The Threat of Militant Islamophobia


TIC Analysis l

The Threat of Militant Islamophobia: The man behind the deadly attacks on mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch a year ago has pleaded guilty to 51 charges of murder. Brenton Tarrant, 29, also admitted the attempted murder of another 40 people, and one terrorism charge.He had previously denied the charges and was due to go on trial in June. The Islamophobic terror attacks at two mosques sent shockwaves around the world. In the wake of the killings, New Zealand brought in stricter gun laws. It also pushed the issue of Militant Islamophobia to the fore after decades of suppression by the West.

Even a year on, the menace still raises its ugly head. The Hanau shootings occurred on 19 February 2020, when nine people were killed and five others wounded in a shooting spree by a far-right extremist targeting two shisha bars in Hanau, Hesse, Germany. After the attacks, the gunman returned to his apartment, where he killed his mother and then committed suicide. The 43-year-old assailant, named Tobias Rathjen, left rambling texts and videos in which he advocated racist views, called for genocide and claimed to have been under surveillance since birth. German authorities said the attacker showed signs of a “deeply racist mentality.” Among his beliefs was a hatred for foreigners and called for a mass killing of people from the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa.

Both of these attacks targeted Muslim immigrants and seem to be a militarized form of Islamophobia. Islamophobia is asserted to have been first used in 1910 by French Intellectuals during the colonization of West Africa, a Muslim majority region. In L’Orient vu de l’Occident the authors use “Islamophobie” to designate the deliberate perversion of Islam “in the hope of bringing Islam down once and for all.” Islamophobia is a hostile attitude against Muslims on the basis of their religion and a desire to annihilate Islam as a religion. Its aim was to legitimize the brutal colonization of Muslim lands by portraying Islam and its followers as evil, barbaric and a threat to civilization.

Modern forms of Islamophobia have become entrenched mostly in mainland Europe where Islam and Muslims are seen as a threat to Western culture and values. The New Zealand attacker in fact believed in the Great Replacement theory which was developed by French author Renaud Camus in 2010. The theory posits that, with the complicity or cooperation of the ruling elites,the white European population at large is being progressively replaced with non-European peoples,specifically Arab, Berber and sub-Saharan Muslim populations from Africa and the Middle East, through mass migration, demographic growth and a drop in the birth rate of ethnic Whites.

Islamophobia has been a generator of non-state violence throughout much of Europe. Some major incidents are as follows:

  1. In December 1988, a German extreme-right militant, Josef Seller, set fire to the “Habermeier Haus” building in Schwandorf, Bavaria, killing a Turkish couple Fatma and Osman Can, together with their son Mehmet. The arson attack also took the life of a German citizen, Jürgen Hübner.
  2. On the night of 28-29 May 1993, four young German men (ages 16–23) belonging to the far right skinhead scene, with neo-Nazi ties, set fire to the house of a large Turkish family in Solingen in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Three girls and two women died; fourteen other family members, including several children, were injured, some of them severely.
  3. The Quebec City mosque shooting was a mass shooting on the evening of January 29, 2017, at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, a mosque in the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood of Quebec City, Canada. Six worshippers were killed and nineteen others injured when a man opened fire just before 8:00 pm, shortly after the end of evening prayers.
  4. The Bærum mosque shooting or Al-Noor Islamic Centre shooting was an attack that occurred on 10 August 2019 at the Al-Noor Islamic Centre mosque in Bærum, Norway, about 20 kilometres west of the capital city Oslo. One person was injured, and the gunman’s stepsister was later found dead in their family home. The shooter was taken into police custody after being subdued by mosque-goers.
  5. However till date, the most infamous of Islamophobic terrorism has been the 2011 Norway attacks. Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right Islamophobic militant killed eight people by detonating a van bomb amid the Regjeringskvartalet in Oslo, and then mass murdered 69 participants of a Workers’ Youth League (AUF) summer camp on the island of Utøya. Breivik was categorized by analysts as being a right-wing extremist with an entrenched revulsion of Islam who deemed himself a defender of Europe committed to curtailing Muslim immigration into Europe.

The West is not the only region afflicted by Islamophobic terrorism. India has seen a large rise in attacks against its Muslim community by state and non-state actors especially after the ascendancy of the Hindutva group BJP to power. In Buddhist majority, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, religious nationalist groups like the Ma-Ba Tha, Bodu Bala Sena and Ravana Balaya have been found complicit in terror attacks on Muslims and other minorities. In Africa, urban-nomad divide, political differences are wedding with Islamophobia enabling groups like the Anti Balaka movement to perpetuate ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Islamophobia in both its violence and rhetoric, It has generated violence in Asia, Europe and America. It will keep on perpetuating death and destruction across the world if it is not tackled in time. It is opined that Islamic countries from the platform of the OIC portray the reality of Islamophobia as a murderous and dangerous world view. Emphasis should be put on interfaith and intercultural harmony in order to fight radicalization especially in the modern globalized world. Diplomatic efforts should be made for a greater UN role in combating the menace of Islamophobia in both its nonviolent and violent form.