The growing threat gripping Muslims across Europe
While it’s true that Muslim communities need to do some introspection to figure out what exactly has gone wrong, it’s also true that the vast majority of Muslims do not, in any way, relate to the fanatics. These people are, and will always remain, a tiny minority, perpetrating heinous crimes and fostering warped and evil inclinations. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find any Islamic authority or public Muslim scholar refusing to denounce these crimes. In fact, despite the wilful ignorance of those individuals who claim Muslims don’t speak out against these atrocities – which, by the way, Muslims shouldn’t feel forced to, as the religion these extremists follow is as alien to mainstream Muslims as quantum physics is to your average laborer in Spain – Muslims do and continue to speak out.
While there is indeed an issue within the Muslim community, albeit a crazy and fanatical minority, there are also fundamental problems with the way this debate is being framed. Consider the following: why is a magazine, with a history of racist caricatures, which draws pornographic images of a man revered by over one billion people, published in a country where those on the receiving end are a marginalized, immigrant population, seen as heroic? Or perhaps explain why a journalist for Charlie Hebdo was sacked for supposedly writing anti-semitic comments, while Muslims seem to be fair game. I’d also like an explanation about why Israel can get away with killing journalists, and openly admitting it, but there is no international outcry. And how does it make sense to say these cartoons of the Prophet were in the name of freedom of expression when, in the same country, the authorities recently banned a pro-Palestine protest. We could go on, but there is limited space.
The point is that these double standards are infuriatingly – and deliberately – ignored. But let’s put that to the side, because, after all, it isn’t that important, is it?
What is important is that countless Muslims face the prospect of more hatred, more hostility and more prejudice. “As a Muslim I don’t feel safe anymore,” says Maissa, a young French Muslim, who wears the hijab and lives close by the Charlie Hebdo office. “I’m afraid I’ll be attacked. I feel people starring at me much more than before. This incident has made me feel different to everyone else. People look at me like they’re afraid and disgusted. I now avoid getting close to the railway line at train stations and constantly look behind me when I’m walking at night.”
These fears are not confined to the streets of Paris but are widely shared by Muslims across Europe. I know a girl who was 11 at the time of the September 11 attacks and was thrown onto the floor and repeatedly kicked by racist thugs, shouting horrific anti-Muslim words at her. While attacks like these demonstrate either blatant racism or anti-Muslim hatred at it’s worst, for some people, the line between the fanatics and your average Muslim has become completely blurred.