Islamophobia isn’t new to Europe, scholar says

Issues facing Muslims in the continent can be traced back to aftermath of Second World War, conference hears

Abu Dhabi: Islamophobia in Europe has its roots in Muslim migration to the continent in the aftermath of the Second World War, an Islamic scholar in Switzerland observed while addressing a conference in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Many poor Muslims migrated to post-war Europe to fill the vacuum created by mass deaths of natives in the war, said Fawzia Al Ashmawi, researcher and president, Muslim Women Forum in Europe.

Although Muslims helped with the post-war reconstruction and development, being poor and uneducated, they could not raise their voice against the low wages they received and other discrimination they faced, Al Ashmani said at the International Congress on Muslim Minorities in Abu Dhabi.

However, when the next generation of Muslims received an education and went on to become professionals and started asserting their rights as European citizens, the European media turned critical of them, Al Ashmawi, a professor of Islamic Civilisation, said at a panel discussion on ‘Role of Islamic communities in promoting multiculturalism.’

She said the media used the negative developments involving Muslims in the Middle East to vilify the Muslims in Europe.

Now there is an extremist party in almost all European countries that fear that Muslims will Islamise Europe. The professor said it is a distorted view. “Islamophobia is strengthening in Europe and we have to address it. Every Muslim in Europe should become the ambassador of [true Islam],” she said.

The scholar said many poor Muslims still migrate to Europe illegally; being uneducated and unskilled to get a job, they are attracted by extremist elements. This problem should be addressed and everyone should learn to live peacefully with other communities, she said.

Shaikh Mohammad Khalayleh, Grand Mufti of Jordan, was the chairperson of the panel discussion and Dr Awad Saleh, President Unesco Heritage Panel in the UAE, acted as rapporteur.

Dr Mohhammad Bin Salah, dean of Islamic Studies Centre in the University of Granada in Spain said he was disappointed to see that some of the Muslim issues were being discussed for the past 20 year. “We just talk only without doing anything about them,” Bin Salah said. He suggested proactive steps to address the issues of the community.

The two-day congress announced the charter of the World Council of Muslim Minorities based in Abu Dhabi that will cater to around 500 million Muslims working and living outside the Islamic world. More than 400 leaders of Muslim minorities in around 130 countries are attending the event that discusses ways to prevent radicalisation of Muslim minorities across the globe.


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