Factors Behind the Rise of Islamophobia
Factors Behind the Rise
To understand the reasons for the rise of Islamophobia, one needs to look at a number of deep-rooted as well as modern causes that have been instrumental.
Historical Roots of Xenophobia
Xenophobia is described as a fear of anything seen as strange or foreign. As a phenomenon, it is nothing new, rearing its head periodically throughout history. In the USA, often described as a melting pot of cultures, Afro Americans, Catholics, Italians, Japanese, Hispanics, and late immigrants, even native American Indians, have all faced a xenophobic backlash in the past in which their civil rights and liberties suffered tremendously.
Impact of Modern Immigration
The last two decades has seen increased immigration into Europe from Muslim countries torn apart by conflict, often the consequence of Western military interventionist policies such as seen in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The resultant humanitarian challenges in the form of refugee camps within European borders have led to a rise in similar xenophobic sentiments in Europe, with fears of the threat to Western principles and way of life from these “other” foreigners.
Rise of Right-wing Politics
The call for hardline anti-immigration and anti-Islamization policies is fueled by strident political discourse from right-wing leaders looking to exploit the “national identity crisis” for short-term political gains.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands presents a typical profile of a modern, right-wing politician. He has long campaigned to stop what he views as the “Islamization of the Netherlands”, comparing the Quran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and trying to have the book banned in the Netherlands. He advocates ending immigration from Muslim countries and supports banning the construction of new mosques while calling for a hardline stance against what he calls “street terror” exerted by minorities in Dutch cities. His recent call for a cartoon competition depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad has only one purpose: to unite far-right individuals into his anti-Islam cause. It has little to do with free speech.
Wilders is joined in his xenophobic views by a rising number of right-wing politicians such as France’s Marie Le Pen, Austria’s Jorg Haider and a host of others across Europe. All these have built successful, opportunistic, political careers on anti-immigrant, anti-Islam statements and thinly veiled prejudice.
American President Donald Trump is not far behind. During a press conference with the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May, he remarked, “You are changing culture, you’re changing security,” he said of Europe. “Look at what’s happening to different countries that never had difficulty, never had problems. It’s a very sad situation, it’s very unfortunate, but I do not think it’s good for Europe, and I don’t think it’s good for our country.”
Trump is surrounded by people like his National Security Adviser, John Bolton, who, like him, have bought deeply into Islamophobic ideology, influencing Trump to issue a ban on immigration from six Muslim countries. Similar public executive orders targeting Muslims in Europe include the ban on the Islamic veil in Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France, with more countries poised to follow suit.