Islamophobia surges amid a ‘politics of fear’

Muslims and refugees are being “scapegoated and alienated” as attacks claimed by ISIL rise, Human Rights Watch says.

Refugees and migrants arrive aboard the passenger ferry Nissos Rodos at the port of Piraeus, near Athens
Human Rights Watch says public discourse has been filled with 'voices of hatred and fear of Muslims' [Reuters]

Huge refugee flows to Europe coupled with broadening attacks on Western civilians in the name of ISIL have led to growing fear-mongering and Islamophobia, a new report said on Wednesday.

Attacks and the massive exodus of refugees as a result of the Syrian conflict were causing governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security, Human Rights Watch said in its 659-page World Report 2016.

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As rights are rolled back amid the “politics of fear”, authorities are “alienating populations crucial to counterterrorism efforts”, executive director Kenneth Roth said in the report.

“These backward steps threaten the rights of all without any demonstrated effectiveness in protecting ordinary people,” he said.

More than one million refugees, many of them Muslims, have fled to Europe by sea in the past year.

Since deadly attacks on civilians in Paris in November and the US city of San Bernardino in December, tensions have escalated. 

Roth said public discourse has been filled with “voices of hatred and fear of Muslims, for whom the refugees are surrogates.

“These messages need to be countered foremost because they are wrong. In the modern world of easy air travel and rapidly shifting populations, Muslims are part of almost every vibrant community. Like everyone, they should not face discrimination,” he said.

The report also described Europe’s preoccupation with new refugees as a possible threat as “a dangerous distraction from its own home-grown violent extremism, given that the Paris attackers were predominantly Belgian or French citizens.

“The roots of radicalisation are complex but relate in part to the social exclusion of immigrant communities – the persistent discrimination, hopelessness and despair that pervade neighbourhoods on the outskirts of some European cities, and particularly the disjuncture between expectations and prospects among subsequent generations,” Roth said.

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Source: Al Jazeera