Oppose the new wave of Islamophobia

This article by Sabby Dhalu, outlining the latest wave of Islamophobia unleashed since the ISIS terrorist attack in Paris, was originally published in the Morning Star.

If there were any doubts that racism and Islamophobia follow ISIS terrorist attacks, then the month since the Paris attacks should dispel them.

There is still a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Europe. Refugees are still drowning while escaping war, persecution, poverty, economic instability and climate change.

EU countries are still refusing to welcome a fair proportion of refugees, meaning thousands are stuck in squalid conditions without proper shelter, sanitation, warmth and food.

Bar the coverage of the Syrian man who lost his wife and seven children this week, the crisis has been somewhat eclipsed by Islamophobia and racism in the aftermath of the attacks.

This week Donald Trump called for a “complete shutdown” of US borders to Muslims. A day earlier the far-right National Front (FN) won the first round of France’s regional elections, taking 28 per cent of the vote and topping the polls in six of the country’s 13 mainland regions, with more than 6 million votes nationwide.

However the real danger of both Trump and FN president Marine Le Pen is that they shift the terms of political debate further to the right. Trump and Le Pen make George W Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy look moderate, when the reality is quite different.

Examining the context in which Le Pen and Trump have emerged is crucial.

Since the January attacks on Charlie Hebdo, a kosher shop and other locations, politics has managed to find its way on to the school dinner menu in France. A debate emerged about scrapping a substitute for pork.

Following the recent Paris attacks in November, the right have won. Attacks on one community usually leads to attacks on others.

In the US since the November Paris attacks, notices saying: “No Muslims” have appeared in shop windows. This is in a country where you are more likely to be a victim of a racist white supremacist attacks than attacks by those that call themselves Muslims.

Only two weeks ago white supremacists shot Black Lives Matter protestors in Minneapolis, although there has been little coverage of this in mainstream international media compared to the San Bernardino shootings.

Trump and Le Pen did not emerge out of a vacuum — they emerged out of a deeply racist narrative. This racist narrative must be challenged.

In Britain the Sun infamously splashed on “One in Five Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis,” misleading readers.

Even Survation, who conducted the poll for the Sun, distanced themselves from the Sun’s inaccurate headline. The Daily Mail published a cartoon similar to anti-semitic nazi propaganda, comparing Muslims and refugees to rats.

Such media coverage and Trump’s statement are dangerous because they influence public opinion and drive a wedge into society.

Precisely this type of coverage is leading to a rise in racist and anti-Muslim hate crime. Even before the Paris attacks, anti-Muslim hate crime was increasing.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, anti-Muslim hate crime increased by 300 per cent. There was an attempted arson attack on Finsbury Park Mosque. The rain prevented the fire-bomb from igniting. An attempted fire-bombing of a mosque is an attempted terrorist attack, but these attacks are rarely described as such.

Using racism to blame, distract and divide society in times of economic hardship is the oldest trick in the book.

Racism we see today against Muslims, refugees and eastern European EU migrants, is exactly the same as that faced by Jewish, Irish, African, Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

As we stand up to austerity, it is crucial that the labour movement and the centre left and broad left also stand up to this racist and Islamophobic scourge.

Racism, Islamophobia and hatred is not only a problem in itself — it also undermines and divides the movement against austerity.

  • Stand up to Racism has called a national demonstration marking UN Anti-Racism Day in London on Saturday March 19 2016.
    For more details see www.standuptoracism.org.uk.

Sabby Dhalu is Unite Against Fascism Joint Secretary and Stand up to Racism organiser.

This article was originally published here in the Morning Star.