in Nanterre, Paris, elderly worshipers are afraid to participate in dawn prayers in the dark, two worshipers present said, after a written threat to burn the mosque at the end of October by an apparent extreme sympathizer right.
Rachid Abdouni, head of the association that oversees the mosque, said requests for additional police protection had not been met. Local police said they were patrolling the area but had few resources. Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A French-Moroccan taxi driver named Khalil Raboun (42) said outside the mosque after Friday prayers: “Do I want my daughter to grow up in this climate?”
The Tell Mama campaign said arson attempts, verbal abuse, vandalism and the abandonment of a pig’s head at the site of a mosque were just some of more than 700 reports of anti-Islam incidents in Britain in the month following the Hamas attack, an attack seven years ago. times increase compared to the previous month. The “Tell Mama” campaign reports only some incidents to the police, with the condition that the complainant agrees to the action.
Abdullah Zekri, vice-president of the French Islamic Council, said the council received 42 messages containing threats or insults in the period between October 7 and November 1, but did not report any of them, amid a wave of messages of hatred and racist writings on the Internet, mosques.
He added: “The vast majority of Muslims do not file complaints when they are victims of such acts.” Even the imams of the mosques don’t want it. They don’t want to spend two hours or more at the police station filing a complaint that will most likely eventually be dismissed.”
In Germany, Rima Hanano of the non-governmental organization Klem says that even the police often do not record anti-Islam crimes under this label due to a lack of awareness. For example, attacks on mosques are sometimes recorded simply as property damage.
“People affected by racism, such as Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, are often wary of approaching authorities because they fear further victimization, not being believed or being portrayed as perpetrators,” he added.
A British government spokesperson said: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred or any other form of hatred must have zero tolerance,” adding that police should conduct a thorough investigation into such attacks.
Germany’s Interior Ministry said it “addresses all types of hatred, including explicit Islamophobia” and indicated it conducted a survey this year that provided a greater understanding of anti-Muslim racism.
In France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin acknowledged that more anti-Muslim acts had been committed since October 7, although official French numbers for 2023 appear to be declining, with 130 incidents recorded as of November 14, compared to the 188 accidents recorded throughout last year. The ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for France’s national police also acknowledged that data on anti-Muslim incidents was “incomplete” and relied on reports from victims. He added that the security services are actively monitoring anti-Semitic incidents.
France and Germany developed institutional mechanisms to address anti-Semitic acts in the wake of the Holocaust of World War II and in response to persistent anti-Jewish prejudice.
Western Europe’s colonial and religious past also portrayed Islam as reactionary and alien, which helped entrench prejudice among sectors of the population and within institutions, said Reza Zia Ebrahimi, a historian at King’s College London and author of “Antisemitism and Islamophobia: An Intertwined History.”
Attacks by Islamic militants in Europe or abroad often have repercussions on the Muslim population at large.
After the defacement of mosques and the spread of anti-Muslim comments by intellectuals on television, French President Emmanuel Macron declared last week that “the protection of the French from adherents of the Jewish religion should not be accompanied by the defamation of the French who adhere to the Islamic religion.” religion.”
However, historian Zia Ibrahimi argued that the French Interior Ministry’s decision to ban pro-Palestinian protests as a danger to public order in the wake of Hamas attacks has led to a belief that Arabs are aggressors and that Palestinian supporters are motivated by anti-Semitism.
Amnesty International described the global ban as disproportionate.
Ayman Mazik of the Islamic Council of Germany said it was necessary to appoint a federal government commissioner on the issue of Islamophobia to complement the current commissioners on anti-Semitism and anti-Roma racism.
He added: “The fact that we have such a large number of commissioners in Germany, without any commissioner specifically interested in Islam, is in itself discrimination.”
Reem Al-Ablali-Radovan, Germany’s new commissioner for racism affairs, acknowledged the need for better monitoring after a survey conducted by the Interior Ministry showed that one in two Germans hold anti-Islamic views.
For some Muslims in Germany, which has welcomed around a million Syrians and just under 400,000 Afghans in recent years, the growing hostility comes as a surprise.
Ghalia Zaghal came to Germany from Syria in 2015 and said she had never faced major problems related to discrimination. But shortly after October 7, she was pushed twice in one day and a man shouted at her: “This is my street, not yours.”
Zagal, owner of a beauty salon in Berlin, added: “I was so shocked that I couldn’t go to the police.”