The current conflict in France is escalating very quickly. Many people in France and western Europe do not view this as simply as a battle against Islamic extremists. They view it as a battle for their culture, race, and way of life.
The rift between the French and Muslims is no new phenomena. The current problems and hatred towards Muslims stems from the French occupation of the Islamic state of Algeria. The occupation only ended in the mid-twentieth century, and much resentment is still felt on both sides.
The current terrorist attacks are serving as a gateway for both “sides” to unleash the building up resentment of the past two centuries.
For the past months riots have been taking place all over Europe, particularly Germany and France.
One main problem, is that like in many previous circumstances in Western culture, the Muslim population is painted as the enemy. Youtube videos and articles with “terrifying” (and untrue) statistics are going viral, leading to hysteria. Many of the statistics are stated to make the Muslim population seem drastically different than the “average” European family. For example, in a popular Youtube video, the narrator claims that while France’s fertility rate is is 1.8, the Muslim rate is 8.1. This is not only an unprovable statistic, but it serves as a tool to dehumanize the Muslim population.
Articles and videos painting Islam in a bad light are leading the “culturally acceptable” Europeans to target the Islamists as trying to take over and destroy their “sacred” countries.
The anti-Muslim propaganda is coming from the citizens, not the government. However, the governments across Europe are not taking any measures to stop the rise of Islamophobia. According to an article published in the New York Times, there are more and more “concerns that the country teeters at a tipping point and that there could be a far more open, and potentially more violent, confrontation with its Muslim communities.”
The boiling point for the conflict was reached with the terrorist attack on the Satirical Newspaper Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed. This attack has drawn serious backlash from around the world. The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie meaning “I am Charlie” has gained support over social media.
This attack opened a window for the already Islamophobic citizens of Europe to show they are justified in their fear of the Muslim community. Following the attack, there have been increased in hate crimes against the Muslim community.
The crimes are not only against symbols of Islam, but Muslims themselves. Several mosques in Europe have been shot at or hit with small explosive devices. The mosques have also been vandalized with racist and anti-Islam graffiti. A pig’s head was hung on the door of a prayer hall in Corsica. Muslims, in particular women, have reported having rocks thrown at them while walking down the street.
Most recently, the Prime Minister of France has declared “war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islamism, against everything that is intended to break fraternity, liberty, solidarity.” The important part of this promise is when he refers to “everything intending to break fraternity, liberty, and solidarity,” referring to France’s official motto. If the French community believes that the Muslim community’s intention is to break everything France stands for, the president’s promise could be taken by some in as a declaration of war against the Muslim community itself.
The majority of the countries in Europe as well as the United States have promised to stand behind France on its war on terror. The problem now is when the war on terror crosses the fine line into a war on Islam and the Muslim communities.
The conflict has brought up greater issues than terrorism. The actions of terrorists, and a few individuals, do not speak for the entirety of the Muslim community, not even a majority of it. Terrorists are present in all races, genders, and societies. The people of Europe do not need to embrace diversity immediately, however they should begin looking at the reasons behind the recent immigration to their countries, as well as thinking about the similarities between them and the Muslim community.
The Muslim families immigrating to western Europe are not there to “steal” Europe and “destroy” culture, but rather out of necessity. Not just their necessity but also the necessity of the countries they have immigrated to.
One of the original reasons for the rise in immigration to Europe was the shortage of domestic workers and the workers needed to keep the economy stable in Germany, France, and England.
Treating anyone the way many Muslims are being treated is wrong. Using terrorist attacks to justify the hatred of an entire race or religion is racist and discriminatory. World leaders and citizens need to step up and make sure that the enemy, if there must be one, is terrorists or people who have committed acts of hate, not a community of innocent people.